House Advances Bill That Would Create Energy Storage Grants and Federal Technical Assistance Program

on September 30, 2020

The House this week passed the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act (H.R. 4447), pushing for innovation in clean energy, greater electrification of the transportation sector, efficiency in the home sector, and modernization of the grid at large.

Originally introduced by U.S. Reps. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), the bill would create an energy storage and microgrid grant, as well as a technical assistance program at the Department of Energy (DOE). These offerings would be made to a rural electric cooperative or non-profit organization. Working with at least six rural electric cooperatives, the goal would be to design and demonstrate energy storage and microgrid projects that draw from renewable energy sources.

“It also addresses the need for environmental justice by investing in grant programs for impacted communities and improving information sharing so Americans can be better informed about the risks in their neighborhoods,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) said. “It is a net win for our environment and economy alike. What’s more, it presents practical and achievable policies that have a real shot at becoming law this year after negotiations with the Senate.”

Proponents hope that the bill, which authorizes $5 million annually for the program from 2020 through 2025, would also provide well paying jobs wherever its funding went. It also received praise from the Energy Storage Association (ESA).

“By passing H.R. 4447, the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, numerous bipartisan proposals for promoting energy storage are moving forward, including increasing R&D and demonstration investments in energy storage technology, integrating storage across all DOE Energy offices, assisting rural customers with storage for resilience, and incorporating storage into public investments in transportation electrification and workforce development,” ESA CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman said. “ESA is pleased to support these efforts to ready the electric system for 21st century demands to provide resilient, efficient, sustainable, and affordable electric service.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsHouse Advances Bill That Would Create Energy Storage Grants and Federal Technical Assistance Program

COVID-19 Hits Profitability of ENGIE Energy Storage Subsidiary

on September 30, 2020

ENGIE EPS incurred increases in operating expenses and extraordinary costs due to COVID-19 which “more than offset” an increase in revenues that ENGIE’s energy storage subsidiary earned in the first half of this year.

European utility player ENGIE acquired a majority stake and rebranded the company, which had been spun out of a Turin University and known as Electro Power Systems, in 2018. It is engaged in delivering energy storage solutions including grid-connected large-scale project development and microgrids, as well as industrial solutions and e-mobility solutions.

ENGIE EPS just announced its first half of the year’s financial results up to the end of June 2020. Having already said following the first quarter of the year that the outbreak of the coronavirus was having a serious impact on the company’s work as well as its financial position, warning that it was unable to commit to providing full-year financial guidance, the company said its net financial position by 30 June 2020 had decreased to €-17.8 million (US$-20.76 million), down from €-8.1 million on 31 December 2019.

Although revenues and other income added up to €5 million, up 89% compared to the first half of 2019, owing strongly to growth in what ENGIE EPS terms ‘Giga Storage’ (utility-scale energy storage and solar-plus-storage projects) as well as industrial solutions including microgrids and commercial energy storage, a decrease in gross margins for Giga Storage activities, increases in operating expenses and extraordinary costs due to COVID-19 were greater than the sum of revenue increases. This was in part due to delayed construction schedules for projects including Sol Des Insurgentes, a 23MW solar farm in Mexico with 5MW of battery storage, now expected to be completed next year. 

However, ENGIE EPS appears to have a decent amount of work ahead to look forward to: it has won a few hundred megawatt-hours of ‘Giga Storage’ contracts worth more than US$130 million for projects in territories including Hawaii, Guam and New England.

The Guam projects are vast solar-plus-storage sites secured under 20-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) with the local Power Authority of Guam and in Hawaii ENGIE EPS was among successful bidders in the islands’ biggest renewables (and storage) tender to date, winning a 240MWh project under a 25-year PPA with Hawaii Electric that is currently before regulators to win approval.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsCOVID-19 Hits Profitability of ENGIE Energy Storage Subsidiary

Financial Models That Will Get You That On-Site Microgrid

on September 30, 2020

I’ve written about my high hopes for microgrids and my disappointment at the speed of deployment (due in part to COVID-related slowdowns that stalled construction). 

But don’t be confused. Like a swimming duck, a lot has been happening with microgrids under the surface.

New third-party financing options for microgrids in which the energy offtaker does not own or maintain the asset — known as energy-as-a-service (EaaS) or microgrids-as-a-service (MaaS) — are making microgrids accessible to small businesses with small energy loads, according to a new report from Wood Mackenzie.

While not a new structure (EaaS has been around for the better part of a decade), the research shows the market is maturing. Increasingly, financers are investing in small-scale microgrids that are less than 5 megawatts, a size better suited for on-site power generation for, say, medium to large commercial buildings or a mid-sized industrial facility. 

This is kind of a big deal, as financial innovations are as important as technological innovations for clean energy technologies to proliferate. Solar is the classic example; it took off once people could get it without upfront costs. 

Here are three forces that, together, finally could get you that microgrid you’ve been eyeing. 

1. Microgrid portfolios are opening up new financing models

Once upon a time, microgrids were bespoke and built on a project-by-project basis. That required legwork by financers to assess the technology risk and business models, which only made sense if the projects were bigger — say, 10-20 MW minimum. 

Increasingly, microgrid service providers are selling a portfolio of microgrids — that is, deploying multiple microgrids with similar (if not identical) components at different locations. The homogenization of the microgrid technologies allows investors to streamline due diligence and finance the portfolio in aggregate.

Examples include projects at Stop & Shop, which recently announced it will install microgrids at 40 of its grocery stores in Massachusetts using Bloom Energy fuel cells, and H-E-B, which plans to install microgrids at 45 locations in Texas through Enchanted Rock.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsFinancial Models That Will Get You That On-Site Microgrid

6 Practical Steps to Improve Community Safety Near Lithium-Ion Energy Storage Systems

on September 29, 2020

As the lithium-ion battery energy storage system (ESS) industry grows and demand for renewable energy increases, ESS facilities will likely continue to proliferate in communities and urban areas around the world, providing multiple benefits, along with some risks.

Lithium-ion batteries are generally very safe, but they have been linked to fire, explosion and hazardous material exposure under certain conditions. The April 2019 explosion at a 2.16 MWh lithium-ion battery ESS site in Surprise, Arizona, left four firefighters severely injured and spurred the energy industry and first responders to grapple with new safety considerations.

Given this is a fairly new technology, most first responders have limited experience with lithium-ion battery fires, which behave differently than typical fires.

“Lithium-ion batteries have flammable chemical electrolytes and are susceptible to thermal runaway if the battery has faults, contaminants or experiences physical or operational stress,” said Ken Boyce, principal engineer director, UL Energy and Power Technologies division. “Additionally, lithium-ion batteries can spontaneously reignite hours or even days later after a fire event if cells go into thermal runaway, making decommissioning, deconstructing and storing more complicated. Adding to that complexity, safety requirements for ESS sites are still evolving as more information about the technology becomes available,” he said.

Research and curricula for first responders on lithium-ion battery fires on this scale is inadequate, leading to situations where the fire service must piece together limited information to suppress fires and keep themselves and surrounding communities safe. This was the case in Surprise. Firefighters did everything in accordance with the most recent training and information available to them and an extremely dangerous – potentially avoidable – explosion still occurred.

Learning from the APS storage explosion

Typically, these kinds of near miss events are examined only when a fatality occurs, but UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) had the unique opportunity to interview the firefighters and learn from their experiences. This is the first time UL FSRI took the approach of capturing the experience of surviving firefighters to inform an investigation and incorporate their firsthand experience into fire safety recommendations.

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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants6 Practical Steps to Improve Community Safety Near Lithium-Ion Energy Storage Systems

Scientists Explore Optimal Shapes of Thermal Energy Storage

on September 29, 2020

Scientists from Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), and the Institute of Automation and Control Processes of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IACP FEB RAS) have studied a correlation between the shape of thermal energy storage (TES) used in traditional and renewable energy sectors and their efficiency. Using the obtained data, design engineers might be able to improve TES for specific needs. A related article was published in Renewable Energy.

The scientists studied a correlation between the shape and efficiency of TES based on granular phase change materials. When heated, such materials change their phase from the solid to the liquid state, thus preserving the heat energy. When they solidify again, energy output takes place. Devices based on this principle are used in advanced energy systems.

Using a computational model that had been developed previously, the team found out the effect of narrowing and expansion of cylinder-shaped TES on the process of their charging (energy input), energy storage, and discharging (energy output) depending on various preference criteria.

“To study the charging and discharging of TES with different shapes, we used six efficiency criteria. In some cases, a heat accumulator that stores more energy is the most preferable. In other cases, a unit with the fastest charge time is the most efficient. It is the same for discharge: some need a device with the biggest energy output, and some would prefer one with maximal time of keeping the outlet temperature not lower than a given value,” said Nickolay Lutsenko, a co-author of the work, a Professor at the Engineering Department of the Polytechnic Institute (School), FEFU, and a Laboratory Head at IACP FEB RAS.

According to the scientist’ research, TES with straight walls are often the most preferable. However, the shape of a unit can depend on efficiency criteria and the details of the process, such as boundary conditions, phase transition temperature, and so on. In some scenarios, narrowing or expanding TES can be more beneficial than straight walls ones.

Thermal energy storages can also be parts of other types of energy accumulators, such as adiabatic compressed air energy storages that are used to store cheap energy coming from traditional power plants in the night time or from solar batteries and wind turbines in favorable weather conditions. Energy output from these storage units takes place in peak energy consumption times, such as mornings or evenings.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsScientists Explore Optimal Shapes of Thermal Energy Storage

California Community Group Contracts For 260MWh of Batteries to Help Keep Lights on in Dark Times

on September 29, 2020

A community choice energy provider run by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in California has signed contracts for battery storage with EDF Renewables and NextEra Energy totalling 260MWh, to be deployed in combination with solar PV.

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is the provider of water to the City of San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area in California but also provides hydroelectric and solar energy in the Hetch Hetchy Valley of the famous Yosemite National Park – as well as providing power to San Francisco homes and businesses through its community choice programme, CleanPowerSF.

Community choice utilities providers, active in a handful of US states, are non-profit entities that enable customers to choose where their power comes from and through which sources, while still being able to rely on large investor-owned utilities’ infrastructure to transmit and distribute that power. The groups have been active in the past year or so in inking contracts for clean solar PV coupled with battery storage that makes the power dispatchable and reliable, nowhere more so than in California.

CleanPower SF serves about 380,000 customers with electricity. It has just signed two separate contracts: one with a NextEra subsidiary to deliver a 20MW solar PV project combined with a 60MWh battery storage system and the other with EDF Renewables North America for a 200MWh battery storage system to be coupled with a 100MW solar PV plant that is already under construction by EDF. The projects will be CleanPowerSF’s first to add battery storage to its generation portfolio.

Solar-plus-storage to help bring grid reliability to customers amid ‘rolling blackouts and other power uncertainties’

EDF Renewables, itself a subsidiary of France-headquartered utility major EDF Group, has done around 16GW of renewables projects in North American markets and looks after another 11GW under service contracts. The company claims the 200MWh project award from CleanPowerSF brings its battery storage portfolio to be constructed in the US by 2023 to 1.5GWh. Also contributing a significant chunk of capacity to that pipeline is a 200MW solar PV project in Nevada which will utilise 180MW / 720MWh of battery storage.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsCalifornia Community Group Contracts For 260MWh of Batteries to Help Keep Lights on in Dark Times

‘Every Step’ of Lithium Battery Value Chain Will Have an Interest in Recycling

on September 28, 2020

It will be in the interests of more or less everybody involved in the “broader lithium-ion battery supply chain” to establish effective recycling ecosystems, according to an analyst with IHS Markit.

Recycling was among the big topics covered at this week’s Energy Storage Virtual Summit hosted by our publisher Solar Media’s events division. The majority of lithium-ion batteries used in stationary energy storage for solar, back up power or grid-balancing services have only been in operation for a relatively short amount of time, but consideration is being made for the future when a large number of systems begin reaching their end of life (EOL).

Chloe Holzinger, a senior analyst for energy storage at the research company, said during a presentation on the present and future prospects for recycling lithium batteries that stakeholders involved in everything from raw materials to component and equipment production, as well as end users, will have a keen interest in the possibilities for recycling.

Raw materials and cathode producers in particular might see recycling as a potential extra revenue stream, while their direct competitors might be recyclers that also begin to produce cathode materials directly. Given the low volumes of batteries available for recycling ahead of 2030, policy and regulations to encourage and foster recycling ecosystems would be helpful, Holzinger suggested.

Holzinger’s colleague at IHS Markit, Youmin Rong, who is a senior analyst in clean energy technology, said that the company is forecasting that 600GWh of batteries will reach their EOL by 2030 across electric vehicle, grid storage and portable electronics segments, and more than 2.5TWh by 2050.

The growth in the automotive sector’s demand for batteries alone will make it “essential to have a recycling industry,” Youmin Rong said, adding that since electric cars and stationary energy storage systems will require cells with vastly more capacity than the types of cells found in portable electronics like smartphones, an “an industry of recycling for large-scale lithium-ion is needed today more than ever”.

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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants‘Every Step’ of Lithium Battery Value Chain Will Have an Interest in Recycling

Energy Storage’s Prominent Role in Bipartisan Green Recovery Package for US Welcomed

on September 28, 2020

Legislation to help the US economy invest in clean energy jobs and support innovation and industry passed the House of Representatives this week – and Energy Storage Association (ESA) CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman applauded the prominent inclusion of energy storage in the bill.

Next stop for the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act will be the upper house of US Congress, the Senate. The bill includes wide-ranging measures on: energy efficiency, renewable energy, carbon pollution reduction technologies, nuclear energy, the electric grid and cybersecurity, transportation, research and innovation, technology transfer, industrial innovation and competitiveness, critical materials and environmental justice.

Energy storage is mentioned prominently for its role in renewable energy, with the bill calling for consideration of energy storage systems and coordination of programmes in renewables integration, as well as the development of assistance programmes for energy storage and renewable-powered microgrid deployment.

Energy storage is also mentioned in the context of enhancing electric grid reliability and its relevance to the supply chain for critical raw materials – like Europe, the US has put lithium and other materials used in battery making onto a list of such materials.

“Today the U.S. House of Representatives moved definitively to elevate the priority of public innovation investments in energy storage. By passing H.R. 4447, the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, numerous bipartisan proposals for promoting energy storage are moving forward, including increasing R&D and demonstration investments in energy storage technology, integrating storage across all DOE Energy offices, assisting rural customers with storage for resilience, and incorporating storage into public investments in transportation electrification and workforce development,” Kelly Speakes-Backman of the national ESA said.

“ESA is pleased to support these efforts to ready the electric system for 21st century demands to provide resilient, efficient, sustainable, and affordable electric service. We encourage members of the Senate to swiftly advance their similar legislation this Congress.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsEnergy Storage’s Prominent Role in Bipartisan Green Recovery Package for US Welcomed

Microgrid Optimization: Buzzword or Must Have?

on September 28, 2020

Just a few years ago, microgrids were simple.  A diesel generator sat for long periods until a facility manager manually disconnected the site from the grid.  The generator ran until the power came back on or the fuel supply ran out.  All in all, managers faced a limited number of decisions when it came to managing a microgrid.

Now, microgrids are much more complicated.  They often have multiple generation sources, battery storage systems, controllable energy consumption devices and have live connections to the grid. It has become essential for microgrids to be intuitive when it comes to knowing what to do and when.  This helps ensure the best outcome for the lowest cost.

Here is where optimization comes in. Granted, some think optimization is a buzzword, created to sound impressive without any specificity. The fact is understanding the values of various types of optimization helps ensure microgrid owners meet their goals. Optimization automates the best results for a system, considering its site-specific limitations. Optimization is made up primarily of four core concepts:

  1. Objective function: It defines the objective of the solution. For example, the objective could be to minimize the cost for supplying load. How the control variables influence that cost must be known
  2. Control Variables: These are the levers you can use to achieve your objective. For microgrid operations, typical control variables are power output of generating/storage units or load connection statuses, etc.
  3. Constraints: Constraints address the laws of physics such as generation output cannot be outside of the operating range of the generating unit or the load must exactly match the generation
  4. Model: The optimization works on a model, where the model defines number of entities (DERs) participating in the optimization, the constraints, the relationship of the control variables to the objective function etc.

A technique that strictly adheres to these principles and method of solving a problem is referred to as “optimization”. The optimization “engine” finds the optimal values for the control variables that result in achieving the objective while respecting the constraints.

Here are some good starting points for anyone interested in optimizing a new microgrid project.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsMicrogrid Optimization: Buzzword or Must Have?

Mitsubishi Power in Hydrogen and Energy Storage Deal with US Utility

on September 25, 2020

Mitsubishi Power has signed a deal to help decarbonize US utility Entergy’s businesses in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, writes Rod Walton.

A major part of the collaboration will be focused on hydrogen-fueled technologies. Hydrogen does not contain a carbon atom and can be produced via electrolysis fueled by renewable or carbon-free nuclear resources.

“New technologies and innovative solutions to the challenges posed by climate change present opportunities for us to significantly decrease carbon emissions from our generation portfolio while maintaining low rates.

“We are pleased to welcome Mitsubishi Power as a collaborative partner in developing strategies to integrate these new technologies and solutions that support us achieving our environmental and customer commitments.”

Together, Entergy and Mitsubishi Power will focus on developing hydrogen-capable gas turbine combined-cycle facilities, green hydrogen production, storage and transportation; creating nuclear-supplied electrolysis facilities with energy storage; and developing utility-scale battery storage systems.“For two decades, sustainability has been a priority for Entergy,” said Paul Hinnenkamp, Entergy’s chief operating officer and executive vice president. “We have pledged to conduct our business in a manner that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable that will benefit all our stakeholders.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsMitsubishi Power in Hydrogen and Energy Storage Deal with US Utility