Monterey >> While Monterey Bay Community Power typically looks for local clean power sources, its latest deal will bring in energy from New Mexico for a good reason.
Peak energy demand takes place in the evening hours as people get home from work, right as the sun sets and solar energy levels wind down.
“There’s an abundance of renewable energy available in the middle of the day, where solar and wind is pumping energy into the grid,” said Shelly Whitworth, a spokeswoman for Monterey Bay Community Power. “But in the afternoon, when everyone comes home and wants to turn on all of their appliances, that’s when solar and wind tend to start dying off and you have to start firing up peaker plants, like natural gas plants, to make up the difference.”
A graph showing the imbalance between peak energy demand and renewable energy production resembles the shape of a duck, earning the nickname “duck curve.” The location, high wind patterns and time difference in New Mexico help alleviate the strain on the electric grid during the evening in California.
“This particular project, the pattern was so interesting because their wind tends to ramp up right when solar is ramping down,” Whitworth said. “So it’s not only an awesome renewable energy project, but it’s also mitigating that duck curve issue by pumping into the grid later in the afternoon.”
The regional community choice energy agency started providing residential power to about 235,000 customers in the tri-county area July 1, four months after starting non-residential service to about 37,500 customers. It was formed in March 2017 to provide locally-controlled, carbon-free electricity to residents and businesses in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.
The 90 megawatt power purchase agreement with Pattern Development will last 15 years and Monterey Bay Community Power estimates it will provide up to 10 percent of its annual electricity demand. The 200 megawatt Duran Mesa Wind project is currently in development near Corona, New Mexico, and is expected to reach commercial operation in late 2020. The power from the project will have a connection for delivery into California in part via the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project, a 520-mile transmission line under development in New Mexico and Arizona.
“We are strongly committed to a diverse portfolio of energy resources and this project brings a wide variety of benefits that will be shared by our customers for years to come.” said Bruce McPherson, Monterey Bay Community Power’s board chair, in a prepared statement.
The deal was made in partnership with Silicon Valley Clean Energy, which signed a 15-year power purchase agreement for 110 megawatts. Whitworth said community choice energy agencies work together rather than compete with one another and communicate to continually improve.
“I think this is just the beginning of our purchasing power and how we can work together to bring more renewables online at a lower price,” she said.