Costa Rica hits a major renewable energy milestone, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) releases a report on how the U.S. can support the increasing amount of solar and wind energy generation, and utilities invest in solar as prices continue to drop. Read these stories and more in this week's renewable energy news roundup.
150 Days and Counting, Costa Rica Gets All of its Electricity from Renewables
Recently, Costa Rica hit its 150th day this year powering its electric grid entirely by its mix of hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. According to an ICE report, hydropower contributed about 80 percent of the country's electricity needs in August, followed by geothermal (12 percent), wind (7 percent) and solar energy (0.01 percent). Costa Rica hasn't needed to rely on fossil fuels for electricity since June 16. "Since then, it's been 76 consecutive days in which all electricity has come from plants that use renewable resources," the ICE said.Read the full article
NREL Models the Increasing Use of Wind and Solar On Eastern U.S. Power Grid
A new study from the United States Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has used high-performance computing capabilities together with visualization tools to model, in what the NREL describes as "unprecedented detail," how the power grid along the eastern United States could operationally accommodate higher levels of wind and solar PV electricity generation. Many have been the claims that existing power grids are unable to deal with the influx of fluctuating renewable electricity such as wind and solar generated electricity. "By modeling the power system in depth and detail, NREL has helped reset the conversation about how far we can go operationally with wind and solar in one of the largest power systems in the world," said the Energy Department's Charlton Clark.
As Solar Price Drops, Utility Interest Spurs Growth in Non-Traditional Market
Recent reports from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory highlight the fact that, as solar prices continue to drop, utilities are developing more and more of the resource, especially on the utility-scale side. Since 2015, the national median installed price for residential solar systems have fallen 5 percent, while non-residential systems have seen costs drop between 7 percent and 9 percent. Meanwhile, utility-scale solar has fallen the most, totaling 12 percent since last year. And the price of building solar power plant generation has fallen 60 percent since 2009. As usual, falling prices are driving solid growth. With the 7,260 MW solar buildout in 2015, the utility-scale solar sector broke its own growth record with a 6 percent jump from 2014.
Renewables, Imports Replace Natural Gas in California Energy Mix
California relied far more on renewable sources of electricity this summer than it did in 2015, as solar energy grew and hydroelectric resources made a rebound. The increase in hydro and solar, along with more imported energy, meant that natural gas use was down by 20 percent from the previous summer, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The shift to more renewables and demand-side resources, such as energy storage and efficiency, is likely only to increase in coming years. To manage the threats of rolling blackouts next year, Southern California utilities are investing in battery storage at record speed to accommodate the natural-gas limits that are expected from shutting down the natural-gas storage facility at Aliso Canyon.