The College introduced in March 2022 that it was altering to “100% renewable,” however what does that imply?
With the acquisition of a second photo voltaic producing station in 2022 close to Lemoore, Calif. within the Central Valley, Stanford now boasts “100% renewable” electrical energy. Stanford beforehand bought a photo voltaic producing station in Rosamond, California in 2016.
This doesn’t imply that the electrical energy used to energy the Stanford campus comes instantly from these photo voltaic vegetation however moderately that Stanford’s photo voltaic producing stations generate an equal or higher quantity of vitality than the College’s annual vitality consumption.
“Aside from rooftop photo voltaic, Stanford’s photo voltaic producing stations don’t instantly feed the campus’ electrical energy wants,” College spokeswoman Luisa Rapport wrote in a press release to The Day by day. “Stanford’s electrical energy demand doesn’t line up minute-by-minute and even hourly with the photo voltaic electrical energy that Stanford produces,” Rapport wrote.
The electrical energy that powers the lights within the eating halls, the washing machines within the dorms and all different electrical wants on campus is supplied by PG&E, which claims 48% of its vitality is renewable and 9 % from pure gasoline. The proportion of renewable vitality relative to that from fossil fuels corresponding to pure gasoline fluctuates all through the day, with extra pure gasoline getting used at evening when photo voltaic vitality just isn’t obtainable, based on PG&E.
“All of the electrical energy we get on campus – when you add all of it up yearly, it provides as much as ‘X’ megawatts, and [Stanford is] purchase an equal quantity of photo voltaic vitality,” mentioned Alison Ong, a third-year Ph.D. scholar within the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program for Setting and Assets (E-IPER).
“The entire grid is united as one. That is why you’ll be able to’t select your electrons,” mentioned Ong.
Stanford bought photo voltaic offsets to offset the fossil fuels the college nonetheless depends on by way of PG&E.
The truth that Stanford would not provide its offsets each hour complicates issues, Ong mentioned. Photo voltaic vitality is barely obtainable throughout the day, however the majority of vitality use doesn’t fall between dawn and sundown.
PG&E, which provides electrical energy to Stanford and far of Northern and Central California, units peak vitality demand hours as 4 to 9 p.m. on weekdays. Particularly throughout the winter months, a lot of this vitality demand can’t be met by solar energy, as Stanford at present lacks the vitality storage know-how to make hourly offsets doable.
In line with the US Vitality Info Administration, California is losing 5% of its photo voltaic vitality as a result of curtailment, the follow of decreasing photo voltaic vitality seize when demand is low to keep away from stress on the grid. This exhibits that the barrier to a totally renewable grid just isn’t the shortage of photo voltaic vitality seize however the potential to deploy the vitality when the solar is out.
Rapport wrote that “[there’s been] vital battery set up at our second photo voltaic producing station that permits us to time-shift among the station’s manufacturing beneath sure circumstances.
If realized on a bigger scale, this improvement might flip Stanford’s fossil gas offset right into a minute-by-minute mannequin, an essential step towards a totally renewable grid. . With these advances in vitality storage, Ong mentioned Stanford is “strolling in the best course,” though he nonetheless sees a serious problem: logistics.
“It is essential the place you set one thing like storage or an influence plant as a result of when you put it in Southern California, together with your huge demand or load facilities, say within the Bay Space … you overload the transmission line,” mentioned Ong. “It is like driving on a freeway or freeway. It is congested and congested.”
Jayson Toweh, a second-year Ph.D. scholar within the E-IPER program mentioned that the College ought to take extra significant steps to maneuver in direction of renewable vitality. “That photo voltaic farm would have existed, whether or not Stanford purchased it or not,” Toweh mentioned. “So are we, principally, offsetting or truly taking soiled vitality off the grid?”
Though Stanford offsets fossil gas vitality use with solar energy, Toweh, who can be a member of the Coalition for a True College of Sustainability, factors out that offsetting just isn’t the identical as being carbon impartial. “Renewables for electrical energy … do not actually present the entire image of what you’re [using] assets associated to fossil fuels, whether or not it funds analysis, stuff you purchase, [etc.].” Toweh mentioned.
Toweh mentioned it is essential to eradicate fossil gas funding of analysis, and handle different sustainability points at Stanford corresponding to carbon emissions from journey and a scarcity of sustainable meals choices.
“Stanford just isn’t a ‘inexperienced’ college,” Toweh mentioned, “I believe it really works.”
Rapport wrote that “the College has a goal of reaching carbon neutrality, or internet zero greenhouse gasoline emissions, by 2050.”
Ong is cautiously optimistic for Stanford’s carbon-neutral future: “2050 is not tomorrow, but it surely’s not frighteningly shut both.”