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Video Interview: Removing Coal Fired Power Plants by Handling Peak Load

Connie Kwan | Tuesday November 9th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Coal fired and natural gas power plants are installed only to sit idle 99% of the time.  In fact, 10% of the power plants around the country are used only 1% of the time to handle peak load.  Peak load occurs when many users demand energy at the same time, such as everyone turning on their air conditioning on a hot day.  Utilities must maintain easy-start power plants such as coal or natural gas in order to stay ready for these rare peak load events.  But there is a more efficient way.  This video interview with Brad Davids of EnerNOC profiles their technology for replacing coal fired and natural gas power plants by providing peak load power through industrial power usage reduction.  EnerNOC establishes contracts with industrial and commercial business such as dairies, supermarkets, plastics manufacturers, ice making companies to cut load during those peak hours.  During peak hours, utilities send a signal to EnerNOC’s internet based operation center to initiate the load reduction request, and EnerNOC removes between 40-100 MW of load, thereby balancing supply and demand.  Utilites pay EnerNOC instead of building a new power plant, and EnerNOC pays its industrial business customers.  Everybody wins.

Connie Kwan is a GreenTech Marketing professional based in Silicon Valley, CA.  She is pursuing an MBA in Sustainability at Presidio Graduate School and blogs about sustainability and business at Sustainable Thinking: Applied.


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  • http://8020vision.com jaykimball

    For some good detail on ways that power utilities are load leveling, using simple water heaters, see:
    http://8020vision.com/2010/08/13/using-water-heaters-to-store-excess-wind-energy/

    It’s a good example of how high variability solar and wind power can be stored using simple proven low cost technology. As Connie points out, that means we don’t need to add more coal or gas fired plants.