Citizens Budget Commission Getting Greener – How Much Renewable Energy?

Update: I have prepared three technical posts on this report: Once I completed these three posts, I realized that they were too wonky for a general audience.  The first post discussed their findings, the second post addressed their renewable energy forecast to meet the CLCPA, and the third post calculates the energy storage requirement for a winter peak period.  Because the CBC study is so important, I have prepared a less-technical summary that hits the highlights of all three posts.

On December 9, 2019 the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) released a report entitled Getting Greener: Cost-Effective Options for Achieving New York’s Greenhouse Gas Goals  that addresses the impacts of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).   There is much to like about the report but I disagree with a few of their recommendations and have concerns about some of the methodology.  In order to do this report justice, I have prepared three posts.

If you have an interest in New York energy policy I recommend that you read the entire document.  It is well written, comprehensively covers many of the issues associated with the CLCPA, and makes estimates of the resources needed to implement the CLCPA.  The first post discussed their findings and this post addresses their renewable energy forecast to meet the CLCPA.  The final post will address the energy storage requirement.

Background

The CBC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic organization whose mission is “to achieve constructive change in the finances and services of New York City and New York State government”.  They claim to serve the public rather than narrow special interests try to preserve public resources, whether financial or human; and focus on the well-being of future New Yorkers which they say are “the most underrepresented group in city and state government”.

The CBC Energy Policy Committee managed the development of the report.  It was prepared for CBC by Seth Hulkower, President of Strategic Energy Advisory Services.  Apparently, this project has been in the works for a long time because the “initial findings of this report were presented at a CBC research conference held in New York City in December 2018”. The report was not completed until December 2019 because of New York’s changing policies over the past year.  In particular, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was promulgated in July 2019. They made revisions based on feedback from external reviewers and staff at the Public Service Commission and the New York League of Conservation Voters but noted that their willingness to assist in the research does not “imply any endorsement of the report’s findings and recommendations”.

Background

The CBC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic organization whose mission is “to achieve constructive change in the finances and services of New York City and New York State government”.  They claim to serve the public rather than narrow special interests try to preserve public resources, whether financial or human; and focus on the well-being of future New Yorkers which they say are “the most underrepresented group in city and state government”.

The CBC Energy Policy Committee managed the development of the report.  It was prepared for CBC by Seth Hulkower, President of Strategic Energy Advisory Services.  Apparently, this project has been in the works for a long time because the “initial findings of this report were presented at a CBC research conference held in New York City in December 2018”. The report was not completed until December 2019 because of New York’s changing policies over the past year.  In particular, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was promulgated in July 2019. They made revisions based on feedback from external reviewers and staff at the Public Service Commission and the New York League of Conservation Voters but noted that their willingness to assist in the research does not “imply any endorsement of the report’s findings and recommendations”.

Resources Needed to Meet CLCPA Goals

Section 3.5 of the report forecasts the renewable energy resources needed to meet the CLCPA goals including the 2040 requirement to no longer use fossil fuels for electric generation.  The report lays out the problem well:

The twin goals of shifting from fossil fueled and nuclear-powered generation and electrifying heating and transportation in New York will transform the mix of generation and increase total electric consumption significantly. At this writing, neither the NYISO nor any New York State agency or authority has provided a long-range projection of what the result of these policies might be. In order to get a sense of whether the current program set out by the CLCPA will meet the goals, an analysis is provided in Appendix C to add up the total energy requirements on one side and the existing, planned and further resources needed on the other to determine how much renewable generation New York may need.

The report describes the methodology used to provide an estimate of future renewable energy requirements in Appendix C.  The first step was to estimate the annual energy load.  In the next step they used the New York Generation Attribute Tracking System (NYGATS) data to determine the amount of energy provided to the grid in 2017 from existing renewables, nuclear, natural gas, coal, oil and solid waste.   For each sector they made assumptions about future use.  For example, they assumed that coal, oil and solid waste energy would go to zero by 2025.  Then they determined how much would be available from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) projects that are being considered, solar and wind projects announced as part of CLCPA, and then calculated how much more would be needed simply by summing everything else and subtracting that from their estimate of total annual energy load in 2030 and 2040.

Their results indicate that “as New York moves to a path of decarbonizing heating and transportation in New York, the total electric demand will rise to 211,100 Gwh by 2040. To serve that demand with 100 percent non-emitting resources, nearly 94,000 Gwh of additional renewables will need to be added, a total that is roughly double the amount to be added from offshore wind (37,800 Gwh) and distributed solar (8,400 Gwh) now set by the CLCPA.

Future Energy Load Concerns

The report provides an estimate of future renewable energy requirements in Appendix C.  The first step was to estimate the annual energy load.  NYSERDA, Department of Pubic Service, and New York Independent System Operator forecast a drop in load use from 153,163 GWh in 2017 to 141,000 GWh in 2030 as a result from all the energy efficiency and load reduction programs.  However, that does not include the additional load needed for electrification of transportation and heating.  The CBC report developed those numbers.

Unfortunately, there are inconsistencies in the numbers provided that I think go beyond any interpretation errors I might have.  The Annual Energy Load Estimates (GWh) in Appendix C table lists annual energy load estimates from 2017 to 2040 when the CLCPA mandates that there be no fossil-fired electric generation.  In the first section of Appendix A the report estimates the energy load reduction as 936 GWh per year from 2017 to 2030 and that works out to give 141,000 GWh in 2030.  However, they estimated the annual impact of increased load as electrification of transportation and heating take effect between 2021 and 2050 as an increase of 3,000 GWh per year.  The numbers listed in the CBC estimate column are from the first section of Appendix C and are inconsistent with these rates.  Further in the appendix there is a table that lists the total generation forecast, CBC forecast column, and those numbers are also inconsistent with the calculated values shown in the total load column.  At least those values show that load increases with increased electrification.

Future Resource Assumption Concerns

This is a complex problem and CBC is to be congratulated for this work and the effort it represents.  However, there are some issues that should be noted with their assumptions for generation from different sources.  In my opinion, the impact of these issues would be to make compliance with the CLCPA even more difficult and make their estimates unusable for estimating cost.  Most importantly, these issues do not change their bottom-line estimate of energy needed in 2040.  It only affects the transition output of different sectors in prior years.

In particular, I note these minor issues.  CBC assumes that all existing renewable energy will be available in 2040 but many of those sources will be older than their life expectancy.  CBC assumes that imported nuclear energy will continue to be available at the same levels through 2040 and that might be overly optimistic.  The analysis assumes that coal, oil and solid waste will go to zero by 2025.  Coal will be zeroed out in 2020 because the last coal plant shut down in 2019.  However, oil generation provides a valuable backup to natural gas generation so I expect that there will be some oil burned as long as natural gas is used.

Additional Renewable Energy Resources Concerns

The second substantive issue I want to highlight is the apparent inconsistency between some of the numbers in Table 3 in the text and a table in Appendix C as shown in the CBC Getting Greener Comparison of Energy Resourcess table.  In the 2030 data, there is a small difference between the existing renewables numbers in the two tables that I believe is just a rounding difference.  However, the sum of the total renewables or the target energy to be provided by renewable resources in Table 3, 98,700 GWh is not close to the sum (119,700 GWh) of the renewable categories in the Appendix C table.  In the 2040 data, the existing nuclear available is different and the total renewables in Table 3 is 141,000 GWh and in Appendix C the total renewables are 211,100 GWh.

Although the “smart” grid is supposed to reduce peak loads and make the difficulties providing power at the peak, the fact is that electrification of heating and transportation is necessary to meet the strict CLCPA goals  The CBC analysis suggests that “electrification of transportation and heating could add nearly 90,000 GWh to statewide consumption, which was approximately 160,000 GWh in 2015 but is projected by NYSERDA to fall to 141,000 by 2030”.  They go on to say that “This new energy will have to be provided from non-emitting sources in order to reduce GHG emissions and will be in addition to the offshore wind resources and distributed solar presently mandated by the CLCPA. To meet the CLCPA’s goals New York will need to add 55,600 GWh (refer to Table 3) for existing electric use; this 90,000 GWh would be additive to that total.”  Assuming the CBC load reductions from 2030 to 2040 with an added 90,000 GWh then the Appendix C value of total energy needed of 211,100 GWh is consistent with their conclusions.  Therefore, I used their Appendix C numbers in my analysis of the implications of their work.

Implications of Future Renewable Energy Resources

The CBC Forecast of 2040 Capacity (MW) Resources to Meet CLCPA Goals table in CBC Getting Greener Comparison of Energy Resources provides enough information to estimate the renewable capacity in MW to determine how many windmills and solar panels would be needed as shown in the CBC Forecast of 2040 Capacity (MW) Resources to Meet CLCPA Goals table.  In 2017, the existing NYCA renewable resources generating capability totaled 6,351 MW.  This total includes hydro (4,253 MW), large wind generation (1,739 MW), -scale solar PV (32 MW), and other renewable resources (327 MW).  CBC estimates resources needed in GWh so we need an estimate of capacity factor to project the MW capacity.  The CBC analysis used median figures from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for these technologies: Residential/Distributed Solar 16%; Utility Scale Solar 20% and Offshore Wind 48%.  For Land based Wind they used a historical value of 26%.  I used those capacity factor values to estimate MW for each of the categories in their table.   There is one last calculation needed because the CBC table has a category for additional renewables rather than a break out of solar and wind types.  I simply apportioned the renewables to 33% on-shore wind, 33% off-shore wind, 17% residential solar, and 17% utility-scale solar to get a first cut estimate.  Using these assumptions New York would have to build 11,395 MW of residential solar, 16,117 MW of utility-scale solar, 18,457 MW of on-shore wind and 16,363 MW of off-shore wind.  Remember this does not include replacing existing renewables that we expect to shut down before 2040.

Let’s put those numbers in perspective using numbers from the most recent projects in the Article 10 permitting queue for on-shore wind and utility scale solar.  On December 16, 2019 the DPS Siting Board approved the Bluestone Wind Project and their most recent application update listed five potential wind turbine models.  The highest rated power for these turbines was 4.8 MW which would mean that over 3,845 on-shore wind turbines would be needed to meet the 18,457 MW output assumption.  On September 26, 2019 the East Point Energy Center application was submitted for a solar project that will have a generating capacity of 50 MW.  According to the summary description the area inside the fences (which I assume is the area where the panels are located) will cover 352 acres.  Using those numbers each MW of utility scale solar will cover 7 acres so 112,816 acres or 176 square miles will be needed to meet the 16,117 MW of utility scale solar output assumption.  There are no off-shore wind facilities in the DPS queue so I used press release information for the Equinor 816 MW winning project: “The project is expected to be developed with 60-80 wind turbines, with an installed capacity of more than 10 MW each”.   I found a specific capacity of 10.2 MW and that means that 1,604 wind turbines would be needed to meet the 16,363 MW output assumption.  For residential solar I used the rule of thumb that you need 66 square feet to generate 1kW of solar energy and that would require 36 solar panels.  That means that nearly 27 square miles of residential roofs would have to be covered by over 364.6 million solar panels to meet the 11,395 MW assumption.

Future Peak Wind Renewable Resources

While the CBC analysis does a laudable job trying to estimate the impact of long-term electrification (see section 3.4.1 in the report), I believe more of an emphasis on the peak load problem should have been included.  That effort is significantly more difficult to do.  I made an attempt to look at a winter peak period using the CBC load projections.  I have previously evaluated the solar and wind resource potential during a summer peak period and I have used the same approach for this analysis.

Briefly, my approach uses a combination of historical and meteorological data to estimate future output for the two-day period.  The results are shown in the CBC Forecasted 2040 Capacity Resources to Meet CLCPA Goals During January 3-4 2018 Winter Peak table.  I used historical generation output for the on-shore wind, other renewables, nuclear and hydro sectors from the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) for January 3 and 4 2018 and calculated future output as the ratio between the CBC derived MW and actual MW capacity in 2018.  I assumed no change in hydro capacity.  (Note that there are a pair of columns for each category in the table and that at the top of the category the left column lists the actual value and the right column lists the derived value.) There was no off-shore wind generation in 2018 so I used meteorological data from an off-shore buoy and estimated the output from a 10.2 MW wind turbine for the period.  I calculated the future energy output as the ratio between the CBC derived MW and the single turbine.  There were no hourly values available for solar for this period so I made a crude assumption about the solar output available and assumed that clouds were not an issue.  For utility-scale solar I used the NYISO 2017 total capacity of utility-scale solar and the NYISO residential behind the meter solar capacity for residential solar, then scaled both by the CBC derived MW capacity.  In order to estimate the hourly load, I took the ratio of 2017 total energy load and the CBC calculated 2040 annual load.

The results are strongly influenced upon my assumptions for off-shore wind output.  In this analysis I characterized wind energy output as a function of observed wind as follows.   I used a wind turbine power output variation curve that had a cut-in speed of 3.5 m/s and a cut-out wind speed of 25 m/s. Using that wind variation curve, I estimated that the straight line output of each 10.2 MW wind turbine will equal 0.971 times the wind speed minus 3.4.  For the input meteorological data, I used a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoy located 30 nautical miles south of Islip, NY (40°15’3″ N 73°9’52” W) that I used to represent NY offshore wind resource availability. The observed wind speed at the hub height is proportional to the logarithm of the height above ground.  For that calculation I assumed a hub height of 173 m and a surface roughness of 0.0003 using the buoy anemometer height of 4.9 m. I downloaded hourly NDBC data for 2018 and calculated the wind energy output for every hour in the two-day period using that relationship and the wind turbine output variation equation I derived.

Those assumptions are important because there were two no-wind energy output periods on 3-4 January 2018.   I was surprised to see that the wind resource went to zero not only when the winds were light on January 3 but also when a deep low pressure developed and the wind speeds exceeded 25 m/s on the very next day.  On January 3 there was a high pressure strong enough over the New York offshore wind region that winds were less than 3.5 m/s for five hours.  However, a storm system moved eastward from the Midwest and re-developed into a strong storm just off the coast on January 4 with an eleven-hour period of greater than 25 m/s wind speed 13 hours after the light wind period ended.

Conclusion

The Citizens Budget Commission report entitled Getting Greener: Cost-Effective Options for Achieving New York’s Greenhouse Gas Goals is a very good study because it provides an estimate of the renewable resources required to meet the CLCPA 2040 fossil-free electric sector target.  The State has not admitted that 2040 load is going to be substantially higher than the current levels but this report makes a compelling case for a significant increase in annual load.  I used their projections of the resources needed to meet the energy requirements (GWh) to estimate the power capacity (MW) needed.  I doubt that many people understand just how many wind turbines and solar panels will be needed.

The CBC forecast of resources to meet CLCPA goals is not without its faults, however.  In order to make a better estimate of the resources it is necessary to look at peak periods.  It is inappropriate to assume that a “smart” grid and more energy efficiency is going to eliminate electric load peaks so that they do not have to be considered.  Residential heating and transportation electrification will impact the winter peak very likely shifting the annual peak to winter simply because you cannot shift heating when it is very cold.   However, it is unfair to ask the CBC to address the winter peak expected load because it is a very complicated problem and would take a lot more effort.

I took a look at a winter peak period renewable resources derived from the CBC forecast.  I made a first cut attempt to estimate the capacity necessary to meet future energy load but I made a crude assumption that the peak load could be met with the resources needed to meet the annual energy estimate.  A better estimate of the resources necessary for peak loads will have to wait until some State agency prepares it.

Despite the limitations of this initial assessment one conclusion can be drawn.  Intuitively it is obvious that wind and solar renewable energy is going to be low to non-existent when the winds are calm at night. The inescapable conclusion is that adding more wind turbines or solar cells does not preclude the need for substantial energy storage.  The size of the numbers shown is sobering and the next post will address the resulting energy storage requirement.  While all the New York on-shore and off-shore wind resources may not go to zero simultaneously as shown in my estimate, that resource is going to be highly correlated across the available area in New York so all renewable resources will track closely and enormous energy storage resources will be needed.  The only reason that New York State will not become utterly dependent upon its neighbors to provide reliable electric power for winter peak periods are the New York City transmission-related reliability constraints.

Author: rogercaiazza

I am a meteorologist (BS and MS degrees), was certified as a consulting meteorologist and have worked in the air quality industry for over 40 years. I author two blogs. Environmental staff in any industry have to be pragmatic balancing risks and benefits and (https://pragmaticenvironmentalistofnewyork.blog/) reflects that outlook. The second blog addresses the New York State Reforming the Energy Vision initiative (https://reformingtheenergyvisioninconvenienttruths.wordpress.com). Any of my comments on the web or posts on my blogs are my opinion only. In no way do they reflect the position of any of my past employers or any company I was associated with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s