Climate Change Reveals Cracks in Aging Grid

July 9, 2018

Above, Retired General Richard Zilmer recently spoke nearby about the critical need for grid infrastructure improvements in the United States, calling the current grid “fragile, antiquated, and subject to single points of failure”.
And it was not designed with modern, distributed renewable energy in mind.

We hear briefly from a German official who describes the rock-steady-although- renewable-charged German grid.

In the age of terrorism, asymmetrical warfare, and changing climate, it’s never been more true.

Latest case in point, below.


Thousands of Los Angeles residents were left without power Saturday morning after a heat wave prompted high electricity demand throughout the city.

“Friday’s record-setting heat led to unprecedented peak electricity demand,” according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). High demand caused power outages throughout city and left 34,500 customers in the dark — without fans or air conditioning.

The department said that figure accounts for about 2.5% of their 1.5 million customers.

Scorching heat has descended upon California and parts of the southwest after a heat wave swept across Canada earlier in the week, killing dozens in the province of Quebec, according to Canadian health officials.

There are solutions. They involve batteries. Lots of them. And renewable, low carbon energy.


Vermont is starting to get a significant number of Tesla Powerwalls installed through the company’s partnership with Green Mountain Power (GMP), an important electric utility in Vermont.

This latest heat wave in the northeast has hit Vermont pretty hard and GMP says that the energy storage capacity of its network of Powerwalls is making the difference during the peak demand.

Josh Castonguay, Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer at GMP, commented (via Vermont Biz):

“We know our customers are environmentally conscious and make smart choices about their energy use every day. In this heat wave, our customers’ safety and comfort is key. We are so glad to be able to leverage innovation like battery storage to bring down costs for customers and keep them comfortable and safe. Our growing network of stored energy is allowing us to use technology, in partnership with our customers, to deliver innovative solutions today.

In April, we reported on GMP’s energy storage effort to deploy 2,000 Tesla Powerwalls.

At the time, GMP said that they had about 220 Powerwalls installed at customer homes. A few months later, now the company says that they have about 500 Tesla Powerwalls deployed.

GMP was one of the first companies to get on board with Tesla’s energy storage products as they made a deal with the company back when they introduced the first generation of the Powerwall in 2015.

Now they are deploying the Tesla Powerwall 2 to create a sort of “virtual power plant.”

Under their agreement with the electric utility, homeowners who receive a Powerwall are able to use it for backup power for “$15 a month or a $1,500 one-time fee”, which is significantly less expensive the ~$7,000 cost of the device with installation, but in return, Green Mountain Power is able to access the energy in the pack to support its grid, like a virtual power plant.

With 500 Powerwalls now, it’s over 5,000 kWh of energy capacity to release during peak demand, like when everyone is running their AC during a heat wave.

It’s still not a very large capacity, but it is already making a difference for a relatively small utility and it is growing fast as GMP aims to have 2,000 Tesla Powerwalls deployed by the end of the year.

As the capacity increases, GMP can more easily respond to peak in electricity demand with stored renewable energy instead of more costly and polluting fossil fuels.

The Vermont project is one version of a “virtual power plant”.  A major example of this is happening in South Australia.

10 Responses to “Climate Change Reveals Cracks in Aging Grid”

  1. rabiddoomsayer Says:

    Previously I gone on about how super capacitors need to be part of the mix. Here is someonelse’s:

    Capacitors provide that high draw/high charge short term response that batteries do not do well. A comment in the clip “capacitors do megawatt seconds, batteries do kilowatt hours.

    • Abel Adamski Says:

      True, it will take combinations. However Caps do have leakage issues so long term storage is questionable.
      Having said that I see a massive utility use in conjunction with other forms of batteries and storage in the Hydrogen Boron Fusion generators that will be coming, they have no radioactive byproducts and the only radiation they emit is pure electrons, Big Caps are ideal to convert that electron stream into useable energy and offload into longer term storage to ensure both base load and instantaneous power.
      The other factor with Hydrogen Boron fusion is that not being a cascade process (no runaways possible), rather an initiated process using ultra high powered lasers in ultra short bursts, those lasers will have replacement cycles etc, so the generator would consist of multiple reactors with some on standby and some in maintenance cycle so possibly only 30% producing power at any time, which with the technology and instant fire up would not be an issue.

      I note with interest that the US’s new Super Aircraft Carrier – being commissioned has serious problems, it cannot produce the power to drive all it’s hi tech systems and weaponry and as such it may be tears fort rework and rebuild before it is operational.

      It is all about the energy , it’s production and conversion efficiency. Thermo nuclear faces heat constraints and also constraints converting that heat to either mechanical or electrical energy, especially in a closed environment such as an aircraft carrier

      • rabiddoomsayer Says:

        Capacitors are very short term, but they are very quick. Batteries are long term, but they are very slow. You want to store power until next week, you need a battery. You want to store a lot of power for a few seconds a capactitor is far better. (Regenerative braking is perfect for a capacitor)

  2. Abel Adamski Says:

    Updating on downunder.
    Most specifically on the implementation of RE and Batteries – no longer just the province of the home owner.
    Increasingly big ans small business is getting on board with much larger installations, some verging on utility installs in size.

    Rooftop solar panel installations soared by almost half in the first six months of 2018 as businesses eclipse residential take-up for the first time.

    However, when emerging demand for power stations of 100 kW or larger capacity is included, the full size of the market is likely to be much larger by the end of this year.

    So far 639 MW of such systems have been accredited this year and Green Energy Markets predicts another 1400 MW will be completed or accredited by December.

    All up, total solar installations could approach 4000 MW or close to triple the previous record set in 2017.

    “It’s sort of unprecedented,” Mr Brazzale said.

    Helena Li, president of the Asia Pacific sales division of Trina Solar – one of China’s big three module producers – said commercial users can better match energy generation with their own demands than households.

    “It’s a three-to-four years’ payback now for commercial [users],” Ms Li said. “It makes more sense, especially with electricity [prices] rising.”

    • Abel Adamski Says:

      Now remind me, what capacity does a coal power plant have, at what cost to build and operate and how long is the time from planning to operation. ?
      That is ignoring of course externalities

      Any accountants or engineers out there

  3. leslie graham Says:

    Not sure if Americans are aware of this but your dilapidated and antiquated grid is world famous.
    In fact here in NZ there is an urban legend (possibly true) that if the US had a large shutdown over a wide area due to, say, an ice storm for example, then no-one would know how to start it up again.
    We British colonials find your creaking, archaic grid system somewhat amusing given Americans deluded but oft expressed belief that they live an a super-advanced, hi-tec, democracy.

    [smug mode off]

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Hey, at least WE never left the European Union.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      I’d just like to remind people that the contiguous 48 states (i.e., not including Alaska) has an area >20x the area of Germany, so watch how you’re making comparisons.

      Also, remember that the US civic and industrial infrastructure might look very different today if the joint Allied air forces had bombed the shit out of it in the 1940s.

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I was stunned in the ’90s at the thought of a city the size of Auckland going for *weeks* without power due to failed (old, under-maintained) power cables.

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