10. All states shall accelerate R&D of HVDC electric grids, energy storage, and Demand System Management

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Rapporteur: Michel Duguay 17 June 2019

In North America, as well as in Europe, the price of electricity from wind turbines and from photovoltaic panels is now low enough to compete with electricity produced by conventional power plants based on burning coal or natural gas. At least two problems, however, must be tackled in order to make renewable power large enough to alleviate the climate change issue. The first one is storage. The wind does not always blow with enough strength and the electrical output of solar panels fluctuates with cloud coverage. The second problem is the need to transmit electric power from power-rich regions to power-poor ones while at the same time maintaining grid power reliability and frequency stability.

The renewable power fluctuation problem is being alleviated by the recent development of high capacity batteries for electric cars and for buildings. The idea is that cars are parked during a good part of the day and that we could keep them connected to the electric power grid while parked. When the power grid has excess electricity it could store it in the electric car and building batteries. When the power grid faces a very high demand for electric power it could go and fetch electrical energy stored in the building and car batteries. Computers would be used to smoothly manage this exchange of electric power.

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Adam Wynne

I think it it is important to re-frame discussions around notions of “decommissioning” of old electrical generating stations. Is simply shutting the plant down good enough? Or should steps be taken to de-construct the plant(s) and safely dispose of materials? I think the scale of electric generating stations are difficult for many folks to grasp. In many cases – such as the Hearn Generating Station on Unwin Avenue, Toronto – a former coal-powered generating station – the plant was simply powered down, the entrances allegedly sealed off, and it listed as decommissioned on government and public documents. What is to… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An additional field of energy production which should be explored is that of piezoelectricity. Piezoelectricity is the generation of electricity and energy through compression of materials – most often mechanical compression of crystalline materials – such as quartz. Quartz watches have used this form of energy generation for years. Additional proposed applications of this field of energy production include a dance floor at a night club that generates electricity as folks dance; or a road that generates electricity as cars drive on it. A nightclub in the Netherlands has already tried to implement this system via a dance floor situated… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) is an interesting field for energy research and applications. I am not an expert in this field – but was thinking of potential applications of it for environmentally friendly energy. Here are some excerpts from papers on the topic: ” The fundamental concept behind MHD is the magnetic field can induce currents in moving conductive fluid, which in turns creates force on the fluid and also changes the magnetic field itself. The generator used in this process is called Magneto Hydro Dynamic (MHD) Power Generator. MHD power generator don’t have any mechanical part to produce current and the… Read more »

Adam Wynne

MHD additionally has applications for the desalination of water. This has been in research and development since the 1980s (I think).

Adam Wynne

Have folks heard of the Benban Solar Park? It is a series of 41 land plots in Egypt – ranging from 0.3 to 1 square kilometer. The plots are designed to generate solar energy – in the largest such complex globally. Interesting, instead of one company running it- each plot is to be leased (or sold) to a different company or group of companies. Interesting notion here – as it seems most solar panel installations (on a commerical scale) are managed or owned by one company.

Adam Wynne

Has anyone heard about whether it is still cheaper to import hydroelectric energy from Northern Ontario and Quebec versus. refurbishing the nuclear reactors in Ontario? I heard rumours it was about 12 cents cheaper (over the long-term) per kilowatt to import hydroelectric than it was to invest in re-furbishing the reactors. I wonder how many jobs can be created by tapping Northern Ontario’s renewable energy potential…?

Adam Wynne

Many folks (politicians included) may only focus on the 4-year election cycle and it is difficult to engage in long-term policy, program, and study discussions with election cycles looming on the horizon.

Adam Wynne

I saw a photo circulating on social media regarding adaptive use of solar panels as fencing materials. Apparently solar panels are becoming cheaper and more flexible – and as such – there are a range of adaptive uses for them. One of interest was solar panel fences in sunny areas. Could provide an additional boost for a home via a garden!

Solar Panel Fences.jpg

The demand management angle is especially important, but not always recognized. Energy demand management systems aim to optimize the demand-supply and optimize energy generation and transmission systems. Energy demand systems are automated systems that send signals to the customers to shed load depending on systems conditions. It also informs the system supervisors about the coming changes in demand patterns.

Beverly Anderson

The demand system management idea depends on using prices signals to influence consumers, so we use electricity more during the hours when it is cheap. But not many people pay attention to the price of the electricity, do they? Is this an effective motivator?

Ruth Needham

It must have some effect, Beverly, because carbon taxation works. I don’t hearing anyone discussing the price of gasoline, but nevertheless the evidence shows that they don’t drive as much when it is expensive.

Michael Tingle

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N.Y. Commits $55 Million to Long Island Energy Storage
Program includes commercial and residential storage projects


Decentralization makes us less vulnerable. And one great form of decentralization is to own the solar panels on your roof and don’t feed the electricity back into the grid but store it. Here’s a familiar sight — the alternative, older approach.