NY Power Costs Making You Sweat? Solar Can Help

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The sun is ready to go to work in the Empire State. Why, it can even clean a subway car. And these hot summer temperatures serve as a timely (and toasty) reminder that solar is ready and able to help today.

As was excellently articulated by ClimateProgress reporter Stephen Lacey last week, solar is a prime solution for the electricity woes sweeping much of the country amid this summer’s heat wave. You should go read the whole thing here, but some juicy bits:

Today, the cost of solar electricity ranges anywhere from 12 cents to 30 cents per kilowatt hour — in some cases, potentially a third of what it costs to meet peak demand with conventional resources.

So looking back on the month of July, how many times in the NY ISO would solar have helped at a cost that is equal to today’s fossil-fuel dominated wholesale power supply? Let’s take a conservative view for New York and look only at the instances when the price was above 30 cents/kWh, or in ISO speak, $300 MW-hr (LBMP), the upper end of today’s wholesale solar prices. How many times this past month would solar power be at or below at grid parity?

The answer — 1,748. That’s right, during the month of July in various markets around New York state, power prices crossed the $300 MW-hr threshold a whopping 1748 times. An impressive 220 times, the price soared to more than $1000 MW-hr. New York hit a maximum of $1750 during one — probably terrifying – hour on July 22nd for the Long Island Power Authority. Proof positive that solar is a good deal for New York.

These sky-high electricity prices and outage alerts are a pretty clear indicator that New York’s business-as-usual energy approach is broken. And as conventional prices stay on their erratic and upward trajectory, you can bet that the cost of solar will continue to trend down making PV’s economics look even sunnier. Let’s not forget that the sunshine is still a free, making PV a welcome hedge against continued fuel price volatility. In short, solar is primed and ready to cost-effectively address New York’s power needs, especially the peak demand that paralyzes the state’s power grid on hot summer days.

No surprise to those vaguely familiar with the daily path of the sun that these times of high, pricey demand line up with New York highest solar generation potential. Let’s put the sun that’s causing those high temps to work addressing the very power spikes it’s producing. What could make more sense?

The New York Solar Jobs Act provides the missing policy link needed to deploy PV at scale. The bill’s goal of 5 gigawatts of local solar development would go a long way toward repowering the state and easing grid crunch. And so we know it might be hard to remember these soaring temps when the legislature is back in session and considering the bill again come February as you’re shoveling snow. But maybe this will help — the price spikes now, will be setting the trend for higher bills paid in January, February, March, heck, the whole year round. The sun comes up ready to work, day in and day out, month after month. So stay tuned!

Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

1 Comment

  1. THe author from Vote Solar calls attention to the number of instances where the LMP for NY-ISO went over the $300 mark (the high-end of 30c/kWh PV panel power).

    1748 is the number listed for the number of LMBP instances that were over $300. A few problems/questions:

    First, there are only 744 hours in the month of July so the 1748 number is misleading – The 1748 figure spans 15 different Zones throughout NY-ISO and includes power trading to the PJM ISO and Ontario Hydro. I’m guessing that the instances where LMP>$300 were limited to one or two different zones…which is where PV installations would work best – but plenty of zones probably didn’t see LMP get over $150 during any period of the month.

    What’s missing from the post is the number of contracts that were executed for the $LMP>300. (ie. How many Megawatts were actually sold at those high rates) If discos were well aware that hot weather was on the way then they would have at least locked in contracts using the Day-Ahead pricing – at much lower rates than the LMP

    The real problem is that the 12-30c PV needs to compete with the year-round average LMP which, IIRC for NY-ISO is only around 9c/kWh.

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