October 22, 2018: in the original post, I asked what happened to coal in New England? The last coal plant was shut down in early 2017. Link here.
October 20, 2018: a graphic that might help. PJM stands for Pennsylvania, (New) Jersey, and Maryland)
October 20, 2018: maybe New England can buy electricity from PJM if push comes to shove. From oilvoice.com:
The average annual capacity factors for natural gas-fired generators in the PJM Interconnection—the largest competitive wholesale electricity market in the United States—have increased in recent years, reflecting greater use of natural gas-fired generators in the region.
The increase in PJM's capacity factors for natural gas-fired generators is the largest of any regional transmission organization in the country in the past five years (2013–2017).
Similar to the rest of the country, the share of natural gas-fired electricity generation in PJM has increased during the past five years as relatively low natural gas prices have made natural gas more cost-competitive with coal.
Much of the increase in generation from natural gas is from generating units using combined-cycle technology. By comparison, the use of natural gas-fired combustion turbines in PJM has remained relatively constant.
Average annual capacity factors for natural gas-fired combined-cycle generators in PJM first surpassed those of coal-fired generators in 2015. Relatively lower natural gas prices—in part because of PJM's proximity to Appalachian natural gas production—have been a primary driver for increasing natural gas capacity factors.October 20, 2018: from an earlier link, the core of PJM (Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio).
This is what happens when you don't build wind towers and solar farms -- you risk running out of electricity. Hmmm. Sure.
This is a regional story; I've blogged about it often but if one doesn't keep reading about it, one forgets all the details. It gets confusing.
This is up in New England, Boston, specifically.
From The Boston Globe.
Balance of power: Brisk enough for you yet? Try going without electricity. As the heating season arrives, the cooler weather again brings concerns that we could run out of juice on chilly days.Archived.
Just yesterday, the CEO of grid overseer ISO New England, Gordon van Welie, said we were precariously close to rolling blackouts -- “one large contingency away,” as he put it to an Associated Press reporter -- during last winter’s cold snap. Yes, it’s his job to tell everyone the sky is falling; ISO’s priority is ensuring the lights stay on across the region. But his warnings are sounding starker.
The giant Mystic gas-fired plant in Everett could hold the key -- especially now that it’s on the brink of closure. Owner Exelon is already retiring two smaller turbines there. The fate of its larger natural gas-fired units, Mystic 8 and 9, remain up in the air.
Data points as I understand them. Note: I could be way wrong on a lot of this stuff. I don't follow the New England electric grid all that closely.
- the largest power plant in New England is Milstone, in Connecticut
- the second largest power plant in New England is Mystic
- over the years, ISO New England has relied more and more on natural gas
- Mystic power plant is owned by Exelon, based in Chicago
- source of natural gas for Mystic is a natural gas import terminal literally next door
- the import terminal was formerly known as Distrigas, but is now also owned by Exelon -- the article didn't say if the terminal had a new name; maybe Mystic Terminal?
- so Exelon, Chicago-based, owns both the fuel source and the power plant
- Exelon, Chicago-based, says Mystic is no longer economic to run
- in an attempt to make it more economic to run, Chicago-based Exelon has already retired two smaller gas-fired (?) turbines at Mystic (the article did not say whether these turbines were gas-fired or coal-fired or run by hamsters on a tread mill)
- Chicago-based Exelon is considering unplugging two larger natural gas-fired units, Mystic 8 and 9, to bring the plant back to profitability
- apparently, Exelon plans to shut down Mystic entirely by 2022
- did we mention that Mystic is the second largest power plant in New England?
- the writer of the linked article seems to be as concerned about the fate of the natural gas import terminal as the power plant
- if the power plant is closed, the import terminal is no longer needed
- the import terminal imports LNG from "foreign shores"
- Exelon says it needs $1/month/each customer to keep the plant open until .... drum roll ... 2024 -- but it cannot increase rates without federal government (FERC) approval
- was Boston also the home of the Big Dig?
- the writer does not mention that as recently as Labor Day, 2018, an "anomaly" pushed the grid "to the brink"; link here.
- why is the writer so worried about the import terminal? after all, if Mystic is closed, apparently there's no need to import foreign LNG
- why is New England importing foreign LNG when this country, the US, has a glut of LNG and is exporting same?
- why is Mystic unable to make a profit? where are customers getting their electricity?
- did this happen overnight? Or is this simply poor planning?
- why is solar energy and/or wind energy not making up the difference?
- is ISO England learning the same lessons that Germany and Spain learned? If so, were those lessons being taught a decade ago?
- can Milstone provide the necessary power to preclude rolling blackouts?
- it sounds like "everyone" is being alarmist; apparently ISO New England can purchase electricity from outside the region based on other articles; not sure if that is true; if so, no need for "rolling blackouts" -- there are other sources for electricity
- What happened to coal?
- On the "fuel mix" graphic today, coal is not even shown (I keep looking, assuming I'm missing something).
Last December 27, 2017, coal made up 5 - 6% of the mix. What happened to the coal in less than a year?
It looks like to me that there really isn't a problem for the customers served by Mystic. On average, Mystic has more than enough electricity. On average, Mystic has so much excess electricity, the utility "gives it away" -- at least giving away enough to preclude profitability. So, on average, Mystic's customers will do just fine. On average they have more than enough electricity, enough that on average they don't need the region's second largest power plant any more.
Wow. When you think about it -- when you put it that way -- that's amazing. A region able to shut down its second largest power plant and still have enough electricity on average for all its customers. Imagine all the CO2 that won't be emitted. And the sacrifice? Occasional rolling blackouts. David Henry Thoreau would be supportive.
By the way, we're talking "blackouts," not "brownouts."
But my understanding is that this will be a mild winter in New England. What, me worry?
More On Mystic
This was from a post on July 12, 2016. To save you the trouble of having to click on the link and leave this page, here is that post:
This is a cool story from Bloomberg. Again, I would not have known about this story had it not been for the blog and readers who alerted it to me sometime ago.
I've actually blogged about the Mystic River (once) before. See these other posts regarding the linked Bloomberg story above:
Here's the most recent article, titled "Pipeline Phobia Keeps New England's Unlikely Trade Route Open" -- reminds me of the rum and molasses trade during the Revolutionary War:
- New England's appetite for Trinidad's natural gas, September 30, 2015
- US LNG imports from Trinidad, July 25, 2015
Thanks to the shale revolution, the U.S. has plenty of natural gas of its own. All along the eastern seaboard, a chain of import terminals -- built when the country expected to get its fuel from abroad -- now lie idle.
For reasons that have to do with environmental politics and geology, New England is bucking the trend. Three or four times a month, a police helicopter escorts giant ships through Boston Harbor, as they deliver liquefied natural gas from Trinidad to a terminal on the Mystic River. [And spewing all that CO2.]Why buy from the Caribbean, when so much cheap gas is pumped out of Pennsylvania and Ohio? One objection is the new pipelines needed to bring it to New England. The Northeast is famously cold in winter, and it sits on beds of granite that make underground fuel storage a problem, so gas and power prices typically spike way above the rest of the country when there’s a freeze. But using shale gas to cut the bills means a longer-term commitment to fossil fuels, and any proposed pipeline route triggers local objections: it will leave a scar along the Catskill Mountains, or pose a safety risk to residential neighborhoods. That’s the dilemma that has given Engie SA’s import facility near Boston, unlike all its peers, a new lease on life.Wow, I did not know it was a French utility. Now, it finally all makes sense. LOL. This is how the 13 colonies continue to thank France for their help in the Revolutionary War.
“We’ve been competing with pipelines since we opened,” Carol Churchill, a spokeswoman for the French utility in Massachusetts, said by phone. Once the gas arrives in Boston, some of it goes straight to an adjacent Exelon Corp. power station and the rest is transported via existing pipes or by truck. “It doesn’t make sense to build a pipeline to satisfy demand for 30 to 40 days a year,” Churchill says.
That argument has seen off a few potential rivals. Kinder Morgan Inc. scrapped its proposed $3.3 billion Northeast Energy Direct project in April, after failing to sign up enough customers. The Constitution Pipeline, intended to bring Marcellus gas from Pennsylvania, has been held up because New York denied a water permit, amid concern about contamination of the city’s supply.
Solution or Stopgap?
Instead, New England relies on tankers like the BW GDF Suez Everett, a regular visitor, whose logbook reflects the surge in Yankee demand. It used to roam the world’s seas, putting in at places like Singapore, Nigeria and Yemen; this year, it’s been plying a straight shuttle between Trinidad, where it loads up with LNG, and Boston.
Engie’s terminal there looked like it was sliding into disuse a couple of years ago, but now it’s taking in more cargoes than at any time since 2012. It supplied 11 percent of New England’s gas in January.
To pipeline-builders, that’s a stopgap not a solution. They point out that New England, like other parts of the U.S., has a growing appetite for natural gas in homes and power plants, as dirtier fossil fuels like coal and oil are phased out. Gas-fired plants are providing more than half of the Northeast’s power supply this month, up from 15 percent in 2000.
The Mystic River or As The Native Americans Call It: The Big River River
The Mystic River is a 7.0-mile-long (11.3 km) river in Massachusetts, in the United States. Its name derives from the Wampanoag word muhs-uhtuq, which translates to "big river." In an Algonquian language, missi-tuk means "a great river whose waters are driven by waves," alluding to the original tidal nature of the Mystic. The resemblance to the English word mystic is a coincidence.And no, the "original Pocahontas, being from "Virginia" was not Wampanoag. Again from wiki:
... Pamunkey Indian Tribe, descendants of the Powhatan chiefdom, of which Pocahontas was a member, became the first federally recognized tribe in the state of Virginia.The more recent "Pocahontas" is probably of Wampanoag heritage. Or, more than likely, not.
Whales can be divided into two large groups: baleen whales and toothed whales. Baleen whales split from toothed whales (Odontoceti) around 34 million years ago. Hard to believe, but that would be some years before Bernie Sanders arrived on the scene.
Baleen whales (systematic name Mysticeti), known earlier as whalebone whales, form a parvorder of the infraorder Cetacea (whales, dolphins and porpoises).
When we "lived" in Boston many years ago, I was always struck by the common root word for the Mystic River and the Mysticeti. I never did fully understand the relationship between the two if there was one. I visited the best whale museum in the world in New Bedford, MA, but I don't recall if I asked about that when I visited. If I didn't, it was another missed opportunity.
If you are in the area, the three things you cannot miss when visiting New Bedford, MA:
- the Whaling Museum;
- Seamen's Bethel; and,
- the little soup and sandwich shop that is overcrowded in the summer and empty in the winter across the street from Seamen's Bethel