5 States Blazing the Trail for Integrating Distributed Energy Resources

on September 10, 2019

Distributed energy resources (DERs) is an expansive term, including everything from backup generators to microgrids.

In some states with 100 percent clean energy mandates, like California and Hawaii, the focus is on solar — lots and lots of it — and the tools needed to integrate this massive new grid edge resource.

Batteries are another important tool in the kit, but so are air conditioners, water heaters, refrigerators, pumps, and other behind-the-meter flexible loads — not to mention electric vehicles.

Distribution utilities are going to need all of these DERs to manage the paradigm shift to come as renewables grow to a majority of the grid’s energy. But integrating DERs that are customer-owned and outside direct utility control is a challenge on many levels.

There are some commonalities in how utilities, regulators and DER providers are progressing in the most forward-thinking states. But the work is hard, it takes a long time, and it hasn’t yet yielded the expected outcomes in all cases.

California has been and remains at the forefront of the country’s DER revolution.

The Golden State is by far the biggest market for solar, behind-the-meter batteries and plug-in electric vehicles. And its ambitions are grand, with a mandate for 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045 matched by an impressive quiver of policies supporting DER growth, from laws requiring solar on all new homes starting next year to multi-billion dollar EV charging infrastructure investments.

But the past few years have been spectacularly challenging ones for California energy policy, led by Pacific Gas & Electric’s bankruptcy and the threat of more wildfires leading the state’s other big utilities toward insolvency.

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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants5 States Blazing the Trail for Integrating Distributed Energy Resources

Navigant Research’s Latest Energy Storage Tracker Identifies Nearly 2,100 Projects Globally

on September 10, 2019

A new report from Navigant Research tracks global energy storage developments, providing a database of projects sorted by country, region, market segment, capacity, status, technology vendor, systems integrator, applications, funding, investment, and key milestones.

As global electricity grids embrace the new energy economy, energy storage is becoming a necessity in grid infrastructure. In recent years, the landscape for this technology has grown increasingly sophisticated, marked by new types of projects being monetized through innovative business models. Click to tweet: According to a new report, Navigant Research has identified 2,092 energy storage projects globally.

“Several new companies have entered the market across the energy storage value chain while legacy companies have sought to bolster their presence,” says Ricardo F. Rodriguez, research analyst at Navigant Research. “The growing need to modernize global electricity grids and the evolution of business cases for deploying storage are expected to ensure continued market growth.”

Several key factors continue to increase the global need for energy storage deployments, according to the report. The restructuring of electricity markets will enable valuation of the flexible benefits of energy storage deployments, while variable generation sources such as solar PV and wind that are connected to power grids will require increased load balancing against demand. Areas with unstable grids and frequent outages will benefit from distributed energy storage systems (DESSs) and microgrids with storage, and load profiles are expected to play a critical role in the structure and operation of the power grid, which will influence the development of energy storage markets.

The report, Energy Storage Tracker 2Q19, provides a comprehensive resource of global energy storage projects. The Tracker includes a database of 2,092 projects and tracks the country, region, market segment, capacity, status, technology vendor, systems integrator, applications, funding, investment, and key milestones of each project. It also includes an analysis of the technology choice within each major region for energy storage, analysis of the leading regions for energy storage capacity and projects, and market share analysis for technology vendors for deployed and future projects. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsNavigant Research’s Latest Energy Storage Tracker Identifies Nearly 2,100 Projects Globally

Europe’s Changing FCR Auctions And Their Impact On The Energy Storage Industry

on September 9, 2019

July 2019 saw the introduction of significant changes to the way in which Frequency Control Reserve (FCR) auctions are conducted. Gone are the weekly auctions, replaced by daily auctions in a move designed to create greater flexibility and improve international co-operation in these markets in Europe.

To understand the impact of these changes on the energy storage market – an important factor in balancing the wider electricity market – we must first understand how these FCR auctions work. Power markets across Europe are managed by various services designed to ensure that the frequency of the grid across these markets remains within an acceptable range. These services are designed to respond to and correct any frequency deviations back towards the norm of 50Hz to minimise the chance of blackouts occurring. Across Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, this is carried out via a common auction of a service (the FCR).

This issue is particularly topical given recent events in Britain. In August a huge, sudden drop in frequency put parts of the train network out of operation for hours as power was cut off in some areas to keep the wider network operational.

How and why does this affect energy storage?
Well, storage is an important mechanism in controlling the frequency. In countries that participate in the FCR, there is a significant amount of hydro-capacity; only the Netherlands lacks this. Other storage also plays a role but is competing against pumped storage and hydro basins (this has not changed under the new rules). Either way, there are plenty of options to use energy storage as a lever to manage frequency.

These options have increased with the switch from weekly to daily auctions, as it allows parties to enter and exit the market more frequently. In contrast, generators that participate in a weekly auction need to commit to being around for the whole week.

Another significant reason why energy storage is important is that most of the FCR is made up of ‘spinning reserve’ – the extra generating capacity made available by increasing the power output of generators already connected to the power system. Spinning reserve can only be offered by storage and running plants, which rules out generating capacity that is not connected to the system but can be brought online after a short delay. With fossil generation out-of-merit for much of the time (coal and lignite plants), these plants have no need to keep running because they provide FCR to the Transmission System Operator (TSO).

Storage, then, is clearly an important player in the ongoing drive to balance frequency, so does Europe have enough capacity? The short answer is yes; Europe can currently meet its daily demand for FCR. Countries such as France and Switzerland have surplus capacity, whereas the Netherlands and Belgium are tighter. The joint auction ensures some level of stabilization across those markets, but transfer capacity between countries is limited, which causes local issues. For example, markets ‘decouple’ when transfer capacity is insufficient, or if local capacity is priced too high to be in the merit order of bids.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsEurope’s Changing FCR Auctions And Their Impact On The Energy Storage Industry

In Lab Secrets, Tesla is Talking About 20-Year Lithium Ion Batteries

on September 9, 2019

If any particular technology takes all the oxygen from everyone else because it dominates an industry, then we’re going to have a dearth of investment in these other technologies, and we’ll just never know what we could have had. Let’s think about crystalline silicon solar modules controlling an industry which had a wealth of thin film innovation, and many other ideas. However, if a technology comes in and takes over, leading to broader industry expansion so that the investment crumbs are large enough to still support investment in these secondary ideas – and we get the great technology from the new leader – I’m going to argue we’ll benefit greatly.

In a research paper by a team at Tesla, A Wide Range of Testing Results on an Excellent Lithium-Ion Cell Chemistry to be used as Benchmarks for New Battery Technologies, up to three years of battery testing have found performance that suggests the potential for electric vehicle battery packs that can drive more than 1 million miles and last more than twenty years when used in stationary energy storage situations.

In the paper, testing results on LiNi0.5Mn0.3Co0.2O2 / artificial graphite (NMC532/AG) cells are presented. The authors note that of all the cells tested, the ones with the longest lifetime are the single crystal NMC532/AG cells.

The very technical document goes into many manners of testing multiple cell types under a broad sets of conditions. A specific cell (below image) had 97% capacity retention after 5,300 cycles. The authors noted that there were almost no microcracks in the electrode particles – which they suggested was the reason “why these cells show no loss of positive electrode active mass during cycling.”

What is interesting is that these twenty years batteries are already being seen by those who develop energy storage projects, and probably by the world’s largest manufacturers who are putting out products with twenty years lifetimes. Cody Hill, an engineer and developer with 10 years in the grid energy storage industry, noted on Twitter this morning:

And what we should expect to see next in the marketplace are investment groups demanding 20-year energy storage contracts coupled with even lower energy storage pricing. SUSI Partners launched what it called the “world’s first dedicated energy storage infrastructure fund”. The fund seeks returns from 8-10% in ten years when accounting for degradation. That degradation could be managed in two ways – the first is by oversizing the battery on day one, so that it meets the needs by year ten. And the second of course is to make a better battery.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsIn Lab Secrets, Tesla is Talking About 20-Year Lithium Ion Batteries

Researchers Propose Floating Microgrids Made up of Electric Boats

on September 9, 2019

Electric boats may enable floating microgrids that could serve islands that have historically been powered by fossil fuels, according to a report from researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

“Powering small islands with reliable, affordable and green electricity is a big challenge due to their dispersed geographical location with a limited number of consumers and the heavy dependence on fossil fuels,” said the study, “Real-Time Load and Ancillary Support for a Remote Island Power System Using Electric Boats.”

Floating microgrids made up of electric boat motors, renewable energy and controls offer a substitute that will help power an island and provide electricity after disasters.

Floating microgrids: Quick way to restore power after hurricanes

“When some natural disaster occurs in dispersed islands, the electricity networks or generation systems are heavily damaged, and residents live without electricity for weeks. In this case, consumers having this technology can immediately get their power, and the ships sent by the government to distribute food can also supply electricity,” said Jayashri Ravishankar, an author of the report, which was published by IEEE.

While electric boats (EB) are similar to electric vehicles (EV), electric boats offer some significant advantages as a microgrid resource. An electric car fitted with roof-mounted solar panels can’t always use available sunlight due to shade from buildings, trees and parking lots. However, electric boats with PV solar don’t have this problem.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsResearchers Propose Floating Microgrids Made up of Electric Boats

Next Generation UK Battery Storage Research Receives US$68 Million Boost

on September 6, 2019

A £55 million (US$67.8 million) fund has been earmarked for five projects in the UK looking at developing the next generation of battery storage technology.

The government-led Faraday Institution has allocated the funding to five consortium-led projects with the aim of overcoming battery challenges, in particular by improving performance and cost characteristics. The projects will look at chemistries, systems and manufacturing methods of batteries used for grid storage, electric vehicles and other applications.

The projects are expected to run over a four-year period, split into four focus categories:

Next generation lithium-ion cathodes

Two projects will explore this focus. The first, dubbed FutureCat, is being led by the University of Sheffield. It is looking to deliver cathodes that hold more charge and are better suited to withstanding prolonged cycling, as well as promote ion mobility. This would increase the durability of the battery and the range and acceleration of an electric vehicle.

The second project, CATMAT, is to be led by the University of Bath, with the intention of discovering novel cathode materials, scaling up the synthesis of the most promising materials and assimilating them into fully integrated battery cells to demonstrate performance.

Lithium-sulfur technology

UCL is to lead this project, which aims to enable “rapid” improvements in lithium-sulfur technology, which it says could take batteries beyond the “inherent limitations” of lithium-ion, which is the current dominant chemistry in electric vehicle batteries.

Next generation sodium ion

Led by the University of St Andrews, this project aims to accelerate the development of sodium ion batteries and put a safe sodium ion battery with high performance, low cost and a long cycle life onto the path to commercialisation.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsNext Generation UK Battery Storage Research Receives US$68 Million Boost

Microgrids Made Easier — and Smarter — With Software That Uses Artificial Intelligence

on September 6, 2019

Good things don’t always come easily. Microgrids are no exception.

“The process of developing microgrids can be costly. It begins with a feasibility study reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars, even before any design, procurement and installation,” said Kay Aikin, CEO of US-based Introspective Systems.”Moreover, those feasibility studies are filled with disclaimers, and closing the gaps of uncertainty is crucial. Microgrid designs are unique, and therefore it is difficult to scale up the process of those studies without the use of technology.”

Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help. Aikin’s company, along with Israel-basesd Brightmerge, are incorporating both into a microgrid software platform that determines microgrid feasibility and creates optimal design specs and operational controls.

The partners have several pilot projects underway with the goal of bringing the software platform to alpha stage in the second quarter of 2020 and rolling out production systems in 2021.

One pilot project is moving forward faster — a solar-plus-storage microgrid on Maine’s Isle au Haut that’s due to break ground soon. “We’ll build the system over the next 2-1/2 months with the aim of having it up and running by mid-November,” Aikin said in an interview. The island is served by an aging undersea cable connected to the mainland 20 years past its useful life that could fail at any time.

Transactive energy and microgrids
The Introspective Systems-Brightmerge microgrid software development project is governed under a contract Introspective Systems recently finalized with the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation. Its unit, BIRD Energy, has been awarding grant funding for projects proposed jointly by US and Israeli companies since November 2009.

Brightmerge and Introspective Systems won a grant in December 2018 to develop and test dynamic grid pricing with edge load responsive device control. The grant was part of $6 million in funding BIRD Energy awarded to seven projects to be carried out jointly by Israeli and US organizations.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsMicrogrids Made Easier — and Smarter — With Software That Uses Artificial Intelligence

The Lithium Glut Is Far From Over

on September 6, 2019

A few years ago, lithium producers started boosting production to anticipate the growing demand for the key battery metal for electric vehicles (EVs). For a few years, producers and investors enjoyed high lithium prices and miners expanded operations and opened new mines.

Then, production started to outpace demand as capacity and inventories grew, while demand growth for EVs has slowed as China cut subsidies for electric cars and its economic growth also slowed down amid an unpredictable trade war with the United States.

For several quarters, lithium prices have been falling and they are now more than half of what they were at their peak price back in 2017.

Analysts expect lithium prices to continue to fall in the near term, with recovery likely only in a few years’ time.

Yet, the price rout in lithium prices doesn’t necessarily mean that battery pack prices for EVs will become significantly cheaper.

“Overhead costs for producing an EV battery are still large and economies of scale have not yet been established meaning that the price of the raw materials used in a battery has a limited impact on the overall price of the battery,” Marcel Goldenberg, manager for metals and derivatives at S&P Global Platts, told Andy Critchlow, head of news in EMEA for S&P Global Platts, in a blog post.

According to Goldenberg, the EV growth rate will start catching up with lithium supply growth early next decade.

Until then, lithium prices are seen further falling and challenging the fortunes of the world’s biggest lithium mining companies.

Over the past 15 months, spot lithium prices have halved, and analysts and industry reports point toward a much lower floor for lithium.

Morgan Stanley sees lithium carbonate prices from South America dropping by 30 percent from now to US$7,500 per ton by 2025.

According to the investment bank, global economic slowdown and lower Chinese EV subsidies could delay investments in infrastructure necessary for EVs to pick up growth rate and expand market share.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThe Lithium Glut Is Far From Over

Ontario IESO Launches Its First-Ever Local Electricity Market

on September 5, 2019

The Regional Municipality of York, Southern Ontario, Canada, will be the proving ground for a local electricity market, aimed at helping integrate distributed energy resources (DERs) into the grid.

Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), is set to launch a demonstration of how solar panels, energy storage and customer-sited demand side response (DSR) connected to the distribution network can be used to drive down costs of the IESO’s transmission operations.

The IESO said just before the end of August that it will launch the project, which will in part help the network to “find affordable alternatives to building new transmission infrastructure,” as well as hopefully creating a competitive marketplace to help bring down consumer costs. Ontario’s Alectra Utilities and the government ministry Natural Resources Canada are supporting the IESO on the project.

“When we’re out talking to communities, one common theme we hear is a desire to have more choice in how their electricity needs are met,” Ontario IESO president of policy, engagement and innovation, Terry Young, said.

“This pilot will help us learn if we can enable that choice while also reducing costs for Ontarians.”

In common with similar, relatively small-scale trial and projects launched in Cornwall, England, in Australia and in Japan, the local electricity market seeks to leverage existing resources, for example by turning down customer demand for power from the grid through DSR or by storing energy in batteries generated from solar in the daytime to push into the grid at peak times.

“This project will help us better understand the potential of using distributed energy resources in place of traditional infrastructure by evaluating them in real-world applications,” Alectra Inc CEO and president Brian Bentz said.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsOntario IESO Launches Its First-Ever Local Electricity Market

Extreme Weather Is Driving The Energy Storage Boom

on September 5, 2019

Energy storage installations for homes and businesses — involving battery technology — are on the rise in areas where extreme weather threatens the electric power grid, such as flood-prone Houston, wildfire-stricken California and hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Energy storage installations for homes and businesses — involving battery technology — are on the rise in areas where extreme weather threatens the electric power grid, such as flood-prone Houston, wildfire-stricken California and hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

A sustained power outage can lead to serious consequences, such as loss of income and even death. Because of climate change, the frequency of these extreme weather events and outages will climb.

Traditionally, buildings would rely upon gas-powered diesel generators during outages. These generators have their own problems and do not necessarily help the electric grid become more resilient.

With recent technological changes, could batteries become the new generators?

Tracking sharp growth in the past year
Small-scale, so-called behind-the-meter energy storage accounted for 60% of battery capacity in the United States during the first quarter of this year.

Deployments grew 138% in the past year, driven in part by families and business leaders who are seeking resilience against power disruptions in our increasingly volatile climate.

When properly designed, electric energy storage can not only provide additional grid resilience, it can further minimize greenhouse gas and local air emissions compared with the conventional gas generators.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsExtreme Weather Is Driving The Energy Storage Boom