Is energy storage the next job creator?

on March 31, 2017

E&E-NewsCould the energy storage industry fabricate some of the “thousands and thousands of jobs” that President Trump says he wants?

The short answer from insiders is yes. But whether those jobs arrive during his administration or are delayed or lost to Asia will depend in part on decisions Trump makes on trade, energy, transportation and infrastructure.

Across the young industry, there are hopeful signs: Students have massed at Tesla Inc. job fairs in Nevada, where the company plans to hire 3,000 people in the first half of 2017, according to a spokeswoman. As many as 150 new jobs were posted recently at a plant in Michigan. CEOs across the industry speak of an upswing, though one that is suffering through a period of Trump-induced uncertainty.

If lithium-ion batteries scale up and become a fixture in homes, businesses and automobiles, energy storage could create more than 120,000 jobs, according to SuperCharge US, an industry coalition. Many would be local, living-wage positions that don’t require a college degree.

Decisions are being made now that will shape the industry’s job profile for years to come. Tesla and other energy storage manufacturers are investing heavily in automation, which could make domestic manufacturing competitive — but results in a lot fewer jobs. Universities in California and Nevada are founding the country’s first-degree programs that specifically focus on batteries.

Energy storage isn’t a business where people think small.

When Alevo, a maker of grid-scale batteries in North Carolina, started hiring a couple of years ago, 10,000 people applied. The 300 who got hired helped build the first factory line. If the cavernous factory reaches its capacity — 20 times the size of today — it could employ 3,000, said Chris Christiansen, the company’s president.

“We see the market coming and increasing every year,” he said.

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E and E NewsIs energy storage the next job creator?

NREL Publishes Landmark Residential Solar PV + Energy Storage Cost Breakdown

on March 31, 2017

energy storage cleantechnicaThe US National Renewable Energy Laboratory has published a landmark report extensively detailing component and system-level cost breakdowns for residential PV solar systems equipped with energy storage.

The decreasing cost of solar systems has been well documented over the last several years, with increased innovation and decreasing manufacturing costs combining to make solar PV a competitive and economic choice for residents and utilities across the United States, and in fact the world. As such, the costs attributed to the development of residential and utility-scale solar projects has been well defined for some time — even though that figure keeps decreasing.

However, in the same way that technological innovation and manufacturing has helped to lower the costs of solar PV projects, the same catalysts have acted on energy storage technology. As a result, the attractiveness and economic viability of energy storage systems has increased dramatically over the last year or two, to the point where energy storage options are more and more frequently being considered to run in tandem with solar systems.

Researchers from the US Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have therefore published what is currently the most detailed component- and system-level cost breakdowns for residential solar PV equipped with energy storage. The report, Installed Cost Benchmarks and Deployment Barriers for Residential Solar Photovoltaics with Energy Storage: Q1 2016, also serves to quantify the previously unknown or uncertain soft costs for combined solar PV and energy storage.

“There is rapidly growing interest in pairing distributed PV with storage, but there’s a lack of publicly available cost data and analysis,” said Kristen Ardani, lead author of the report and a solar technology markets and policy analyst at NREL. “By expanding NREL’s well-established component- and system-level cost modeling methodology for solar PV technologies to PV-plus-storage systems, this report is the first in a series of benchmark reports that will document progress in cost reductions for the emerging PV-plus-storage market over time.”

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CleanTechnicaNREL Publishes Landmark Residential Solar PV + Energy Storage Cost Breakdown

Snohomish PUD installs second energy storage system

on March 31, 2017

Snohomish County PUD this week dedicated its second energy storage system, recently installed at a substation in Everett, Washington.

The system is the PUD’s largest containerized vanadium flow battery system by capacity. The batteries and control systems are housed in 20 shipping containers, each 20 feet in length, packed with tanks of a liquid electrolyte solution.

The PUD’s battery storage systems aim to transform the marketplace and how utilities manage grid operations. They also are designed to improve reliability and the integration of renewable energy resources, which are rapidly growing in the Pacific Northwest.

The PUD was joined at the dedication by Washington Governor Jay Inlsee and representatives from partnering organizations, including UniEnergy Technologies, which manufactured the battery, Doosan GridTech and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The energy storage system was made possible in part with a $7.3 million investment from the Washington State Clean Energy Fund.

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Electric Light and PowerSnohomish PUD installs second energy storage system

Mercedes eyes North American market to get ahead of energy storage curve

on March 30, 2017

energy storage utility driveThe list of automakers entering the market for stationary energy storage seems to get longer by the day.

The most recent entry is Daimler, the German manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz autos, which in November launched a separate unit, Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, that plans to begin selling its stationary storage products to residential, commercial and utility consumers this year.

With its new North American business unit, Daimler is looking to leverage the entry it made into stationary storage in 2015 with its Deutsche ACCUmotive unit. In fact, in April 2016,  Daimler spun off Mercedes-Benz Energy GmbH from ACCUmotive in order to concentrate on energy storage applications.

The new unit will have plenty of competition. Daimler joins BMW, Nissan, Tesla and VW, which have also all entered the market for stationary energy storage.

All of those companies have at least two concerns that are driving their interest in storage: What to do with batteries that are no longer useful in an electric vehicle but still have plenty of useful life left in them? How do they improve the economies of battery manufacturing and drive down costs?

Stationary storage presents possible answers to both questions by opening up new markets for new batteries and for recycled or repurposed batteries.

The underlying theme is how to make the most of an asset—in this case the battery in an electric car—which can serve more than one use.

That is a theme touched on by Boris von Bormann, the new head of Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, in an interview with Utility Dive. “How do we use the car’s capacity that is driving around? How do we monetize it in the energy markets? How do we make it available to the grid operator, a utility, a city?”

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Utility DiveMercedes eyes North American market to get ahead of energy storage curve

EU Scientists Propose Air As World’s Next Big Energy Storage Option

on March 30, 2017

energy storage cleantechnicaScientists from all across the European Union are working on what could be the next large-scale energy storage option to combine with variable renewable energy technologies to increase their efficiency — air.

According to researchers from SINTEF, Norway’s largest independent research organisation, storing compressed air in sealed tunnels and mines as an alternative to the more cheaper, though regionally restrictive method of pumped hydropower energy storage. Compressed air storage is in no way a “new” concept, but scientists from all over Europe, working under the auspices of the RICAS 2020 research project, are investigating the possibility of storing large amounts of compressed air in disused caverns and tunnels as large-scale storage sites.

The existing premise is already in use in some areas of the world, and essentially uses surplus electric power to compress air, which is stored underground, only to be released through a gas turbine that generates electricity when needed. Such energy storage plants help meet peak electricity demand.

“The more of the heat of compression that the air has retained when it is released from the store, the more work it can perform as it passes through the gas turbine,” said Giovanni Perillo, project manager for SINTEF’s contribution to RICAS 2020. “And we think that we will be able to conserve more of that heat than current storage technology can, thus increasing the net efficiency of the storage facilities.”

Currently, one of the problems with this technology — as experienced at two of the largest compressed air stores in the world, in Germany and the US — is the loss of potential energy through the compression stage, as there is no means to store the heat produced. This contributes to the fact that existing sites lose around 45 to 55% of the produced energy during the compression process. Participants in the RICAS 2020 project have developed a means to minimize heat energy losses in future underground storage caverns — essentially adding an additional station in the final solution:

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CleanTechnicaEU Scientists Propose Air As World’s Next Big Energy Storage Option

A Low-Tech Approach To Energy Storage: Molten Metals

on March 30, 2017

wburThe ability to store energy promises to revolutionize the way we generate, transmit and use electricity — making renewable sources such as wind and solar cheaper and more dependable.

Massachusetts is one of just three states requiring electric utilities to build battery facilities in the future.

A company in Marlborough believes it literally has the next hot technology in energy storage: molten metals.

About 10 years ago, MIT materials chemistry professor Donald Sadoway began wondering what it would take to make a better battery. One that could store huge amounts of energy, charge and discharge rapidly and operate reliably for decades. Of course it would have to be safe: non-toxic and not explode. And, oh yeah, inexpensive to make.

Sadoway stared at the periodic table of elements and had a “eureka” moment — build batteries out of liquid metals.

Fast forward a decade to a factory in Marlborough.

“This is where we have all the processes that we need to manufacture and test the cells we’ll be producing for prototype and commercial systems,” says AmbriChief Technology Officer David Bradwell.

Ambri is the company that Bradwell and Sadoway co-founded. It’s based on the idea of using liquid or molten metals to generate electricity.

“I was a Ph.D. student in the dungeons of MIT building the first [storage] cells,” Bradwell says.

The ‘Secret Sauce’

Those first storage cells were made of magnesium and antimony, but in order for the prototypes to operate, the metals had to be melted into liquids by getting heated to 700 degrees Celsius. That’s nearly 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

The researchers began churning out new chemistry options, using such metals as tin, lithium and calcium. Today, the new and improved molten metal batteries produced at Ambri’s factory operate at a cool 900 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Well, there’s a secret sauce on the specific materials that we’re using,” Bradwell says. “It’s not magnesium and antimony, but it’s similar type materials.”

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WBUR 90.9A Low-Tech Approach To Energy Storage: Molten Metals

21 US States Have Energy Storage Pipelines of 20MW or More

on March 29, 2017

energy storage greentech mediaAccording to GTM Research, 21 U.S. states now have 20 megawatts of energy storage projects proposed, in construction or deployed. In fact, 10 U.S. states have pipelines greater than 100 megawatts.

The data comes from GTM Research’s new U.S. Energy Storage Data Hub, part of the company’s Energy Storage Service, launched today.

Energy storage is no longer confined to a handful of U.S. states. GTM Research is tracking 2.5 gigawatts of front-of-meter energy storage projects outside of California. Texas, Hawaii, Ohio and Illinois round out the top five.

According to the Energy Storage Data Hub, states across the nation now have a combined 140 policies and regulations pending or in place concerning front-of-meter energy storage, many of which are driving this geographic expansion. For instance, Utah’s state legislature recently passed a bill pertaining to utility investments in energy storage projects; Oregon and Massachusetts are the second and third states to introduce storage mandates, respectively; and New York City became the first municipality to set a storage target.

“Front-of-meter energy storage markets are advancing at a feverish pace, enabled by an intricate set of drivers across states and wholesale markets,” said Ravi Manghani, GTM Research’s director of energy storage. “Declining costs coupled with maturing regulations have led to storage deployments of 10 megawatts or more in 14 states.” While the industry has largely concentrated on California in the recent months, GTM Research has tracked over 120 policies and regulations that impact markets outside of California.

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GreenTech Media21 US States Have Energy Storage Pipelines of 20MW or More

Air could be the world’s next battery

on March 29, 2017

Science-DailyWind and sun, two unpredictable resources, are becoming ever more important as sources of energy in Europe. This means that we face a growing need for energy storage facilities, because if energy cannot be used immediately when it is generated, it needs to be stored until it is needed.

The least expensive method is to use hydropower reservoirs as ‘batteries’: i.e. generate electricity using the stored water, when power is in short supply, and subsequently pump the water back uphill when surplus renewable energy is available. However, this is a practical solution only in mountainous regions, such as we have in Norway and a few other countries.

What if less fortunate countries and regions could use air instead of water as a way of storing energy? Under the auspices of the European Union, scientists from all over Europe are attempting to turn this concept into a viable prospect, via a research project (RICAS 2020) of which SINTEF is a member. The project participants have in mind all parts of the world where sealed disused caverns could be used as storage sites.

Like a hot bicycle-tyre pump

The general principle, which has already been adopted at a few sites around the world, is essentially a matter of using surplus electric power to compress air, which is then stored in an underground cavern. When power needs to be made available, the air is released through a gas turbine that generates electricity. Existing plants of this type are often used to meet peak demand as a supplement to classical power plants, providing the right amount of electricity needed at different times during the day.

The physics governing storing energy in the form of compressed air is a result of a law of nature familiar to every user of a bicycle pump: the process of compressing air heats it up. Bicycle pumps compress air in order to increase the pressure of the tyres, and in doing so, makes the pump hot.

“The more of the heat of compression that the air has retained when it is released from the store, the more work it can perform as it passes through the gas turbine. And we think that we will be able to conserve more of that heat than current storage technology can, thus increasing the net efficiency of the storage facilities,” says Giovanni Perillo, project manager for SINTEF’s contribution to RICAS 2020.

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Science DailyAir could be the world’s next battery

New technology for fast-charging, noncombustible batteries

on March 29, 2017

energy harvesting journalA team of engineers led by 94-year-old John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that could lead to safer, faster-charging, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for handheld mobile devices, electric cars and stationary energy storage.  

Goodenough’s latest breakthrough, completed with Cockrell School senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga, is a low-cost all-solid-state battery that is noncombustible and has a long cycle life (battery life) with a high volumetric energy density and fast rates of charge and discharge. The engineers describe their new technology in a recent paper published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.  

“Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted. We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries,” Goodenough said.   The researchers demonstrated that their new battery cells have at least three times as much energy density as today’s lithium-ion batteries. A battery cell’s energy density gives an electric vehicle its driving range, so a higher energy density means that a car can drive more miles between charges. The UT Austin battery formulation also allows for a greater number of charging and discharging cycles, which equates to longer-lasting batteries, as well as a faster rate of recharge (minutes rather than hours).

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Energy Harvesting JournalNew technology for fast-charging, noncombustible batteries

There’s Vast Untapped Potential for Solar Rooftops in the US, Says Google

on March 28, 2017

energy storage greentech mediaWhen Google first launched a website two years ago that collects data on solar rooftops, called Project Sunroof, it only covered a few cities. But this week, the search engine giant announced the solar site is now crunching data for every single U.S. state, including 60 million rooftops across the country.

The expansion means that Google’s Project Sunroof is starting to get a much clearer picture of how much rooftop solar capacity there actually is in the U.S. Project Sunroof uses data from Google Maps and Google Earth, combined with 3-D modeling and machine learning to determine the solar electricity potential of individual roofs.

Potential solar customers — or just the solar-curious — can enter their addresses into the site and get information about how much a solar system on their roof might cost and how much money they might save over time by going solar.

Google’s product manager Joel Conkling told GTM the goal of Project Sunroof is “to get data into the hands of people thinking about solar, and who are making decisions about solar.” He added that “the hope is [to] help people make more quantitative decisions about solar.”

The large amount of data being collected by Google also means that the internet company’s project could be a helpful tool not only for consumers interested in solar, but also for solar companies looking to bring in new customers, as well as academic researchers and even utilities.

Now that Project Sunroof’s availability is countrywide, Google’s amassed data has started to reveal some interesting trends and information. For one thing, Google says that 79 percent of the rooftops it’s analyzed are viable for solar, which is good news for rooftop solar providers.

That doesn’t mean that 79 percent of rooftops should or will adopt solar, though. Rather, it means that 79 percent technically get enough sun to be able to accommodate solar panels.

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GreenTech MediaThere’s Vast Untapped Potential for Solar Rooftops in the US, Says Google