Developing New Grid Solutions For Offshore Wind

on January 31, 2020

With more projects being awarded contracts for difference (CfDs) at record low prices in the most recent auction, the offshore wind boom shows no sign of slowing down.

However, if we are going to ensure we make the most of this energy, both now and in the future, there are challenges the industry needs to overcome, particularly the rising pressure on our electrical infrastructure network.

As a weather-dependent form of energy, changing conditions makes predicting long-term energy generation from offshore wind a difficult task.

This, combined with sudden, unpredicted changes in demand, means that grid operator the National Grid needs to be able to balance the supply and demand of energy so that it can maintain stability.

As we scale down our reliance on conventional power plants, which provided a consistent supply of energy, these frequency variations will naturally become more of an occurrence.

The National Grid has an obligation to maintain a grid frequency of 49.5-50.5Hz, as anything more than a small variation from this can potentially cause significant damage to our infrastructure.

As the risk of increased frequency variation becomes more common, this challenge becomes even more important to address.

Switch of direction
We are also using a system designed to channel energy from centralised regions located near areas with higher population counts, such as cities, to remote areas where few people live.

Renewable generation, particularly offshore wind, is concentrated far away from the population centres, meaning the power flow of the grid has to reverse direction and transfer power from remote locations, where the grid is weaker.

This change in geography, not technology, is one of the biggest problem facing the grid.

Electrical storage solutions, such as battery technology, which has the capability to stockpile energy and feed it to the grid when required, is one solution to maintaining a consistent frequency and support infrastructure that may struggle to handle large power supplies.

However, even this technology has its limitations.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsDeveloping New Grid Solutions For Offshore Wind

At a Crossroads: The Connected Future of EVs, Solar, Energy Storage and Software

on January 31, 2020

As a new decade dawns, there’s cause for optimism that the 2020s will see the transition to clean energy accelerate. Prices of renewable energy and battery technologies are at an all-time low, and the number of electric vehicle (EV) sales are on the rise.

Analysts predict that by 2040, more than half of all vehicles on the road will be electric. With transportation contributing to nearly 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, electrifying how people get from point A to point B is a critical step in reducing our global carbon footprint.

But increased electric demand from the expansion of EVs poses challenges to an already strained electric grid. Experts are calling on solar energy, storage solutions and software to play critical roles in supporting this surge to the grid.

Fortunately, some companies are already thinking creatively about these challenges and developing solutions that make the interplay between these technologies easier.

Grueling grid challenges
Over the past few years, the e-mobility industry has identified certain patterns in the grid’s capacity. Researchers warn against the “dragon curve” (Figure 1), a name for spikes in energy demand that occur during weekday mornings when drivers charge their vehicles at work and in the evenings when drivers charge at home.

This will likely worsen as ultra-fast charging comes into play and faster charging times increase energy demand.

This is similar to the solar industry’s “duck curve” (Figure 2), which describes the energy imbalance of solar generation during the day and peak energy usage in the evening. The key takeaway is that existing grid infrastructure is not prepared to support the electric mobility boom.

This challenge, however, opens the door to new business opportunities.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsAt a Crossroads: The Connected Future of EVs, Solar, Energy Storage and Software

Contenders: Long Duration Energy Storage Technologies, And Who’s Behind Them

on January 31, 2020

As the global energy market, piece by piece, slowly but surely, moves towards a renewables-centred paradigm, dispatchable solar and uncurtailed wind, along with other forms of clean energy, are requiring longer and longer durations of storage to integrate them to the grid. While there’ll be a place for lithium-ion for many years yet, the technology really excels at applications of up to around four hours. For everything else, there’s a growing list of contenders, with diverse technologies and at different stages of commercialisation. Here’s a handy guide to some of those technologies and their providers, electrochemical and otherwise, that promise anything from five hours to even days or weeks of storage.

Who’s got a head start
Pumped hydro

It’s worth remembering that more than 90% of the world’s installed base of energy storage in megawatt-hours is still pumped hydro. Lithium-ion may take the plaudits and the new market share today, but historically, the legacy of pumped hydro remains huge.

Water is elevated using pumps into a retained pool behind a dam. When electricity is required, the water is unleashed and runs through turbines, which then creates electricity. While the amount of energy required to pump the water back up is far less than the amount generated as it falls, systems can also be paired with renewable generation to pump the water back to the top. However, while the system is cheap once built and can last for many years, finding appropriate sites and getting permission to build pumped hydro plants remains an obstacle to widespread further development in most parts of the world.

In June 2019, Australia-based firm Genex Power announced it was set to receive a second round of debt funding from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), for what will be the world’s first pumped hydro project to utilise an abandoned gold mine.

In Chile, a 300MW pumped hydro project is under development, having recently received an injection of US$60 million in fresh funding from the Green Climate Fund. The Espejo de Tarapacá project, which will also see a 561MW solar PV plant, is being developed by Chilean renewable developer Valhalla and construction is set to begin next year.

French energy giant Engie is also a proponent of the technology, with its First Hydro Company owning the Ffestiniog and Dinorwig pumped hydro assets in Wales. Engie lauds Dinorwig as the fastest power generation asset in the UK, with the ability to deliver 1.7GW in 16 seconds.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsContenders: Long Duration Energy Storage Technologies, And Who’s Behind Them

Germany’s Industry Group BVES’ Guiding Energy Storage to be ‘Fourth Pillar of Energy Transition’

on January 30, 2020

There could be 10 guiding principles for integrating energy storage as a vital “pillar” of the energy transition, a private members’ and stakeholders’ meeting by Bundersverband Energiespeicher (BVES), a national trade organisation in Germany has proposed.

Valeska Gottke, communications and markets representative for BVES, told that the overall strategy and concept are still going through further development, refinement and discussion and will likely not be published in full until after the Energy Storage Europe trade event taking place in Dusseldorf, Germany, in mid-march.

Nonetheless, Gottke said, it was clear to attendees at the BVES ‘conclave’ event held in Dresden this week that the energy storage industry should have a “natural interest in applying energy storage systems to receive energy [reliably] from climate-friendly sources”.

It should also be recognised that as a set of technologies that can aid with and enable system-wide integration of resources, energy storage systems (ESS) are “‘connectors that bring flexibility to every system,” Gottke said.

On the clear understanding that it therefore remains a work in progress and should be considered in this way, BVES shared 10 guiding principles that could or should help integrate energy storage as the “fourth pillar” of the energy transition (known in Germany as ‘Energiewende’). The other three pillars are the production, consumption and transport of energy.

Germany’s energy system in 2030 should be “decarbonised, safe and secure”, BVES said in its statement on those 10 principles, which, in brief, are as follows:

  1. Germany’s EEG, the surcharge payments through which the country, including the general public via a line on their energy bills, pays for green energy policies, should no longer be the “main legal basis” for the energy system by 2030, as it is now.
  2. A definitive pricing system for CO2 should be applied, in all sectors, on a strict “polluter pays” principle.
  3. Energy storage should be recognised as the fourth pillar of the energy transition.
  4. There needs to be better “transparency” or cross-sector unification between the electricity, mobility and heat sectors. Attendees at previous Energy Storage Europe shows – or indeed readers of’ coverage – will be aware that this ‘sector coupling’ principle has been discussed at a high level for a while now, far in advance of that seen in most other markets.
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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsGermany’s Industry Group BVES’ Guiding Energy Storage to be ‘Fourth Pillar of Energy Transition’

A Record-Breaking Quarter For Tesla Energy Storage and an Improvement in Solar

on January 30, 2020

Building on a successful and uncharacteristically transparent third quarter, Tesla has reported even greater installation figures across solar and storage.

The company installed 530 MWh of energy storage in Q4 2019, beating out last quarter’s record mark of 477 MWh by 11% and delivering on Q3’s expectation that that record would be short-lived.

Tesla also installed 54 MW of solar in Q4, up 26% from Q3’s 43 MW and the highest mark since Q4 of 2018, when 73 MW were installed. Year-over-year, storage installations are up 126%, while overall solar installations are down 26%. To add further perspective, the company deployed 93 MW of solar in Q3 2018, so while the rebound is speeding up, the company has not quite caught up to where it was.

The early portion of the call was dominated by Elon Musk’s admiration for the Tesla Cybertruck, saying that, in regards to demand for the vehicle, “We’ve never seen anything like it.”

Musk also shared that the company is seeing “exponential demand” in regards to how the California home solar mandate is affecting solar roof sales prospects, though he did follow that up by saying that it’s difficult to estimate figures.

“It’s the future we want”

The company also shared that it’s hiring at the Buffalo Gigafactory, which produces the solar roof tiles. Outside of excitement, there was little said about the solar roof, with the report focusing on Tesla’s efforts to partner with roofing companies, allowing them to perform the installation.

Energy storage was not the only sector where Tesla broke newly-set records. The company delivered 112,000 vehicles in Q4, beating the previous record of 97,000 set in Q3 2019 by 14%. In fact, demand was so high that finished vehicle inventory levels reached just 11 days of sales at the end of Q4, meaning demand is closer to supply than it has ever been. The company also shared that it is already expanding its Shanghai Gigafactory, as Model Y demand projections continue to grow.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsA Record-Breaking Quarter For Tesla Energy Storage and an Improvement in Solar

AGL Signs Deal For 100MW Battery Energy Storage System in Queensland

on January 30, 2020

AGL Energy has signed a 15-year agreement to purchase power from a 100MW Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) to be built at Wandoan, Queensland, Australia.

The company signed the agreement with Vena Energy Australia, which will build, own and maintain the BESS.

AGL will have full operational dispatch rights over the Wandoan facility.

The project is expected to create 30 jobs. Once complete, the lithium-ion battery will be one of the largest in the country.

The BESS will have the capacity to store 150MW/h of energy that can power up to 57,000 average homes.

Vena Energy CEO Nitin Apte said: “The BESS is a major milestone in the continuing modernisation of Queensland’s energy supply and improves the reliability of the power grid.

“The project will bolster a positive investment environment for future projects, as well as encourage broader adoption of renewable energy in Queensland and in Australia.”

The deal is aligned with AGL’s strategy to support the development of flexible energy storage systems, encouraging renewable energy usage.

AGL CEO Brett Redman said: “With the signing of the agreement, work on the BESS will commence and is scheduled to take about 18 months.

“The BESS will enable AGL to leverage excess solar generation in Queensland and provide capacity when the Coopers Gap Wind Farm and other renewable power sources are not generating.”

In October 2019, AGL entered a similar agreement to buy power from four 50MW /100 MW/h batteries in New South Wales, Australia.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsAGL Signs Deal For 100MW Battery Energy Storage System in Queensland

Taking Charge: Energy Storage Association CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman

on January 29, 2020

“We almost doubled last year, we’re on track to double here again in 2019 and projections show that we are looking to triple in 2020,” Kelly SpeakesBackman, US Energy Storage Association (ESA) CEO, says.

“That’s the state of where we are,” the trade group chief adds, explaining that ESA represents all forms of energy storage, “not just lithium-ion”. Her home country’s energy storage industry is enjoying a rare degree of what she calls “extremely strong, bipartisan support,” from Congress and the Department of Energy to other administrations including the Department of Commerce.

’An efficient, affordable and sustainable grid’
This support comes because there’s a growing recognition, Speakes-Backman says, that energy storage – batteries or otherwise – is a help, not a hindrance to the grid.

“Energy storage is certainly there to integrate intermittent resources like solar and wind and help enable our grid to get cleaner, but it’s also there for grid operators to improve the efficiency of the grid, to improve resilience.

“We are there for an efficient, affordable and sustainable grid. It’s all of those things. That’s part of the reason why we’re enjoying such strong support. It’s being embodied through tremendous growth.”

Now based in Washington DC, Maryland native Speakes-Backman became CEO at the ESA in mid-2017, representing its 180 member organisations along the value chain from electric utilities to financiers, manufacturers and component suppliers at events and in the corridors of power.

Fast-moving tech vs incumbent frameworks
A former Maryland Public Service Commissioner in the early 2010s, Speakes-Backman understands the pressures that those coordinating electricity networks face. She says that educating stakeholders remains a crucial part of ESA’s work.

“By that (‘stakeholders’) I mean decision makers like big commissioners, federal commissioners, independent system operators, utilities who are part of our membership, helping people understand what storage is, and what it isn’t.

“As much as we’re an enabling technology, we’re disruptive to the regulatory frameworks that exist both at the federal level and at the state level. We’re not necessarily generation, not necessarily transmission, we’re not really distribution but we can be all of those things in a single asset and that’s different than what typically been considered in long-term planning. So, it is disruptive.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsTaking Charge: Energy Storage Association CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman

BlackRock Targets Storage With New Multibillion-Dollar Renewables Fund

on January 29, 2020

The world’s largest asset manager has a new multibillion-dollar renewable energy fund in the works, and a good chunk of it may go to batteries.

Long a major global investor in wind and solar energy, BlackRock has more recently begun buying into energy storage projects — including its acquisition last year of GE’s distributed solar and storage business.

Looking out over the next few years, energy storage is one market “where we’ll see the opportunity set expand,” said Martin Torres, head of the Americas at the renewables group within BlackRock Real Assets.

Torres and his team are also “eagerly watching” the emergence of the U.S. offshore wind market, he told GTM.

A transformed investment landscape
BlackRock shook the financial universe this month when CEO Larry Fink said the company will put sustainability at the “center” of its investment approach.

Exactly what Fink’s announcement will mean for BlackRock’s fossil fuel investments remains to be seen. But in the realm of renewables, at least, BlackRock’s green bona fides need little burnishing.

BlackRock launched its first equity fund targeting renewables in 2011; since then it’s played a major role in convincing institutional investors — think pension plans, insurance companies and endowments — to look at wind and solar like they would any other infrastructure asset: boring, safe, predictably lucrative.

Since 2011, BlackRock claims to have channeled $5.5 billion into more than 250 wind and solar projects around the world, a fleet that generates enough power to keep the lights on in Spain. And its appetite for renewables investment keeps growing.

BlackRock’s first renewables private-equity fund drew around $600 million of commitments from big investors. The second, launched a few years later, brought in $1.65 billion.

With its third “vintage,” known as the Global Renewable Power III fund (GRP III), BlackRock is targeting $2.5 billion of commitments; in December it announced a record $1 billion “first close,” meaning the fund can begin making investments even as it continues to bring in more capital.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsBlackRock Targets Storage With New Multibillion-Dollar Renewables Fund

U.S. Utilities Rush To Procure Energy Storage Capacity

on January 29, 2020

A growing number of U.S. utilities plan to add energy storage to their resource plans this decade, as declining renewable energy costs and investor and public pressure to curb emissions have significantly changed the market over the past few years.

More and more utilities across the United States plan to add more wind and solar capacity and retire coal-fired power plants to start addressing climate change and to take advantage of falling renewable energy procurement costs. And a growing number of those utilities are combining battery energy storage with their new solar and wind capacity plans.

The utilities’ integrated resource plans (IRPs) for the next few years include significant growth in battery energy storage. Battery storage deployments are even expected to exceed the utilities’ expectations in their IRPs, according to a new analysis by Wood Mackenzie.

The energy consultancy’s analysis of the plans of 43 utilities showed “exponential growth in expected utility demand for battery energy storage system procurements, as utilities adopt more aggressive clean energy portfolio strategies,” WoodMac says.

Last year was a crucial year in battery energy storage plans as the utilities with plans to add energy storage increased their combined expected storage deployment five times compared to the 2018 plans, WoodMac’s analysis showed, as carried by Greentech Media.

Currently, utilities in the United States expect 6.3 gigawatts (GW) of battery deployment this decade.

Utilities are starting to move from pilot projects to wider deployment of battery energy storage because they gain experience with the technology, according to Wood Mackenzie’s storage researcher Gregson Curtin.

“Once utilities test energy storage and like it, they keep procuring more and more,” Curtin tells Greentech Media, a unit of Wood Mackenzie.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsU.S. Utilities Rush To Procure Energy Storage Capacity

Peak Performance: Could Mountains Create Long-Term Energy Storage?

on January 28, 2020

As the global economy attempts to further distance itself from fossil fuels, renewable sources of energy are receiving increasing attention.

Yet for all the potential of green energy sources – be it solar or wind power – there remains the unavoidable problem of intermittency. Wind power generation is contingent on windy conditions, just as solar is reliant on it being sunny, meaning predictable energy generation is never a given.

In order to ensure the grid has enough energy in its system – and avoids blackouts – long-term energy storage is required. Only then will there be enough power to keep the lights on in the event of a sunless or still day.

While traditional lithium ion batteries are able to store energy for short amounts of time, they are insufficient when it comes to long-term energy storage. And while there is evidence to suggest pumped hydro-storage might be able to store energy for longer periods, with large generation capacities, it remains incompatible with grids with smaller demand.

However, a new paper to come out of the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) has proposed a new concept that could be the answer to the storage service question. And the system is based upon that most awe-inspiring of topographical features: the mountain.

Going off-piste: introducing MGES
Known as mountain gravity energy storage (MGES), the technology works by simply transporting sand or gravel from a lower storage site to an upper elevation, storing potential energy from the upward journey and releasing it on the way back down. The higher the height, the greater the amount of stored energy, claims the research.

The paper’s writer is Julian Hunt, who headed up the IIASA team of researchers. It also proposes that MGES could be combined with hydropower in the case of river streams on a summit, whereby water, in periods of high availability, could replace sand and gravel in the storage vessels.

Yet, the concept of gravitational energy is not entirely new, says Hunt, who has published previous papers on its potential. He also alludes to an attempt by Bill Gates back in 2012 to create an energy storage system by transporting gravel on ski lifts. The project was later abandoned.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsPeak Performance: Could Mountains Create Long-Term Energy Storage?