The implementation plan for New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) “Net Zero” target (85% reduction and 15% offset of emissions) by 2050 is underway. I think the biggest problem confronting any net-zero transition effort is matching variable wind and solar generation with load at all times. This post describes an effort by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) to address that problem for offshore wind resources. It is a great start but needs to be expanded for other sources of renewable generation and for as long a period as possible.
I have written extensively on implementation of the Climate Act. Everyone wants to do right by the environment to the extent that efforts will make a positive impact at an affordable cost. Based on my analysis of the Climate Act I don’t think that will be the case as proposed. I believe that the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available renewable technology such that the transition to an electric system relying on wind and solar will do more harm than good. I am a retired meteorologist who started working for Niagara Mohawk in 1981 and have continued to work in the New York electric generating industry continuously since then. Over that time, I have been involved in many energy planning activities that included meteorological components. The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.
Climate Act Background
The Climate Act established the Climate Action Council who is responsible for preparing the Scoping Plan that will “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda”. They were assisted by Advisory Panels who developed and presented strategies to meet the goals. Those strategies were used to develop the Integration Analysis prepared by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants that quantified the impact of the strategies. That analysis was used to develop the Draft Scoping Plan that was released for public comment on December 30, 2021 and will be finalized in 2022.
Renewable Resource Adequacy
I called the renewable resource adequacy problem the ultimate problem for the Climate Act as early as September 2020. On August 2, 2021, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) held a Reliability Planning Speaker Session to describe New York’s reliability issues to the advisory panels and Climate Action Council. All the speakers but one made the point that today’s renewable energy technology will not be adequate to maintain current reliability standards and that a “yet to be developed technology” will be needed. A recent article by David Wojick at PA Pundits International titled Unreliability Makes Solar Power Impossibly Expensive does a great job describing how renewable resource availability affects reliability. I adapted his work to New York to analyze the impact on the Draft Scoping Plan.
There are serious problems when extreme weather affects the grid. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) report on the February 2021 cold weather outages in Texas and the South Central United States described the event, the impacts and made recommendations. According to the report this event was the fourth cold-weather event in the last ten years to affect bulk electric system reliability. Cold weather caused problems that required rolling blackouts to avoid system instability and even worse problems for the electric grid. Given that the weather conditions that caused these problems occurred recently I am taken aback that resources were not devoted to preventing re-occurrence. Among the many recommendations two are relevant: “improving near-term load forecasts for extreme weather conditions” and additional study of “potential effects of low-frequency events on generators in the Western and Eastern Interconnections”.
In order to address this renewable resource variability problem, it is necessary to determine the worst-case meteorological conditions affecting wind and solar availability. As long as the NYISO and other agencies responsible for electric system reliability understand the worst-case renewable availability conditions they can plan to prevent low availability impacts. I submitted comments on the Draft Scoping Plan’s treatment of wind and solar resource availability and concluded that it was inadequate in this regard. I recommended that the State undertake a more comprehensive analysis of wind and solar availability to serve as input for future reliability planning. I have also been trying to get the NYISO and New York State Reliability Council to consider the recommendations I made for a comprehensive availability analysis. So far, I have not had any success getting a response.
Offshore Wind Power Profile Study
Despite my personal lack of success I was encouraged that the NYISO started a project in July to address offshore wind profile development. In particular, they plan to develop wind power estimates for the New York offshore wind development areas that will estimate resource availability for a 20-year period. I am going to highlight some of the slides in the presentation by DNV describing their work for the NYISO ICAP/MIWG/PRLWG Meeting on September 07, 2022. Note that all the slides are copyrighted to either NYISO or DNV and are labeled as draft for discussion purposes only. I am including a couple of slides to show what should be done on a more comprehensive basis for the Final Scoping Plan.
In my opinion, the critical consideration is the frequency, duration, and severity of periods when wind and solar resources are in “droughts” or low resource availability. I described several recent applicable papers in my comments describing analyses to estimate the frequency and duration of periods with those conditions. In order to provide a robust estimate of the wind and solar availability during worst case conditions I believe it is necessary to analyze as long a time period of historical meteorological data as possible. Fortunately, meteorological reanalysis descriptive data generated by modern weather forecast models but using observed data from decades ago is available for this application. This is exactly what DNV is proposing to do.
The DNV project description slide explains that they will use the historical data to generate detailed wind maps using a weather forecast model. This output is combined with their model that projects wind energy output as a function of wind speed. They are going to model wind energy production for seven potential development areas off Long Island and New Jersey.
The weather model slide describes their approach. They are going to use a forecast model that takes historical data and calculates wind speed and direction on an hourly basis. The inputs for their modeling include not only the observed meteorological data but also surface characteristics and surface temperatures. Note that the model inputs extend far beyond the offshore wind study area.
The presentation also includes slides on wind power modeling, wind turbine power curve output, and describes their validation analyses. They also described four different aspects that cause reductions in power output in their analysis. At some point I should compare their assumptions with those used in the Draft Scoping Plan. In order to minimize wake effects DNV is proposing 1 nautical mile spacing which seems higher than I have noticed elsewhere.
I think that this analysis is a great start. I only have one concern relative to the scope of work. As far as I could tell the meteorological input data is available back to 1980. However, this project only goes back to 2000. I think it would be better to evaluate the 1980 to 2000 data specifically looking for wind droughts. I know there was a huge ozone episode in August 1988 that had to include very light winds. I have no idea how that period compares to “normal” but we won’t know because this analysis does not cover that period.
This analysis is entirely appropriate for the offshore wind resource. However, it does not address the onshore wind and solar resources. The same type of analysis has to be done for those resources covering not only the entire state but also the area where New York could expect to import power. Ideally, the ERA5 global reanalysis data base that goes back to 1950 should be used in the analysis to find the worst-case conditions. It is not necessary to determine the renewable power output over the entire period and region. Once the worst cases are identified then a power output model can be applied to those periods to determine how the electric system can be setup to avoid bulk electric supply disruptions.
It is my professional opinion that until this comprehensive renewable energy resource evaluation is completed that New York State will unnecessarily risk catastrophic blackouts. Because the worst-case resource availability is associated with the coldest or hottest periods, the loads are highest and the need to prevent blackouts most acute.