Utilities Are Accelerating Microgrid Investments in Innovative and Strategic Ways

on December 28, 2018

GreenbizThe electric utility sector is at a crossroads between centralized generation and distributed energy resources (DERs), with 2018 DER deployments exceeding additions for centralized generation. Microgrids represent one platform that can transform DERs into systems that offer resiliency services outside of traditional utility service offerings. While utilities historically have viewed the islanding functionality of microgrids with suspicion, many are now investigating what role they could/should play in this market.

Microgrids are inching their way into the mainstream, although the majority are deployed by non-utility vendors for third parties. However, growing interest and regulatory support for community microgrids and microgrids designed to bolster the overall distribution system are opening the door for utilities to play a larger and undefined role.

The VERGE 18 Microgrid Summit in Oakland, California, made clear that utilities are beginning to explore new microgrid strategies in the United States. The East Coast recently led the charge in microgrids in response to major grid outages caused by extreme weather. However, California’s recent wildfires also have increased pressure on utility companies to boost resiliency on the West Coast. The Pacific Gas and Electric Company is partnering with Humboldt County community choice aggregation and others to create a microgrid supporting critical facilities — including an airport in an isolated part of northern California.

The Midwest is also making strides in the microgrid field with the Commonwealth Edison of Illinois plowing new ground and working with Siemens AG to create new DER platforms. The platforms can be deployed to help manage envisioned future fleets of microgrids that are designed to offer grid benefits to integrate and manage growing DER fleets. Such efforts around the concept of clustered microgrids are beginning to overlap with related concepts such as investments in virtual power plants and DER management systems.

Duke Energy blazes a trail

Duke Energy has created a model blueprint for other utilities. It has discovered microgrid projects types that pass regulatory muster from a regulated business model while also providing strategic capital through its unregulated business ventures for new energy as a service microgrid business models.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUtilities Are Accelerating Microgrid Investments in Innovative and Strategic Ways

Scientist and Economists Develop Tool to Re-think ESS Deployment

on December 28, 2018

December13, 2018: Academics at University of California San Diego have developed a suite of tools using a combination of chemistry and economic know-how to predict the best battery technology for an energy storage project, the university announced on December 3.

The tools take into account a region’s energy markets and the operating characteristics of the battery to predict if a storage project will be financially viable.

Shirley Meng from UC San Diego nano-engineering, and co-author of the paper, says the research was the first step towards re-thinking how battery storage should be viewed by energy storage system practitioners.

She also urged people to look at new chemistries such as sodium ion batteries.

The tools take into account the battery type, its task (such as frequency response, load shifting), price, and market rules of the specific region to help project developers select the appropriate grid-connected battery storage.

The study titled Combined economic and technological evaluation of battery energy storage for grid applications was published in the peer reviewed scientific journal Nature Energy on December 3.

Meng told ESJ: “We are using real California grid (energy market) data to do revenue projection, and the focus is really on understanding how different chemistries can deliver different efficiency under different duty cycles.

“Most of the batteries that have been commercialized have optimum operation temperatures in the range of 0°C to 40°C. From this aspect, lead acid and lithium ion are the same.

“For this reason, most of the grid storage units have temperature control (cooling unit); lead acid batteries still occupy the majority of the grid storage market, but in terms of new storage units (coming up online) lithium ion batteries definitely dominate.

“This is because some lithium ion battery chemistries such a LFP are robust at cycling at 40°C. LFP based batteries have demonstrated over 10,000 cycles at 25°C, making it ideal for grid storage.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsScientist and Economists Develop Tool to Re-think ESS Deployment

2018: The Year of 100% Clean Energy

on December 28, 2018

Greentech-MediaLast year, tense debate over the feasibility of 100 percent renewables entirely consumed the energy industry. Stanford professor Dr. Mark Jacobson stood on one side, arguing 100 percent renewables will be technically possible by 2050, while Dr. Christopher Clack led critiques picking apart that modeling. The controversy even spurred a lawsuit.

In 2018 those conversations didn’t entirely dissolve, but they were overshadowed by action.

Two states, California and New Jersey, joined Hawaii in committing to 100 percent clean energy (Hawaii’s goal is actually 100 percent renewables). In December, the number of cities committed to 100 percent clean or renewable energy surpassed 100. And recent progress for the “Green New Deal” in Congress has federal policymakers also mulling a 100 percent renewable future.

Deal or no deal

Supporters of the Green New Deal call for a select committee to develop a mobilization plan to tackle climate change and aid the transition to a just economy.

As the Washington Post recently reported, the phrase itself has been used many times in recent history. But it’s gained momentum in its latest form due to protests from groups like the Sunrise Movement and through endorsements by incoming progressive lawmakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

This week, Democratic leaders indicated they would move ahead in creating a select committee on climate change, but it will not consider the Green New Deal as its “sole focus,” according to chosen chair Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida.

Despite the defeat of a more aggressive agenda, attention at the federal level has spurred hope for many 100 percent renewables and environmental advocates.

U.S. actions at the latest climate talks in Poland, however, did not.

The Trump administration continues to say it will exit the Paris climate agreement — which, based on the pact, it cannot legally do until 2020 — and promote fossil fuels on the sidelines of climate talks. Meanwhile, U.S. corporations, states and other subnational players are continuing to assert their support of the Paris Agreement. But that sideline diplomacy didn’t entirely fill the vacuum left by U.S. leadership at official negotiations.

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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants2018: The Year of 100% Clean Energy

Coal-Free El Paso Electric Adding Solar, Gas and Energy Storage

on December 27, 2018

Electric-Light-and-PowerSouth Texas utility El Paso Electric Co. (EPE) has selected more than 600 MW of new generation capacity to help meet summer peak loads more than three years ahead.

EPE announced this week that it plans to add multiple cleaner emitting sources for capacity needed during the 2022-2023 summer peak season. The winning bids include expected purchases of 200 MW in utility-scale solar, 100 MW of battery storage and the construction of a 226-MW natural gas-fired combustion turbine unit at EPE’s Newman Power Station.

The $143 million Newman turbine addition is expected to be operational by 2023. In addition, EPE will seek another 50 to 150 MW of wind and solar power.


“These technologies provide a mix of carbon-free renewable and clean burning natural gas generation that will enable us to meet the growing need for power in our region in a safe, clean, reliable, and cost-effective manner,” said Mary Kipp, El Paso Electric President and Chief Executive Officer. “This balanced combination of resources will work with our existing energy portfolio as we move to retire aging, less efficient plants while continuing to meet our customers’ changing energy needs.”

The El Paso utility, which serves some 425,000 customers in south Texas, reached coal-free generation status two years ago. EPE sold out its ownership stake in the coal-fired plant on the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico for $32 million to Arizona Public Service.

The utility’s electricity output is primarily generated by natural gas units, most of those built in the 1960s, ‘70s or ‘80s. EPE also has a minority stake in nuclear-powered generation through the Palo Verde Generation Station near Phoenix, Arizona.

The future solar, gas and battery storage resource plan still needs Texas state Public Utility Commission approval.

(Rod Walton is content manager for PowerGen International and the Power Engineering website. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and rod.walton@clarionevents.com).

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsCoal-Free El Paso Electric Adding Solar, Gas and Energy Storage

New York Energy Storage Sector Expected to Create 27,400 Jobs By 2030

on December 27, 2018

New York manufacturing is poised for a job boom in 2019 and beyond.

That’s according to the American Jobs Project, which predicts that New York’s so-called “energy storage industry” could support 27,400 manufacturing and installation jobs by 2030.

The organization, in conjunction with the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST), published their findings in a new report.

American Jobs managing director Kate Ringness, who co-authored the report, explained that new policies are in place to help bolster this particular niche:

Amplifying the role of local manufacturing in New York’s energy storage industry could provide stable employment for thousands of middle-class workers while creating follow-on benefits for the broader labor market. New York’s leaders are creating strong policies to ensure there will be local demand for energy storage. We want to support these efforts by ensuring a healthy ecosystem that supports local job creation in manufacturing, as well as deployment.
New York’s job target is 30,000, according to a recent statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Currently, New York ranks fifth in the nation for energy storage patents. And while the report praises the Empire State for its testing facilities to support energy storage technology development, it suggested that early-stage startups are at a disadvantage.

They often face the “technological valley of death.”

“They require thorough performance data to build investor confidence in their prototypes, but often struggle to secure funding to pay for testing and validation resources,” Ringness wrote.

Among the players to keep an eye on due to their work in the “energy storage” sector, include General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), Ioxus Inc., and Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT). Various startups are also driving growth, including C4V, Urban Electric Power, and NOHMs Technologies.

New York is also expanding critical capabilities in battery recycling, with investment in the new SungEel MCC Americas lithium-ion battery recycling plant, the report added.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsNew York Energy Storage Sector Expected to Create 27,400 Jobs By 2030

China Making Big Battery Storage Push In 2019

on December 27, 2018

CleantechnicaChina is poised to add a significant amount of battery storage to its utility grid next year. And it’s backing two horses in the energy storage race — both lithium-ion and flow batteries are part of the plan. China’s renewable energy portfolio now stands at 706 gigawatts according to Bloomberg but too much of that is wasted, or curtailed as they say in the utility industry. 7.7% of the electricity generated by wind turbines is curtailed as is 2.9% of electricity from solar panels.

Chinese regulators have approved a $174 million investment in the northwestern province of Gansu for the installation of a 720 MWh lithium-ion grid storage battery. It will be the first part phase of a new energy storage project in the region. When completed it will be able to store electricity for up to 4 hours, says Bloomberg.

The Gansu Provincial Development & Reform Commission says subsequent expansion of the project will depend on market conditions and the needs of the electrical grid. Once completed, it will be the country’s largest virtual power plant.

VRB Energy, a developer of vanadium flow batteries, says it plans to build a 100MW/500MWh storage system in Hubei province located in central China. It has begun commissioning a 250 kW/1 MW demonstration unit that it plans to expand to a 3 MW/12MWh battery later this year.

Jim Stover, vice president of business development at VRB Energy, tells TechCrunch, “The Chinese government I think in particular is happy to incentivize or call out vanadium like this. They want to push a number of technologies, but there is an awful lot of vanadium resources in China, both from mine sites and from steel slag recovery. They’re trying to seize that as a good and natural fit, they don’t have a lot of lithium. They have a lot of lithium manufacturers but not a lot of lithium itself, or cobalt, or nickel even.”

The China National Development and Reform Commission has issued a call for greater investment in flow batteries and set up programs to develop vast projects comprised of two or more 100MW installations. One such project — a 200MW / 800MWh vanadium energy storage project in Dalian Province — is already under way. Flow batteries potentially have the ability to provide electricity to the grid for longer than the 1 to 4 hours that is common with lithium-ion batteries. They also can support more charge/discharge cycles than lithium-ion batteries leading to longer life and lower total cost.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsChina Making Big Battery Storage Push In 2019

Why UK Solar’s Export Tariff ‘Limbo’ is Not a Call to Arms For Battery Storage

on December 26, 2018

Energy-Storage-NewsIt’s been the biggest piece of bad news to hit UK solar for some time. Buried under waves and waves of Brexit procrastination, name-calling, indecision and confusion which appear to leave the country’s people, media and businesses alike scratching their heads and wondering what it was that anyone actually voted for in 2016’s EU referendum, the government announced its decision to end export tariff payments for solar PV.

Our UK news site Solar Power Portal reported at the beginning of this week that the export tariff will close to new applicants at the same time as the generation tariff, despite some 90%+ of respondents to a consultation expressing their opposition to the plans.

Britain’s feed-in tariff scheme will therefore now close in full to new applicants from 31 March 2019. While the government has accepted that there’s now need for market-based solutions for small-scale generators to make a difference to the UK’s energy mix in an economically rewarding way, the end of the present scheme without an explicit next step laid out is more than troubling for many in the renewable energy industries and those that care about energy security and climate change.

A somewhat dismal festive spread
“To not be taking care of the small actors in the system, which is so important, that just does not bode well for smart energy, especially given that Europe is steaming ahead,” Leonie Greene, policy director for the national Solar Trade Association says.

You can read all about how the STA and others plan to continue the fight for solar on Solar Power Portal, but let’s take a minute to consider what it might mean for battery energy storage.

While there might be a natural assumption that in the absence of payments for energy exported to the grid, households will at least – if they install a battery, or indeed hot water diverters or smart EV charging and other kit – be able to electrically store or otherwise ‘self-consume’ or ‘prosume’ the solar energy generated on their rooftops. Perhaps, but the economic equation for that is not so simple and neither are the industry or market dynamics.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsWhy UK Solar’s Export Tariff ‘Limbo’ is Not a Call to Arms For Battery Storage

Learn How NEC Delivered 50MW of Battery Storage in the UK

on December 26, 2018

Energy-Storage-NewsAt the beginning of this year, two battery storage systems went into operation in England which add up to 50MW of energy storage and deliver a significant percentage of total enhanced frequency response (EFR) contracts awarded in the UK through tenders by the transmission operator, National Grid.

Solar Media is proud to have been asked by technology provider NEC to publish a guide in the form of a case study, which goes in-depth on the 10MW Cleator and 40MW Glassenbury projects the company’s Energy Solutions division worked on for customer VLC Energy.

VLC Energy’s leadership includes prolific UK renewables developer Low Carbon and you can hear directly from the customer what was needed, what the challenges were and why NEC was the perfect fit, bringing in equipment and cutting-edge technology – both hardware and software – and choosing the right contractors for the grid connection and civil works portions of the project.

NEC Energy Solutions CEO Steve Fludder takes you through why he believes the energy industry is rapidly, through digitalisation and the growth of renewables and distributed energy resources (DERs), becoming a service-led proposition.

“The transformation of the electric power infrastructure all around the world is really unprecedented, because it impacts everyone and everyone will be engaged. The future is about multiple constituents and multiple flows of energy and multiple ways of really delivering cleaner, more reliable electricity through technologies and digital platforms, managed as an enterprise as opposed to managing a one-way flow of electrons,” Fludder says in the guide.

“We’re focused on all of the new technologies and solutions that will make this transformed grid that’s going to be majority renewable, in some cases totally renewable…I see storage as a central part of many types of energy system that allow other things to happen.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsLearn How NEC Delivered 50MW of Battery Storage in the UK

Enel Seals Ontario Storage Deal

on December 26, 2018

renewsEnel, through its Enel X energy services division, has won a contract to deploy energy storage to cut energy costs for US packaging producer Berry Global.

The behind-the-meter lithium ion battery installations, totalling 5MW/10MWh, will provide the Berry Global with 20% to 30% energy bill savings annually.

Under the terms of the agreement, Enel X will purchase, install and operate four battery systems for Berry Global at its Ontario operations in Canada. The batteries will be operational by summer 2019.
The energy services provider will also provide peak prediction services and enrol the batteries in Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) demand response programme.

The project will use Enel X’s distributed energy resources (DER) optimization software.

Enel X North America head Michael Storch said: “This agreement underscores the benefits our storage systems and software can bring to businesses, helping them improve their energy cost-savings potential and supporting their sustainability goals related to energy efficiency.

“Enel X collaborates with customers to unlock new opportunities and deliver even greater value, including by making energy storage systems more accessible through the availability of flexible financing options.”

Enel X’s DER platform will analyse Berry Global’s energy consumption patterns and optimise the battery use, with the aim to boost financial savings from managing Ontario’s system charges and to enhance Berry Global’s participation in IESO’s demand response programme.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsEnel Seals Ontario Storage Deal

Using Molten Salt to Store Electricity Isn’t Just For Solar Thermal Plants

on December 25, 2018

Ars-TechnicaAn energy storage startup that found its footing at Alphabet’s X “moonshot” division announced last week that it will receive $26 million in funding from a group of investors led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund that counts Jeff Bezos and Michael Bloomberg as investors, and whose chairman is Bill Gates. The startup, called Malta, uses separate vats of molten salt and antifreeze-like liquid to store electricity as thermal energy and dispatch it to the grid when it’s needed.

Malta’s system stores electricity by taking that electricity, using a heat pump to convert the electricity to heat, and storing that heat in molten salt. Then, when electricity is needed again, the system reunites the molten salt with the cold fluid, using a heat engine to reconvert the thermal energy to electricity, which can be sent back to the grid.
The concept is outlined in a July 2017 paper in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, which states that “Round-trip efficiency…is found to be competitive with that of pumped hydroelectric storage.” Pumped hydroelectric storage is one of the oldest forms of electricity storage, using electricity when it’s cheap and plentiful to pump water up a hill, and then releasing that water through hydroelectric turbines when electricity is expensive and scarce.

In fact, lots of parallels can be drawn between Malta’s system and other forms of energy storage. A liquid-air energy storage system in the UK uses temperature differentials (like Malta does) to expand condensed air and put more electricity back on the grid when it’s needed. Solar thermal systems direct concentrated sunlight to a central tower to heat molten salt, which can store that heat for a long time before it’s used. This allows solar thermal systems to keep sending energy to the grid well after the sun goes down.

Malta’s business pitch is that its thermal pumped storage system can be located anywhere (unlike hydroelectric pumped storage, which requires elevation changes, or compressed air energy storage, which has been primarily deployed near natural underground caverns). It can be expanded easily, and unlike chemical batteries, such a system is made of common and cheap industrial materials that have 20-year lifespans.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUsing Molten Salt to Store Electricity Isn’t Just For Solar Thermal Plants