Stem Transitions Its Classes Online For Solar + Storage Partner Certification

on March 30, 2020

AI-driven energy storage service provider Stem announced the debut of Stem University, an online certification program that provides required educational classes and tools for solar companies that are in the Stem Partner Program to gain expertise in storage. Stem University leverages the company’s decade of experience in delivering an end-to-end blueprint for storage success across the entire energy lifecycle.

Stem’s Premier and Certified Partners are required to complete Stem University coursework in three initial distinct certification tracks: sales, sales analytics and deployment. Additional certifications in commercial operations, product and back up power will be added to Stem University. Once a partner has one or more employees who have completed these tracks, they will become officially “Stem Certified.” To continue in the Stem Partner Program, certifications must be renewed annually.

“Our solar partners continue to come to us for guidance and advice on how to deploy and monetize storage within their implementations,” said Alan Russo, Chief Revenue Officer, at Stem. “As the market leader in intelligent storage, we believe it is our responsibility to share our broader domain expertise with the industry so they can take advantage of sophisticated storage use cases, more easily navigate local permitting requirements and understand the full benefits of solar + storage deployments. Our unique Stem University program will enable our partners to learn what it takes to optimize storage in commercial and industrial deployments, and ultimately drive greater savings and new revenue opportunities.”

Wood Mackenzie recently projected that global energy storage deployments will grow more than 12-times from 2020 to 2024. Stem has taken several steps to ensure its solar developers are in the strongest position to leverage these opportunities. The company has built a robust partner program with more than 50 active solar partners, which delivered over 159 MWh in 2019. This network originated more than 50% of Stem’s business last year.

Courses available in Stem University are designed to provide hands-on business and technical training for sales professionals, sales analysts and project managers. These resources also provide partners with background on how to identify and address customer needs, creating mutually beneficial deployments that add value for all parties.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsStem Transitions Its Classes Online For Solar + Storage Partner Certification

The Solar Sector Is Suffering From Coronavirus Contagion

on February 20, 2020

While analysts and international agencies are already assessing the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak on global oil demand, the damage to the energy industry is extending well beyond oil. Promising fast-growing green energy technologies and sectors are also suffering because the outbreak is disrupting China’s industrial activity and manufacturing of crucial components for the solar, wind, and battery storage industries.

Much like China’s oil demand slump impacts the global market, the Chinese slowdown in manufacturing of renewable energy components has a ripple effect throughout the global supply chain of major renewable energy industries.

The current situation highlights China’s increased importance in the global energy markets over the past two decades since the SARS outbreak – from oil to battery storage, all energy sectors suffer when Chinese manufacturing and demand hits the brakes.

In the solar industry, factory shutdowns and production disruptions across China have delayed exports of solar panels and other components, disrupting the supply chain of the solar power industries and affecting solar projects in Asia and Australia. The disruption of the solar supply chain could become costly for as much as US$2.24 billion worth of solar projects across India, which relies on China for 80 percent of the solar modules it uses, CRISIL Ratings, an S&P Global company, said earlier this week. A total of 3 gigawatts (GW) of solar project across India risk incurring time and cost overruns, including penalties for missing commercial operation timelines, CRISIL noted.

“If the production interruption in mainland China lasts longer than one month, factories in south-east Asia and the US will start to see supply shortages that will reduce their production output,” Xiaojing Sun, an Wood Mackenzie senior analyst in the energy transition research team, said last week, as carried by Renews.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThe Solar Sector Is Suffering From Coronavirus Contagion

Google Inks Huge Corporate Solar-Plus-Storage Deal in Nevada

on January 9, 2020

Google and Nevada utility NV Energy have joined up on an energy supply agreement to power an under-construction data center outside Las Vegas, with future capacity that rivals the largest corporate solar power-purchase agreement announced to date in the U.S.

NV Energy plans to procure 350 megawatts of solar and between 250 and 280 megawatts of storage to serve the Google facility in Henderson, Nevada. The utility said it will use “a new renewable facility, or a small portfolio of facilities [comprising] solar and collocated battery energy storage,” according to a December regulatory filing. NV Energy plans to supply Google with renewables purchases or its own excess generation until projects are complete.

The utility intends to amend its integrated resource plan to gain approval for the projects, a move that’s “straight-up unique,” said Dan Finn-Foley, director of storage research at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.

On its own, the solar capacity appears tied for the largest corporate solar deal signed so far in the U.S. But the project’s storage component is perhaps its most significant element. The capacity alone — which rivals other recent utility deals, including from NV Energy itself — is “big news,” said Finn-Foley. What’s more, the incorporation of storage indicates a growing interest among large corporate buyers to shape clean electricity purchases to round-the-clock demand.

“You can draw a straight line between Google’s aspiration for 100 percent load-following renewable energy and energy storage’s inclusion in this agreement,” said Finn-Foley.

While large-scale renewables procurements have become commonplace for many corporations — now accounting for more than 15 percent of the total utility-scale solar pipeline — buyer requirements are becoming more sophisticated. Many want to match their real-time consumption to 100 percent renewables; Google has so far done so only on an annual basis.*

If others follow, Finn-Foley said it would represent a “sea change in how corporations approach renewable energy.”

“Corporations have long used wind or solar to go ‘100 percent green,’ but there is a new effort to actually time-match consumption rather than just buying an offsetting amount of kilowatt-hours,” said Finn-Foley.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsGoogle Inks Huge Corporate Solar-Plus-Storage Deal in Nevada

To Store Renewable Energy, Try Freezing Air

on January 3, 2020

The system that supplies clean electricity to Vermont is not exactly a model of Yankee ingenuity.

In 2011, the state adopted a plan to get 90% of its power from renewable sources by 2050. That led to a surge of wind-generated power from the northeastern part of the state and an expansion of solar.

But transmission lines in this sparsely populated part of Vermont have such low capacity that much of the renewable energy is often unavailable because the lines are too congested. The state was deprived of another form of emission-free power in 2014 when an aging nuclear power plant called Vermont Yankee was permanently shut down.

So what can Vermont do?

A British company called Highview Power proposes a novel solution: a storage system that uses renewable electricity from solar or wind to freeze air into a liquid state where it can be kept in insulated storage tanks for hours or even weeks.

The frozen air is allowed to warm and turn itself back into a gas. It expands so quickly that its power can spin a turbine for an electric generator. The resulting electricity is fed into transmission lines when they are not congested.

“Vermont has transmission issues,” explained Salvatore Minopoli, vice president of Highview’s USA affiliate. “It’s a situation that many places in the U.S. are dealing with where renewable energy is being deployed more and more. It’s power that’s intermittent. They need something to balance their system out.”

Minopoli said that “the longer duration of your energy storage, the more economical it is for a Highview system,” rather than using big electric storage batteries.

For years, utilities have tried other non-battery approaches. One is pumped storage, where utilities use electricity to pump water uphill when power is cheap, and then let it flow down through a generator, creating electric power when it is more expensive.

Some utilities even pump air into played-out natural gas fields, compressing it to spin turbines when it’s released. But Minopoli pointed out that the Highview approach doesn’t need hills or abandoned gas fields. It can be built on a 2-acre site almost anywhere.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsTo Store Renewable Energy, Try Freezing Air

Solar-Energy–Harvesting Hybrid Device Provides Uninterrupted Power

on December 31, 2019

Integrated system simultaneously harvests and stores solar thermal energy with low losses for 24/7 power under all conditions.

Researchers at the University of Houston have designed a device that efficiently captures solar energy and stores it for use by applications for the internet of things (IoT) and industrial IoT. Unlike solar panels and solar cells, which use photovoltaic technology for direct electricity generation, the hybrid device leverages the physics of molecular energy and the accumulation of latent heat to make the collection and storage of energy a 24/7 process, addressing a primary shortcoming of current solar products.

The researchers synthesized the device using norbornadiene-quadricyclane (NBD–QC), an organic compound with high specific energy and extended storage times, as the molecular storage material (MSM), separated from a localized phase-change material (L-PCM) by a silica aerogel to maintain the necessary difference in working temperature.

The common approach for storing solar energy is the use of batteries coupled with photovoltaic systems for both small- and large-scale installations. It is not only electricity that needs to be stored: An equally useful aspect of energy transition is the ability to capture and store solar thermal energy. That goal is not so easy to achieve, however, especially if you need a system that can preserve heat for long periods.

The challenge has spurred a new line of research in recent years that is devoted to the creation of solar storage on demand. The critical point of these systems remains efficiency. The Houston researchers’ development could thus drive decisive change in the thermal-battery sector.

Efficient harvesting and storage of solar thermal energy are essential to exploiting the abundant solar radiation that reaches Earth’s surface. Today’s systems use expensive materials with a high optical concentration, which leads to high heat losses.

The new device is based on a hybrid paradigm that uses daytime heat localization to provide 73% collection efficiency on a small scale and ∼90% on a large scale. In particular, at night, the energy stored by the hybrid system is recovered with 80% efficiency and at a higher temperature than during the day, setting it apart from other state-of-the-art systems, according to a paper published by the researchers in the December issue of Joule.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsSolar-Energy–Harvesting Hybrid Device Provides Uninterrupted Power

The Year in Solar, Part III: Battery Breakthroughs, Inverter Trouble, Sustainable Role Models And New Tech

on December 27, 2019

As we moved into the third quarter of another eventful year in PV, the breakthroughs in storage predicted for 2019 appeared to be taking shape, not least in the U.S. where two big battery projects are set to be deployed in 2021.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration in July predicted the 1 GW of battery storage systems expected in the States this year would grow to 2.5 GW by 2023, helped along by Florida Power and Light’s 409 MW Manatee Solar Energy Center in Parrish and the initial, 129 MW phase of oil and gas company Helix Energy Solutions Inc’s 316 MW Ravenswood facility in Queens, New York.

That encouraging prediction came despite the findings of MIT researchers a month later that the cost of battery storage systems would have to fall almost 90% – to less than $20/kWh of capacity – to enable an entirely renewable energy power system. The number crunchers did point out, however, reducing by just 5% the amount of generation from solar and wind power – perhaps by methods such as demand-side management – would raise that storage project break-even figure to around $150/kWh. MIT folks also estimated, in August, global heating will affect the performance of solar panels, reducing yield by around 0.45% of each degree Celsius of global temperature rise.

Is gas a necessary evil?

The cost hurdle of energy storage was cited as one of the reasons why natural gas must remain a key back-up element to national grids, according to an interview given to pv magazine by Tom Vernon, MD of British company Statera, which operates both battery storage capacity and gas-fired peaking power stations in the U.K. It was a divisive article, which prompted convincing counter-claims from the proponents of storage solutions such as pumped hydro but it certainly added to the debate over the composition of the future energy mix.

The business case for battery storage was illustrated by the performance of the Tesla-supplied, 100 MW/129 MWh Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia, which cost French owner Neoen €56 million (US$62.3 million) and had already repaid €8.1 million in its first six months of operation by providing grid services and power to the state government.

We also saw the flexible scale of battery storage during Q3, with products evening out renewable energy supply from individual household to national levels. Japanese electronics giant Panasonic unveiled its EverVolt lithium-ion household storage system at the Solar Power International trade show in Salt Lake City in September, with the U.S. model available in 5.7-34.2 kWh sizes.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThe Year in Solar, Part III: Battery Breakthroughs, Inverter Trouble, Sustainable Role Models And New Tech

Scientists Discover Three New Species Of Solar Power Plants in 2019

on December 26, 2019

For a long while, the job of solar power was to deliver daytime electricity – starting to pump the juice in earnest somewhere around 10 a.m., and finishing at 2 p.m. And every single drip of electricity was needed to be used to get investors into the project. This reality is no longer. For instance – we’re now talking about how in Minnesota overbuilding solar power and dumping “extra” electricity is cheaper than seasonal storage and gas over the coming decades. This ain’t your parent’s solar power.

In July of this year, a project in Connecticut was completed with a DC to AC ratio – the ratio of total solar panel wattage to solar inverter capacity – of 1.8 to 1. This value is significant (greater than the average closer to 1.3:1) because it shows that large developers have fully grasped, and are deploying, a strategy that takes full advantage of cheap solar panels to gain greater benefit. While a normal solar power plant might start clipping—i.e., dumping electricity produced by the solar panels that the inverter isn’t able to export—as the day approaches 12 noon, a plant like this will begin clipping much sooner. Generally, this wasted electricity is lost revenue. and designers abhor it. However, a plant like this will also offer a more consistent amount of electricity delivered to the power grid—starting much earlier and ending much later. As well, it will also offer a greater amount of electricity during the low sun wintertime periods. An analysis by Fluence suggested that these extra solar panels, beyond the 1.3:1 ratio, cost approximately 60¢/Wdc to install—far cheaper than standard system pricing.

What might be the most significant solar project of the year was developed by 8minute Solar Energy—the Eland Solar Power Plant totalling 400MWac / 600(?)MWdc plus 300MW/1,200MWh of energy storage. The facility will sell its electricity to two separate California buyers at just under 4¢/kWh. The plant was, to the best of this author’s knowledge, the first large solar plus storage facility that could arguably be considered a true power plant.

But the real kicker of this facility, and the reason there is a “?” after the 600 MWdc above, is the capacity factor that approaches 60% per CEO Tom Buttgenbach. This value is far above the peaks of AC capacity factors found in the 35% range per recent research. There are a few reasons this plant can offer a value like this:

  • The plant is located in the Mojave Desert with some of the world’s best sunlight
  • Single axis trackers “widen the shoulders” and up production overall by 15-30%
  • DC coupled energy storage captures and later on delivers the clipped electricity
  • And last, but with a question mark as the actual values aren’t known, it is probable that bifacial solar modules and/or an oversize DC to AC ratio are pumping out extra electricity for those batteries to grab.
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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsScientists Discover Three New Species Of Solar Power Plants in 2019

How The Humble Chairlift Could Revolutionize Renewable Energy

on November 18, 2019

What do you see when you imagine a zero-carbon future? Electric buses zipping by? Rolling hills covered with solar panels? Offshore wind farms towering over the sea? If batteries are part of your vision, good thinking. But there’s a promising, if whimsical, piece of the renewable energy puzzle that might be missing from your mental picture: the world of gravity energy storage.

When the grid depends on clean but sporadic natural resources like wind and the sun, we’re going to need ways to capture any extra energy they produce so we can use it later. Lithium-ion batteries help solve that problem, but they have limitations. They degrade over time, and they aren’t suited to store energy for months-long periods, like a seasonal stretch of gray skies or motionless air.

Enter gravity energy storage. Generating electricity using gravity is hardly a new concept — think of your classic hydropower plant, which captures the energy of falling water via a turbine. But some hydropower systems don’t just produce energy. A “pumped-storage” hydroelectric plant draws excess energy from the grid and uses it to pump water back up into an elevated reservoir where it can fall again. When full, the upper reservoir is like a charged battery, ready to be deployed for weeks or months at a time, depending on how much water it holds.

The United States already uses pumped-storage hydropower. In fact, it currently accounts for 95 percent of our utility-scale energy storage. But it’s tough to add a new pumped-storage project to the grid — it requires building a dam and creating new reservoirs, which are expensive and politically unpopular. Two-thirds of existing pumped-storage hydropower plants were built in the 1970s and 1980s. Only one new plant has come online in the past fourteen years.

But who needs water when there are all kinds of things we can slide down a mountain or drop off a cliff? Really, you can use almost any material for gravity energy storage, as long as it’s heavy, cheap, and you can figure out how to transport it up and down a steep slope.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsHow The Humble Chairlift Could Revolutionize Renewable Energy

NEC Energy Solutions Integrates Stem’s AI-driven Software To Simplify Large-Scale Solar + Storage Deployment

on November 6, 2019

NEC Energy Solutions, headquartered in Westborough, Mass., is partnering with Stem to simplify solar + storage projects. Through a master supply agreement, Stem will resell and integrate its Athena AI platform with NEC’s GSS end-to-end grid storage solution. The agreement will result in a powerful solar + storage solution for large-scale projects, leveraging NEC’s AEROS proprietary energy storage controls and Stem’s sophisticated Athena AI platform to perform solar and storage optimization, wholesale market participation services, solar charging compliance and reporting, and warranty compliance and administration.

“We expect over $50 billion to be spent on U.S. energy storage projects between now and 2030. Solar + storage is one of the quickest growing and exciting segments,” said Logan Goldie-Scot, head, Energy Storage at BloombergNEF. “The partnership between NEC and Stem offers a new option to developers looking for an experienced and safe storage provider that can also help monetize the assets in an increasingly complex trading environment.”

The addition of NEC products to the Stem portfolio brings a DC-coupled solution to the front-of-meter solar + storage market. With only a single point of interconnection, DC-coupled front-of-meter solutions are typically more efficient for energy production, less expensive to deploy than AC-coupled systems and support cost-effective time shifting of excess solar.

What’s cool
Stem will pair NEC’s offerings with its Athena software, which helps developers address the most complex aspects of solar + storage projects. The collective intelligence of the Athena and AEROS platforms enable users to predict battery operational costs, and layer on market knowledge, forecasting, and participation with known operating constraints such as ITC limitations and SMART program rules. Developers and asset owners will be able to increase the value of their project throughout its lifetime by automating energy trades based on different market scenarios.

“Stem’s decade of expertise coupled with more than 125 MWh booked in the last ten months alone, enables us to advise on the entire storage project lifecycle – from which batteries are best suited for a project and how to configure them, to optimizing them across their lifetime, managing federal and state incentive compliance and maximizing the financial return by participating in energy markets,” said Stem COO Mark Triplett.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsNEC Energy Solutions Integrates Stem’s AI-driven Software To Simplify Large-Scale Solar + Storage Deployment

An Energy Breakthrough Could Store Solar Power for Decades

on November 4, 2019

For decades, scientists have sought an affordable and effective way of capturing, storing, and releasing solar energy. Researchers in Sweden say they have a solution that would allow the power of the sun’s rays to be used across a range of consumer applications—heating everything from homes to vehicles.

Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg have figured out how to harness the energy and keep it in reserve so it can be released on demand in the form of heat—even decades after it was captured. The innovations include an energy-trapping molecule, a storage system that promises to outperform traditional batteries, at least when it comes to heating, and an energy-storing laminate coating that can be applied to windows and textiles. The breakthroughs, from a team led by researcher Kasper Moth-Poulsen, have garnered praise within the scientific community. Now comes the real test: whether Moth-Poulsen can get investors to back his technology and take it to market.

The system starts with a liquid molecule made up of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen. When hit by sunlight, the molecule draws in the sun’s energy and holds it until a catalyst triggers its release as heat. The researchers spent almost a decade and $2.5 million to create a specialized storage unit, which Moth-Poulsen, a 40-year-old professor in the department of chemistry and chemical engineering, says has the stability to outlast the 5-to 10-year life span of typical lithium-ion batteries on the market toda

The most advanced potential commercial use the team developed is a transparent coating that can be applied to home windows, a moving vehicle, or even clothing. The coating collects solar energy and releases heat, reducing electricity required for heating spaces and curbing carbon emissions. Moth-Poulsen is coating an entire building on campus to showcase the technology. The ideal use in the early going, he says, is in relatively small spaces. “This could be heating of electrical vehicles or in houses.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsAn Energy Breakthrough Could Store Solar Power for Decades