Nuclear Plant Continues To Invest In Alternative Energy

Energy Northwest is building a 5MW combined solar generation and battery storage facility in Washington State near Richland.

The not-for-profit energy company is installing its second solar array, adding another 10 million kWhs of low carbon electricity per year to its already diverse mix of non-fossil fuel generating systems that, in aggregate, produce over 10 billion kWhs of electricity while emitting less than 20 gCO2/kWh. All for between 3¢ and 5¢/kWh.

In partnership with Potelco, based in Sumner, Energy Northwest will break ground on the Horn Rapids Solar, Storage & Training Project in the fall of 2019, with commercial operation of the combined facility expected in 2020. The project will also train students and workers to operate solar and storage systems, something urgently needed to expand if we are to embrace a low-carbon future.

Energy Northwest operates the Columbia Generating Station (1,207 MW), the White Bluffs Solar Station (38.7 kW), the Packwood Lake Hydroelectric Project (27.5 MW), the 37.5-MW Portland Hydroelectric Project, the 15-MW Tieton Hydroelectric Project at Rimrock Lake, and the Nine Canyon Wind Project (96 MW). The combined output of these non-fossil fuel systems can power a city the size of Seattle, having an average combined capacity factor of >90%.

“The project will help the city meet upcoming state requirements for renewable generation,” said Clint Gerkensmeyer, project manager for Energy Services & Development at Energy Northwest. “It’ll demonstrate that the combination of renewable electricity generation and storage technology is an economically viable option for state utilities.”

This is not just an academic exercise. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we pretty much have only 12 years or so to get our carbon act together or we will not be able to mitigate the really bad effects of warming. It goes on to say that this will be nigh on impossible to accomplish without a strong increase in nuclear energy, along with all other forms of low-carbon sources.

Just like every leading climate scientist in the world has been saying for the last 20 years.

Just like Energy Northwest has been doing for the last 30 years.

In addition to providing electricity generation and storage, the facility will serve as a training ground for solar and battery storage technicians. Hundreds of workers from throughout the country are expected to train here each year, bringing to the Tri-Cities at least $3 million in annual economic benefit.

The $6½ million storage project already received a $3 million assist in 2017 from the state’s Clean Energy Fund, managed by the Department of Commerce. Today’s decision by the Energy Northwest board of directors marks the final step for the agency’s full project participation.

“This will be the first development to integrate both solar and battery storage into our state’s clean mix of hydro, nuclear and wind generation,” said Terry Brewer, president of the Energy Northwest board of directors and commissioner for Grant County Public Utility District.

Energy Northwest is actually a Washington State joint operating agency, formed in 1957 to serve the needs of public power by producing reliable, low-cost electricity while promoting public power activities in the region.

Today the joint operating agency membership includes nearly every public power utility district in the state of Washington and several municipalities.

Energy Northwest is under the umbrella of the Bonneville Power Administration to which it sells all of its power at-cost. BPA itself is a federal non-profit agency whose territory includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and small parts of eastern Montana, California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

It is difficult to envision a better, more efficient, more cost-effective system for producing and delivering electricity to the public than this partnership.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 77, which owns the development land for the project, and the Regional Education & Training Center, which leases it, have worked with Energy Northwest and Potelco since 2015 to help take the project from concept to development. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory provided business and technology consultation throughout the process.

“This is why the state legislature created us,” said Brent Ridge, vice president for Energy Northwest Corporate Services and chief financial officer, “to build partnerships that directly benefit utility customers. Leaders in city government and at PNNL, the IBEW, the Regional Education & Training Center, Potelco and the Department of Commerce all stepped forward early to identify and propose a best-value path to meet clean energy goals.”

Potelco will finance and construct the 4-megawatt, 20-acre solar generating array of photovoltaic panels. The array will provide enough energy to power 600 homes. Energy Northwest will build, own and operate the 1-MW battery storage system, which will be capable of powering 150 homes for four hours.

In addition to providing energy directly to Richland’s power distribution system, excess electricity from the solar panels will be stored by the battery system for later use. 

“The battery will smooth the solar output, shift off-peak solar generation to times when the energy is needed, and help reduce peak energy demand,” said Gerkensmeyer. 

Richland’s Regional Education and Training Center, a non-profit organization focused on training new and incumbent workers, will create the solar and battery training curriculum. Training will cover plant construction, operations, maintenance, and safety and hazard prevention.

The problem with agriculture

According to the study, overall, agriculture produces enough calories for the world’s current population, but that is not to say we are producing enough fruits and vegetables and protein sources. Agriculture today is over-producing energy-dense foods, especially sugars, cereals, and oils.

There are two other issues to take into account when talking about our current agricultural methods. One is climate change. There is no way to get around this issue because global agriculture is already being impacted by a changing climate and extreme weather conditions.

The second issue is greenhouse gas emissions. The agricultural sector is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases - second only to burning fossil fuels.

According to the World Resources Institute, the 10 countries with the largest agricultural emissions in 2011 were (in descending order): China, Brazil, United States, India, Indonesia, Russian Federation, Democratic Republic of Congo, Argentina, Myanmar, and Pakistan. Together, these countries contributed 51 percent of global agricultural emissions.

Currently, researchers and scholars propose addressing the problem of feeding the world’s population by increasing agricultural production, investing in technology to boost yields, changing diets, or reducing food waste. But with fixing the mismatch in our agricultural sector, we could actually reduce the amount of land needed to feed the world.

The study tackles nutrition

To solve the problem, researchers calculated the number of servings per person on the planet for each food group based on Harvard University’s “Healthy Eating Plate” guide, which recommends that half of our diet consists of fruits and vegetables; 25 per cent, whole grains; and 25 per cent, protein, fat and dairy.

The researchers then calculated the amount of land currently being used for farming and how much would be needed if everyone followed the nutritional recommendations. They then projected those numbers for 2050, when the global population is expected to reach 9.8 billion.

When global production is divided into different food groups, an interesting picture emerges. Specifically, global agriculture currently produces 12 servings of grains, 5 of fruits and vegetables, 3 of oil and fat, 3 of protein, 1 of milk and 4 servings of sugar per person per day, according to the study.

“In contrast, using the HHEP, we estimate that global agriculture production should provide 8 servings of whole grains, 15 servings of fruits and vegetables, 1 serving of oil, 5 servings of protein, and 1 serving of milk per person per day to provide a nutritionally balanced diet,” says the study.

What we are producing at a global level is not what we should be producing according to nutritionists,” said Fraser, whose co-authors include Krishna KC, a research scientist in the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, Profs. Nigel Raine and Madhur Anand, School of Environmental Sciences, and Prof. Malcolm Campbell, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Because carbohydrates are relatively easy to produce and can feed many people, developing countries focus on growing grains, said KC, lead author of the study. “Also fat, sugar and salt are tasty and are what we humans crave, so we have a real hunger for these foods,” said KC. “All of these factors combined have resulted in a world system that is really overproducing these types of foods.”

“Feeding the next generation is one of the most pressing challenges facing the 21st century. For a growing population, our calculations suggest that the only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land and reduce greenhouse gas emission is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables as well as a transition to diets higher in plant-based protein.”

Basically, the findings in this study echo the thoughts outlined in the IPCC’s stunning 1.5 Degree Report: we need to completely rethink the way that we manage our food, transportation, government, and production if we have any hope of supporting the human population

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