Is Energy Storage As Clean As We Think?

on February 21, 2020

Since the turn of the century, there has been a global explosion in the production of renewable power. According to the 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, global renewable energy production in 2000 was 218 Terawatt-hours (TWh). By 2018, that number had reached 2,480 TWh, with average annual growth over the past decade averaging 16 percent.

This rapid increase in renewable power has been driven by falling cost curves and aided by legislation directed at reducing air emissions like carbon dioxide. But it has also required utilities to accommodate this influx of intermittent renewable power.

Storing Power

Because renewable sources like wind and solar power can suddenly change output with little warning, the ability to store intermittent power has become more important. Historically, pumped hydroelectric energy storage (PHES) has been the primary type of grid-scale storage. PHES involves pumping water uphill to a reservoir, and then allowing that water to flow back downhill through a turbine as needed.

PHES still accounts for about 95 percent of all grid-scale storage, but that number has been falling in recent years as battery storage solutions have become more economical.

In December 2017, the largest battery storage system to date was connected to the grid in South Australia. The 100 megawatt (MW) Hornsdale Power Reserve was built by Tesla to back up the adjacent 315 MW Hornsdale wind farm.

That’s still only about 1/30th the capacity of the world’s largest PHES facility. However, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently reported that battery storage capacity has quadrupled in the past four years. A 409 MW solar battery storage project is expected to start up in Florida in 2021.

The Carbon Emission Footprint of Battery Storage

As battery storage applications grow, there has been increasing interest in the carbon emissions associated with those applications. Conventional power production emissions have been characterized for numerous sources of power, but there have been few studies to characterize emissions associated with battery usage in storage applications.

In order to do this, we can consider the Hornsdale Power Reserve as an example. It is powered with lithium-ion batteries. In order to do a life cycle assessment (LCA) of this project’s carbon dioxide emissions, we need to consider 1). Emissions associated with building the batteries; 2). Emissions associated with charging and discharging the batteries during normal operations; and 3). Emissions associated with recycling or disposing of the batteries.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsIs Energy Storage As Clean As We Think?

Energy Storage Opportunities

on February 21, 2020

More than 3.7 million electric vehicles (EVs) were sold worldwide over the past two years. That’s creating business opportunities for electrical contractors, many of which aren’t immediately obvious. One case in point involves electric utility-scale battery energy storage systems (BESS), which typically use the same lithium-ion (Li-ion) technology as EVs. As EV sales grow, so do Li-ion volumes. That helps send Li-ion technology down the cost curve, making BESS more attractive to more electric utilities.

“One of the largest drivers is the rapidly declining cost,” says Roger Lueken, a senior associate at The Brattle Group, which tracks the utility market. “We’ve seen double-digit percentage [declines] per year for battery packs for the past 10 years.”

The EV trend is also prompting electric utilities to look for new ways to keep up with demand. For example, a household with one or more EVs can use four to five times more electricity than homes without. BESS is one way to manage that demand, such as with batteries installed in or near neighborhoods with high concentrations of EVs. During the day, when most of those vehicles are elsewhere, solar or wind systems can charge the batteries. At night, they help shoulder the increased charging load.

“BESS also provides utilities with new flexibility to generate, control, and manage power within their grid,” says Clay Williams, project executive for energy/utilities at Pittsburgh-based Sargent Electric Co. “Many utilities are considering BESS to replace their peaker plants.

“Also, the utilities can dispatch the power, or have the grid operators dispatch the power, at times of peak demand, which will result in a higher price per kilowatt-hour being sold. The utilities may be able to obtain a more lucrative power purchase agreement.”

Finally, BESS is another option for serving customers in areas prone to outages. Take the example of a remote, six-home subdivision fed by a 20-mile-long distribution line that passes through an area where wildfires are common. A BESS could support a microgrid for those customers to ensure they have power when that line goes down. It also could eliminate the need for that line altogether.

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UK Government Seeks to Slam Shut Battery Storage Capacity Market Loophole

on February 20, 2020

New proposals from the UK government intend to slam shut a loophole that had allowed for battery storage projects in the country to access more favourable payments for their flexible capacity.

A consultation launched earlier this month by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) seeks to update a number of rules applicable to the country’s Capacity Market, which tenders for reserve capacity should the nation’s energy supply require it during winter periods.

Of particular interest to battery storage operators within the consultation is a clause which seeks to close a loophole in the rules which allowed battery storage projects to pre-qualify and bid for capacity contracts under the demand-side response (DSR) asset class which, courtesy of controversial de-rating factors applied to batteries in 2017, receive more favourable rates for the capacity they can provide.

BEIS and the UK’s energy regulator Ofgem introduced de-rating factors to the Capacity Market auction process in 2017, penalising storage technologies based on their nameplate duration. Capacity Market rules stipulate that applicants must be capable of responding to system stress events for four hours, and battery storage project capacities are de-rated based upon their duration.

Demand-side response applicants are not, however, de-rated in the same way, despite battery storage projects being capable of responding to stress events in much the same fashion – increasing or decreasing demand on the system by either charging or discharging.

A handful of battery storage projects successfully pre-qualified and landed capacity agreements within auctions held earlier this month, much to the ire of BEIS which considers such awards a threat to security of supply.

BEIS now intends to address the “unintended consequences” by preventing standalone storage units – defined as an energy storage unit which “primarily imports from (whilst charging) and exports to (whilst generating) the distribution network, rather than primarily providing supply to an on-site customer – from defining themselves as DSR.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUK Government Seeks to Slam Shut Battery Storage Capacity Market Loophole

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

Michigan Attorney General Says FERC Decision on Energy Storage Should Stand

on February 20, 2020

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is urging a federal appeals court to rule in favor of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a dispute over energy storage.

FERC said last year that energy storage companies can sell their stored electricity to the open market on the electric grid, just like a gas- or coal-burning plant can.

Nessel supports the FERC decision.

But the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners appealed, saying FERC was acting beyond its authority.

Jason Burwen is with the U.S. Energy Storage Association.

He says energy storage has the potential to reduce electricity costs for customers, because it increases competition, and he says energy storage can maximize renewable energy in cases where solar or wind create more energy than is needed at the time.

“Energy storage can bottle the sun and capture the wind for when you need it the most,” says Burwen. “That is going to be increasingly important as various parts of the country move to higher and higher levels of renewables.”

The utility commissioners group says FERC’s decision denies states the ability to fully manage energy storage resources.

The Michigan Public Service Commission is a member of the national utility commissioners group. A spokesman for MPSC said in an email, “The MPSC is supportive of addressing barriers to energy. The Commission prefers to work collaboratively with FERC to ensure the full value of storage can be captured and so that storage is fairly compensated for the unique service it provides.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsMichigan Attorney General Says FERC Decision on Energy Storage Should Stand

Can The U.S. Compete With China In The Energy Storage Race?

on February 19, 2020

Last year Oilprice reported that the energy storage industry was about to explode in China. We wrote that “China is set to become the single biggest energy storage market in the Asia Pacific region by 2024,” citing a Wood Mackenzie report that said China was in the midst of a global energy storage market takeover with “cumulative energy storage capacity projected to skyrocket from 489 megawatts (MW) or 843 megawatt-hours (MWh) in 2017 to 12.5 gigawatts (GW) or 32.1GWh in 2024.”

Wood Mackenzie also said in the same report, however, that the United States was not far behind, and that China and the United States were “set to dominate with over 54% of the market by 2024 shared between them.” And they were right. This week the Financial Times published an article that proclaims: “U.S. solar industry powers ahead as investors back batteries.”

The boom in the energy storage industry is extremely promising for the future of solar power in the United States and around the world, and for decarbonization of the global energy industry as a whole. While solar and wind power are extremely promising as efficient, economically viable and carbon-free forms of energy production, they have a major drawback–they’re variable. Depending on the weather daylight hours to supply essential energy to the grid is too much of a gamble to be able to switch over to wind and solar entirely–unless you can store excess energy and feed it back into the grid when it’s needed.

Now it’s energy storage’s time to shine. “Thanks to a wave of investment, solar farms across the US are increasingly being built with industrial-scale battery packs on site so that noontime surpluses can be stored for release in the evening hours when people come home to switch on lights, appliances and air conditioners,” reports the Financial Times. “Fund managers, power producers, utilities and energy-hungry tech companies are among those making big financial commitments to ‘solar-plus-storage’ projects, introducing a helpful cushion for America’s finely balanced electricity markets and easing the way for a sharp rise in renewable generation.”

And that solar storage capacity is set to keep on growing at quite a clip. Thanks to government policy supporting the growth of the sector and a whole lot of new capital, a 100% renewable energy sector is more feasible than ever. Last year an MIT research lab looked into this question: just what would it take for the U.S. to achieve an energy mix with 100 percent renewable energy? The answer was much cheaper energy storage.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsCan The U.S. Compete With China In The Energy Storage Race?

The Future Of Battery Energy Storage Is Upon Us

on February 19, 2020

Are you ready for the Energy Storage Grand Challenge?

It was announced in January by U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette and is a comprehensive program to accelerate the development of next-generation energy storage technologies that would position the U.S. as a global leader.

The goal of the program is to “create and sustain global leadership in energy storage utilization and exports, with a secure domestic manufacturing supply chain that is independent of foreign sources of critical materials, by 2030,” according to the department.

An example of what is envisioned by the program can be found in the Nevada desert, where the Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners’ $1 billion Gemini Solar project – a 690 megawatt solar-plus-battery project, just got approval from regulators. It will capture and store solar energy during the day from solar panels on 7,100 acres for use throughout Nevada in the early evenings. Gemini is believed to be one of the largest projects of its kind globally.

Battery storage up until 2020 was considered the future of energy. But in the last months of 2019 alone, eight major US battery storage projects advanced or signed contracts to sell energy from their facilities to major utilities signalling that the future of battery storage might be closer than originally expected.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, utility-scale battery energy storage capacity in the U.S. could more than double by 2022.

Lior Handelsman, founder of SolarEdge Technologies, a Israel-based energy storage and solar company, recently told Inframation that interest in commercial storage has increased tenfold in just a year.

“This growth is being driven by increasing electricity prices and grid instability,” he said. “Commercial business owners who are looking to improve their bottom lines are doing so by generating and storing their own energy.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThe Future Of Battery Energy Storage Is Upon Us

No ‘Honeymoon Period’ for Energy Storage Deals as Big Money Pours In

on February 19, 2020

NEW YORK — Big power plant developers are increasingly convinced they should be investing in battery projects in the United States. The challenge is finding investments that will pay off.

After years of promise, energy storage is finally on the cusp of blossoming into a multi-gigawatt annual market in the U.S. But the industry’s rapid takeoff means there may not be a “honeymoon period” for investors, like there was in the earlier days of wind and solar, developers say.

From PacifiCorp to NV Energy, a growing number of major American utilities are drawing up aggressive plans to add storage capacity. Even in deregulated power markets like Texas, the falling cost of batteries is rapidly opening new opportunities for storage.

Power plant developers like NextEra Energy Resources and Southern Power are moving quickly to take advantage of this new market, whose value is expected to surge tenfold from 2018 to 2023, to $5 billion annually, according to Wood Mackenzie.

Southern Power, the independent generation arm of utility Southern Company, has “shied away” from large-scale solar projects in recent years due to questionable returns, said Phillip Adams, development services manager.

But the company continues to spend half a billion dollars a year investing in new wind farms, and it owns more than 3 gigawatts of renewables capacity. Last summer, Southern Power formed a partnership with battery developer esVolta that could see it investing in four California storage projects totaling up to 86 megawatts/345 megawatt-hours.

“What I’m really excited about right now is energy storage,” said Adams, speaking onstage last week at S&P’s Power and Gas M&A Symposium in New York.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsNo ‘Honeymoon Period’ for Energy Storage Deals as Big Money Pours In

Shell Signs PPA With Largest Storage Battery In Europe

on February 18, 2020

In its continuing effort to rebrand itself as an energy company and not just another oil company, Shell has signed a power purchase agreement with the developers of what is being called “the largest battery in Europe,” even though it is located in the UK — a country that has rather rudely decided it wants nothing to do with its former colleagues on the Continent and wishes to chart its own course going forward.

According to Business Green, Shell has agreed to purchase the output of the 100 MW/100 MWh Minety power storage project in Wiltshire which is expected to be complete by the end of this year. It is comprised of two 50 MW batteries and is being developed by CNIC — China’s sovereign wealth fund — and China Huaneng Group, a utility company owned by the Chinese government.

“Projects like this will be vital for balancing the UK’s electricity demand and supply as wind and solar power play bigger roles in powering our lives,” said Shell Energy Europe vice president David Wells. “Batteries are uniquely suited to optimizing power supplies as the UK moves towards a net-zero carbon system.”

The electricity stored and traded by the Minety battery storage facility will be managed by Limejump, a UK grid technology firm acquired by Shell last year. Limejump operates the largest network of batteries in the UK, according to Business Green. Shell has also purchased German battery company sonnen and First Utility, a UK based electricity and broadband provider which it renamed Shell Energy.

According to UK energy regulator Ofgem, the typical UK household uses around 10 kilowatt-hours a day of electricity. If that is true (people in the UK seem to use that much energy just to brew tea every day), the Minety battery should provide enough electricity to power 10,000 homes for a full day. Or 40,000 homes for 6 hours. A megawatt-hour of electricity is a megawatt-hour of electricity and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsShell Signs PPA With Largest Storage Battery In Europe

Three Innovations To Upend The Energy Storage Market

on February 18, 2020

The battery craze isn’t really about batteries at all. It’s about something far grander than a battery, which is simply a conduit to a much bigger story.

Batteries are like the internet without Wifi.

The holy grail is energy storage.

And while perpetually bigger batteries themselves have emerged as the dominant solution to our energy storage needs, their reliance on rare earths elements and some metals that are controversially sourced, as well as the fact that their product life is quite limited, indicates they are simply a stop along the way to more creative innovations.

Already, there are several challenger solutions that have the potential to rise above the battery as the answer to our energy storage needs.


One of these solutions is gravity. Several companies across the world are using gravity for energy storage or rather, moving objects up and down to store and, respectively, release stored electricity.

One of these, Swiss-based Energy Vault, uses a six headed crane to lift bricks when renewable installations are producing electricity than can be consumed and drop them back down when demand for electricity outweighs supply. The idea may sound eccentric but kinetic energy, according to a Wall Street Journal report on these companies, is getting increasingly popular.

The idea draws on hydropower storage: that involves pushing water uphill and storing it until it is needed to power the turbines, when it is released downhill. On instead of water, these companies use gravity, essentially lifting and dropping heavy objects. Energy Vault uses bricks and says 20 brick towers could power up to 40,000 households for a period of 24 hours.
Related: Oil Suppliers Slash Prices To Save Asian Market Share

Another company, in the UK, lifts and drops weights in abandoned mine shafts.

Gravitricity, which last year ran a crowdfunding campaign that raised $978,000 (750,000 pounds), is using abandoned shafts to raise and lower weights of between 500 and 5,000 tons with a system of winches. According to the company, the system could be configured for between 1 and 20 MW peak capacity. The duration of power supply, however, is even more limited than Energy Vault’s, at 15 minutes to 8 hours.

The duration of power supply is an important issue. When the wind dies down and the sky is overcast, this could last more than a day as evidenced by the wind drought in the UK two years ago, when wind turbines were forced to idle for a week.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThree Innovations To Upend The Energy Storage Market