Utility Dominion’s Life After Coal on Trial in Virginia

on February 29, 2020

US utility company Dominion Energy has received approval for the building of four large-scale battery storage plants totalling 16MW of output in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia is undergoing a clean energy transformation and while some reports had pegged Dominion, a major utility player in the region as a reluctant participant in that movement, others have stated that the utility has not only accepted but moved proactivelly to embrace the transition once in motion and in law.

Dominion Energy Virginia this week received approval from the State Corporation Commission to go ahead with the battery storage projects, which the company said will help it understand the role energy storage can play on its networks.

While the more recent Virginia Clean Economy Act is only just getting started, Dominion said the pilot projects, investigating batteries and their role in smoothing out the intermittency of, and integrating, wind and solar energy, was enabled by Virginia’s earlier 2018 Grid Transformation and Security Act, which corporate trade body Advance Energy Economy neatly summarised in May 2019 on its own blog.

The four battery systems will provide three different use cases: Two, adding up to 12MW between them, will be used to store solar energy, from the 17MW Scott Solar farm in Powahatan County. These two facilities will store surplus PV-generated power in times of high “production and release energy during periods when load is high or solar generation is low”, Dominion said in a release, while they will also assess the effectiveness of battery storage in optimising solar PV plant operation.

The other two projects will be 2MW each. One will assist the grid at a substation to assess whether, as in other parts of the world, storage can mitigate the need for expensive network upgrades to meet local demand patterns, while the other will be deployed at a 20MW solar farm to assess the efficacy of batteries in managing reverse power flows, which can impact local network voltage and loading issues.

The four facilities are expected to cost around US$33 million in total and are expected to be operational by the end of the first quarter of 2021, from when they will be assessed for a period of five years.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUtility Dominion’s Life After Coal on Trial in Virginia

Senate Energy Bill Includes Investment in Solar And Energy Storage

on February 28, 2020

The American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA) will modernize domestic energy laws to ensure the United States remains a global energy leader while also strengthening national security, increasing our international competitiveness and investing in clean energy technologies.

Solar power is mentioned in Section 1205, where the bill authorizes the Secretary to establish a solar energy technology program to address near-term, mid-term and long-term challenges in solar energy development through 2025. Section 1301 on battery storage is more robust, saying the bill would establish a research, development and deployment (RD&D) program to advance energy storage technologies; directs the Secretary to carry out at least five demonstration projects, as well as a competitive pilot project grant program; establishes a joint long-term demonstration initiative with the Secretary of Defense; facilitates a technical and planning assistance program for rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities; establishes an energy storage materials recycling prize competition; and directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to issue a regulation on energy storage cost recovery.

“This bill is our best chance to modernize our nation’s energy policies in more than 12 years,” Murkowski said. “By working together to pass it into law, we can promote a range of emerging technologies that will help keep energy affordable even as it becomes cleaner and cleaner. Our bill also addresses national needs by taking overdue steps to enhance our cybersecurity, grid security, and mineral security. I’m proud of the bipartisan work we have done and encourage all members of the Senate to work with us to advance it through the legislative process.”

“This legislation is the result of strong bipartisan work with my colleagues on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to make a down payment on emissions-reducing technologies, reassert the United States’ leadership role in global markets, enhance our grid security and protect consumers. Importantly, this bill will connect energy-producing communities, including in states like West Virginia and Alaska, to new markets and job opportunities while laying the groundwork for the Department of Energy to advance new and necessary critical emissions-reducing technologies,” Manchin said.

The key provisions in the AEIA focus on energy efficiency; renewable energy; energy storage; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; advanced nuclear; industrial and vehicle technologies; the Department of Energy; mineral security, cyber and grid security and modernization; and workforce development.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsSenate Energy Bill Includes Investment in Solar And Energy Storage

10 Predictions for the Solar and Storage Market in the 2020s

on February 28, 2020

The solar-plus-storage market is evolving rapidly and will look completely different a decade down the road. What can we expect on the way to 2030? Here are 10 predictions.

All-in-one systems will be the new normal

  1. Lots of storage

Batteries will be incentivized or mandated for practically every new solar PV system across the U.S. by 2025. As more homeowners and businesses deploy PV systems to reduce their electricity bills and ensure backup power, simple net metering will increasingly be replaced by time-of-use rates and other billing mechanisms that aim to align power prices with utility costs. We already see these trends in California and several states in the Northeast.

1. System costs will increase with the shift toward batteries

Solar systems with batteries are going to be about twice as expensive as traditional grid-direct installations, so in that sense, we will see actual costs increase as the mix shifts toward batteries. But while system costs will go up, we need to be careful to parse the actual equipment and soft costs from the consumer’s cost net of tax credits and incentives. Equipment costs for batteries and other hardware are generally flat to slightly down.

2. More battery and inverter packages from the same brand

Since the battery represents the dominant cost in an energy storage system (ESS), inverter companies will increasingly offer branded batteries. In turn, inverter companies packaging third-party batteries will eventually make way for savvy battery companies that can package the whole system.

3. Energy storage systems treated like heat pumps and air conditioners

California’s new Title 21 requirements make solar PV systems standard issue, and we can expect a future update to do the same for energy storage. By then, builders will be able to choose the ESS line they want to work with, and the whole process will look almost exactly like it does for home mechanical appliances like water heaters and HVAC systems. The only question will be whether the ESS is packaged with solar panels or kept separate.

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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants10 Predictions for the Solar and Storage Market in the 2020s

Dominion Energy To Start Battery Storage Projects in the US

on February 27, 2020

Energy company Dominion Energy Virginia has secured approval from Virginia’s State Corporation Commission (SCC) for the construction of four battery storage pilot projects in the US.

The approval will pave the way for additional energy storage technology, required to support the company’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon and methane emissions by 2050.

The four central Virginia-based projects totalling 16MW will cost approximately $33m to construct and will provide key information on distinct use cases for batteries on the energy grid.

Once operational in the first quarter of next year, the company will evaluate them for a period of five years.

Dominion Energy generation construction vice-president Mark Mitchell said: “Dominion Energy will pilot these 16MW of battery storage to better understand how best to deploy batteries across our system to integrate renewables and provide grid reliability by filling gaps due to the inherent intermittency of solar and wind power.

“These pilot projects will also help us learn how to incorporate this emerging technology into our overall strategy to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide and methane emissions.”

Said to be the largest projects of their kind in Virginia, the utility-scale battery storage pilot projects are enabled by the Grid Transformation & Security Act of 2018 that allows Dominion Energy to invest in battery projects with up to 30MW capacity.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsDominion Energy To Start Battery Storage Projects in the US

Energy Storage—A Trillion-Dollar Holy Grail

on February 27, 2020

The science of renewable energy is remarkable—the ability to harness nature to magically power our modern world is a seductive vision. And yet, the actual business of renewable energy is late to establish itself as a viable competitor to the petrochemical industry. The problem is rooted in cost parity and the challenges of production, storage, and disposal (Figure 1). To use the industry’s fancier and totally sensible term, it’s the math of levelized cost of energy (LCOE) that we can’t figure out.

LCOE measures the average cost of electricity generation for any power plant—coal, hydro, solar, or thermal—over its lifetime. And it turns out that by the time you harvest the Earth’s minerals to produce, ship, deploy, and maintain a renewable energy plant, it is more expensive to generate power versus burning coal. And that’s too bad because we’re all paying the price.

According to BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy, annual carbon emissions grew by 2.0%, with China and the U.S. as the largest contributors, and coal took the largest share of all power generation at 38%. No matter where you stand in the debate on climate change, let’s just agree that pollution is bad and coal means a lot of it.

What about renewables? It’s mostly good news, but it’s slow-moving. According to Global Data’s Renewable Energy—Thematic Research, renewable energy will reach a 22.5% share in the global power mix by 2020, up from 18.2% in 2017. Hydro and nuclear grew by 14.5%, and solar generation grew more than 40%. By country, China was the largest contributor to renewables growth, surpassing the entire developed world. Hydroelectric generation increased by an above-average 3.1%, and nuclear generation rose by 2.4%.

Energy Storage Is Key to Success
It gets even more interesting when you take a closer look at the problem on a systemic level. For the most part, you can’t store renewable energy. Lithium-ion batteries or water reservoirs end up costing more than the power that they store. It is arguable that as long as the renewable energy storage dilemma is not solved, we’re never going to get to a 100% renewables-powered world.

Energy storage is insanely expensive. Lithium-ion batteries are seen as the main renewable energy storage technology, but they are even more costly to produce, procure, maintain, and dispose of than burning fossil fuels. When consumers store electricity in a lithium-ion battery in their home, they generally pay at least $0.30/kWh, while neighbors pay a bargain price of $0.10/kWh for coal-generated power.

Creating lithium-ion batteries requires five raw materials—lithium, nickel, manganese, cobalt, and graphite—the sourcing of which entails massive ecological and humanitarian problems, such as toxic black holes and die-off of wildlife, in some of the most beautiful parts of the world, including the Bolivian Andes, Argentina, and Chile. I choose flamingos over batteries (Figure 2).

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsEnergy Storage—A Trillion-Dollar Holy Grail

Pivot Power Places Order With Wärtsilä For 100 MW of Energy Storage in UK

on February 27, 2020

Pivot Power is developing a world-first national network of grid-scale batteries and high-volume power connections to provide essential capacity for rapid electric vehicle (EV) charging.

The first two projects at Cowley in Oxford and Kemsley in Kent are expected to be fully operational before the end of this year.

Wärtsilä will support the projects under 10-year service agreements with flexible performance guarantees. The order was booked with Wärtsilä in December 2019.

The two 50 MW lithium-ion batteries will be the first projects completed as part of Pivot Power’s programme to develop, own and operate up to 2 GW of grid-scale energy storage and high volume power connections, which are directly connected to the UK high-voltage transmission system.

The projects will provide flexible capacity and reliability to support increased renewable energy generation and EV charging infrastructure. The UK market for EVs is expected to expand significantly in 2020 in what has been described as “the year of the electric car” by industry analysts.

This is the largest energy storage deal in Europe for Wärtsilä, which has set its sights on the UK as a key new market.

Adrien Lebrun, Pivot Power’s engineering director said: “At Pivot Power we are committed to enabling a clean electric future and accelerating the expansion of electric vehicles across the UK, and as part of EDF Renewables we are making this vision a reality.

“These Wärtsilä energy storage systems allow us to harness cutting-edge technology to future-proof our investments in a changing energy market, supporting our long-term goal to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint and bring us closer to net zero.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsPivot Power Places Order With Wärtsilä For 100 MW of Energy Storage in UK

There’s a Simple Way to Store Renewable Energy, And We Already Have The Technology

on February 26, 2020

The effect that fossil fuels are having on the climate emergency is driving an international push to use low-carbon sources of energy. At the moment, the best options for producing low-carbon energy on a large scale are wind and solar power.

But despite improvements over the last few years to both their performance and cost, a significant problem remains: the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine.

A power grid that relies on these fluctuating sources struggles to constantly match supply and demand, and so renewable energy sometimes goes to waste because it’s not produced when needed.

One of the main solutions to this problem is large-scale electricity storage technologies. These work by accumulating electricity when supply exceeds demand, then releasing it when the opposite happens. However, one issue with this method is that it involves enormous quantities of electricity.

Existing storage technologies like batteries wouldn’t be good for this kind of process, due to their high cost per unit energy. Currently, over 99 percent of large-scale electricity storage is handled by pumped hydro dams, which move water between two reservoirs through a pump or turbine to store or produce power.

However, there are limits to how much more pumped hydro can be built due to its geographical requirements.

One promising storage option is pumped thermal electricity storage. This relatively new technology has been around for about ten years, and is currently being tested in pilot plants.

Pumped thermal electricity storage works by turning electricity into heat using a large-scale heat pump. This heat is then stored in a hot material, such as water or gravel, inside an insulated tank.

When needed, the heat is then turned back into electricity using a heat engine. These energy conversions are done with thermodynamic cycles, the same physical principles used to run refrigerators, car engines or thermal power plants.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThere’s a Simple Way to Store Renewable Energy, And We Already Have The Technology

Sumitomo Buys Large Stake in Energy Storage Specialist Highview Power

on February 26, 2020

Long-duration grid storage company Highview Power announced Tuesday it had raised a major equity investment to support its journey to market.

Global industrial conglomerate Sumitomo Heavy Industries invested $46 million in Highview, becoming the largest minority shareholder in the company. The money will support Highview’s quest to commercialize large-scale energy storage plants, a crucial component for a power system with large amounts of renewable generation.

“For Sumitomo Heavy Industries, this is not a venture capital investment — this is a strategic bet,” Highview President and CEO Javier Cavada told Greentech Media. “This is a huge corporation that sees this [technology] as a cornerstone of its future.”

Highview currently operates two pilot plants in the U.K. that showcase its cryogenic thermal storage design, which uses well-known equipment from other industries to minimize technology risk. With several years of field-testing under its belt, the company began developing full-scale plants in the U.K. and Vermont last year.

In the long term, Highview aims to supply its technology to other power plant developers, but for early projects, the company chose to develop in-house. And since securing financing is difficult for conventional storage, not to mention unconventional long-duration technologies, Highview plans to use its own equity to finance the early deployments.

“We needed equity to be able to develop the projects,” said Cavada. “This investment is way bigger than all the money that was invested before into the company.”

Valuation soars past $300 million
Over its 15 years in operation, Highview had raised £25 million (roughly $32 million), according to Cavada. The new raise, which other investors could join, pegs the company’s valuation at $330 million.

“This is a big, big milestone,” he said. “There is no other energy storage company at this level of valuation.”

That’s a hard claim to verify because companies typically keep their valuations private, and there aren’t many pure-play grid storage companies to be found in the public markets. Cavada attributes his company’s value to its ownership of intellectual property for a storage technology whose time has finally come.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsSumitomo Buys Large Stake in Energy Storage Specialist Highview Power

UK Energy Storage Sector Kicking on After ‘Year Zero’ in 2019

on February 26, 2020

The UK energy storage sector is forging ahead after a landmark year in 2019 which saw maturing business models further the asset class’ role in the country’s energy system.

That was the sentiment expressed by a panel discussion on the sourcing of equity for battery storage featuring asset owners and operators at Solar Media’s Energy Storage Summit, led by Eelpower chief Mark Simon who described 2019 as “Year Zero” for the nascent battery storage market.

Simon’s view was echoed by Ben Guest, head of new energy at listed storage fund Gresham House, who said that investors had grown comfortable with business models surrounding energy storage assets, driven by returns improving on the back of an increasing number of markets to participate in.

While grid-scale batteries had been deployed in the UK – and at scale – prior to last year, the market was principally led by transmission system operator National Grid’s Enhanced Frequency Response (EFR) tender in 2016, which provided lucrative, long-term contracts to bolster the nation’s security of supply.

That ancillary services programme created significant interest and the tender itself was significantly oversubscribed. A total of 37 providers submitted 64 unique projects for the EFR tender, however just seven projects comprising 200MW of capacity were selected.

Those projects came onstream from late 2017 and into 2018, creating a spike in deployment figures. But National Grid’s decision not to hold a second EFR auction, coupled with other market factors such as the implementation of steep de-rating factors for Capacity Market contracts, led to a slump in market activity.

The UK’s energy storage sector has, however, not been deterred. New market developments – specifically National Grid ESO’s decision to open up the Balancing Mechanism to distributed generation alongside the establishment of a distributed energy resource desk at the system operator – has given rise to more sophisticated business models for energy storage assets in the UK.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUK Energy Storage Sector Kicking on After ‘Year Zero’ in 2019

Trump’s FERC in Fresh Row With Green Energy Reps Over New York Rule

on February 25, 2020

US federal energy regulator FERC has been accused of promoting fossil fuels after upholding a provision said to be hindering green energy’s involvement in New York state’s capacity market.

On Thursday, FERC was censored by green energy representatives after rejecting a complaint against the power mitigation regime, which applies to projects looking to take part in the installed capacity market (ICAP) auctions run by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO).

The so-called buyer-side mitigation measures set minimum offer prices to ensure those purchasing capacity cannot distort competition by “artificially suppressing” capacity prices. However, various associations have long argued the measures only serve to cripple New York’s renewable progress.

In a complaint filed against NYISO last July, state energy agencies NYSERDA and the New York Public Service Commission said the measures are “unjust, unreasonable, unduly discriminatory” and may prevent storage from growing under state-wide targets for 2025 (1.5GW) and 2030 (3GW).

The complaint was backed by the Energy Storage Association (ESA) – the trade body said the mitigation rule “directly interferes and conflicts with New York’s legitimate policy objectives” – but was, ultimately, quashed by the FERC decision made public this week.

The federal energy regulator said it was dismissing the complaint against NYISO because, among other reasons, it “does not agree” with the claim that subjecting storage to buyer-side mitigation rules limits its entry to the capacity market.

Storage, the FERC argued, can participate in the auctions same as “any other resources”. The regulator noted that the segment is not alone in facing mitigation measures – they apply to all energy projects in certain designated zones – and can be exempted if it meets certain criteria.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsTrump’s FERC in Fresh Row With Green Energy Reps Over New York Rule