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Friday, May 20, 2022

Electric homes are the future. Grid is not ready.

Palo Alto – One out of every six homes in this leafy birthplace of Silicon Valley has a plug-in car, more to come. Other homes have heat pumps, induction cook tops and radiant solar panels to help mitigate climate change.

Yet the electricity grid of tomorrow cannot meet the carbon-free ambitions of tomorrow.

“We’re in ‘ramp up’ mode. Unless we accelerate, we won’t hit our targets,” said Mayor Pat Burtt, who drives a plug-in hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander. “But we don’t really want to do it. Doesn’t have the ability to do it faster than that. That’s the crunch.”

It’s a harbinger of what’s to come in other cities in California. As a growing number of Berkeley, San Jose and other communities commit to a full-electric future, their transformers and distribution lines are being severely challenged by the need to deliver a lot of electricity. Los Angeles is also proposing to study what is needed to modernize its power grid infrastructure.

In Palo Alto, this entire city’s grid was built around the electricity needs of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, shortly after Hewlett-Packard envisioned a small wooden garage on Edison Avenue as a transformative became, gave birth to him. technological revolution.

At the time, few had electric heating or air conditioning. Gas was used in the water heater. So did the cars. An entire house consumes the same amount of electricity per day as a high-speed EV car charges.

Even in this progressive and affluent city of 68,000 — where Google co-founder Larry Page, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla’s former director of battery technology Kurt Kelty are — the challenge is enormous. Is.

The city, which supplies electricity to residents and businesses through its utilities, is already carbon-neutral, buying carbon offsets to balance its emissions from natural gas use. It buys its electricity from solar, hydroelectric, wind and landfill gas sources.

But it has vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels, in just eight years.

This all-electric goal means that every new single-family home is gas-free, as well as the massive conversion from gas to electric appliances in existing buildings. The natural gas would be shut off, either by disconnecting service to each individual home or by sealing the valves from the mains that service the entire block. There is no information about whether the city will provide grants or subsidies to homeowners who cannot afford the upgrade.

Eight out of 10 cars will be EVs. Two years ago, Palo Alto had an estimated 4,200 charging stations – but that number is projected to increase to 33,000 by 2030.

It can keep doing what it’s doing now, upgrading block by block as problems emerge. Or it can modernize an entire grid, an entire neighborhood, or circuit at once. A study is underway that will analyze the upgrades needed.

“We have these aspirational goals…but the practical steps to get there are really complicated and involve very difficult choices,” said city council member AC Johnston, a retired intellectual property attorney.

The city is already renovating some buildings to gain experience. In partnership with affordable housing nonprofit Midpen Housing, the city recently turned off gas valves and installed a heat pump system at Page Mill Court Apartments, a 24-unit complex for adults with developmental disabilities.

“It’s better,” said Alfred Bostik, 72, whose large gas wall furnace was replaced with a cleaner, more efficient and less expensive electric space heater. For the first time they have air conditioning.

As Brett Anderson of Carbon Free Palo Alto said, time is of the essence. Appliances like water and space heaters last a long time – so today’s installations have long-term implications.

Rather than an ad-hoc update, “it has to be done in a systematic way…once electrification starts becoming very widespread,” said Peter Krauss, a retired engineer and physicist who built an all-electric home.

So far, the city’s greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 50% from 1990 levels, said Jonathan Abendshen, the city’s assistant director for utilities’ resource management. When adjusted for pandemic-related impacts, it is closer to 42%.

“That means we have a significant distance to go,” he said.

Current transformers, white 500-pound cylinders that sit atop poles and reduce power from high-voltage lines, are often very small. So there are some wires and poles, he said. Even rooftop solar and battery storage units can cause problems because when they produce more electricity than is used, they overload transformers.

“There are places today where we can’t even get another heat pump without redoing part of the system. Or we might not even have an EV charger running,” said Tom Marshall, assistant director of utilities, at a recent meeting of the city’s utility advisory committee.

“If we go out and start promoting electrification … we’re just trying to chase our tail,” he said.

When a transformer is overloaded, its life is shortened. Residents may experience a slight flicker of lightning. In the worst case, it explodes.

Rapidly modernizing the entire grid is cheap in the long run, but has a large upfront cost: an initial estimate of about $160 million. If financed at an interest rate of 3.2% over 30 years, it would cost about $11 million a year.

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 1: A newly installed transformer at Christine Drive and Ross Drive on Thursday, May 1, 2022 in Palo Alto, Calif.  (Nhat v. Meyer / Bay Area Newsgroup)
PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA – MAY 1: A newly installed transformer at Christine Drive and Ross Drive on Thursday, May 1, 2022 in Palo Alto, Calif. (Nhat v. Meyer / Bay Area Newsgroup)

This means replacing nearly all 800 transformers serving single-family homes, using experienced linemen and “bucket trucks.” More transformers can be added. An estimated 20% of secondary distribution lines and 25% of feeder lines will also need upgrades. Some poles may need to be strengthened. Newly introduced technologies enable electricity to flow in different directions.

And because the entire city will depend on electricity, new control, fuses and detection systems are needed to make the grid more resilient and quicker to restore, Abendschen said.

In addition to cost, it poses a number of major challenges. Transformer is not there due to supply chain failure. And competition is fierce for energy engineers and linemen, who have specialized skill sets and years of training. Even before the planned scale-up, 18 out of 68 posts in the city’s electrical operations and 5 out of 15 for linemen are vacant.

Some residents believe the new goals are being implemented too quickly.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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