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The POWER Podcast
33 minutes | Jun 10, 2021
90. Open-Source Technology Benefits Transmission and Distribution Operators
Open-Source Technology Benefits Transmission and Distribution Operators The term “open source" is well-recognized in the technology world, but may not be as widely understood in other sectors. What open source means is that the software code is publicly available so that anyone can contribute to the code base and create add-on extensions. This enables the growth of a market of providers that can offer hosting and add-on functionalities that can be utilized by all users. In the energy sector, LF Energy has taken a leading role in facilitating the development of open-source technology. LF Energy is part of The Linux Foundation, which is the umbrella organization for more than 425 open-source projects. Among LF Energy’s projects are platforms that help automate demand response; assist electricity, water, and other utility operators in managing systems; monitor and control microgrids and other distribution assets; and perform dynamic power flow simulations, among other things. Arjan Stam, director of System Operations with Alliander (a distribution system operator [DSO] in the Netherlands), and Lucian Balea, research and development program director and open-source manager with RTE (a transmission system operator [TSO] in France), were guests on The POWER Podcast and explained how open-source technology is being used by their companies. “We are talking about applications that would help assist the grid operators in operational control rooms to manage the power system in real time. We are talking about applications that help us to simulate the behavior of the power system to make sure that we can operate under safe conditions. We are talking about application that would increase the automation of the power grid so that the grid can react automatically in an optimized manner,” Balea, who is also the board chair for LF Energy, said. Stam, who is also an LF Energy governing board member, said DSOs are less experienced than TSOs when it comes to managing energy flows on the grid. He suggested it’s hard to start from scratch in developing greater power management capabilities. “It's really helpful if you can find an example that you can use to build this new capability,” said Stam. With open source, that’s what Alliander found. “We needed also new applications, and also the knowledge you need, and standardization you need, and interoperability you need,” said Stam. “The best way to build that and to create it is with other parties that have the same challenges. And that’s what we found in working with open source. So, it delivered us quite a lot.” Stam suggested open-source technology can also help speed the transition to renewable energy. In order to increase the level of renewable energy in the system, he said, “we need quite specialized applications that are not yet really available in the market.” However, by teaming up with other companies that have the same needs, development of the technology can happen more quickly. “And that’s actually what’s happening in open source,” Stam said. “Open source has to be seen as an accelerator. That’s the lesson that we learned from the experience of other industries,” Balea said, specifically mentioning cloud services as an example. He said by relying on open-source collaboration, cloud services technology was built and scaled very quickly. “In LF Energy, we apply this open-source acceleration lever to a great cause, that is, the energy transition,” Balea said. “If we look at the projects that we have, they are all guided by the need to adapt to a future energy system that will have to cope with a high share of distributed renewable energy resources.”
20 minutes | May 27, 2021
89. The Benefits of Flow Batteries Over Lithium Ion
The Benefits of Flow Batteries Over Lithium Ion Lithium-ion (Li-ion) is the most commonly talked about battery storage technology on the market these days, and for good reason. Li-ion batteries have a high energy density, and they are the preferred option when mobility is a concern, such as for cell phones, laptop computers, and electric vehicles. But there are different energy storage technologies that make more sense in other use cases. For example, iron flow batteries may be a better option for utility-scale power grid storage. An iron flow battery is built with three pretty simple ingredients: iron, salt, and water. “A flow battery has a tank with an electrolyte—think of it as salt water to be simple—and it puts it through a process that allows it to store energy in the iron, and then discharge that energy over an extended period of time,” Eric Dresselhuys, CEO of ESS Inc., a manufacturer of iron flow batteries for commercial and utility-scale energy storage applications, explained as a guest on The POWER Podcast. Iron flow batteries have an advantage over utility-scale Li-ion storage systems in the following areas: • Longer duration. Up to 12 hours versus a typical duration of no more than 4 hours for large-scale Li-ion systems. • Increased safety. Iron flow batteries are non-flammable, non-toxic, and have no explosion risk. The same is not true for Li-ion. • Longer asset life. Iron flow batteries offer unlimited cycle life and no capacity degradation over a 25-year operating life. Li-ion batteries typically provide about 7,000 cycles and a 7- to 10-year lifespan. • Less concern with ambient temperatures. Iron flow batteries can operate in ambient conditions from –10C to 60C (14F to 140F) without the need for heating or air conditioning. Ventilation systems are almost always required for utility-scale Li-ion systems. • Lower levelized cost of storage. Because iron flow batteries offer a 25-year life, have a capital expense cost similar to Li-ion, and operating expenses that are much lower than Li-on, the cost of ownership can be up to 40% less. “People have been really interested in flow batteries for a lot of reasons, but the most common one that you’ll hear about is the long duration,” said Dresselhuys. So, why haven’t iron flow batteries overtaken Li-ion batteries in the power grid storage market? “I think lithium has had an advantage for a couple of reasons historically,” Dresselhuys said. “The first is that it’s been more broadly available.” Dresselhuys explained that even though Li-ion batteries weren’t specifically developed for grid applications, the fact that they are well-suited for cars and other uses, where the energy density that lithium provides has real advantages, allowed manufacturing efficiencies to develop. That, in turn, has brought costs for Li-ion down and accelerated growth. Therefore, it’s taken some time for other technologies to catch up. Still, there are companies implementing iron flow battery projects. ESS announced in April that it had contracted with a Chilean utility to provide a flow battery system for use in the environmentally pristine Patagonia area. ESS’s 300-kW/2-MWh Energy Warehouse system will be integrated with renewable resources in a local microgrid with the aim of eliminating about 75% of the diesel-fueled generation previously used to power the area. “The project there was actually originally designed and spec'd out to be a lithium project, because, of course, that’s what people thought was available,” said Dresselhuys. ESS’s team of experts talked to the owners about the advantages of the iron flow battery system and came away with the order.
27 minutes | May 20, 2021
88. Looking for Carbon-Free Energy Resources? Don’t Forget Nuclear Power
Looking for Carbon-Free Energy Resources? Don’t Forget Nuclear Power As leaders around the world take steps to decarbonize energy supplies, many people have focused their attention specifically on wind and solar power. What they may fail to recognize is that nuclear power provides more electricity in the U.S. than all other carbon-free sources combined. This is true in some other countries, such as France, Sweden, and Ukraine, as well. “I think it’s a really exciting time to be in [the nuclear power] industry, not only because of all the technology that is starting to really be leveraged and come all together into a system to deploy a new reactor concept, for example, but the fact that our product has always been a clean energy source,” Dr. Rita Baranwal, former head of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Nuclear Energy, who now serves as vice president of Nuclear Energy and Chief Nuclear Officer with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “It can be a solution to decarbonization, not only for states and countries, but the world as a whole. And so, to me, it’s a very exciting time and a great time to be in the business,” she said. EPRI is an independent nonprofit organization that conducts research, development, and demonstration projects in collaboration with the electricity sector and its stakeholders. It focuses mainly on electricity generation, delivery, and use, with a goal of benefiting the public, and the organization’s U.S. and international members. EPRI has many programs designed to support the nuclear industry including in the areas of materials management, fuels and chemistry, plant performance, and strategic initiatives. “Some of the things that we’re working on are deployment of small modular reactors—SMRs—and other advanced technology. We at EPRI have partnerships in this area with Kairos, NuScale, and LucidCatalyst. That’s one area. The other is around workforce opportunities and development. EPRI does a lot of work in developing training and delivering that kind of training,” Baranwal said. While most of the world’s existing reactors are large units with capacities as high as 1,000 MW and greater, advanced designs, such as the SMRs Baranwal mentioned, may open up opportunities to use nuclear power in new applications. For example, microreactors with capacities under 10 MW may be suitable for use in very remote areas or on islands. They could also be important for Department of Defense installations. “Let’s talk about Alaska,” said Baranwal. “Right now, they rely on extensive diesel to be driven in to help generate electricity for them. If you can envision a microreactor instead, you are reducing the reliance on that fossil fuel and also creating small communities that can have a microgrid and a microreactor, and be very self-sustained.” She suggested a similar arrangement could be used in places like Puerto Rico. Baranwal said what keeps her enamored with the nuclear industry is its clean-energy attributes. “I want to leave our environment as good or better than what we are experiencing today, and I know that nuclear—it being a clean energy source—will absolutely have a vital role to play in the decarbonization efforts that we’re all experiencing and trying to accomplish,” she said.
25 minutes | May 6, 2021
87. How Artificial Intelligence Is Improving the Energy Efficiency of Buildings
How Artificial Intelligence Is Improving the Energy Efficiency of Buildings. A lot of energy is consumed by buildings. In fact, the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit energy efficiency advocacy group, says buildings account for about 40% of all U.S. energy consumption and a similar proportion of greenhouse gas emissions. Some estimates suggest about 45% of the energy used in commercial buildings is consumed by heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, of which, as much as 30% is often wasted. Most power companies these days have energy efficiency programs that help customers identify waste and implement energy-saving measures, but there are also non-utility providers working on solutions. Montreal, Canada–based BrainBox AI is one of them. It’s using artificial intelligence (AI) to significantly reduce energy consumption in buildings. “We’ve developed an autonomous artificial intelligence technology that applies to commercial buildings in order to render their heating and cooling needs, which is typically the single largest consumer of energy in a building, and to make those much more efficient and certainly much more flexible to outside demands and occupant demands,” Sam Ramadori, president of BrainBox AI, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. The company’s autonomous AI HVAC technology studies how a building operates and analyses the external factors affecting it. It identifies potential improvement opportunities and then acts to optimize the building’s system. It requires no human intervention and reacts to changes in the built environment immediately to maintain the highest tenant comfort and energy efficiency at all times. “What’s exciting is you don’t have to picture a room full of dozens of engineers managing and monitoring these buildings. It’s truly the AI optimizing the building in real time without human intervention,” Ramadori said. Surprisingly, the BrainBox technology does not require any changes to be made to most buildings’ HVAC systems. It simply connects to what’s already installed and utilizes existing sensors and data, along with third-party resources such as weather forecasts and occupancy information, to drive decision-making. It’s easy to imagine how a building’s HVAC needs change through the course of a day. For example, east-facing offices may require more cooling in earlier parts of the day as the sun rises, while west-facing offices may require more cooling later in the day as the sun shines through windows in the afternoon. The BrainBox technology accounts for those sorts of changes and adjusts dampers to keep each zone optimally heated or cooled. But it doesn’t end there, the AI is constantly learning and evolving. Ramadori explained how changes in a building’s surroundings would also be picked up and accounted for by the technology. “What happens if across the street on the south-facing side, right now there’s a parking lot, and then in a year, they build up a tower right next to it? Well, what happens, that tower is now throwing shade onto part of your building for a part of the day. So suddenly, the behavior of those rooms has changed,” Ramadori said. “What’s exciting is no one has to tell the AI that there’s a building that just went up next door, it will just learn that ‘Wait a second, those rooms that used to get hot at noon, you know, for the bottom half of my building, no longer are getting that hot anymore.’ It doesn’t know why, but it doesn't matter. It just knows. It’ll relearn—by itself without a human reprogramming it—it’ll relearn the new behavior caused by that building built next door.” “We’re cutting energy consumption in a building typically by 20 to 25%—so, it’s a large reduction—and we do so without turning one screw, which makes it super exciting and powerful,” said Ramadori.
24 minutes | Apr 29, 2021
86. Serious Power Transmission without Wires Is Closer Than You Think
Serious Power Transmission without Wires Is Closer Than You Think Most people are aware that wireless charging technology is available today for small electronic devices, such as cell phones and watches, but when it comes to larger-scale power systems, the concept of wireless transmission of electricity probably seems like science fiction. The truth, however, is that systems have been developed and are being tested that could result in kilowatts of power being transmitted over distances of kilometers very soon. “We are looking to have these sort of higher-power, kilowatt-class devices at kilometer-scale distances out for early customer testing and use in the next couple of years,” Tom Nugent, co-founder and CTO of PowerLight Technologies, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. Unlike most wireless cell phone chargers, which produce a magnetic field that a small coil in the device receives and harvests energy from to charge the battery, PowerLight uses optical power beaming technology, which converts electricity into high-intensity light. PowerLight’s system then shapes, directs, and beams the light to a specialized solar cell receiver that converts the light back to direct-current power. Through the beam, the company says “power can travel over long distances, at high altitudes, and in the deep sea—maintaining uptime, from near and far.” The innovative beam-shaping design “optimizes the energy of the beam at the start, to minimize losses across the transfer medium and maximize power in the end.” “This is a way to take energy from somewhere where it’s easy to generate or access, whether that’s a generator or an electrical outlet, and we convert that electricity into light, and then project it either through the air or through optical fibers to some remote location where it may be very difficult to get power to,” Nugent said. “What this really is, is a wireless extension cord.” PowerLight has already conducted demonstrations in which it delivered as much as a kilowatt of continual power. “One of the advantages of using near-infrared light, as we do, is that it allows you to go very long distances—kilometers or even more,” said Nugent. In fact, the company has delivered power over distances of one kilometer in demonstrations. Currently, PowerLight is focused on providing solutions for the telecommunications and construction industries, and for the military. Some of the applications that seem particularly promising include powering communication nodes, security sensors, and drones. However, as the technology evolves, Nugent envisions scenarios where megawatts of power could be delivered over hundreds of kilometers to remote military bases or small islands—places where it would be impractical to run wires. Nugent said PowerLight is getting very close to releasing some new products to the market. “It’s something that many people haven’t heard of, or don’t realize where the technology is, and it’s actually much, much closer to reality than a lot of people may have thought,” he said.
33 minutes | Apr 15, 2021
85. What's Been Holding Hydrogen Fuel Cells Back, and How to Change That
What’s Been Holding Hydrogen Fuel Cells Back, and How to Change That The technology used in modern hydrogen fuel cells is not new. In fact, NASA used fuel cells for its manned space missions in the 1960s. But fuel cells have not really “taken off” (pardon the pun) in earthly applications since that time. Some industry insiders believe that will change very soon. “We’ve been sort of monitoring hydrogen for a number of years and doing some research in it, and it became clear to us over the past few years that hydrogen can play a huge role in fighting the climate crisis and decarbonizing hard to decarbonize sectors,” Amy Adams, vice president of Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies with Cummins, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. Among the ways Adams envisions hydrogen being utilized is in fuel cells powering such things as trucks, buses, trains, and ships. There are also stationary applications, including for electric power generation, that could be a good fit. So, what’s been hindering deployment of fuels cells to date? Adams suggested there were four main things holding back widespread adoption of the technology. “First of all is just technical readiness,” said Adams. However, she noted that fuel cell technology has been evolving, and advancements have led to longer-lasting, better-performing, more-efficient, and larger-scale fuel cell systems. “They’re now ready for primetime, if you will, in several applications.” Another barrier has been infrastructure readiness. “That’s got two pieces,” Adams said. “One is the availability of hydrogen, so having hydrogen refueling stations, and then the cost of the hydrogen at the pump.” Adams noted that Cummins has been involved in a number of refueling station projects that use electrolyzers to produce hydrogen. The company has also partnered with ETC in a joint venture called NPROXX, which is based in Europe and will provide customers with hydrogen products for both on-highway and rail applications. Adams said many companies within the industry are working to address the infrastructure challenge, so she expects that to build out over time. A third obstacle has been regulation, but policymakers around the world are beginning to help on that front too. “We continue to see a lot of government activity to accelerate the role of adoption, both through mandates and incentives, tax credits, carbon taxes, etc. So, that’s going to help accelerate investment in both innovation and R&D [research and development], as well as larger-scale deployments,” she said. Lastly, in the past, total cost of ownership has not been where it needed to be. “With any technology adoption, it has to make sense for the customer from a business perspective,” said Adams. But that is also changing. “The costs have come down significantly, and will continue to go down as we go throughout this decade,” she said. According to Cummins’ total cost of ownership analysis, fuel cells will reach parity with diesel engines in heavy-duty truck applications by 2030 or sooner. “We’ve seen positive progress in all of those areas, which is why we see increased interest now and what we believe will be increased adoption over the next few years,” Adams said. One country that has already seen significant growth in fuel cell usage is South Korea. POWER reported on three new electricity generating facilities based on fuel cell technology that were deployed in South Korea last summer: a 50-MW power plant placed in service by Hanwha Energy at its Daesan Industrial Complex in Seosan, a 19.8-MW installation in Hwasung, and an 8.1-MW facility in Paju. “Part of the magic that we’re seeing in Korea as it relates to stationary power using fuel cells is incentives,” said Joe Cargnelli, director of engineering for Cummins’ Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies division. “So, they have incentives that promote the deployment of stationary fuel cells and [they’ve been] highly successful, and I think it’s a great strategy.”
20 minutes | Apr 8, 2021
84. Solar Energy in the Sunshine State: FPL Leads the Way
Solar Energy in the Sunshine State: FPL Leads the Way Florida is known as “The Sunshine State,” so it’s no surprise that solar energy is growing rampantly across the state. Among the utilities adding solar resources to their energy mixes is Florida Power and Light Co. (FPL). FPL claims to be the largest energy company in the U.S. as measured by retail electricity produced and sold. The company serves more than 5.6 million customer accounts supporting more than 11 million residents across Florida. FPL—a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy—says it operates “one of the cleanest power generation fleets in the U.S.” “We are big fans of solar energy, and we’ve been working to advance solar in the state for more than a decade,” Jill Dvareckas, senior director of development with FPL, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “We currently have 37 solar energy centers in operation, with seven more under construction, which makes FPL the largest producer of solar power in Florida.” FPL stuck its proverbial “toe in the water” back in 1984 when it constructed a 10-kW PV facility in Miami, but it didn’t really get serious about solar until 2009 when it built a 25-MW solar energy center in DeSoto County. Since then, 35 similarly sized installations (74.5 MW each) have been added. “Our commitment to clean energy is evidenced by our groundbreaking ’30-by-30’ goal to install 30 million solar panels by the year 2030,” Dvareckas said. If the company succeeds in reaching that target, solar energy will make up about 20% of FPL’s power capacity at the turn of the decade. In her position, Dvareckas is also responsible for the deployment of other cutting-edge technology, including electric vehicle (EV) and battery storage programs. “There’s no doubt that the electric transportation revolution is underway already,” she said. “FPL has been investing in clean transportation for over a decade. We were the first electric company in America to place the hybrid electric bucket truck into service in 2006.” Today, the company has one of the largest “green” fleets in the nation, with nearly 1,800 vehicles that are either biodiesel-fueled, plug-in hybrids, or EVs. FPL also has an EV charging infrastructure pilot program, called FPL EVolution. “Our goal with the program is to install 1,000 charging ports in 100 locations in our service area across the state to increase the availability of universal EV charging by 50%,” Dvareckas said. Ultimately, more chargers means less range anxiety for EV owners, which many consumers cite as a reason for not wanting to purchase an EV. “From our perspective, this is a pilot program that is really enabling us to learn as the utility ahead of mass adoption to ensure that the infrastructure upgrades and placement that we’re making in the future is done in a thoughtful manner that benefits all of our customers,” said Dvareckas.
34 minutes | Mar 25, 2021
83. Understanding Energy Crises of the 1970s and Avoiding Problems Today
Understanding Energy Crises of the 1970s and Avoiding Problems Today. If you were alive and living in the U.S. during the 1970s, you probably remember waiting in long lines to fill your car with fuel. Yet, gasoline wasn’t the only item in short supply during the “Me Decade”—natural gas was seemingly running out and electricity demand was growing so much that new power plants were going up all over the country. “I would argue, and I think a lot of historians would agree with me, that the 1970s was the most important decade in U.S. energy history, and I say that because of the gasoline interruptions. We had three big crises in the Middle East that reduced our supplies of oil, and that got so bad that at one point, in some states, less than 50% of the stations had any gasoline to sell at all,” Jay Hakes, author of the forthcoming book Energy Crises: Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Hard Choices in the 1970s, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “It was also a time where electric demand was expanding at a very rapid rate. There was a lot of optimism that nuclear would fill most of that void,” Hakes said. However, as fate would have it, the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident in 1979 pretty much put an end to the nuclear power construction heyday. In addition to writing books, Hakes has served as the administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration during the Clinton administration and as director for Research and Policy for President Obama’s BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission. He was also the director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library for 13 years, and he has had access to some of President Carter’s personal diaries, giving him unique insight into the events that occurred during Carter’s presidency. “Jimmy Carter worked for Admiral Rickover when they developed the first nuclear submarine,” Hakes pointed out. “So, he actually knew the technology of nuclear reactors—obviously better than any president and better than some of the people that worked at the Atomic Energy Commission.” Carter had also spent time on recovery efforts after the world’s first nuclear accident, which was at the Chalk River site in Ontario, Canada, in 1952. Carter was part of a group that was sent into the containment vessel to clean it up. “So, he would be the best president you’d want to have if there was a nuclear accident.” Hakes noted that reports being sent to the president during the first couple of days after the TMI accident were mostly positive. However, on the third day, Carter decided he needed someone with technical expertise at the site to provide him with better details, so he had a direct phone line set up with Harold Denton, who was onsite following the situation as the head of nuclear reactors for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “The short story is the coolant system, which keeps the core from melting, broke down, but the containment vessel—that four-feet thick concrete structure that is around the reactor—did its job, and so, very little contamination reached the public,” Hakes said. Following the incident, Carter formed a commission to investigate and recommend reforms for the nuclear industry. “I think that commission did an excellent job,” said Hakes, noting that many improvements were made based on the lessons learned. “The industry and the government both did a good job of fixing those safety problems. So, you know, in that sense, it’s a good model for dealing with energy crises.” Hakes explained some of the policies, not only of Carter’s administration, but also of Nixon’s, that exacerbated the energy crises of the 1970s, and he shared his insight on how President Biden’s agenda could affect the energy industry going forward. He noted that Biden has put a pause on leasing on federal lands, but said he doesn’t expect that to affect production, at least for several years.
41 minutes | Mar 18, 2021
82. Is It Safe to Invest in Mexican Energy Projects?
Is It Safe to Invest in Mexican Energy Projects? In late 2013, Mexico embarked on a path to transform its energy markets. Then-President Enrique Peña-Nieto oversaw constitutional reforms that ended state-run monopolies, and opened Mexico’s power market to competition and investment from foreign and private companies. By most accounts, the policies were highly effective in spurring investments in renewable energy and efficient natural gas-fired power projects. A great deal of money has been funneled into Mexico by investors from as many as 45 countries since the law was enacted. “The result of that was dramatically successful. I mean, you have millions and millions of dollars that were sunk into the power sector bringing in modern equipment, environmentally friendly, because there were a lot of renewable projects that went online. You see how the percentage of renewables changed in the last 10 years—you can see that it has been successful,” Roberto Aguirre Luzi, a partner with King & Spalding, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. However, Peña-Nieto is no longer in office, and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants state-owned power company Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) to get special treatment in the market. Under the previously enacted reform measures, dispatch priority was based on price, with the lowest-cost generation being delivered first. Earlier this month, Mexican policymakers passed legislation that would change the order in which electricity is dispatched, giving priority to CFE at the expense of private operators. “There were a wave of amparos to challenge this law,” said Fernando Rodriguez-Cortina, senior associate with King & Spalding. An amparo is a protection provided for under Mexico’s constitutional law. It may be filed in federal court by Mexicans and by foreigners in an attempt to guarantee protection of the claimant’s constitutional rights. “The judge granted the amparo with general effects, and now the law is stayed,” said Rodriguez-Cortina. “With general effects” means the stay applies to everyone affected by the law, rather than simply to the amparo filer. President López Obrador is not standing idly by, however. He asked the Mexican Supreme Court to open an investigation into the judge’s conduct, claiming that the judge, who was appointed under the previous administration, acted inappropriately. “This is obviously a political maneuver, because this is not how you initiate a proceeding. I mean, if you want the judge to be investigated, you follow a different route. You don’t go to the Supreme Court,” said Rodriguez-Cortina. The chief justice ultimately referred the case to the proper court for resolution. Aguirre Luzi suggested the actions taken by Mexico’s policymakers should be very concerning to all stakeholders and will have wide-ranging implications on future investments. He said when you have two branches of government making important energy policy changes with the intention of helping two state-owned entities—CFE and PEMEX, which is the fuel supplier to many of CFE’s power plants—it’s going to have long-term effects. “It’s a 180-degree change,” said Aguirre Luzi. “How do you come back from that?” Only time will tell. Rodriguez-Cortina suggested court proceedings could go on for a while. “It usually takes around six months for the amparo to be resolved,” he said, and appeals could take the dispute all the way to the Supreme Court. “So, this is going to be a process that is going to take years to see the actual outcomes,” said Aguirre Luzi.
38 minutes | Mar 11, 2021
81. Are 1-in-10-Year Events Really 1-in-10-Year Events Anymore?
Are 1-in-10-Year Events Really 1-in-10-Year Events Anymore? When evaluating resource adequacy requirements, many power companies and grid operators have used a methodology that originated more than 70 years ago. This probabilistic reliability approach has generally performed adequately through the years. It has generally evaluated loss-of-load events occurring at frequencies of one-day-in-10-years (1-in-10) to be acceptable in terms of system reliability. However, it’s not without risk, as incidents in Texas, California, and other parts of the country and world have demonstrated in recent history. In light of these events, it’s worth asking: have risks changed? It could be that the method used to evaluate what constitutes a 1-in-10 event is no longer sound. “When you have 1-in-a-5 or 1-in-a-10-year event that’s happening every year, most likely those are not 1-in-a-10 or 1-in-100-year events,” Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) CEO Arshad Mansoor said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “Really, what we need to go is beyond that. We need to look forward to a future, and not really just back-cast, but forecast. What is the resiliency of the grid that we need when maybe societal dependence on electricity has doubled because of electrification, where extreme weather is becoming frequency, and severity is becoming a norm? And, our resource mix is changing pretty rapidly, and these changes are profound. So, taking all those three trends into consideration, we just need to step back—and resource adequacy is one part of the planning process,” Mansoor said. In rather prescient timing, EPRI published a technical update (or white paper) on Jan. 28—about two weeks before uncharacteristically cold weather caused widespread blackouts all across Texas. “That timing was not by design,” Mansoor said, noting that EPRI has long been working on ways to enhance grid design, planning, and operation to help navigate the energy transition. According to the abstract, “This white paper focuses on planning for resource adequacy given a world in which supply disruptions are correlated and no longer limited to the outage of independent units and may be due to widespread or long-duration events with significant economic impacts on consumers.” The 72-page paper highlights several attributes of planning for resource adequacy in an environment of increasing numbers of extreme events. Among the items addressed are: • Supply disruptions that are common-mode events caused by weather, cyber and/or physical attacks, natural gas constraints, or combinations of factors. • The occurrence of an event (zero/one), consideration of its physical impacts (the amount of unserved energy, breadth of customer base impacted, and duration), and its economic costs to consumers. • The need for the definition of probabilistic metrics and methodologies that over time can be used to incorporate consideration of common-mode and high-impact supply disruptions. The paper concludes with an identification of strategies that individual utilities and independent system operators/regional transmission organizations (ISOs/RTOs) could follow based on their unique situations. “I would encourage all of your audience to go to our website www.epri.com and you should be able to download the paper—we have made it available to all,” Mansoor said (see https://www.epri.com/research/products/000000003002019300).
27 minutes | Mar 4, 2021
80. Battery Technology Used in Outer Space Could Be a Gamechanger on Earth
Battery Technology Used in Outer Space Could Be a Gamechanger on Earth Lithium-ion has become the dominant battery technology used in energy storage applications around the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only, or even the best, technology available. Many companies are working on different battery chemistries that could provide safer, longer-lasting, and ultimately more cost-effective options. One alternative that has gotten little exposure until now is a battery chemistry with a 30-plus-year history of successful operation. It’s a metal-hydrogen battery, which has been used by NASA on space missions, including in the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mars Curiosity rover, and the International Space Station. “[The battery was] designed for a use case where these aerospace satellites and so forth needed a battery that would withstand the harsh climate of outer space, meaning super high temperatures, super low temperatures, and then have basically an infinite cycle life and require no maintenance,” Jorg Heinemann, CEO of EnerVenue, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “They worked very successfully with over 30,000 cycles—30,000 cycles is like charging the battery and discharging it three times per day for 30 years,” he said. For the sake of comparison, Heinemann said the longest lasting lithium-ion batteries can handle about 3,000 cycles, about one-tenth the cycle life. The metal-hydrogen battery contains no toxic materials, and unlike lithium-ion technology, it has no fire risk. “There are no safety issues. It’s a really safe device. There’s no thermal runaway risk, which is the primary concern with lithium-ion. Our battery operates in a very broad—what I call a ‘happy’—temperature range,” Heinemann said. Specifically, EnerVenue’s battery has been proven to operate reliably in ambient temperatures from –40F to +140F. That means, whether in artic or desert conditions, it doesn’t require large-scale heating and air conditioning systems, which can be expensive and maintenance-intensive. Cost has been the main reason metal-hydrogen chemistry has not been more fully developed for use on Earth. The batteries used in space were very expensive, costing as much as $20,000/kWh, according to Heinemann. However, about two years ago, EnerVenue’s founder, Yi Cui, a professor at Stanford University who was leading a research lab focused on materials innovations for sustainability, came up with a new set of materials to replace the high-cost elements. “It uses Earth-abundant materials—nothing but—there’s nothing that is either rare or problematic. There’s no lithium, no cobalt, no platinum-group metals. It’s just Earth-abundant stuff that you can find virtually on every continent,” Heinemann said. Which means, the cost has come way down, and the kicker is, it even performs better. “We believe that we can match the cost trajectory for lithium-ion battery packs, which is going to continue to go down over time based on the scale effects,” he said. “We can match their CAPEX [capital expenditure expense], and then, we can give the customer a significantly better value proposition in terms of the capabilities of the battery, especially the high temperature range, the durability, the flexibility, and a very significant economic savings because of the fact that there’s no maintenance costs associated with this battery. It’s basically an install-and-forget battery.” Metal-hydrogen batteries are not particularly well-suited for mobile applications, such as electric vehicles or cellphones, so for now, EnerVenue’s target market is the utility-scale energy storage sector. “Our battery is really good for a super broad range of stationary uses,” he said.
24 minutes | Feb 25, 2021
79. Hydrogen and the Energy Transition
Hydrogen and the Energy Transition Power systems around the world are changing. Renewable energy, mainly in the form of wind and solar generation, is being added everywhere, while more traditional forms of power, such as coal-fired and nuclear generation, are being retired from the grid. Meanwhile, natural gas-fired generation has taken the lead role in facilitating the transition by providing relatively quick ramping capability and stable baseload power to backup intermittent renewables. However, there is a lot of research and development work underway that could eventually push natural gas out of the mix. The reason is that gas, like other fossil fuels, releases CO2 and other emissions to the atmosphere, albeit at lower quantities than coal, fuel oil, and diesel on a per-kWh-generated basis. One of the potential supplements or replacements for natural gas could be hydrogen. The concept of a hydrogen economy is not new. It was first contemplated at least as far back as the 1970s, but the economics associated with producing hydrogen at the time made it impractical. That is changing as countries around the world implement decarbonization goals and the share of renewable energy in the power mix increases. Going forward, there are likely to be situations in which the supply of solar and wind power is high, but demand for the electricity is low. Rather than curtailing production, the surplus energy could be used to produce “green hydrogen” through electrolysis at a very reasonable cost. “There’s no CO2 emissions associated with [green hydrogen],” Megan Reusser, hydrogen development lead at Burns & McDonnell, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “So, bringing hydrogen to the forefront as a potential way to meet decarbonization goals, coupled with other types of renewable energy such as solar or wind, that’s what’s really giving [hydrogen] kind of a new life and a really big interest currently in the market.” Seeing the writing on the wall, the major gas turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have jumped aboard the hydrogen bandwagon. Siemens, GE, and Mitsubishi Power all have programs underway to make their combustion turbines 100% hydrogen capable. Their intentions are really designed to “future proof” investments in new power plants. “All the major OEMs have advanced-class gas turbines that are available and can blend up to 30% hydrogen. Where it gets interesting is you see and hear about the concept of hydrogen-ready for the future, and 100% hydrogen capable for the future,” Joey Mashek, business development manager at Burns & McDonnell, said on the podcast. “The plan to develop those technologies to get near 100%, or 100%, is still about 10 years. And I think all the OEMs will say they can do that and will do that, but it’ll be market driven.” Reusser said Burns & McDonnell has seen a lot of interest in hydrogen pilot projects. “By that I mean small-scale applications where people are just trying to understand how all this is going to come together,” she said. One example that she mentioned was a system installed by the Orlando Utilities Commission. “They are developing a pilot facility that has a little bit of everything. It’s got [an] electrolyzer, some storage, and a fuel cell. So, they’re kind of doing the whole spectrum of generating their hydrogen, storing their hydrogen, and then converting it back to power,” said Reusser. “Only thing I can say is, it’s exciting, really exciting time in the energy industry,” Mashek said.
35 minutes | Feb 18, 2021
78. Dirty Electricity, but Not the Kind You Think
Dirty Electricity, but Not the Kind You Think When most people hear the term “dirty electricity,” they probably think of power generated from sources considered more-polluting, such as coal, natural gas, or other fossil fuels. However, Satic Inc., an electronics manufacturer and professional engineering firm based in Missoula, Montana, says electricity in homes and businesses is filled with “electrical pollution” that is not necessarily associated with dirty fuels. In fact, the company claims solar power is one of the main sources of dirty electricity. “Dirty electricity specifically comes from three different main culprit places. Number one, it’s delivered to our panel. Number two, we make it with our electronics—our solar inverters, our LED lighting, our DC devices. And, the wiring in our home—maybe half a mile of high-quality copper wiring—acts as a super antenna. So, that’s how we get dirty electricity into our house. What defines it specifically is, it’s electricity that has distortion or interference, low power factor, etcetera, on it,” B.D. Erickson, Satic’s CEO, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. Dirty electricity may affect more than just electrical devices. Some people claim to have a hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), and they report symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, headaches, problems with concentration and memory, and sleep disturbances as a result of exposure to dirty electricity. While studies on the effects of exposure to EMFs have in some cases been conflicting, Erickson said his son experienced symptoms when the family moved into a home located near large power transmission lines, which is what led him to research the topic. “Electricity has eight attributes that need to be within an acceptable realm, and if they’re not within that acceptable realm, they are considered dirty,” Erickson said. He explained the eight attributes are volts, amps, watts, electromagnetic fields, total harmonic distortion, interference, ohms law of resistance, and frequency. Erickson said when electricity leaves a power plant, it’s properly regulated and is typically within an acceptable range for all eight attributes. But as it flows out to customers, it can degrade or get distorted, usually as a result of the devices everyone uses. “We live in an alternating current world [but] half the stuff we plug in nowadays isn’t alternating current. Anything with [a] battery is DC,” he said. In today’s world, cell phones, computers, tablets, and some other electronic devices are often powered by batteries. Furthermore, lighting has changed from incandescent bulbs, which were essentially resistors that used to act as “energy cleaners,” to compact fluorescent bulbs, and now, LED lighting, which adds electrical pollution. Lastly, Erickson said solar power, and specifically solar inverters, create a lot of dirty electricity. What Erickson and his team of engineers came up with is a product that provides system-wide power conditioning, robust surge protection, and power factor correction with advanced EMF, interference, and harmonics filtration. The system is easy to install in homes and businesses, and the effects are immediate. “You don't have to wait a month like with solar to see your bill. You can see it, you can feel it, you can hear it in real time. The amp draws—your air conditioner might go from five amps to two, and running better and running quieter,” he said. Erickson said the cost savings on electric bills will usually pay for the device in about two years, and there are other benefits, such as robust surge protection, less heat generation, and longer operating lives for appliances and devices, not to mention possibly improving the health of people with EMF sensitivities.
27 minutes | Feb 11, 2021
77. Is Nuclear Power Poised for a Resurgence?
Is Nuclear Power Poised for a Resurgence? Since 1990, nuclear power has consistently supplied about 19% to 20% of the electricity used in the U.S. However, very few nuclear plants have been added to the U.S. fleet over that time. Currently, the only nuclear project in the U.S. is Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle expansion, which is expected to add two new reactors to the grid by the end of next year. Still, there are 50 reactors under construction around the world—12 of them in China—and several countries are considering adding more. “There has been a fundamental shift in the thinking around the world. As climate change has become front and center as the number one issue globally—environmental issue and societal issue—the recognition that nuclear can and should play a part in helping us overcome the climate change problems has shifted a lot of thinking in governments that I talk to around the world, but also even with people that are environmental-minded—people that have been, in the past, anti-nuclear—and start seeing that nuclear now is and should be part of the solution. So, it’s a very exciting time,” George Borovas, head of Hunton Andrews Kurth’s nuclear practice and managing partner of the firm’s Tokyo office, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. In the future, Borovas said he expects China to continue building nuclear plants at least on the scale it is today, and perhaps at an even greater rate. “I think it’s going to be very easy for them to keep replicating, especially because they have such tremendous needs for energy,” he said. Nuclear power’s emissions-free aspect also provides a huge benefit for the Chinese, which has had air quality problems in a lot of its industrialized cities. “So, I do think that China is going to continue with its new build program very aggressively, and we're starting to see also China becoming more of an exporting nation for nuclear technology and services around the world.” Schedule delays and cost overruns have long been issues for the nuclear industry, but Borovas suggested some of those nagging problems could be remedied through repetition, especially now that first-of-a-kind units have been successfully commissioned. He noted that EPR and AP1000 units are operating in China, and effectively provide a template for future success. Borovas was also optimistic about advanced technology, such as small modular reactors. “The small modular reactors—the SMRs—are very exciting,” he said. “You have some wonderful technologies that are designed to operate in a different environment. They have much more passive systems, they have walkaway safety scenarios, and they’re using technologies that have been around for a long time in the sense, but they’re packaging them in a way that makes more sense for the evolving world that we live in. I think they hold a lot of promise.” Concerning the long-term future of nuclear power, Borovas said he believes it has a place in the world and offers sustainable development. He suggested nuclear energy can help bring people out of poverty in places such as Africa, and its zero-carbon emissions provide a great alternative to fossil fuels. “I think nuclear has a very, very compelling and exciting story to tell, and the more people see that—the more people understand that—I think the more supporters of nuclear we’re going to have around the world,” he concluded.
21 minutes | Jan 28, 2021
76. Bigelow Tea Enhances Sustainability with a Vehicle-to-Grid System
Bigelow Tea Enhances Sustainability with a Vehicle-to-Grid System Sustainability is a buzzword that’s being bantered about up and down Wall Street, and corporate leaders have taken notice. Many companies have adopted environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, which are often tied to sustainability goals. In some cases, the pressure to do so has come from customers and/or investors, but in others, CEOs and boards are simply choosing to “do the right thing” to help save the planet. “A lot of companies are really recognizing, we need to use our money to make a difference, we need to use our money to make this world a better place,” Cindi Bigelow, president and CEO of Bigelow Tea, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. Bigelow Tea, which is 100% family owned and operated, has implemented several measures to enhance the company’s sustainability. In addition to obtaining all of its electric power from renewable energy sources, Bigelow Tea also has a waste reduction, recycling, and composting program, which has resulted in all three of its facilities achieving zero-waste-to-landfill status. The company’s most recent sustainability initiative involved installing a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) system in collaboration with Fermata Energy. The V2G system includes a bidirectional charger connected to a Nissan LEAF electric vehicle (EV). “What those two elements are doing is they’re operating behind the building’s electric load, and they are managing the building’s electric load in such a way that when the load starts to peak during the billing cycle, we dispatch energy out of the vehicle into the building load behind the meter. And what that does is it reduces the utility costs—the energy costs—for the building by however much dispatchable energy we were able to put into that load. So, we save the customer money,” David Slutzky, founder and CEO of Fermata Energy, said on the podcast. “It’s a customer bill management application.” “Yes, it’s reducing your utility bills,” Bigelow said, but the program accomplishes much more than that. In fact, she suggested there were three clear benefits. One is that the V2G system allows Bigelow Tea to identify when it is operating during peak-load periods, which lets the company make changes within its operational system to reduce load, which is important in the long term. Secondly, if more companies incorporate V2G systems, the total peak demand on the grid will be lessened, which benefits everyone. The third benefit is in Bigelow Tea’s ability to utilize the EV for transportation purposes, which reduces emissions, because, as previously noted, the company gets all of its electric power from renewable sources. “So, there’s many facets to why this program is so important and beneficial for our company,” Bigelow said. In the end, Bigelow suggested all CEOs need to spend time developing and implementing sustainability initiatives. She acknowledged that companies must focus on their core products and services, and turn a profit. “But at the same time, we have to remember, we can make a difference both for our employees, for the community, and the environment, and this is a very important part of what we do,” Bigelow said.
22 minutes | Jan 21, 2021
75. Is a Microgrid Right for You?
Is a Microgrid Right for You? A microgrid is a discrete energy system consisting of distributed energy resources, such as solar panels, wind turbines, backup generators, and battery storage systems, and loads capable of operating in parallel with, or independently from, the main power grid. A microgrid generally operates while connected to the grid, but importantly, it can break off and operate on its own using local energy resources in times of crisis, such as during storms or power outages, or for other reasons. Microgrids are all the rage these days, but would adding one to your power system provide enough benefit to justify the cost? Answering that question requires a detailed understanding not only of the technology involved, but also the energy landscape in your local area. “People look at [microgrids] because they are a sustainable solution. They’re generally cleaner than [the electricity] you’re buying from the utility—your source of power is cleaner,” Mike Byrnes, executive vice president and Chief Operating Officer of SourceOne, a Veolia company, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “What gets them across the finish line is it adds resiliency, and typically, the lifecycle cost is less than your business-as-usual case.” SourceOne is an energy consulting firm that provides highly specialized energy management, engineering, and owner’s representative services for commercial, industrial, and municipal energy concerns. It has been crafting innovative solutions that help customers ensure sustainable, reliable, and cost-effective utility operations for more than 20 years, so Byrnes has a long history with microgrid technology. “We love sustainability. We love reducing greenhouse gases. We love building resiliency for people with microgrids,” said Byrnes. But, a microgrid requires a serious commitment from the organization doing the project, and Byrnes said you don’t usually get that unless there is a financial benefit. “Those are the ones that are getting built—the ones that have really solid paybacks for people,” he explained. Byrnes noted that decreasing prices for solar power and battery storage systems are making those resources very attractive for many customers. “The price point for renewables has come down so far that it's become in everybody's reach,” he said. “Every project we work on right now, instead of just having CHP [combined heat and power]—which you still need because you need the heat component out of it—typically, will have a solar and a battery storage component, or at least to start everybody wants it, and they make great sense. It gives you so much more flexibility in the market, and your ability to actively manage your electric usage is huge.”
19 minutes | Jan 7, 2021
74. Enhancing Operations and Maintenance with an EAM System
Enhancing Operations and Maintenance with an EAM System Enterprise asset management (EAM) involves a combination of software, systems, and services that are used to maintain and control operational assets and equipment. The aim is to optimize the quality and utilization of assets throughout their lifecycle, increase uptime, and reduce costs. EAM involves work management; asset maintenance; planning and scheduling; supply chain management; and environmental, health, and safety initiatives. “Maximo is an enterprise asset management system. It’s a tool, if you will, a software tool, that’s used to manage and maintain expensive assets, primarily, and power has been a big part of the Maximo portfolio for as long as I can remember,” Steve Richmond, CEO of Projetech, a Maximo-as-a-Service provider, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “It’s good for managing equipment and the people that work on it. So, if you’re tracking labor or certifications, compliance issues, all that detail-oriented data collection, it’s a perfect repository for it.” EAM is often associated with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), but it’s different. While a CMMS can be one aspect of EAM, it focuses on centralizing information to facilitate and automate maintenance management processes. EAM, on the other hand, provides an approach for managing the entire asset lifecycle, supporting asset performance from acquisition to disposal. “Maximo-as-a-Service is essentially what it says,” Richmond said. Unlike 30 years ago, when a company would have had to buy a CMMS or EAM software product, and then purchase and install servers, operating systems, databases, and all the related technology that goes along with owning and operating a system, today, providers such as Projetech offer a “no-hassle, login, and simply use-the-product concept,” he explained. While the solution has long been used at conventional power plants, such as coal, nuclear, and gas-fired facilities, Richmond said it is also suitable for wind and solar farms. “It’s been the largest growth area of my business for over five years now. We are a perfect fit for renewables,” he said. The reason is that many solar and wind farms are located in remote areas. “The ability to look at your entire farm, or many farms in the aggregate, and make decisions about what’s the best way to schedule and plan your maintenance, makes this remote connectivity a perfect fit for them,” Richmond explained. “And the ability to be able to connect anywhere, again, from the cab of a pickup truck to a phone on top of a tower—everybody’s connected and they all have the same information available to them at any time.”
16 minutes | Dec 24, 2020
73. Improving Asset Inspections with Drones and AI
Improving Asset Inspections with Drones and AI The U.S. bulk electric system consists of more than 360,000 miles of transmission lines, including approximately 180,000 miles of high-voltage lines, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That means power companies have a lot on their plates when it comes to inspecting and maintaining those assets. Furthermore, the stakes are high. As wildfires in California and elsewhere have shown, billions of dollars can quickly go up in smoke when equipment fails. San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), for example, faced as much as $30 billion in potential liabilities for the role its equipment played in causing wildfires in 2017 and 2018. PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2019, at least partly as a result. Therefore, finding and fixing problems before components fail is worth the effort. “For the most part, utilities are inspecting somewhere between 10% and 12% of their assets each year,” Chris Beaufait, CEO of Sharper Shape, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “They’re always trying to figure out how to prioritize in the best way, but then they also run into human resource issues, and just how much they can accomplish in a single year.” That’s where automated drone technology and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms can help. “We can do detailed inspection of various assets using drones, and we actually have specific software packages that allow parts of that to be automated so the utility can get a repeatable process on their inspection,” Beaufait said. “Then, we basically process all that data. If we do a LIDAR [light detection and ranging] data collection, as an example, we can create data assets of everything that they have in the physical world, and then we can use AI algorithms and human intelligence to really come up with actions that they can do around that so they prioritize what they're going to do in the field, around maintenance, around vegetation management, around asset replacement, or asset improvements,” he explained. Utilizing drones and AI technology allows a much larger area to be covered in a shorter amount of time. “We're talking tens of thousands of miles, and using this combination of artificial intelligence, we can tell them where they may have risks,” said Beaufait. The inspections generate an enormous amount of data. According to Beaufait, Sharper Shape has completed more than 35,000 miles of collection, which includes more than 800,000 different structures and assets, equating to about 5 petabytes of data (5,000,000 GB). It would be impossible for a human to thoroughly process all the information in that amount of data, but computers with AI algorithms can look for anomalies and prioritize the problems identified. And while the inspection capabilities available today are remarkable, the technology is constantly improving, which means future asset assessments could be even more advanced.
18 minutes | Dec 3, 2020
72. Engineering Technicians and Technologists Are an Important Industry Pillar
Engineering Technicians and Technologists Are an Important Industry Pillar According to Cheryl Farrow, CEO of the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists (OACETT), there are three basic pillars that make up the engineering field. They are licensed engineers, technicians and technologists, and skilled trades. “We can't be successful without all three of these pillars working together effectively,” Farrow said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “That's why, from our perspective, you need certified technicians and technologists, who have proven to be at the highest level of technical, ethical, and professional performance.” OACETT’s mission is to act as Ontario's independent certifying body for Engineering and Applied Science technicians and technologists. “We provide member certifications, career-long educational opportunities, and professional support for the benefit of our members, for the benefit of the province’s economy, and for the development of safe and secure communities,” said Farrow. There are a number of things OACETT does to raise awareness of opportunities in the engineering field. One major activity is the group’s participation in Canada’s National Engineering Month in March. The event will take place virtually in 2021. “That is our opportunity to create some general awareness about this field of practice,” said Farrow. The organization also works closely with employers. Farrow explained: “That's where you really do start to see job postings where the certifications that OACETT offers will either be required, or they will be preferred, or they will create an advantage for hiring. And we have also just launched what we're calling our 360 Partnership Program, which is to help us connect even more with the employer community, get this message out there, and help them to understand the value of hiring certified technicians and technologists.” In 2021, OACETT plans to launch a government relations strategy. It intends to target specific ministries, and let them know the kind of expertise leaders could draw on from among OACETT’s membership when creating policy. The education community is another area of focus for the group. “We work very closely with all of Ontario's community colleges on outreach to their students,” Farrow said. “We even go so far as to embed our exam programs in some of these college curriculums so they sort of have a leg up even into the certification once they finish school and start working. And then we work together with the colleges so that we can start to get the word out, even in high school, to encourage students to explore these fields of study.”
43 minutes | Nov 25, 2020
71. A Hopeful Narrative for the Nuclear Industry
A Hopeful Narrative for the Nuclear Industry Although there is only one nuclear power plant construction project in progress today in the U.S., that doesn’t mean the nuclear industry has gone dormant. A lot of research and development are ongoing, and the federal government is putting millions of dollars behind some of the efforts. The Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program “The Department of Energy’s [DOE’s] Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program [ARDP] is a real gamechanger for the industry,” Marc Nichol, senior director of new reactors with the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), a policy organization of the nuclear technologies industry, said as a recent guest on The POWER Podcast. “It offers an opportunity for DOE to directly cost-share with different companies developing technologies to help accelerate technology development.” In October, the DOE awarded TerraPower and X-energy $80 million each in initial funding under the ARDP to build two advanced nuclear reactors that can be operational within seven years. The DOE plans to invest a total of $3.2 billion over the next seven years, with industry partners providing matching funds. For its part, TerraPower plans to demonstrate its Natrium reactor, a sodium-cooled fast reactor that supposedly leverages decades of development and design work undertaken by TerraPower and its partner GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. The high-operating temperature of the Natrium reactor, coupled with thermal energy storage, will reportedly allow the plant to provide flexible electricity output that complements variable renewable generation such as wind and solar. X-energy is expected to deliver a commercial four-unit nuclear power plant based on its Xe-100 reactor design. The Xe-100 is a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor that is said to be ideally suited to provide flexible electricity output as well as process heat for a wide range of industrial heat applications, such as desalination and hydrogen production. “There’s a lot of new and innovative things that these types of reactors can do,” Nichol said, referring to the ARDP-funded designs. Microreactors Among other designs that Nichol spoke about were microreactors (units with power output ranging from 1 MW to 10 MW). “The best way I can describe it is a microreactor would be able to fit on the back of a flatbed semi-truck. The building itself would be about the size of an average home. The size of the site itself would be about the size of a suburban lot. And, so, that gives a visual perspective of how small these things are—you can put them just about anywhere,” he said. Commercial interest for microreactors is coming largely from remote areas, such as in Alaska and northern Canada. Nichol said microreactors can operate 24/7 for years at a time without refueling, and at prices cheaper than what diesel generators can do today. Mobile reactor designs are also being developed. Although there is little interest for mobile rectors from a commercial perspective, the Department of Defense (DOD) sees a use for these types of units. In March, the DOD awarded three teams—BWX Technologies Inc., Westinghouse Government Services, and X-energy—contracts to each begin design work on a mobile nuclear reactor prototype under a Strategic Capabilities Office initiative called Project Pele. “That design effort should conclude sometime next year, in 2021, maybe early 2022,” Nichol said. “From there, they'll move into the manufacturing and operations to test that.”
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