How and why Dominion and other utilities lie
By David Wojick
I recently published a report on how Virginia’s big electric power utility, Dominion, deliberately ignores the fact that the state’s zero emission law does not work. Utilities are doing this around the country, because they will make a fortune building useless wind and solar generation, before they finally admit it does not work and have to revive the abolished “power generated when needed”.
Here is my executive summary in Dominion’s case. VCEA is the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which foolishly mandates zero emissions from electric power generation by 2045.
Reliability means designing for the likely worst case. With conventional generation this means supplying peak need, also called peak demand. When counting on solar or wind there is also the critical issue of minimum supply backed up by storage. The reliability analysis reported here looks at minimum supply with battery storage under VCEA, in two separate steps.
Step one is a simple reliability analysis for solar power. In this first step the storage requirements for reliable solar energy around the clock are derived for the period of five days of dark cloudy weather. That Virginia will see five dark days from time to time is certain.
The second step applies the step one results to Dominion’s compliance plan for VCEA. This plan is called Plan C in Dominion’s recent Integrated Resource Plan. The primary focus is on Plan C through 2036, because Dominion gives year by year generation startups and retirements for this period.
The primary step one finding is that to reliably produce just 1,000 MW of solar power, around the clock for five dark days, requires at least 6,000 MW of solar generating capacity and at least 120,000 MWh of storage capacity. Based on EIA’s standard cost estimates this works out to around $60 billion per 1,000 MW of reliable solar power. A more refined analysis will find much larger numbers, some of which are discussed.
In step two we find that Plan C includes just a tiny fraction, less than 6%, of the storage capacity required to make their solar generation reliable. Thus the proposed solar generation is completely unreliable. Moreover, our estimated cost for reliable storage is around $65 billion, just through 2036. This is more than Dominion’s cost estimate for the entire Plan C. Adequate storage for all of VCEA could cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
It is important to keep in mind that wind generation cannot be relied upon to help when it comes to minimum solar power supply events. This is because there may be no wind generation during an extended dark cloudy period. In fact wind power has its own storage needs, which are on top of the solar power case analyzed here.
Dominion says they are doing a lot of reliability analysis. Clearly that analysis has yet to find its way into their Integrated Resource Plans. The present Plan is disastrously unreliable.
The IRP does specifically say that importing electricity from other power producers is not a viable way to make intermittent solar power reliable. The reason is that the other utilities will also be needing energy due to their reliance on solar. The IRP gives the example of “extended cloudy winter periods” so Dominion appears to be well aware of this crucial design issue.
Clearly what is needed at this point is an Integrated Resource Plan by Dominion that properly considers the storage required to make the VCEA’s solar and wind mandates reliable. The numbers will be very large.”
This pattern of deception is now national. Many states and electric power utilities have promised zero emissions or such like. None to my knowledge has presented a true engineering analysis of this outlandish promise. Dominion is just an example.
Everyone is just sliding toward impossibility, because there is big money and political power to be made before they hit the wall. The utility engineers know perfectly well that wind and solar cannot work, but they are silenced by the powers that be, both corporate and political.
I hate to hope for blackouts, but I must hope for truth, however it comes.
David Wojick, Ph.D. is an independent analyst working at the intersection of science, technology and policy. For origins see http://www.stemed.info/engineer_tackles_confusion.html. For over 100 prior articles for CFACT see http://www.cfact.org/author/david-wojick-ph-d/ Available for confidential research and consulting.