Frustrated by interconnection delays? Batchable computing provides a solution

By Phillip Ng, VP of Business Development, to your left

Our energy network is inflexible. It was built a century ago for a different country and a different energy economy. Integrating this system with a new intermittent generation was challenging to say the least. The result is frequent times of oversaturation of renewables, but still reliant on carbon-producing assets to solve peak demand.

Our lofty, necessary goal of decarbonising the grid will only be achieved if we make renewables economically viable and modernize both the grid and demand to the renewable energy generation profile.

In addition to the intermittent generation of renewable energy, solar and wind energy, unlike fossil fuels, cannot yet be reliably stored for later use.

The result: demand must become more flexible to resolve this mismatch.

Supply exceeding demand means curtailment, or wasted energy. In 2021, an estimated 14.9 TWh of otherwise viable renewable energy was contained. This is the equivalent of $610 million in lost revenue, or enough energy to power the city of Chicago for a year.

This problem is exacerbated as renewable energy sources increase their market share in the new generation. Moreover, unless we can create more flexible demand, marginal solar and wind will not help to increase net capacity on the grid:

Penetration of wind is the X-axis; Utility to the grid measured by capacity credit is the Y-axis. As penetration increases, marginal utility decreases. Source: Lori Bird, M Milligan and Debra Lew. 2013. Integrating Variable Renewable Energy: Challenges and Solutions. Technical report. NREL.

Based on our analysis, looking at IPP production data, we estimate that up to 40% of the energy generated by individual solar and wind farms is lost. This puts enormous economic pressure on these energy producers. It also prevents new projects from being built in areas rich in wind and solar resources.

Batteries and transmission offer long-term containment solutions, but are not sufficient to meet this challenge for a number of reasons:

  • Batteries are expensive and depend on a supply chain of rare minerals that both bottlenecks and dries up. They have a short lifespan and are difficult to dispose of responsibly.
  • Transmission updates are costly, time consuming and hampered by a lack of a unified US national network
  • Both technologies are still emerging and show promise for future use, but require development and are not immediately deployable at this time.

There is a third option: batchable computing.

Batchable computing, or batch processing, is computing that can be processed in batches at a time, ideal for large data sets of repetitive input that are not time sensitive. The computational process began to be widely used in the late 19th century when: Herman Hollerithfuture co-founder of IBM, invented a tabulation machine that used batch processing to count counting results.

The beauty of batchable computing is that it is interruptible, allowing it to run on the intermittent energy from renewable energy sources. Co-location of data centers running batchable computing with renewable power plants creates a hedge for independent power producers (IPPs) who otherwise only sell energy to the grid. When supply exceeds demand and the grid can no longer absorb megawatts, IPPs in the Soluna network can sell their excess energy to the data center.

This solution has significantly reduced the problem of containment.

Case study: 150 MW wind farm

Soluna is partnering with IPPs to provide an integrated solution that is true to the goals of decarbonizing the network and advancing critical arithmetic progress. Soluna buys the energy that would otherwise be lost from these IPPs and uses that energy to power compact data centers that run batchable computing.

We currently have two locations in Kentucky: Project Marie and Project Sophie (for Marie Curie and Sophie Wilson – all our sites are named after women scientists who left an indelible mark on history).

We recently broke ground on our newest site in Texas, Project Dorothy (named after Dorothy Vaughan, a mathematician on the NASA program that sent America’s first satellites into space).

Batchable computing is immediately deployable and scalable, providing a containment solution that is now ready. For more information, read our white paper on reducing containment and stabilizing the network through batch computing.

Phillip leads development activities for: to your left.

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