Details on DTE Energy’s plan to double renewable energy capacity over five years

DTE Energy

DTE Energy has submitted its 2018 Renewable Energy Plan to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) proposing approximately 1,000 additional MW of carbon-free electricity from new wind and solar projects in Michigan scheduled to be completed by 2022. If approved, these new renewable energy projects would drive investment of more than $1.7 billion in Michigan and double DTE’s renewable energy capacity from 1,000 megawatts to 2,000 MW – enough clean energy to power over 800,000 homes.

The filing outlines DTE’s approach to Michigan’s 15 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) as well as its intent to offer a new voluntary renewable energy program specifically designed for large business customers seeking to reduce carbon emissions. This program will provide additional renewable resources beyond those proposed to meet the 15 percent RPS requirement and differs from DTE’s MIGreenPower voluntary program. The plan also includes the launch of a pilot program for battery storage technology aimed at improving the reliability of energy provided from wind and solar power.

“The plan we have filed takes another significant next step toward our goal of cutting carbon emissions by more than 80 percent by 2050 while continuing to deliver reliable and affordable power for our 2.2 million customers,” DTE Energy Chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson said. “Due to our substantial investments and use of renewable energy, DTE has already reduced its carbon emissions by nearly 25 percent by driving investments of approximately $2.5 billion over the last 10 years in Michigan’s renewable energy sector and adding 1,000 megawatts of wind and solar capacity – enough clean energy to power more than 450,000 homes.”

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Highlights of DTE’s plan

  • Bringing online the Pine River wind park later this year, and the Polaris wind park in 2019. Together, the parks will have the capability of generating 330 megawatts and will be DTE’s largest and most efficient wind parks to date.
  • Adding 300 megawatts of new wind capacity in 2020 to supply a new voluntary renewable energy program for large customers seeking to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Building two additional wind parks that will provide a combined 375 megawatts and begin operation in 2021 and 2022.
  • Installing approximately 15 megawatts of new Michigan-based solar capacity over the next three years, increasing DTE’s solar capacity by almost 25 percent over the next three years.

“Beyond this plan, DTE will continue to add additional renewable energy resources,” Anderson said. “Reducing our company’s carbon emissions and developing cleaner sources of energy is a key priority for us. This work will also bring positive economic impacts such as job creation and local community revenue.”

DTE studied the engineering and the economics of Michigan’s energy future for two years before announcing last year its initiative to reduce carbon emissions by more than 80 percent by 2050 – a timeframe that aligns with what scientists broadly have identified as necessary to help address climate change.

“We’ve concluded not only that the 80 percent reduction goal is achievable, it is achievable in a way that ensures Michigan’s power is safe, secure, affordable, reliable – and sustainable,” Anderson said. “There doesn’t have to be a choice between a healthy environment and a healthy economy, although the debate often gets framed that way. We can have both, if we invest in a smart way.”

By continuing to incorporate substantially more renewable energy, transitioning its 24/7 power sources from coal to natural gas, operating its zero-emission Fermi 2 power plant, and improving options for customers to save energy and reduce bills, DTE plans to reduce carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, and 75 percent by 2040 on the way to its ultimate goal in 2050. These plans define a long-term shift by DTE to produce over three-quarters of its power from renewable energy and highly efficient natural gas-fired power plants.

— Solar Builder magazine

Rethinking the grid: Southern Co. is building renewable, energy efficient communities with this Smart Neighborhood initiative

Southern Power Company

This may be a glimpse into the future: Southern Co. and its Alabama Power and Georgia Power subsidiaries have announced a Smart Neighborhood initiative that will provide customers with state-of-the-art home construction, distributed energy resources – including solar and battery energy storage – and smart home appliances and technologies.

The first-of-a-kind Smart Neighborhoods – located in Atlanta and suburban Birmingham, Alabama – will benefit customers through improved reliability, increased use of distributed energy resources and lower costs. These communities have the potential to further enable the smart grid and help the Southern Company system better meet customers’ evolving energy needs. These are the types of ideas we were talking about when we said utilities need to step up.

“In the rapidly changing energy landscape, we are focused on meeting customers’ current and future energy needs through cutting-edge research and technology,” said Southern Company Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kimberly S. Greene. “These collaborative research projects with Alabama Power, Georgia Power and our partners will deepen our understanding of how distributed energy resources interact with the electric grid and how emerging technologies improve customers’ lives.”

How it will work

Both projects simulate what the future may hold for the energy industry, and provide Southern Company and its subsidiaries information on how homes of the future will function. That information will lead to new programs, products and services for customers.

The Smart Neighborhood concept is the result of the Southern Company research and development team’s deep collaboration with Alabama Power and Georgia Power, including a supporting partnership with the Southern Company Energy Innovation Center. The companies collaborated with U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Electric Power Research Institute on the initiatives, and have partnered with leading homebuilders for the construction and sale of the communities’ homes.

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The first Smart Neighborhood project was announced by Alabama Power and all 62 homes have been sold. Signature Homes is the community developer and is overseeing the construction and sale of the homes at the Reynolds Landing community at Ross Bridge in Hoover, Ala. Home construction is expected to be complete in the spring.

“The first homeowners have moved into our Smart Neighborhood and we are excited to provide those customers with advanced energy solutions that will influence services across our territory in the future,” said John Hudson, Alabama Power’s senior vice president of Marketing and Business Development. “Each home is a crystal ball for home-building and residential consumption. Along with our construction, technology and research partners, Alabama Power is among the leaders of energy innovation.”

The Alabama project features the Southeast’s first community-scale microgrid. It is comprised of solar panels, battery energy storage and a natural gas generator that supplements power from the existing electric grid.

Each home in the Smart Neighborhood is built with emerging energy-efficient building features, and equipped with leading-edge technology, including a high-efficiency heat pump, an intelligence home comfort system with an Infinity Touch thermostat, voice-activated security, smart locks, cameras, interconnected appliances, triple-pane windows, LED lighting and more.

Meanwhile, Georgia Power has partnered with PulteGroup to help develop the first Smart Neighborhood in Atlanta. The new homes will be located in Atlanta’s Upper West Side, one of the city’s most vibrant and popular areas. Altus at The Quarter will feature luxury townhomes with cutting-edge smart home technology.

“Building the future of energy in Georgia centers on our continued commitment to offer new, flexible products and services that meet the changing needs of our customers,” said Paul Bowers, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power. “This partnership with PulteGroup provides a unique opportunity for us to demonstrate how energy companies can collaborate with homebuilders and retail partners to better serve customers today while developing new opportunities for tomorrow.”

Each technology-enhanced home in the Georgia Power Smart Neighborhood will be served by Georgia Power with power supplemented by individual rooftop solar installations and in-home battery energy storage. Homes also will be equipped with the latest energy technologies such as optimal insulation for maximum efficiency, advanced heating and cooling systems and LED lighting. They will feature home automation, including smart thermostats, smart locks and voice control.

Construction is underway with the grand opening scheduled for later this year.

Information and data collected from the distributed energy resources will provide researchers valuable operational experience as the company continues to evaluate microgrids along with residential battery storage and rooftop solar. Information from the HVAC systems, heat pump water heaters and other technologies will help inform new programs and services for customers.

— Solar Builder magazine

Report: Indiana could save $2.3 billion via demand reduction strategies

Indiana utility renewable demand response

As utility data becomes more publicly available, the more innovative ideas and solutions can be proposed. Like this: A report issued by Indiana Advanced Energy Economy finds that a combination of demand reduction strategies could avoid or defer the need for new power plants, transmission lines, and distribution infrastructure across Indiana and save up to $2.3 billion for business and residential electricity customers.

The report, Potential for Peak Demand Reduction in Indiana, prepared for Indiana AEE by Demand Side Analytics, examines potential for savings from reducing peak demand using three different market strategies:

  1. Curtailing commercial and industrial electricity demand;
  2. Installing more smart thermostats across Indiana’s residential sector; and
  3. Deploying energy storage technologies.

Examining the impact of these strategies under scenarios representative of avoided costs in Indiana, the analysis shows that net benefits for electric ratepayers (total savings minus costs) range from $448 million to $2.3 billion over 10 years.

“There are ways to meet Indiana’s energy needs by reducing demand that are much lower cost than buying additional power or building expensive new power plants,” said Vince Griffin, executive director of Indiana Advanced Energy Economy, a state affiliate of national business association Advanced Energy Economy. “As Indiana plans for its energy future, regulators and utilities searching ways to bring down electricity costs in the state should take this report’s findings to heart and implement effective demand reduction programs.”

Why demand response

Demand response strategies, which shave peak loads or shift them to off-peak hours, can be cost-effective alternatives to costly construction of new generation resources that sit idle most of the year. Energy storage technologies like batteries achieve similar benefits by storing energy at times when it is plentiful for use during peak hours. The same strategies could save from 1,500 to 4,800 megawatts of electric capacity through 2027, significantly offsetting Indiana’s need for additional generating capacity over the next decade.

Demand reduction strategies are significantly less capital-intensive and more economic for meeting demand during peak hours than investing in traditional “peaker” power plants, which sit idle for most the year. Utility investments in electricity infrastructure are overwhelmingly driven by peak loads, with approximately 10% of infrastructure investments serving load for just 1% of the hours of the year.

“It’s simply good business to utilize advanced energy technologies and resources that reduce energy waste,” said Rick Counihan, Head of Energy Regulatory and Governmental Affairs at Nest Labs. “Increased adoption of smart thermostats across Indiana’s residential sector can not only help Hoosiers manage how much energy they use but, as importantly, when they use energy. Reducing energy usage when it is most expensive can drive significant cost savings for Indiana ratepayers.”
“Our analysis shows that reducing peak demand is a smart and cost-effective way for Indiana to meet the energy needs of its citizens,” said Jesse Smith, principal consultant for Demand Side Analytics. “With the right policies, demand reduction will allow both Indiana utilities and grid operators to meet capacity needs at lowest cost.”

At nearly 48,000 workers, advanced energy employs nearly twice as many people in Indiana as colleges and universities, more than machinery manufacturing, and approaching auto parts manufacturing, according to a report published by Indiana AEE in 2016 based on the latest 2015 data. At the time, advanced energy industry supported one out of every 50 workers in Indiana and was expected to grow 2% by the end of 2016.

— Solar Builder magazine

Florida Power and Light debuts solar-plus-storage strategy at a major power plant

Florida Power & Light Co. unveiled a new solar-plus-storage system last week that they say will be the first in the country to fully integrate battery technology with a major solar power plant in a way that increases the plant’s overall energy output. By incorporating this new technology into the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, a solar power plant that was built in 2016, FPL expects to increase the amount of solar energy that the plant can deliver to the electric grid by more than half a million kilowatt-hours a year.

Florida Power Light Wildflower Commissioning Battery Storage

DeSoto County Commission Chairman Jim Selph (left), Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) President and CEO Eric Silagy and DeSoto County Commissioner Terry Hill discuss the company’s new battery storage technology at the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center in DeSoto County, Fla., Feb. 9, 2018. During the commissioning of the company’s third and newest solar power plant in DeSoto County – FPL Wildflower Solar Energy Center – the company unveiled what is believed to be the country’s first-of-its-kind solar-plus-battery storage system that increases the amount of energy a solar plant delivers to the grid. Photo credit: Alex Menendez for FPL. (PRNewsfoto/Florida Power & Light Company)

The new system features a 4,000-kilowatt/16,000-kilowatt-hour storage capacity comprised of multiple batteries integrated into the operations of the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center. In addition to enabling the plant to provide more solar energy to the grid, the battery system is capable of storing the energy and dispatching it to the grid at a later time.

This technology has the potential to harness millions of kilowatt-hours of solar energy a year that would normally be lost and improve the predictability of solar energy, which naturally fluctuates with the sun’s availability. Increased predictability enables FPL to more efficiently dispatch other power plants, helping save customers on fuel costs.

How the new system works

The new solar-plus-storage system unveiled today is the first large-scale application of “DC-coupled” batteries at a solar power plant in the U.S.  An advantage of DC-coupled batteries is the ability to harness extra energy that a solar plant generates when the sun’s rays are the strongest.

During these optimal operating periods, a solar plant may generate more power than its inverters can process, resulting in some energy inevitably being lost – or “clipped” by the inverter. Unlike other batteries, a DC-coupled system can capture this extra clipped energy, thereby increasing the amount of energy the plant delivers to the grid.

The additional solar energy and the increased predictability afforded by battery storage can enable FPL to more efficiently dispatch other power plants, helping save customers on fuel costs.

For several years, FPL and other NextEra Energy companies have been researching and testing battery-storage technologies to study a variety of potential benefits ranging from grid stabilization to improved solar integration. Currently, NextEra Energy companies operate approximately 130 megawatts of batteries with more than 100 megawatt-hours of storage capacity.

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FPL’s solar plans

FPL is in the midst of one of the largest solar expansions ever in the eastern U.S. with more than 520 megawatts – 3.5 million new solar panels – added in the last two years alone and nearly 300 megawatts more scheduled to enter service by March 1. From 2016 to 2023, FPL expects to install a total of more than 10 million solar panels. These advancements continue to improve FPL’s carbon emissions profile, which is already approximately 30 percent cleaner than the U.S. industry average.

Moreover, FPL’s eight newest solar plants combined are projected to generate more than $100 million in net savings, over and above the cost of construction, for FPL customers. Investments like these help FPL keep rates low for customers over the long term. Today, FPL’s typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is lower than it was more than 10 years ago and approximately 25 percent lower than the latest U.S. average. (FPL rates are decreasing again on March 1.)

FPL is the largest generator of solar energy in Florida with 10 major solar power plants and numerous other universal solar installations, totaling more than 635 megawatts of capacity, including:

  • FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center, Alachua and Putnam counties
  • FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center, Putnam County
  • FPL Indian River Solar Energy Center, Indian River County
  • FPL Wildflower Solar Energy Center, Desoto County
  • FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, Charlotte County
  • FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County
  • FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center, Manatee County
  • FPL Martin Next Generation Clean Energy Center (hybrid solar/natural gas), Martin County
  • FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County
  • FPL Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center, Brevard County
  • FPL Solar Circuit at Daytona International Speedway, Volusia County
  • Solar research installation at Florida International University, Miami-Dade County
  • Numerous FPL SolarNow arrays in local communities

Also, four more new solar power plants are on track to enter service by March 1, 2018:

  • FPL Barefoot Bay Solar Energy Center, Brevard County
  • FPL Blue Cypress Solar Energy Center, Indian River County
  • FPL Hammock Solar Energy Center, Hendry County
  • FPL Loggerhead Solar Energy Center, St. Lucie County

— Solar Builder magazine

This Innowatts, mPrest integration looks to improve utility forecasting behind the meter

mPrest Logo

If the government is going to inflate the cost of solar, it’s time to turn to even smarter solutions to bring them back down. mPrest, a provider of control software for grid modernization and Innowatts, a self-learning retail energy platform, for example, formed a partnership to integrate customer/ behind-the-meter intelligence into mPrest’s Grid Modernization “System of Systems” applications.

As part of this partnership, mPrest will integrate Innowatts’ AMI-enabled energy analytics, predictive load disaggregation and customer level load forecasting into its platform to enable utilities to better predict and manage reliability risk, optimize grid assets and lower costs for customers.

Customer level usage history and forecasts will be integrated with mPrest’s analytics models and visualizations, creating a fully integrated set of network simulation, planning and control scenarios. Innowatts and mPrest are collaborating further on the use of advanced AMI analytics to supply a wide range of asset health and system operations support as well.

Our big takeaway from SEIA’s latest Grid Modernization report: Utilities need to step up

“As demands on our system become more dynamic and unpredictable, having an accurate behind the meter energy forecast at a customer level can be an extremely valuable planning input in state estimation and real time simulation of grid impacts and required responses to operations, topography and other critical decisions; especially, in cases where utilities may have limited visibility beyond the meter,” said Ron Halpern, Chief Commercial Officer at mPrest.

“Our vision at Innowatts is to radically transform the energy value chain, using customer level predictive intelligence to enable a new level of learning and automation to the full suite of utility business functions,” said Bob Champagne, SVP of Business Development for Innowatts. “Augmenting mPrest’s expertise in grid automation and control, DERMS and Asset Management, with our behind the meter load analytics and actionable intel creates a bold new source of value that will help clients optimize grid assets, lower costs, and improve reliability in ways never before possible.”

 

— Solar Builder magazine