Hi and welcome back. We have talked about fossil fuels and nuclear energy and how they're used to handle that all important base load. Now, we're going to talk about renewable energy as primary fuel sources for electricity generation. Let's start with hydroelectric power. It's actually the most widely used renewable energy resource in the world. The first hydro project powered just one single lamp in the late 1800s. More came on board soon after. By the turn of the 20th century, use because much more preferred all around the world. Right now, China, the US, and Brazil lead the way in hydro capacity. Hydro is considered a great base load source, and it can also be a great peak load source. Every state in the US actually does have some form of hydro. There are some states that get a majority of their power from it. Washington state is one of them. Let's hear from a Washington utility that is known for their hydro generation. >> I'm Pat McCarty. I'm the generation manager for Tacoma Power. Tacoma is a municipal electric utility that's owned by the citizens of Tacoma. We serve about 170,000 people in Tacoma and the greater Tacoma area. And back in 1912, they built the first hydroelectric plant that served the citizens of Tacoma on the Nisqually River. It was a 24 megawatt project. Shortly after that, they decided they needed more power to fuel the industry that was growing in Tacoma. And they ventured out to the slopes of the Olympic mountains and built the Cushman Hydroelectric Project. In 1926, when it first came online, it was a big deal. It was so big that Calvin Coolidge, back in the White House, pressed the button, symbolically sending the electrons from the Cushman Dam to Tacoma. >> That's some great information. It might surprise you to know that hydro and coal fire plants produce electricity pretty similarly. >> Hydro power is all produced the same way. It harnesses the natural energy from falling and flowing water, that's what a hydroelectric project is. And it does that by capturing that water, sending it through a hydraulic turbine that spins that turns a generator to produce clean, green, renewable, and cost effective power for our citizens. >> There are actually three types of hydro plants. The most common uses a dam and is called impoundment. Another is called diversion, and as the name suggest, this is where a portion of the river is channeled through a canal. There might or might not be a dam. The third kind is called pumped storage, and it works like a battery. It stores the electricity that is created by another power source, like solar, wind, or nuclear. Water is pumped uphill, and when energy demand is low, it stays there. When there's a high demand, it's released back downhill, and that's what turns the turbine. Hydro is one of the most efficient energy sources, and there are no emissions in using it, and the cost is pretty low. In fact, areas with a lot of hydro in the mix tend to have some of the lowest electric bills. >> Renewable energy really depends on where you sit, geographically speaking. And here in Colorado, we're blessed with abundant renewable resources. Historically for us, it's been hydroelectricity. Municipal utilities are able to take advantage of federal hydropower from the power marketing agencies associated with the Bureau of Reclamation. In our case, it's the Western Area Power Administration. And WAPA, as we call them, for short. And WAPA delivers low cost hydro to public power customers. We're electric cooperatives and municipal-owned utilities. It is the lowest cost renewable resource in our portfolios, and we have been tremendously blessed to be able to have those resources here in the West and be able to have them delivered to our customers and help deliver historically a low cost renewable resources to our communities. >> Sounds great. So sign me up, right? Not so fast. By now, you know that I'm going to tell you about some of the downsides of hydro. Of course, to have hydro, you need water. That's a no-brainer. And for some geographies, there might not be the right kind of water sources. And even in areas where there's a suitable source of water, drought conditions can change that. It cost a lot to build these plants. And building dams and other structures can change the natural terrain beyond the immediate location and then impact fish and other wildlife. Some folks say that most, if not all, of the good spots for building large hydro are taken. The trend now is to build smaller scale hydro facilities that power single communities. China, Brazil, the US, Canada, Russia, and India, are some of the biggest users, and together accounted for about 60% of global installed capacity of hydro at the end of 2014. Here's some interesting trivia for you. They biggest hydro plant in the world is the Three Gorges Dam in China. It took over as the biggest in 2012, and its about as high as a 60-storey building. It has a capacity of 22,500 megawatts. To give you perspective, that is handling 10% of China's electricity needs which, as you know, is one of the most heavily populated countries. Let's move on to a renewable energy source you've likely been hearing quite a bit about. Wind. The way wind works is pretty simple. The energy from the wind turns the blades around a propeller, which spins a generator to form electricity. Sound familiar? The US is a world leader in wind generation. In 2015, wind produced enough energy to power 17.5 million typical US homes. China is second, and Germany is third. If we look more closely at the US, you can see that there's a pretty big difference in how much each of the states rely on wind. Of course, that's because wind quality and accessibility differs by geography. The Department of Energy predicts wind will grow to supply 20% of the US's electricity by 2030. That's up considerably from about 4% in 2014. And why not? Wind is free, right? Well, not really. The wind itself is free, but using it to generate electricity is definitely not. There's a lot of bad information on the web about how much wind costs. In all fairness, maybe it's not so much that it's bad information, but context is really important here. The estimates for the true cost of wind vary a lot. The cost considered are capital, operations, and maintenance, but they don't tend to factor in the fact that the wind is not all that reliable. Sure, you know the wind will eventually blow, but it's intermittent. When it's calm out, there needs to be backup power to keep the lights on. Remember that base load discussion we had? So what I'm saying is that coal and natural gas power plants are typically what provides that back up. And we need this for reliability. Transmission, which we'll learn about later, is also a pretty big issue. Usually, wind is not located in population dense areas where it's used, and so new transmission lines need to be built. That's not cheap or easy. >> The simple physics of an electric system demand that you can only hook up generation in certain areas. But specifically, if you're looking at the more intermittent resources or the renewable resources, such as solar and wind, they're highly dependent on where in the country you have the best wind blowing, and consistently, or where you have the best intensity of sunshine. So in other words, the closer you get to the equator, the better the intensity that you're going to have from the sun. And then you also have to look at land space. You can't very well put these large wind turbines in the middle of a metropolitan area [LAUGH]. You're going to have to be a little bit further out and have the land space in order to be able to hook them up and let the wind blow in those jurisdictions. But a perfect example for our company is wind. And we're the number one wind provider in the country for 12 years running. And that's because we've had the fortune of having a really nice wind resource down in our southern jurisdictions, so in Texas and New Mexico. We've been able to install wind turbines for a number of years. And some of those get a known as a capacity factor of over 50%, which means that you have really great wind resources down there. Whereas here in Colorado, we also have a good wind resource but not quite as good as down in Texas. So you're looking at more capacity factors that are between 40 and 45%. >> Certainly, a lot of renewables were brought online supported by things like feed in tariffs and other sorts of programs that actually help encourage their advancement and actually support financially. And those are often important for early stage technologies, because the manufacturer needs to know that they're going to be delivering certain number of panels or certain number of wind farms. Once they have that level, then they can achieve better economies of scale, and that's what then is going to drive the price down, and then the subsidies, and the other types of incentives can actually be phased out. So these types of early stage incentives help get the technology into the market and achieve these economies of scale until it can reach the, basically, grid parody and compete fully with other types of technologies. Wind generation has been really amazing because, again, the prices have dropped considerably. It's between two to three cents a kilowatt hour to generate. So that's well below the standard rates for generation systems. And we've seen the towers get bigger and bigger. As they're bigger and taller, they get more efficient. Also they are able to access the winds that are more consistent at higher sizes. So we're seeing a tremendous increase in the size and the deployment of the turbins. One of the exciting things that they're looking at now is they're getting bigger, is that they'll be able to access lower level wind speeds. So that would open up more parts of the country to wind development such as the Southeast US, which doesn't have the really high speed wind. Just to mention, a really interesting thing in the manufacturing side related to wind is right now, wind turbines are constrained because of their size. They're at the limit of where they can be transported down the highway, the big blades, and the other parts of them, and the towers. So we're actually looking at on-site manufacturing of how do you actually manufacture the parts of wind turbines on site so they can be bigger and taller. >> The turbines are getting more advanced and can power even more homes, communities, and businesses. Wind energy has also taken its share of hits from environmentalists. This includes fatalities of birds of prey and also noise pollution. >> One of the interesting things there has been concern about, bird strikes and bat strikes on blades. And we're actually doing a lot of interesting research here at NREL to develop technologies to be able to shut the turbines down when certain types of birds are in place. Also, where you site them is very important. So working, again, with the Audubon society and other types of community groups to understand where the migratory pathways are and not putting wind farms in those locations. So while that was an early concern, the risk of that has been greatly reduced through the different types of advances in technologies. >> I had the opportunity to talk with the United State's number one utility wind provider for 12 years in a row, as identified by the American Wind Association, and that's Xcel Energy. Let's see what we learned about what it means to be a leader in this space. >> Talking about technological change over the past decade, and what we've been seeing in our industry, one of the primary areas that we've concentrated on has been large-scale renewables. And we partnered with NREL, here in the State of Colorado, in order to be able to better forecast when wind was going to be blowing. Because of the algorithms we've been able to develop and design, instead of saying as a two gigawatts of renewable wind energy on our system here in the State of Colorado, we're going to be able to surpass three gigawatts. And not only that, by optimizing the WinSystems so that we had other resources available to fill the gaps when it wasn't there, we've been able to save our customers tens of millions of dollars from these algorithms. And that goes straight to the customers, bottom line, and fuel cost savings.