Permitting Utility-Scale Battery Energy Storage Projects: Lessons From California

on May 29, 2020

The increasing mandates and incentives for the rapid deployment of energy storage are resulting in a boom in the deployment of utility-scale battery energy storage systems (BESS). In the first installment of our series addressing best practices, challenges and opportunities in BESS deployment, we will look at models and recommendations for land use permitting and environmental review compliance for battery energy storage projects with a particular focus on California, which is leading the nation in deploying utility-scale battery storage projects.

Land use permitting and entitlement

There are three distinct permitting regimes that apply in developing BESS projects, depending upon the owner, developer, and location of the project.

Utility-Sponsored Projects – Public Utilities Commission

BESS projects developed or owned by the state’s investor-owned utilities are subject to California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) jurisdiction under General Order (GO) 131-D. GO 131-D governs permitting for utility-owned infrastructure including the potential need for a Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience (CPCN) or Permit to Construct (PTC) and related environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). For BESS projects approved to date, the utilities have invoked an exemption from GO 131-D qualifying such projects as “distribution” facilities falling below applicable 50 MW and 50 kV thresholds, thereby avoiding CPCN and PTC compliance and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review and significantly streamlining permitting.

Private Land Projects – State and Local Government Agencies

For BESS projects developed or owned by private entities, permitting jurisdiction is dependent upon the location of the project, typically either on private, federal or state land, and governed by the applicable governmental agency with jurisdiction over that property. The majority of BESS projects developed to date are located on private land – typically near substation infrastructure and/or generating facilities – and subject to the applicable county or city zoning and land use ordinances and, if necessary, associated CEQA review.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsPermitting Utility-Scale Battery Energy Storage Projects: Lessons From California

What’s It Like to Work in Business Development at an Energy Storage Company?

on May 29, 2020

What do people in energy storage business development do?

2019 was the biggest year ever for energy storage in the United States. As of late 2019, there were planned or contracted utility-scale storage projects in 47 states, per Wood Mackenzie.

Laura Meilander is one of the people working to expand the energy storage market even further. Meilander is vice president of business development at Convergent Energy + Power, a storage-focused developer, owner, and operator based in New York. She is responsible for growing Convergent’s book of business with utility companies.

“The [utility business development] team’s goal is to build as many energy storage projects as possible, as long as it is advantageous and feasible for both us and the utility customer,” Meilander explained.

Front-of-the-meter storage has found a foothold across the United States by providing a range of services, according to Wood Mackenzie’s most recent Energy Storage Monitor. Services for utilities include ancillary services in the territories of PJM, NYISO, ERCOT, ISO-New England and CAISO, standalone and solar-paired capacity applications, and distribution upgrade deferral and non-wires solutions in constrained parts of New York and Massachusetts.

“As part of my role, I identify and connect with utilities that could benefit from a battery storage system. As a result, I am constantly communicating with potential customers,” said Meilander.

Meilander’s day-to-day involves finding potential customers, pitching her company’s value proposition to prospects, and then tracking her progress on the back end in her company’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform.

Having a strong CRM tool is crucial in this kind of role, where organization is key. Keeping track of who she has been in touch with helps Meilander stay organized and allows her colleagues to see the status of her client meetings.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsWhat’s It Like to Work in Business Development at an Energy Storage Company?

ENGIE, Enel X, Tesla Top Guidehouse Rankings of Energy Storage Players

on May 29, 2020

“Key characteristics” of sector leaders is that they’re able fill multiple roles at once, Ricardo F. Rodriguez, research analyst with Guidehouse Insights and report author, told Utility Dive, including providing “turnkey solutions,” using innovative financing, forecasting future revenue streams and using integrated software platforms.

The top distributed energy storage systems integrators now do fewer standalone integrations or “one-off” projects.

ENGIE, the company atop the leader board, has found success through a mergers and acquisitions strategy, according to Rodriguez. “ENGIE has been able to expand its product offerings through a series of acquisitions that include Green Charge, Op Terra, EV-Box, Ecova, and SoCore.”

Tesla has gained ground in the industry not through acquisition, but by developing internal capabilities, according to Rodriguez. Tesla’s ecosystem of software includes machine learning capabilities that enable customers to optimize energy storage and use.

Competition in the market has intensified as “the number of cities, states, and businesses committed to carbon reduction goals is swelling and the demand for onsite generation of renewable energy is mounting,” according to the report.

Analysts at Guidehouse Insights evaluated players in the DES integration market using 10 criteria: geographic reach; go-to-market strategy; partnerships; pricing; product performance; product portfolio; sales, marketing, and distribution; staying power; technology; and vision.

“The recognition by Guidehouse is a testament to the hard work of the Enel X team around the world and underscores our ability to deliver customized energy solutions that meet the economic and sustainability needs of any customer,” Surya Panditi, head of Enel X North America told Utility Dive in an email.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsENGIE, Enel X, Tesla Top Guidehouse Rankings of Energy Storage Players

US Department of Defense to Implement a Standardized Design for Resilient Microgrids

on May 28, 2020

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has announced it will develop a standardized platform to guide the modeling and design of secure and resilient DoD microgrids globally.

XENDEE, a microgrid software company, will deliver design solutions that allows the DoD to enhance energy reliability, along with the ability safely ride-out prolonged utility power outages. The technology will also allow the DoD to sustain mission critical operations using renewable energy resources and storage in an integrated microgrid system.

The technology will help reduce the time and cost associated with microgrid design and implementation. The DoD will expand the application of this technology to several installations, increasing energy resilience and mission readiness.

This new initiative will be supported by Distributed Energy Resources (DER) resilience and cybersecurity experts from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Arizona State University, California Polytechnical Institute, and Reilly Associates. Microgrid planning experts from the US Naval Facilities Command Expeditionary Warfare Center, Peterson Air Force Base, US Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, US Army Corps of Engineers, and US Army Garrison Bavaria will also aid in the effort.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUS Department of Defense to Implement a Standardized Design for Resilient Microgrids

The Veauty of Distributed Energy Storage: Sunverge CEO Martin Milani’s ‘Different View’

on May 28, 2020

One of the pioneers of using aggregated residential energy storage systems to create virtual power plants (VPPs), Sunverge has been active in the market since 2011 and Martin Milani became chief executive officer (CEO) in late 2017, taking over from company founder Ken Munson. The company has done projects in geographies including Canada, Australia and Japan, but is presently most-focused on its home market in the US. Here’s some of the backstory and where the company is going these days, as told to Andy Colthorpe.

The term VPP is old. It comes from energy efficiency and demand response and in energy storage the ability to connect or curtail loads. For example, reducing load by half a megawatt would be like having a half a megawatt power plant, hence the term virtual power plant.

Sunverge had a slightly different point of view. Curtailment was obviously one thing but the ability to actually use energy storage in conjunction with solar, to pump energy back into the grid to do things like volt/VAR optimisation, reactive power support, frequency response and frequency regulation. From very early on, Sunverge also saw those things which aren’t virtual at all – they’re actually very real.

The beauty of distributed storage controlled and aggregated by a multi-service platform is that there are many different ways to monetise the services at any given time on both sides of the meter.

In the US you have the concept of nodal pricing and locational marginal pricing, so electricity has a certain value, a certain price, at a certain location, at a certain time – that’s why energy storage can be extremely effective in addressing those kinds of needs as well.

I think a lot of people thought this market was going to move a lot quicker back in 2014 and 2015 than it really did. That’s been a challenge for Sunverge and a challenge for everyone else. In many ways, Sunverge has been able to weather that a little bit better than some of the others because [as well as the solar-focused market] we also focused on the vertically integrated utility and in fact we’ve had utility programmes where they are actually applying energy storage not just for Demand Side, but also to address a grid condition like distribution asset upgrade deferral to deal with feeder load situations, to deal with capacity [issues] and over-penetration of solar.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThe Veauty of Distributed Energy Storage: Sunverge CEO Martin Milani’s ‘Different View’

New Energy Storage Tech Challenges Lithium Batteries but at What Cost?

on May 28, 2020

Bill Gates is at it again. Through his investments in a group called Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), Gates is exploring new ways to store renewable energy. While many innovative companies are creating ways to generate energy, BEV is focused on technologies that will allow enough energy storage to supply the major power-grids with clean energy even during windless days, cloudy weather, and nighttime.

One of the more promising ways to store energy is through the creation of long-duration storage systems. Short-duration devices like lithium-ion batteries are fine for laptops, mobile phones and electric cars. But cheaper and longer-duration systems are needed for the electrical power-grid.

A BEV-backed startup known as Form Energy is poised to meet that demand. The company has teamed up with Minnesota-based co-op Great River Energy to build a new battery that can discharge for 150 hours. Storage for this length of time is far better than conventional batteries and will help wind and solar energy sources to dominate the US energy landscape in a few years. So, how does it work?

Flow batteries are based on the chemistry that produces electricity when two specialized liquids flow next to each other, separated only by a thin membrane. Flow batteries are also known as reduction-oxidation (redox) flow batteries, due to the ionic exchange (accompanied by a flow of electric current) that occurs in the membrane as the fluids pass by one another.

To story energy in liquid form, the redox flow battery needs a positive and a negative chemical stored in separate tanks. The chemicals are pumped in and out of a chamber where they exchange ions across a membrane – flowing one way to charge and the other to discharge. The energy capacity of these redox batteries is a function of the electrolyte volume (amount of liquid electrolyte), while the power is a function of the surface area of the electrodes.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsNew Energy Storage Tech Challenges Lithium Batteries but at What Cost?

12 Approaches Energy Providers Can Use to Increase Solar Plus Storage Uptake

on May 26, 2020

Behind the Meter (BTM) solar plus storage systems can help many types of customers, but energy providers have not accessed the full value that these distributed resources can provide customers and the grid, according to a new report from DNV GL.

To increase the penetration of BTM solar plus storage in areas that have lower uptake, and to make the most of the market in areas where it is more common, developers, load-serving entities, investors, distributed energy resources (DER) and other energy service providers must adopt innovative solutions that go beyond the direct economic benefit of lower utility bills and emphasize its difficult to quantify benefits that include resilience, carbon emission reductions, and system peak load reduction.

The report, “Strategies for Success in Small Scale Solar + Storage,” provides 12 approaches that energy providers can use to increase solar plus storage project margins, reduce costs, and support market growth. These strategies — based on market and business fundamentals — reveal untapped opportunities in the market by highlighting synergies between multiple sector stakeholders across the wholesale and retail markets. Strategies listed in the report include:

  • Wholesale market integration: Allow solar and storage customers to share in the value of wholesale capacity, energy, and ancillary services markets
  • Pricing Structures: Develop products and pricing designs to reflect the value DERs can provide
  • Customer data: Leverage data to improve customer targeting, quantify real-time greenhouse gas emissions
  • Partnerships: Engage in partnerships with adjacent industries and lenders to simplify customer offers
  • Digital green neighborhoods: Connect customers with one another to share virtual green power through peer-to-peer trading, community solar, and community storage.
  • DNV GL says innovative strategies are needed to deepen penetration of solar plus storage to residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) customers more widely across the US.
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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants12 Approaches Energy Providers Can Use to Increase Solar Plus Storage Uptake

Energy Storage Digital: What We Learned at The Online Event, and How You Can Still Join in

on May 26, 2020

Our publisher, Solar Media is currently hosting a season of online conferences, the Digital Series. Topics still to run include Solar & Storage Finance (1-5 June) and Energy Technologies (15-19 June), while last week we saw the Large-Scale Solar series. Our Energy Storage Digital Summit got us off to a low carbon yet globe-spanning start and took place from 11-15 May. From a full week of webinars and panel discussions, there was a huge amount of ground covered. Here are some more of our takeaways and there are links below to some of the news and views we’ve already posted. ​

  1. Developing energy storage projects in the age of COVID-19 amplifies existing challenges
    Erik Stokes, branch chief at the California Energy Commission hosted a panel discussion: “Timeline to building a safe storage project” on the first day. Speaking to three senior team members at developers Soltage and Hecate Energy, and from consultancy Geostrategies, Stokes heard that COVID-19 is unsurprisingly having an impact on project execution.

Brian Schmidly, founder at Geostrategies said that most battery and equipment manufacturers sending products out from Asia are now back online, but that there are likely to be delays and bottlenecks toward the end of this year as everyone plays catch-up. This is perhaps similar to the early days of solar, Schmidly said, when demand outstripped available supply for PV modules.

Hecate Energy general counsel Holly Christie noted that while in the first few weeks of the pandemic, many parties claimed force majeure clauses, since force majeure refers to something unforeseen, after a period, it becomes more difficult to argue that the delays are “now not unforeseen”. Change of law provisions are now “fluid notions that were not necessarily so before”.

Dirk van Ouwerkerk, senior VP of energy storage development at Soltage, said that the pandemic’s effects on supply chains need to be monitored very, very closely, and that there are two types of supply chain issues: “materials getting through to manufacturing, and then getting manufacturing product to the projects”. This includes the “vast majority” of manufacturing for both LFP and NMC battery cells, which is in China.

Van Ouwerkerk said that the delays are not structural in nature. He expected to see three to six months of delays but felt that the delays are “decreasing and probably not there next year”. On a related note, he went on to say that with energy storage still at a relatively early stage of industry maturity, there hasn’t been the same level of standardisation as achieved in solar. Every project is still very different and the cost of capital high. Soltage develops projects, van Ouwerkerk said, there is a constant reassessment of “fatal flaw” analysis.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsEnergy Storage Digital: What We Learned at The Online Event, and How You Can Still Join in

Morning Brief: The Wolf of Wall Street Teaches Solar Sales, Misleading Solar Ads Tout 100% Free Panels

on May 26, 2020

In a world flooded with webinars on how to improve sales from home, how does Suntuity Solar separate itself from the crowd? By having a webinar hosted by Jordan Belfort, the inspiration for the Oscar-nominated film The Wolf of Wall Street. The free multi-episode virtual training series focuses on teaching effective remote work strategies that can help inspire and guide individuals towards maximizing their income from the comfort of their own homes. A playback of the first session is available here. Source: Suntuity

U.S. energy storage market participants operating at the bulk power system level should evaluate their supply chains and take other measures in light of recent U.S. government action to protect national security by limiting equipment transactions involving foreign adversaries, experts said Thursday. Earlier this month President Trump signed an executive order on Securing the United States bulk power system that lays the groundwork for a ban on power grid equipment from foreign adversaries posing a national security threat, according to the Energy Storage Association trade group. These actions raise import issues related to certain energy storage equipment potentially with regard to China.It is not yet clear if the EO covers energy storage but it might because storage can be used to provide reliability services either stand-alone or paired with generation, she said. “It’s entirely possible that storage could be excluded entirely, but we just don’t know right now.” Source: S&P Global

Misleading solar ads touting 100% free panels and fake stimulus programs spread on Facebook as the coronavirus upends door-to-door sales: While scrolling through Facebook earlier this month, Vikram Aggarwal wasn’t surprised to see a handful of ads for rooftop solar panels. As the founder of an online solar marketplace, Vikram Aggarwal is an obvious target for the tech giant’s sophisticated algorithm. What did catch his attention was what those ads were promising. “None of them were being very truthful,” said Aggarwal, the founder of the website EnergySage. “They’re all very shady.” Misleading ads are not new to the solar industry, but experts that Business Insider reached for this story said the problem could become worse in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Source: Business Insider

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsMorning Brief: The Wolf of Wall Street Teaches Solar Sales, Misleading Solar Ads Tout 100% Free Panels

Three Ways We Could Improve Lithium-Ion Batteries

on May 25, 2020

Driven by an ever-increasing world population as well as global economic growth, our energy needs have been rising rapidly, peaking 113,000TWh in 2017 according to the International Energy Agency. The impact of this growth on the environment and well-being of society is becoming more apparent, intensifying the need to decarbonise the transportation and power generation sectors – the two highest polluting sectors in the European Union (EU).

Electromobility has become the prevalent solution for the decarbonisation of the transportation sector, with sales of EVs increasing by 60% in the last two years. In the power generation sector meanwhile, the harvesting of wind and solar is gaining pace, with a quarter of global electricity coming from renewable energy sources.

For these solutions to reach their full potential, they need to be coupled with efficient energy storage technologies. The performance of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries has increased tremendously as a result of significant investments in R&D; energy density has tripled since 2008, while cost has reduced by close to 85%. Still, further research is needed to decrease levelised cost of energy (LCOE), and ensure that the production and use of batteries does not generate a negative impact on the environment.

  1. Find alternatives to scarce electrode materials to improve energy density and decrease the impact on the environment and society
    Today’s batteries include REE (Rare Earth Elements), CRM (Critical Raw Materials), and other “sensitive” materials. The most crucial elements are perhaps Cobalt (Co), Nickel (Ni), Manganese (Mn), and Lithium (Li), due to their importance in the battery’s final electrochemical performance.

The EU’s Joint Research Centre estimates that demand for these materials will grow by up to 2,500% from 2015 to 2030, creating a scarcity issue. The fact that most such elements are unevenly distributed around the world does not make things easier either; one-third of nickel and lithium used in batteries globally are mined in China and Chile respectively, while two-thirds of cobalt supplies are sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the European Commission. This creates significant supply chain risks and contributes to the huge short- and long-term price volatility. Adding to that is the questionable impact on the environment and society from the sourcing of such materials, with most infamously, the mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo using artisanal mines and child labour.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThree Ways We Could Improve Lithium-Ion Batteries