Energy

Hydropower Reservoirs Study Seeks to Aid Wind and Solar

Researchers at the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research have illustrated how 'two-way' electrify trading between New England, New York, and Quebec can reduce energy-system costs. (istock)

An MIT study claims that hydropower from Quebec can provide stored energy and solve the intermittency issues afflicting wind and solar power.

Researchers at the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research illustrate how “two-way” electrify trading between New England, New York, and Quebec can reduce energy-system costs, decrease natural gas use, and limit the need for emerging technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration.

To get there, 4 gigawatts of new transmission lines must built between New England and Quebec so that existing hydropower reservoirs can send power on demand.

Meanwhile, attorneys general from Rhode Island and Massachusetts signed on to a letter in support of a 2018 rule by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that requires utilities to include energy storage in wholesale electricity markets. The rule is being appealed by utilities through groups such as the American Public Power Association over anticipated cost increases. The states say the rule would create billions in economic and environmental benefits.

Mayflower Wind record price
The 804-megawatt Mayflower Wind project being developed by Royal Dutch Shell and EDP Renováveis in the wind-energy zone south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket was recently awarded a power-purchase contract of 5.8 cents per kilowatt-hour from the Massachusetts utilities that will be buying the electricity. The price agreement offered by Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil needs to be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Pubic Utilities.

The record low price is less than the previous low of 6.5 cents for the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project.

More than $70 billion of potential investments in offshore wind facilities are proposed between North Carolina and Maine, but all await the outcome of an overdue federal environmental review on the Vineyard Wind project by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

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  1. The solar siting bill, House Bill 7426 is "expected to create some disagreement with the environmental community."

    What are the points of disagreement? I hope you will devote a complete report to this question. This is thee huge issue, the solar siting land-rush in rural Rhode Island.

    Having read the bill—though not being expert in the nuances—it would seem this bill is a big improvement over last year’s. One such critical improvement is that "environmentally sensitive areas," which in last year’s bill did not define, are now defined:

    " ‘Areas of environmental concern’ means conservation opportunity areas as defined by the department of environmental management under the 2015 wildlife action plan."

    Which means that, at last, all parties to a given solar proposal must pay heed at the very outset to the mapping of those sensitive areas contained in the Wildlife Action Plan.

    The Wildlife Action Plan played a huge role in the expert testimony against the Invenergy power plant, where DEM, The Nature Conservancy, and the Town of Burrillville’s expert witness all testified and explained in voluminous detail how the power plant represented an "unacceptable harm" to the environment, in significant measure because the power plant would be sited in the middle of a Wildlife Action Plan designated wildlife migration "Corridor." (And a wildlife survey, ordered by the Energy Facility Siting Board, documented the presence of such an unusually large suite of threatened-status species that the power plant area is likely to acquire a "Natural Heritage Area" designation when the Wildlife Action Plan is revised in 2025.)

    In the future, if this bill were passed with this provision intact, solar developers would have to avoid such environmentally sensitive areas, or be compelled to mitigate impacts if the scientific facts on the ground would allow. Local planning boards, too, could call in expert witnesses to interrogate the developers just as the EFSB did in the case of the Invenergy power plant in Burrillville.

  2. Bill,
    You are right that H 7426 recognizes the areas of environmental concern that are defined by the DEM Wildlife Action Plan. However, this bill will continue to encourage solar developments of up to 20 acres in these invaluable natural areas, with a big loophole to allow even larger projects. Moreover, municipalities will have the authority to opt out of any limits on solar development in the areas of environmental concern. Sacrificing RI’s most important natural areas for solar is counter productive and not necessary when we have enough land, elsewhere, to support our renewable energy objectives.
    Scott Millar

  3. Thanks for the clarification, Scott.

    So you’ve got the Wildlife Action Plan language there looking like a very attractive drink—a smoothie, perhaps, for its opacity—but at the bottom of it, a poison pill. …I’ll be reading the text again for the references and writing to my State Rep accordingly.

    Scott Millar, of GrowSmart RI, is an expert in environmental protection in land-use decision making and has been deeply involved with the crafting of a statewide solar siting bill for the past few years.

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