Water Heater Energy Storage: “Inefficient” Electric Heaters May Have Role in Smart Grid

December 18, 2012


waterheaterRenewables International:

Germany apparently still has 1.4 million electric heaters spread across roughly 40 million households, putting the percentage of electric heating at around 3.5 percent. Nonetheless, RWE estimates that these electric heaters could add the equivalent of around 10 gigawatts of pumped storage – equivalent to an eighth of peak German power capacity and a sixth of peak demand on a normal workday.

The approach will only make sense, however, if the heaters are not only used to store power at night, but quite the opposite – to store excess renewable electricity during the day. Going forward, the problem Germany faces is not a lack of demand for power at night, but excess solar power during the day.

While this option marks a fundamental break with environmentalists’ previous focus on more efficient heating systems, the renewables community is increasingly praising electric heaters as a way of allowing more renewables to be installed.

8020Vision:

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is recruiting one hundred homeowners in Washington for an experiment on how to store surplus wind energy. The BPA is testing a promising smart-grid concept that would use residential water heaters to help manage the fluctuations of wind energy generation.

The project will address two problems experienced on the grid: shortage of power during peak times and surges of power during windy periods, when the energy isn’t needed.

While homeowners will be able to override the control device at any time, it’s unlikely that they would even notice a change in temperature.

The water heaters in effect become energy storage devices — turning on to absorb excess power and shutting down when demand ramps up —leveling out the peaks and valleys of energy use. Benefits include:

  • no need for expensive and toxic battery storage
  • no need for fossil fuel burning power plants to fill in low wind energy gaps
  • water heaters provide distributed storage, avoiding point loads on grid
  • smart water heaters can be manufactured economically, for just a few dollars more.
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16 Responses to “Water Heater Energy Storage: “Inefficient” Electric Heaters May Have Role in Smart Grid”

  1. rayduray Says:

    Peter,

    The second article from 8020 Vision is from ancient times. 2010, in fact. Since then, much has caused excessive rancor in the BPA world regarding the exploding wind power capacity in the regiion. Believe it or not (and you should) the problem is that too much wind power is causing salmon mortality. Yes, I could hardly believe it when I first read it.

    But the mandate for BPA to accept all the wind power generated in May of the preceding couple years has meant that the system operators were forced to release too much Columbia River water down spillways, causing the hyper-oxygenation of the water leading to bleed-out from the gills of young salmon smolt in the afterbays of several of the major Columbia River dams. Damn I hate it when that happens.

    So the solution is still being discussed, but ramping down the wind power seems to smart thing to do when the river is in flood as it is most times in the spring.

    Here’s some background:

    First, how much wind is available and how reliable is it in the Pacific Northwest? The answers are “not much, but growing fast” and reliability is totally for shit as you can see over the past seven days:
    http://transmission.bpa.gov/business/operations/wind/baltwg.aspx

    Next, let me provide you with several articles I’ve bookmarked on this controversy over the past couple of years:

    http://www.sustainablebusinessoregon.com/articles/2011/04/bpa-pulls-back-on-plan-to-shut-off-wind.html

    See next post for more…

      • greenman3610 Says:

        the problem has no bearing on the idea of novel means of energy storage – unless you are suggesting that peculiar regional problems mean we should shut down wind and renewables, give up and join Fox News Nation, – which seems to be the upshot of way too many of your postings.

        • rayduray Says:

          Re: “unless you are suggesting that peculiar regional problems mean we should shut down wind and renewables”

          As I clearly stated in my comment, there is a peculiar regional problem that occurs seasonally in this region. A very fine set of engineers is working on viable solutions and there is no suggestion that wind or renewables should be shut down except at one crux period of time when the winds are fresh in the PNW blowing hot air on mountain snow and giving us far too much water to be held back in the system.

          Also keep in mind that most of the development of wind power in the Pacific North West is being done as a semi-swindle by Wall Street sharpies who are exercising their opportunities to avail themselves of various federal and state tax credits and subsidies for the creation of their wind farms. So when they cry “boo hoo” about their lost profits when BPA tries to balance all the needs of all the stakeholders as was the case when BPA asked the wind generators to stand down for the sake of the salmon, I tend to side with the salmon. They haven’t swindled me with subsidy schemes.

          ***
          As to your gratuitous remark that I suggest we “give up and join Fox News Nation, – which seems to be the upshot of way too many of your postings” I can hardly comprehend your meaning. I do realize you mean to insult me and indicate displeasure. As I have of your promotion of ridiculous luxury items as the solution to the world’s climate crisis. But you really do seem essentially confused on the matter. My perspective is much more in keeping with the voluntary hairshirt austerity proposed by the likes of Joe Romm, Guy MacPherson, George Monbiot, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Paul Kingnorth or Richard Heinberg. For you to suggest that I am an acolyte, fan or promoter of the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter seems so far off the mark as to be preposterous and has me really scratching my head as to whether or not you’ve actually comprehended anything I’ve written.


    • The Sustainable Business Oregon article says that BPA won’t or can’t sell excess power during peak production periods – “Save Our Wild Salmon Executive Director Pat Ford, in a letter to BPA, said …. He was among a number of individuals who said BPA had not explored other options, such as selling excess power to another utility, a practice critics say is common in other parts of the nation. BPA’s proposal calls for avoiding such spending, leaving the burden to reduce power to wind producers.”

      The BPA entry in Wikipedia implies that BPA has a robust export market – “BPA transmits and sells wholesale electricity in eight western states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming,Utah, Nevada, and California.”

      Is the issue transmission line capacity?

      • rayduray Says:

        Re: “Is the issue transmission line capacity?”

        That certainly is an important factor. Currently the biggest customer by far for export power from the BPA system is LADWP via the Pacific DC Intertie:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_DC_Intertie

        In the Pacific Northwest, most BPA power is sold to electrical co-ops today. While private power utilities, such as Pacific Power use alternative sources such as the Boardman coal fired plan in eastern Oregon and coal fired plants as far east as Gillette, WY in the Powder River coal region. This is the utility that provides most of the power to my town of Bend, OR among hundreds of others. While the rural areas surrounding us are served by a co-op which is part of the BPA distribution system.

        Transmission and distribution has become the orphan of the utility industry. Because it is very labor intensive, the construction and maintenance of transmission lines has been shunned by utility company executives who found it much more desirable to engage in central station development and electrical market gamesmanship. The bane of this region was the fraudulent trading of peak power at extortionate rates a few years ago in the Enron scandal. The rational development of a proper transmission system would have avoided that unfortunate incident, but rational development is no longer what we do in America. Our 1% are only interested in short term gains from “let make a deal” type scams. And as the government is starved of funding by these same 1%ers, we can expect the degradation and increased unreliability of the grid to be the inevitable consequence of our shortsighted self-serving executive scheming.


        • Enron was its own worst enemy, as is the case with many money gamers What goes around comes around.

          I’m more aggravated by the bureaucratic ponderous pace of utility companies than their 1 percent-ness.

          Despite Tea Party flavored hostility to environmental concerns, there’s been more stealth progress than meets the eye. Even Texas, with our hee-haw image and more than our share of clownish politicians, is sloooowly modernizing our grid and advancing renewable energy. 2013 is a big year. If enough of “the 99%” are determined to prioritize developing a modern grid, it’ll happen. President Obama wanted to invest $100B in the grid as part of the “stimulus”. Unfortunately, GOP accountants on crack can’t differentiate between “we’re broke” and deploying valuable idle resources for long term investments in the commons. They finally settled for $11B. Oh well.

          • rayduray Says:

            Hi Charles,

            I’m somewhat familiar with ERCOT [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ERCOT ] and I was mighty impressed at how they didn’t get suckered by fellow Texans while the rape & pillage crowd were having their way with CAISO [ http://www.caiso.com ].

            Whodathunk Texans could be so mean to the Land of Fruits & Nuts? :)

            ***
            Re: “President Obama wanted to invest $100B in the grid as part of the “stimulus”. Unfortunately, GOP accountants on crack can’t differentiate between “we’re broke” and deploying valuable idle resources for long term investments in the commons. They finally settled for $11B.”

            I blame Obama for being far, far too willing to compromise away the future of the nation for his own future perch in the pantheon of pampered ex-Presidents. Instead of fighting for sensible solutions, he’d rather line up sponsors while in office for a long list of $150,000 per half hour dinner speeches post-2016.


  2. [...] Renewables International: Germany apparently still has 1.4 million electric heaters spread across roughly 40 million households, putting the percentage of electric heating at around 3.5 percent. No…  [...]


  3. [...] Renewables International: Germany apparently still has 1.4 million electric heaters spread across roughly 40 million households, putting the percentage of electric heating at around 3.5 percent. No…  [...]


  4. Ray,

    ERCOT probably avoided getting suckered by not comprehending whatever it was that Enron claimed it was doing. Texans aren’t as enamored by the abstract as Californians.

    I’m confident that you underestimate Obama’s character and overestimate the power of the office. That said, hopefully he does a better job of motivating the public than in his first term.

    • rayduray Says:

      OFF TOPIC

      Re: “I’m confident that you underestimate Obama’s character and overestimate the power of the office. ”

      I’m a huge fan of Lily Tomlin’s timeless observation: “No matter how cynical I get, it’s hard to keep up.”

      I really do wish people would come to their senses about the betrayal of the American public that Barack Obama is engaged in. Here’s a clear-eyed version of the reality that most Americans refuse to see:

      http://www.occupybendor.org/news.php?1503

      ***
      As far as ERCOT is concerned, I don’t believe it is for a second that because they are rubes that they failed to fall for the wiles of the Wile E Coyotes of Enron. First of all, it was because Enron wasn’t nearly as successful at subverting the rule-making in the State Legislature in Austin as they were in Sacramento. The State of California was set up and plucked like a chicken. Second, I believe the guys running ERCOT knew the tricks that the Ken Lay crowd were up to. And didn’t fall for being cheated.

      This reminds me of the street hustlers down on Sunset Boulevard in L.A., who it turns out are a whole lot wiser than the CAISO and C-PUC crowds. The hustlers knew that “if you ain’t workin’ an angle, you are the angle.”

      In Barack Obama’s Chicago they play a rougher game. They say that “if you aren’t invited to lunch, you’re on the menu.” This is pretty much the position the American public are in today.

      • rayduray Says:

        Obama is in “the big club”. You and I are not.


      • My ERCOT comment was a joke – obviously not a very good one.

        It’s doubtful that a person can both pass a purity test and become a POTUS. Obama just said in an interview that climate will be one of his top 3 priorities in his second term. It’s unimaginable that Romney would say that, much less act on it. However, if hostile disappointment makes you feel good, go for it.

        Do you want to be in the “big club”?

        • rayduray Says:

          Hi Charles,

          Reflecting on your past comment, your ERCOT joke was fine. It was my antennae that were bent. :)

          ***
          Re: “Do you want to be in the “big club”?”

          Oh heck no. I’m one of those “liberté, égalité, fraternité” holdouts. In my perfect world, the big club wouldn’t exist.

          ***
          Re: “It’s doubtful that a person can both pass a purity test and become a POTUS.”

          I totally agree. I love the way H.L. Mencken summed it up nearly a century ago:

          “In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre – the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men.”

          There’s a longer version here: http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/mencken.asp


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