Weekend reads - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Efficiency, Sourcing Renewables  -  October 5, 2019

Weekend reads: Sodium battery storage in Iowa; America's oil-funded wind farm

It's the weekend! Kick back and catch up with these must-read articles from around the web:

3 state commissions upending the way utilities do business (Utility Dive) State utility commissions across the country are innovating the regulatory process in response to the rise of variable renewable generation and distributed energy resources (DER). These dockets seek to change the way utilities do business. Illinois and Oregon commissions are shifting away from traditional cost of service (COS) valuation, and Hawaii's performance-based regulation (PBR) proceeding would transform the regulatory paradigm, regulators told an audience last week at the 2019 Solar Power International (SPI) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

How Big Oil Of The Past Helped Launch The Solar Industry Of Today (NPR) Call it a sign of the times. Renewable energy has gotten so cheap that even oil giant Exxon Mobil, which reported $20.8 billion in earnings in 2018, is getting in on the savings. Over the next couple of years, Exxon Mobil will begin purchasing wind and solar power in West Texas, part of a 12-year agreement signed late last year with the Danish energy company Orsted. The plan is to use cheap, clean electricity to power Exxon Mobil's expanding operations in the Permian Basin, one of the world's most productive oil fields. It's not the first time economic considerations have led the company to explore the possibilities of solar.

As world chases rare metal for batteries, Iowa looks to sodium for storage solution (Energy News Network) Iowa is betting on big batteries to help it unlock more wind energy potential as a lack of grid capacity begins to constrain development in parts of the state. The Iowa Economic Development Authority for the past couple of years has been funding and encouraging research into various forms of battery storage. In July, it gave Steve Martin, a materials science and engineering professor at Iowa State University, a $480,000 grant to continue work aimed at making a battery based on solid sodium.

The Oil Money Fueling America’s Biggest— And Costliest—Wind Farm (Forbes) Anschutz has a soft spot for oil, as that’s where he got his start, and fossil fuels form the basis of his estimated $11.5 billion fortune, placing him at No. 41 on The Forbes 400. Unwrapping a fresh box of Swisher Sweets cigarillos, he explains the favored attributes of the 500,000 acres his oil company has been exploring in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, where his team has drilled and fracked enough wells to be convinced they are sitting on more than a billion barrels. This could yield a bigger payday than the $2.5 billion he made in 2010 selling other oilfields. Anschutz, 79, has never been a roughneck. He’s 5 feet 9, slim, well-coiffed and sounds like the actor Lorne Greene (more Battlestar Galactica than Bonanza) as he explains that his next—and perhaps last—big investment will not be in oil at all. Instead, fossil-fuel king Phil Anschutz is building America’s biggest wind farm.

Here’s How Much Energy These D.C. Landmarks Could Produce With Solar Power (WAMU) As of April, the District reported about 4,500 solar energy systems with a total generating capacity of roughly 64 megawatts, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. H.D. Woodson High School in Northeast houses the largest small-scale solar energy system, with a generating capacity of 0.6 megawatts. The Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium and the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling military complex, meanwhile, host the largest utility-scale solar generating systems, with capacities of 1 megawatt and 5.9 megawatts, respectively, according to EIA.


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