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South Shore Generator Sales & Service Blog - Wareham, MA

Three Types of Backup Power Help Homeowners Prepare for Outages

- Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The year 2020 has made it clearer than ever that our homes need to be offices, schools, and shelters. In today's environment, losing power could mean losing work, missing school exams, or even being unsafe; and that means backup power is a critical element of being prepared.

There are three categories of backup power for homeowners to consider. Portable generators are the least expensive but have limited utility to power homes. Home Standby Generators (HSB) are permanently installed, automatic, run on natural gas or propane, and are capable of powering any size home. Solar + Storage systems use batteries and for the first time, are now capable of backing up entire homes.

Portable Generators

A portable generator is the point of entry for home energy preparedness and resiliency. Generac's GP-, iQ-, and XC- series of generators are available in sizes from 2000 watts to 17,500 watts; large enough to power the circuits for most large appliances. These generators run on gasoline and must be manually operated during an outage event. Safety must always be considered when using a portable generator. Generac has developed great technologies like CO-Sense to help owners stay safe. But all portable generators are instructed to be operated far away from buildings and never near any open windows, doors, or air intakes.

For added functionality and safety, portable generator owners may have a Generac manual transfer switch professionally installed. This technology is installed easily by a certified electrician and allows users to connect their portable generator to their home electrical system safely, then manually switch over to generator power when needed.

Home Standby Generators

The ideal option for complete home backup power is a home standby generator. A permanently installed Generac home backup generator protects the home automatically when grid power is interrupted. It runs on natural gas or liquid propane (LP) fuel, and sits outside like a central air conditioning unit. A home backup generator delivers power directly to your home's electrical system, backing up your entire home or just the most essential items.

With working from home, schooling from home, shopping from home, and entertaining from home, their level of anxiety about a power outage was very high. Having a home standby generator to ensure that they can safely shelter in place with their families should a power outage occur made this a must have item for many homeowners.

Generac Guardian-series home standby generators feature reliable Generac engines, designed and engineered in the U.S. And each is equipped with the remote monitoring capability of Mobile Link™, allowing owners to monitor the status of their generator on a phone, tablet or computer from anywhere in the world.

Solar + Storage

Solar + storage systems designed to harness the power of the sun and store that energy for use later are increasing in popularity. The favorable economics of solar and batteries coupled with the increasing need for protection against power grid disruptions is giving homeowners a new option for backup power.

It is critical that all homeowners have a plan for extended power outages. With the new, PWRcell automatic transfer switch (ATS), whole-home solar power can now be a reality. During a power outage, the PWRcell ATS disconnects from the grid, allowing the whole home to be isolated as electricity can be routed from the battery supply and/or solar array to the home's electrical panel. Because this integrated Generac system protects the entire home, the need to move or transfer circuits to a separate sub-panel can be eliminated, reducing electrical complexities.

The Generac PWRcell system integrates solar power generation with smart battery storage using a single, powerful inverter. When the grid goes down, this system picks up the load and restores power in seconds.

For more information, contact South Shore Generator in Wareham, MA.

Why KOHLER for Backup Industrial Power?

- Friday, July 16, 2021
South Shore Generator in Wareham, MA

Touch button. Transfer Load.

This isn’t your typical transfer switch. KOHLER transfer switches are designed to interface perfectly with KOHLER generators and paralleling switchgear. As part of our Total System Integration package, our electrically operated bypass-isolation transfer switch is so advanced it features single-touch bypass controls. So you can transfer critical loads between differing power sources. In addition, it provides emergency transfer capability if the primary switch mechanism is removed or disabled.

EASE OF TRANSFER

Features include single-touch bypass controls, LED lights that indicate permitted and restricted operations, and one-line diagram for intuitive status to minimize human error and response.

DECISION-MAKER® MPAC 1500 CONTROLLER

Complete programming and viewing capability at the door using the keypad and LCD display. Provides a full array of features including communications, I/O, load management, and other advanced functionality.

EASE OF MAINTENANCE

Bypass isolation is used to transfer power to the manual switch to allow servicing of the ATS while maintaining power to the facility. When the primary automatic transfer switch is in test or isolate position, the manual transfer switch is powering the loads.

CUSTOMIZED TO YOUR NEEDS

With a variety of switch options to choose from, you’ll find the perfect one for your application.

Want information on how KOHLER generators can keep your business up and running? Contact South Shore Generator in Wareham, MA.

Weathering Disaster with KOHLER Generators

- Monday, July 12, 2021

KOHLER generator supports an Oklahoma community featured on The Weather Channel.

Want information on how KOHLER generators can keep your business up and running in a weather disaster? Contact South Shore Generator in Wareham, MA.

How a Business Standby Generator Works

- Friday, July 09, 2021

How commercial Generators work. The transfer switch is a big part of keeping your business open during a power loss.

For additional details, contact South Shore Generator.

Generac moves toward clean-energy option for homes

- Wednesday, July 07, 2021
South Shore Generators - Generac Power Systems

If you're a homeowner, the next energy-minded purchase you make from Generac might have nothing to do with its namesake product.

In 2019, Generac Power Systems experienced a particularly busy 60th birthday as it made a clean start for its next six decades, piecing together recent acquisitions in what it hopes will be a highly marketable product line beginning in 2020.

Instead of generators, Generac is shifting at least part of its focus to "clean energy," specifically one built on solar energy combined with what its says is cutting-edge battery technology.

The focus remains on homeowners, however.

For those accustomed to thinking of Generac — a name derived from its generators producing alternating current, or A.C. — as the maker of emergency generators, the change might seem surprising. But the Genesee-based company certainly isn't abandoning its most traditional product and it still has power in mind, albeit in a "cleaner" form, at its global center.

New energy focus

Inside those world headquarters in September, it formally launched an idea far different than its traditional business base.

In recent months, Russ Minick, Generac's marketing chief, has heralded the company's future by highlighting a clean-energy initiative: solar energy, stored in batteries with more substantial capacity than anything yet marketed to domestic homeowners.

"We had been thinking about what do we do beyond this emergency power approach in all of our businesses," said Minick, credited as heading the clean-energy product division.

The initiative, admittedly counter to Generac's fossil-fuel-oriented product line, is driven by domestic changes which have only just begun.

"How power is delivered to homes and businesses in the United States is going through quite a revolution now," he said. "The original (concept of building) a giant coal-burning power plant and running wires everywhere is quickly being replaced by natural gas as the fuel. ... But (experts) call it the 'bridge fuel,' because the renewables are comingin ."

Yes, wind power plays a role, and Generac believes natural-gas-powered generators will find a place in the next 60 years. But solar power has rapidly gained ground through technology advancements, Minick said.

So Generac, which had initially considered its own product line, decided to invest in the technology through key acquisitions — specifically, Neurio Technology Inc. and Pika Energy — in spring 2019.

Neurio, founded in 2005, developed hardware and software systems to help manage and operation powers systems, include solar and batteries. Pika, founded in 2010, was a cutting-edge battery developer and product company.

Together, Minick said, they form the basis for a home-based power system with improved capacity to use the energy produced by the sun and store it for use in the hours when the sun is below the horizon.

"Our initial focus is on the residential setting," he said, acknowledging the company also is keeping the commercial and industrial sector in sight. "The promise would be is that I get home from work at 6 o'clock tonight, my house automatically disconnects from the (power) grid and I run my life from 6 at night to 6 in the morning from stored sunshine."

How soon before it all happens. As early as mid-2020, Minick said.

Aaron Jagdfeld, Generac's president and CEO, said in a statement that his company carries both the experience and technology to deliver on these high expectations.

Factory history

The renown generator manufacturer began the year by announcing its plans to celebrate its milestone anniversary. Concurrent with its celebration, Generac completed the conversion of its former production facilities into its world headquarters, which employees nearly 1,000 of its 5,700 workers globally.

Generac maintains a big presence in the town of Genesee, where the walls of the one-time factory have been a familiar sight since the late 1960s, as the business grew.

The business started by Robert Kern in 1959 inside a dairy barn in Wales was soon making generators for Sears, Roebuck and Co. under the now-renown Craftsmen brand name, at its new Genesee factory — often called its Waukesha plant by virtue of the ZIP code its shares with its municipal neighbor."Generac is well positioned to be a key player in the clean energy market," Jagdfeld said. "The company’s expertise in power generation combined with the technologies under development will be used to modernize the way consumers will generate, store and consume their own power. This in turn will create the opportunity for significant energy cost savings while also providing potential relief from increasing power outages."

Customers have been mostly homeowners in the market for emergency power backup generators, but Generac's product line has also served light industrial businesses and other commercial interests.

The site of the current factory was destroyed in a fire in the late 1960s, but was quickly rebuilt — so quickly that Minick said Kern, who still lives a stone's throw from Generac, occasionally ribs him about how long it took to convert the facility over a six-year span.

"As we were going through these phases of remodeling, every so often he would stop in and tell us after the fire that burned to the ground, he was making products within two weeks, so why is this remodeling taking so long."

Over the decades, Generac developed a market for major industrial customers needing large alternators, keeping the factory busy.

Another critical outlet was backup power for cell towers, itself a tall task but do-able for the longtime generator firm. Minick expects that market to become even more critical for the company as 5G networks take hold and cell providers became even bigger players in the modern data and communications market.

"We're positioned to be an important part of 5G," he said, agreeing with scenarios that suggest those cell networks will largely replace Wi-Fi. "The internet and 5G is colliding now. If your Tesla is going to self-drive, you better have 5G working, and it better be working all the time."

Combined with the clean-energy initiative, Generac may become known as a different kind of company, but not completely.

"We're still all-in on emergency power backup, but these are growth areas for us," Minick said.

Facility for the future

But, in terms of actual production, it will be produced elsewhere — whether at company-owned or partner production facilities in Europe, Latin America or Asia, or domestically (including Wisconsin) in the U.S.

By 2011, the now-publicly traded company decided that production at the Genesee location didn't fit the company's long-term plans. That's when a massive remodeling effort began.

Minick, who joined the company that year, was around the see each phase of the transition, which essentially replaced a blue-collar factory with cutting-edge research and development facilities. In addition to executive offices overseeing global operations, the site now includes a lab and technology center, extreme product testing and three-dimensional printing for various product designs.

"The whole back of this thing is really cutting-edge labs," he said. "We can freeze stuff, heat stuff, shock stuff — you name it. We can do extremes to every component in our product here."

Minick said the building kept aesthetics in mind, creating an attractive plant that, among other things, hopes to gain technology experts through strategic recruitment.

"Recruiting technical people is hard these days, particularly in Milwaukee," he noted. "I mean, if you could show a track record of innovation and good tools and facilities to help drive innovation, product engineers love that."

And employees in general appreciate other niceties, such as the gymnasium that's also part of the former factory, he added.

With the transition complete, the focus among those engineers within those walls will be to further develop the clean-energy products, for which Minick said there is an ever-growing market.

Jagdfeld agreed, further suggesting that traditional power suppliers can't be relied upon as they have been in the past.

"Our move into clean energy technologies such as energy storage is a natural next step for Generac," he said. "We believe the energy landscape will change dramatically over the next decade as utility rates continue to rise, the grid continues to be less stable, and regulations driving renewable energy continue to increase."

Source: jsonline

Diesel Fuel Management

- Monday, July 05, 2021

Today’s diesel fuel contains many types of contaminants; all of them harmful to fuel or engine systems. For this reason, it is critical to have a fuel maintenance plan. Most of us are familiar with common petroleum diesel fuel, but we may not be as familiar with current biodiesel and low sulfur diesel. Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel produced from vegetable oils or animal fats (lipids). It is often blended with petroleum diesel to create biodiesel blends with 5 to 20% bio-content common in the United States (i.e. B20 = 20% bio and 80% diesel). Read more...

Source: Generac

Generac Emphasizes the Importance of Energy Security for Homeowners

- Monday, June 28, 2021
South Shore Generators - Generac

Backup power solutions more critical than ever for hurricane preparedness

WAUKESHA, Wis., May 10, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Weather outlets are forecasting an above-average hurricane season this year and combined with an aging electrical grid, the potential for widespread power outages may leave homeowners in a heightened state of anxiety, which can be remedied by being prepared. With National Hurricane Preparedness Week taking place May 9-15, these outlooks highlight the fact that early preparations are essential.

Weather science experts from Colorado State University predict 17 named storms and AccuWeather's meteorologists forecast between 16 and 20 named storms, during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs between June 1 and November 30. The latter forecast anticipates eight hurricanes, four of which are projected to be Category 3 or higher.

"Homeowners should be preparing for hurricane season now," says Russ Minick, chief marketing officer at Generac Power Systems (NYSE: GNRC). "Peace of mind is of the utmost importance and with homes becoming the family sanctuary, it is critical to be ready for natural disasters that create power outages. We can reduce the pain of power outages by focusing on what we can do to prepare so we encourage customers to make a plan early and responsibly."

Generac joins organizations like FEMA in advocating for early preparation for hurricane season, when resilience to power outages can significantly increase safety. Generac offers resources to help prepare for hurricanes and outages at https://www.generac.com/outages, including information about inclement weather, tips for emergencies, and Generac's exclusive Power Outage Tracker, which features up-to-the-minute outage information.

Preparing for Unprecedented Challenges

Beyond the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, an aging grid could cause more outages than in the past. An active wildfire season could also be a catalyst for additional outages in the West, with utility companies opting for Public Safety Power Shutoffs. This past February, the Texas power crisis resulted in statewide outages lasting several days, serving as another reminder of the importance of having a plan for energy independence.

With the home not only the place where people live, but also work and go to school, being prepared is essential. Outages also strain the ability of emergency officials to evacuate affected areas, deliver food and critical supplies as well as provide medical equipment.

Power Outage Solutions and Technical Support

As the frequency and severity of power disruptions are projected to increase, Generac offers a variety of solutions including carbon monoxide-detecting portable generators, a wide range of permanently installed home standby generators, and clean energy solutions which offer whole home solar and storage capabilities.

According to Jake Thomas, director of service operations, at Generac, company experts are eager to help. "There are many options when it comes to power needs during an emergency. Portable generators can backup a few important appliances, but automatic home standby generators offer greater peace of mind by providing power to an entire home and can run continuously until power returns. There is a solution for every home and budget."

Thomas recommends the free in-home assessment with an independent authorized Generac dealer to properly size a home for a home standby generator or the PRWcell system for a fully integrated solar and storage solution. "Our network of dealers offer in-person or virtual appointments at no cost. Consultants will work with homeowners to understand their unique needs."

At company headquarters, Generac routinely prepares for outages and the customer service team offers expanded hours and staff to help customers in response to storms. The team prioritizes technical support and is open to generator-related questions, regardless of brand. Generac also maintains the Storm Response Team program, a volunteer-based group assisting dealers on service calls after storm-related outages strain the available labor force. These teams deploy to affected areas with tools, equipment, generator parts and expertise.

For more information about preparing for hurricane season, Generac offers a Hurricane Preparedness Guide which can be downloaded at https://www.generac.com/hurricane-prep-2021.

More Than a Dozen Free Resources That Will Make You a Better Homeowner

- Friday, June 18, 2021
South Shore Generators

Considering all the associated responsibilities and costs, homeownership can sometimes seem like a full-time job. But your home should be a place where you can unwind and enjoy life, not a source of stress, worry, and hard work. You can make owning a home a little easier and more fun by taking advantage of free support and expert advice that can help you get the most out of your investment.

Seek Support

Being a good homeowner is especially hard if you’re new to the job. Before you decide to purchase a home, determine your financial readiness for this important step by taking Money Geek’s online quiz. Next, locate a first-time homeowner program in your state that may offer assistance and special financing for qualified buyers.

Boost Your Worth

Even if you're not in the market for a new house, you should keep tabs on home values in your area. The best online tools for this have been rated and collated by U.S. News & World Report. Once you have a sense of your home's current worth, check out a Consumer Reports article on easy ways to boost a home's value by 35 percent.

Be Prepared

Homeowners know that they should be prepared for emergencies. But where to start? SBP is a nonprofit that assists homeowners and entire communities to find the right insurance and establish preparedness plans before disaster hits. Check out SBP’s free online resources, and gain confidence in your ability to handle the unexpected.

Know Your Options

If you face any changes to your income or financial situation, you’ll want to check out the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s information on how to avoid foreclosure, lower your mortgage, and keep your home. There’s also a HUD-approved hotline where you can get expert counseling for free: 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).

Save Energy

Energy efficiency is key to being a savvy homeowner. Your first step is Smarter House's Quick Fixes/Home Energy Checklists, which will show you where and how to save energy at home. Next, visit the DOE’s Energy Saver website to learn about efficient appliances, smart design choices, and other energy-saving upgrades.

Love Your Greenery

Tons of free apps claim to make life “easier,” but which are really worth your time? One that we love is Happy Plant, a customizable app that reminds you to water your plants and lets you monitor their growth.

Give and Receive

There’s actually a lot of cool stuff you can get for free, from mulch to cleaning supplies. If you’re looking for something unusual or specific, check out your local Freecycle community. And you can always give gently worn and new items to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore donation centers.

Clean Up

Cleanliness is a hallmark of a good neighbor—and a good neighborhood. Help keep things tidy and have some fun while you're at it by organizing a neighborhood cleanup day. Take some tips and inspiration from Doing Good Together’s guide to coordinating a neighborhood cleanup.

Get Inspired

Are you ready to decorate but need some inspiration? Just download the Pinterest app and find a universe of DIY tips and design ideas, personalized to your tastes and interests. Save your favorite images, and share your own photos too.

Learn How

Thanks to YouTube, we can learn how to do just about anything for free, but sometimes there’s nothing like a real classroom experience. The Home Depot offers free DIY workshops at most locations on Saturdays and Sundays. If you have kids, check out their age-appropriate classes that develop skill-building and creativity.

Find A Pro

Looking for a top-notch and affordable home contractor? While there are a number of apps and websites you can turn to, Angie’s List offers millions of verified reviews and has recently added a free membership option.

Party On

One of the best ways to boost neighborhood spirit is throwing a good old-fashioned block party. Think you're too busy to participate, much less plan one? Download Building Blocks’ Neighborhood Block Party Kit, a straightforward how-to that makes the project more manageable, then set a date. No more excuses!

Ask for Help

Take advantage of all the free support and expert advice available to homeowners.

Source: bobvila.com

Simple Tips for Homes

- Monday, June 14, 2021
South Shore Generators - Energy Saving Tips

Energy Saving Tips

  • During the winter months, keep your thermostat between 65° and 70°. Dial your thermostat down when you’re away or asleep. Better yet, install a programmable thermostat to automatically lower the temperature according to a schedule you set. Savings can be dramatic.
  • Have your heating and air conditioning serviced prior to heating and cooling seasons. Your system may last years longer and your chances of a break-down will be reduced with regular maintenance.
  • Open blinds or drapes to let the sun in on winter days. At night, close them to help hold heat in. In the summer, use curtains or drapes to prevent the summer heat from getting inside.
  • Don't heat space you don't use. Close the vents and shut the doors to infrequently-used rooms and open them when you need them. By minimizing the space you heat, you can save significantly on heating bills.
  • Use fans to help with air movement. Fans can make your space feel more comfortable and delay the need to turn up your furnace or air conditioning — saving energy. If you have ceiling fans, set them so you feel a breeze coming down (usually counterclockwise) in the summer. In the winter, if you have a very high ceiling, reverse the fan's direction and operate it at a low speed to bring your warm, heated air down where you need it.
  • Use weather-stripping and caulking wherever it is needed. This will keep the heat and cool air from leaving your home or business. Change or clean your furnace filter at least once per month. Clogged filters inhibit airflow and make your furnace work harder.
  • Insulate, insulate, insulate. The right insulation keeps any building cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Heating & hot water pipe insulation is often overlooked.
  • If possible, plant trees to provide shade in the summer and provide a windbreak from northeastern winds in the winter.

Lighting Tips

  • Reduce the wattage. An overly lit room not only wastes power, it can also make you recall places that are overlit for functional purposes, such as factories and offices. Choose bulbs whose wattage matches both the purpose of the room and the atmosphere you would like to create.
  • Use multiple switches. When installing lighting in a large open-plan space, install multiple switches to cover the different areas. That way you can restrict your use of lighting to the area you want to use.
  • Install dimmers. Dimming reduces the amount of electricity a light uses and increases the life of low-voltage lighting such as halogen downlights. When you buy bulbs, check that they will work with a dimmer.
  • Use lamps. An electrical lamp will give you ample light at a lower cost than an overhead light. It can also enhance the ambiance of a room or, if necessary, provide focused light for tasks such as sewing.
  • Install motion detectors. When installing security lighting outdoors, make sure the lights have built-in motion sensors or timers so they only operate when needed.
  • Use weather-stripping and caulking wherever it is needed. This will keep the heat and cool air from leaving your home or business. Change or clean your furnace filter at least once per month. Clogged filters inhibit airflow and make your furnace work harder.
  • Go solar. Illuminate paths with lamps fitted with batteries that store energy from the sun. Keep lights clean. A dusty light bulb or a dirty lampshade can obstruct as much as half the light. Dust the bulb and wipe or wash the shade regularly.
  • Be natural. Install skylights in darker rooms or as natural downlights in work rooms such as kitchens. If you’re buying or building a new house or apartment, or are undertaking a renovation, position the rooms and spaces where you spend most time during the day to the north or northeast so they capture the lion’s share of daylight.

New England’s Electric Power Grid Is Undergoing A Transformation

- Monday, June 07, 2021
South Shore Generators - New England’s Electric Power Grid

Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, says the region has a problem: “It's really hard to be half pregnant, but we're trying.”

The problem: We're creating a hybrid power grid, an electric-generating network that runs on a changing combination of fuels and technologies. He says the system is more complex and less predictable than the grid we had just a few years ago.

Dolan's association represents 90% of electric generators in the region. They use nuclear, natural gas, hydro, wind, solar and waste to produce electricity.

According to the grid operator, ISO New England, 20 years ago oil generated 19% of the region’s electricity, and coal 15%. Today, both account for 1%. Meanwhile, natural gas produced 13% of our electricity; now it’s 40%. The closing of Pilgrim last week reduced the region’s nuclear capacity from 25% to 20%. Renewables accounted for 6% in 2000; today it’s 9%. Hydro has been steady, around 6% to 7%.

But predicting the future mix of energy that will be used to generate our electricity, even just five years out, is difficult, even for an expert like Dolan.

"That's a tough one," he says. "My crystal ball doesn't see that far out. It's about as cracked and cloudy as anyone else's."

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One thing Dolan does see clearly is the urgent need to reduce climate-disrupting emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

"Carbon reduction and carbon abatement overhangs everything," he says. "We have mandatory requirements to cut carbon emissions economy-wide 80% by the year 2050. How we do that is still very much an open question."

Stable Sources Vs. Intermittent Ones

As grid operator, ISO New England ensures the flow of electricity runs reliably 24/7 all year, and it also maintains the online wholesale competitive marketplace. Electricity is a commodity produced by generators, bought by utilities.

Gordon van Welie, president and CEO of ISO New England, echoes Dolan’s warning. “This era that we're entering into I think is going to be one of the most challenging eras of our history," he says.

What concerns van Welie is energy security — reliably keeping the lights on during the transition to the new, greener grid.

Back in the old, predictable days 20 years ago, climate-killing fossil fuels and carbon-free nuclear plants generated most of our electricity. The fuels for those plants were stockpiled on the site of large, centralized power generators.

But increasingly, our energy supplies are insecure. Says van Welie, “We have rapidly moved to what we're now defining as an energy limited system.”

Inefficient, polluting fossil fuel plants and expensive-to-maintain nuclear stations have been shutting down at an increasing pace due to price pressure from relatively inexpensive natural gas.

In two decades the use of fracked gas has tripled. But gas-burning power plants are dependent on just-in-time energy supplies from pipelines and trucks. The problem is especially acute during extended cold spells in the winter, when natural gas is used to heat homes and buildings, as well as generate electricity. The siting of more pipelines in the region is intensely controversial.

The problem is the trajectory of the transition from fossil fuel generators to solar and wind. Sun and wind generators have inexhaustible supplies of carbon-free energy, and of course the energy is free, but they are intermittent, less predictable.

"What I'm hopeful for," van Welie says, "is that over the next two or three decades ... those technologies will mature and will ultimately take over from the fossil fuels to be able to balance the system.”

The transition to a cleaner grid is a delicate balancing act. The rise of renewables has been faster than anticipated. They are literally replacing old fossil fuel plants with a bang.

In late April, twin 500-foot cooling towers at Brayton Point in Somerset were blown up. The coal fired power plant was the largest in New England and the last in Massachusetts. The towers had been built only a few years earlier at a cost of $600 million, but coal could not compete with cleaner burning, cheaper natural gas.

As the dust settled it was clear the days of fossil fuel power generation are numbered. Days after the towers were demolished, Massachusetts-based Anbaric Development Partners announced plans to convert part of the 300-acre site to a renewable energy center, connecting the old coal plant's electric substation on land to a new generation of generators — offshore wind turbines that will be built along the region's coastline.

“It's really about transformation to the grid for use as renewables,” says Stephen Conant, manager of Anbaric’s $650 million project. “The grid we have now is built off of fossil fuels, and in order to enable offshore wind we need transmission facilities that are going to bring those megawatts to shore. The beauty of Brayton Point is that you just bring up the cable right to shore and connect it into the grid right there.”

More wind means more wires. The direct current cables will be buried 3 feet below the surface. But the beauty of Brayton Point's new renewable energy center is more than seafloor deep. Plans call for installing a giant battery on site to store enough low-cost wind energy to power 400,000 homes for a few hours. The stored electricity will be released onto the grid during times of peak demand when wholesale prices are at a premium. Store low, sell high.

ISO's van Welie says the region needs to retain the carbon-free generation output of its two remaining nuclear power plants — Millstone in Connecticut, scheduled to shut down in 2045, and Seabrook in New Hampshire, licensed to operate until 2050 — in order for the region to meet its mandated greenhouse gas emission targets.

But like Pilgrim plant, which shut down Friday after operating for decades, these nuclear generators are also having difficulty competing with low-cost fracked natural gas. Millstone’s owner recently threatened to shut down but got a last-minute bailout by Connecticut officials who will increase rates to state consumers.

ISO’s van Welie says these plants could benefit from batteries.

“Offshore [wind energy] is a lot more economic than nuclear power," he says. "If you pair that up with storage you could get to the same place as nuclear energy."

"The holy grail right now is storage."

DAN DOLAN, NEW ENGLAND POWER GENERATORS ASSOCIATION

Dolan, of the power generators association, is among those who see batteries as the saving grace for electric generators. "The holy grail right now is storage," he says.

Solar is also set to make the grid-size battery storage scene in New England. San Francisco-based Sunrun, a rooftop solar company, recently announced a first-in-the-nation partnership with National Grid to provide the regional grid with solar-stored energy produced by homeowners.

Audrey Lee, Sunrun's vice president of grid services, says the company persuaded ISO to allow it to compete in the 2022 wholesale electric market. Sunrun has a variety of business models to supply homeowners in New England with rooftop collectors and batteries. In some models, the system is free — the company will essentially be renting residents' roofs, networking the energy, selling it to National Grid, and providing homeowners with below-market rates for electricity.

The 20-megawatt energy commitment is a drop in the ocean compared with Anbaric’s offshore wind storage, but it will create what Lee calls a virtual, renewable power plant.

"It’s a virtual power plant because it can provide the same grid services that a centralized fossil fuel plant can," Lee says. "And because our solar and battery systems are connected to the internet they can be networked together. We can monitor them 24/7 and we can control them."

Dolan says managing the energy transition will keep the region from being dependent on fossil fuel. "To what degree can storage help to match when the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine is so critical on the system and for that maintaining an efficient and modern natural gas fleet is going to be critical.”

'It Can't Just Be On Power Plants'

Utility grid-scale storage batteries are still very expensive. Natural gas is cheap, and while cleaner than oil or coal, it is dangerously climate-disruptive. Advocates of a continuing role for natural gas, including ISO, say we need the fossil fuel as a bridge to ensure the reliability of the grid’s transition to a clean energy future.

"I don't think it's a question of how long the bridge is," says Paul Hibbard, an energy infrastructure expert with the Boston-based Analysis Group. "I think it's a question of how wide the bridge is."

Hibbard, a former chair of the state Department of Public Utilities, believes we need natural gas to keep us on a trajectory to meet our state and regional greenhouse gas targets. "Natural gas' role will change over time,” he says, “it will change from being our dominant source of energy to providing backup reliability.”

In coming years, as older fossil fuel plants retire, the use of natural gas to generate electricity is expected to increase, says ISO's van Welie. But paradoxically, as use of gas eventually declines, it is going to be a challenge for regional ratepayers and public utilities. That's because maintaining gas pipelines and less-used generating plants will increase the unit cost of energy output.

Besides, argues Dolan, electric generators have done the most of any sector of the economy to clean up its act.

“It can't be just on power plants,” he says, citing U.S Energy Information Administration data. In 1990 electric-generating power plants in New England made up 26% of regional CO2 emissions, he says. Today, power plants in the six states account for less than 17% of emissions. Dolan says power generation is now the third-largest emitter of climate-changing gases in New England.

“Not one, not two, but third,” he declares. “We need to address transportation, which emits roughly double the amount of carbon of any other sector.”

Van Welie agrees, but says the transition to electric vehicles is not a panacea.

"You know, if you think about an electric vehicle, it's equivalent to your whole house's electrical demand,” he says.

To speed the transition from fossil fuel-powered vehicles to electric, van Welie, Dolan and Hibbard agree that a tax or fee on carbon fuels is needed. Such a move would put a value on carbon-free generators such as wind, hydro, solar and nuclear, and make climate-changing emitters more costly.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative mandates electric utilities buy an increasing amount of wholesale power from green resources and, thanks largely to energy efficiency measures over the last decade, the demand for electricity in New England has actually been declining about 1% a year. Four out of the five most energy-efficient states in the nation are in New England, with Massachusetts No. 1.

But van Welie expects that trend to change soon. “We don't think that will remain that way for long," he says. "If we're going to move the transportation fleet to the grid then it's going to go up again.”

Dolan is not worried. The increased demand does not necessarily mean we will need more power plants. He says even without getting greener, the current electric grid can handle the additional load and reduce vehicle emissions.

"We go from in the low 20 miles per gallon to an mpg equivalent of over 100 mpg just by using the existing electric generation fleet," he says. "So we see a massive opportunity to use some of the extraordinary gains that have been made on power plant emissions and start to transport it to the cars, buses and trains that are used."

Anticipating the future of energy is a very risky, big bucks business. For instance, few saw the shale gas fracking revolution coming just a decade ago.

But today, climate change is increasing energy uncertainties, making planning for the future even more difficult, says van Welie.

"We've been having these once-in-50-year events once every two years in recent times," he says, "so there's definitely a series of interactions happening in climate that are making our past experience no longer a predictor of what happens in the future.”

To reduce market uncertainty and price spikes due to increasingly unpredictable winter weather, ISO-NE wants to change the way wholesale electricity is bought and sold, giving utilities three days instead of one to bid for energy.

“Our classic model for managing the wholesale market is no longer sufficient for where we are going," van Welie says, “and so we're going to have to make some changes in our market design in order to accommodate that."

And Dolan says his power generator companies also need different wholesale market signals to help guide new investments.

“There are enormously interesting technologies, but they all come at a cost, so if we're going to meet the climate change challenge and meet it economically, that's going to require a lot more innovation," he says.

At risk are billions of dollars and the energy future of New England.

This segment aired on June 4, 2019.

Source: wbur.org


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