Irish ESB to Add 100 MWh of Fluence Storage to its Portfolio

on January 8, 2021

Irish state-owned utility Electricity Supply Board (ESB) has kicked off the year by signing a deal over two storage projects with a combined capacity of nearly 100 MWh. With the agreement, the utility enters the club of Irish utility-scale battery owners for the first time. The company said it would further expand its storage project portfolio in the future.

Ireland, which features significant wind capacity, has become a hotspot for grid-scale storage development in Europe. The country features 40% renewable energy capacity and it’s looking to increase that figure to 75% over the next years — a shift that requires significant battery storage capacity.

In this vein, ESB will develop a 60 MWh system in Dublin, and an additional 38 MWh storage system at the Aghada Generating Station in Cork. The aim is to provide storage capacity in times of high wind conditions and stability in low wind times. The Irish state utility is working with energy storage solution company Fluence and EPC service providers Powercomm Group and Kirby Group to realize the two projects.

“Fluence has extensive experience delivering energy storage for the Irish electric grid, from the country’s first battery energy storage project to the fastest system response time in the world,” said Paul McCusker, vice president of EMEA for Fluence. “We look forward to working with ESB on projects that will help Ireland meet its ambitious clean energy goals and provide a more flexible, reliable and sustainable power system.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsIrish ESB to Add 100 MWh of Fluence Storage to its Portfolio

World’s Largest Utility-Scale Battery Energy Storage System Now Online

on January 7, 2021

The Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility, the world’s largest utility-scale battery energy storage system, is now online. The 300 megawatts/1,200 megawatt-hours lithium-ion battery storage system is located on-site at Vistra’s Moss Landing Power Plant in Monterey County, California. Construction is already underway on Phase II, which will add an additional 100 MW/400 MWh to the facility by August 2021, bringing its total capacity to 400 MW/1,600 MWh.

Vistra, a power generation company that handled the project, says that, as the country transitions to a clean energy future, batteries will play a pivotal role and this project will serve as the model for utility-scale battery storage for years to come.

Phase 1 is housed inside the power plant’s refurbished former turbine building and spans the length of nearly three football fields. The system is made up of more than 4,500 stacked battery racks or cabinets, each containing 22 individual battery modules, which capture excess electricity from the grid, largely during high solar-output hours, and can release the power when energy demand is at its highest and solar electricity is declining, usually early morning and late afternoon.

Phases I and II of the Vistra Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility are backed up by long-term resource adequacy contracts with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsWorld’s Largest Utility-Scale Battery Energy Storage System Now Online

Gravity Energy Storage Will Show Its Potential in 2021

on January 7, 2021

Cranes are a familiar fixture of practically any city skyline, but one in the Swiss City of Ticino, near the Italian border, would stand out anywhere: It has six arms. This 110-meter-high starfish of the skyline isn’t intended for construction. It’s meant to prove that renewable energy can be stored by hefting heavy loads and dispatched by releasing them.

Energy Vault, the Swiss company that built the structure, has already begun a test program that will lead to its first commercial deployments in 2021. At least one competitor, Gravitricity, in Scotland, is nearing the same point. And there are at least two companies with similar ideas, New Energy Let’s Go and Gravity Power, that are searching for the funding to push forward.

To be sure, nearly all the world’s currently operational energy-storage facilities, which can generate a total of 174 gigawatts, rely on gravity. Pumped hydro storage, where water is pumped to a higher elevation and then run back through a turbine to generate electricity, has long dominated the energy-storage landscape. But pumped hydro requires some very specific geography—two big reservoirs of water at elevations with a vertical separation that’s large, but not too large. So building new sites is difficult.

Energy Vault, Gravity Power, and their competitors seek to use the same basic principle—lifting a mass and letting it drop—while making an energy-storage facility that can fit almost anywhere. At the same time they hope to best batteries—the new darling of renewable-energy storage—by offering lower long-term costs and fewer environmental issues.

In action, Energy Vault’s towers are constantly stacking and unstacking 35-metric-ton bricks arrayed in concentric rings. Bricks in an inner ring, for example, might be stacked up to store 35 megawatt-hours of energy. Then the system’s six arms would systematically disassemble it, lowering the bricks to build an outer ring and discharging energy in the process.

This joule-storing Jenga game can be complicated. To maintain a constant output, one block needs to be accelerating while another is decelerating. “That’s why we use six arms,” explains Robert Piconi, the company’s CEO and cofounder.

What’s more, the control system has to compensate for gusts of wind, the deflection of the crane as it picks up and sets down bricks, the elongation of the cable, pendulum effects, and more, he says.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsGravity Energy Storage Will Show Its Potential in 2021

10 Solar and Storage Trends for 2021

on January 7, 2021

Dave Barry said it best when summarizing 2020: “This was a year of nonstop awfulness, a year when we kept saying it couldn’t possibly get worse, and it always did. This was a year in which our only moments of genuine, unadulterated happiness were when we were able to buy toilet paper.“ 

Luckily for many companies in the solar and storage industry, our products and services were in high demand; from a revenue perspective, 2020 was not as bad as it could have been. As businesses and employees consider the long-term benefits of continued at-home working, the demand for inexpensive and reliable behind-the-meter energy supplies is likely to be even higher in 2021. And a favorable political environment will help. So here are my predictions for solar and storage for 2021. 

  1. All roof orientations are fair game for solar. Module efficiency has increased from about 13 percent to over 20 percent in the last 20 years. Coupled with the commensurate 10x price reduction, it now makes economic sense to install modules on all unshaded roof orientations. The days of ignoring northerly sloped rooftops are gone.
  2. Buildings will be designed to be carbon-negative. Higher module efficiencies mean that buildings under two stories in height can be designed to be carbon-negative, that is, generating more energy than they operationally consume. The percentage of rooftops covered with solar will increase as a result.
  3. Skill levels for solar and storage contractors will increase. The additional features and configuration options of an integrated solar and storage system require higher skill levels to implement. Gone are the days when installers only needed to connect a black, a red and a green wire to get a system to operate properly. Installers must be savvy with building electrical wiring, CAT 5/6 communication wiring, various wireless communications protocols, desktop and cellphone applications, and dozens of inverter/battery configuration options. Conventional electrical and roofing training is only a stepping stone for solar and storage installers.
  4. The module-level power electronics duopoly will continue. Inverters from SolarEdge (power optimizers) and Enphase (microinverters) have become the standard on over 75% of rooftop installations. Patent protection on these components, coupled with manufacturing scale and National Electric Code rapid shutdown requirements, have created a significant barrier to entry for competing products. Nevertheless, technology marches forward, so leaders must continue their innovation efforts to stay ahead.
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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants10 Solar and Storage Trends for 2021

From Oil Fields to Renewable Energy: Scaling Geothermal

on January 5, 2021

Geothermal energy is poised for a big breakout. While the technology has been around for some time — one could argue, if you look at naturally heated spas of the Romans and springs in Iceland, a very long time indeed — it’s never really been seen as a scalable part of the energy mix in the same way as solar and wind power.

The next few years will be critical in terms of development. The International Energy Agency predicts geothermal capacity growth of 3,600 to 4,500 megawatts globally through 2023. And a 2019 report from the U.S. Department of Energy projects that the share of electricity produced by geothermal plants could increase twenty-sixfold by 2050 — to the point where it would be responsible for 8.5. percent of all electricity generation in the country. 

As refinements in geothermal energy systems are developed, and as more reliance on renewable energy sources highlights the need for continuous production, geothermal power is ready to take the next leap forward. In particular, what’s known as “intermediate geothermal” holds a tremendous amount of promise and has been underdeveloped. Attention has focused on either shallow projects confined to individual homes or large-scale energy production at deeper — but hard to locate and develop — depths.

The promise of intermediate 

There are several types of geothermal energy. Shallow geothermal is usually found in individual homes and involves saving energy on heating and cooling by tapping into stable temperatures a few meters below the earth surface. Shallow projects also can involve simply making direct use of the heat as it escapes the surface in hot springs and volcanic vents. These are easy to build but difficult to scale. 

Direct energy production occurs at much deeper levels or in areas of active volcanism (or volcanic activity), where temperatures are above 200 degrees Celsius. Essentially, such a system drills down into solid rock; injects water through one well, intercepting natural fracture or pore systems or inducing fractures to let the water pass through; and then collects the heated water through another well. It’s an efficient and constant energy source, but it is technically complex, expensive. A lot of things need to come together to create the right environment for energy production. 

Intermediate scale geothermal systems tap into rock at temperatures from 80 to 150 degrees Celsius. This is not hot enough for direct electrical energy generation, but it is hot enough to use heat directly for district heating (as in the city of Munich) or to run a heat exchanger to produce cold air. This can be crucial in regions of the world where cooling is a major energy use and expense.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsFrom Oil Fields to Renewable Energy: Scaling Geothermal

Israel Could Arrive at 8GWh of Energy Storage ‘Well Before 2030 Goal’

on January 5, 2021

An auction for solar-plus-storage held in Israel by the country’s Electricity Authority (PUA) awarded 609MW of solar PV alongside 2.4GWh of energy storage.

The tender process concluded shortly before the end of 2020, awarding distribution grid-connected solar capacity paired with four hour duration energy storage at a clearing price of 17.45 Shekel cents per kilowatt-hour (US$0.0544/kWh). A total of 55 bids were received, from 10 companies, totalling 870MW of solar capacity – of which 33 bids from seven companies were accepted, totalling 608.95MW of solar energy and more than 2,400MWh of storage.

The Green Energy Association of Israel sent an English language press release (the PUA website has only listed in Hebrew thus far), noting that the PUA was able to carry on with the auction process despite disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. The auction followed a previous tender held in the summer months of 2020 for distribution-connected solar-plus-storage.

While the first tender saw 168MW of solar and 672MWh put Israel “on the map”, Michael Salomon, CEO at consultancy Clean Horizon told today, the massive award in the more recent auction puts Israel on trajectory to surpass the 2GW / 8GWh of energy storage it needs by 2030 to support a goal of sourcing 30% of its electricity from renewabled by 2030, requiring the deployment of 12GW of solar.

In a webinar hosted last November by this site together with Clean Horizon, head of PUA’s regulatory department Yossi Sokoler said that the 8GWh figure was not a deployment target as such, but the amount of storage that PUA had modelled as being necessary to support the renewable energy target.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsIsrael Could Arrive at 8GWh of Energy Storage ‘Well Before 2030 Goal’

Texas Support For Massive Transmission Boost For Renewables in Question

on January 5, 2021

Houston — The Electric Reliability Council of Texas must massively expand its transmission capacity to move West Texas renewable power to load centers in the eastern half of the state by 2035, a move aimed at accommodating fossil-fuel generation retirements, but experts differ on whether the state government would approve such spending.

ERCOT’s Long-Term System Assessment, mandated to be presented to the state legislature every two years, shows that under various scenarios, locational marginal prices by 2035 could range from less than $82/MWh to more than $125/MWh. The range depends on how much generation transitions to renewable resources, what renewable mandates are established, and how much battery storage becomes available.

Posted on the ERCOT website on Dec. 23, the LTSA identified 16 high-voltage projects that potentially may be needed by 2030 and two more by 2035. All but four are in the eastern half of the state, with the remainder in far West Texas.

The projects have a total estimated breakeven cost of $13.8 billion, which ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko said Jan. 4 is “the amount of capital expenditure that the analysis indicates could be supported based on the current economic planning criteria.”

In an email, Morris Greenberg, senior manager for North American power analytics at S&P Global Platts Analytics, said the estimated breakeven cost “represents the value of the upgrade (or what you would be willing to invest to build it).

“So, for example, taking the aggregate value $13 billion in the Current Trends case, this would produce levelized benefits of about $1 billion/year,” Greenberg said. “If the projects cost that amount or less, you would build them.”

Potential savings

Under a scenario with current trends – increased renewables, reduced fossil-fueled generation, continued moderate load growth – the 18 projects would save about $1.1 billion a year in production costs and $1.9 billion a year in congestion rent by the 2030 study year, according to the LTSA.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsTexas Support For Massive Transmission Boost For Renewables in Question

3 Things to Watch in Renewable Energy in 2021

on January 4, 2021

The renewable energy industry enjoyed a banner year in 2020. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global economy installed a record amount of new renewable capacity in 2020, primarily powered by surging demand in the U.S. and China. Overall, 90% of the new electricity generating capacity added in 2020 was renewable energy. 

And as good as 2020 was, 2021 could be an even stronger year for renewable energy. Here are three things investors should keep an eye on in the coming year.

1. A continued acceleration in renewable energy

While 2020 was a great year for renewable energy, the pandemic held it back slightly as the global economic slowdown caused some delays. For example, sales of solar panels and other components like inverters were below their pre-pandemic levels in the U.S. during the third quarter. 

But those headwinds should fade in 2021. Meanwhile, new tailwinds should grow stronger. For example, the IEA anticipates that the European Union and India will join the U.S. and China in accelerating their shift toward renewables in the coming year. This tailwind started picking up in the third quarter. Solar inverter maker SolarEdge Technologies (NASDAQ:SEDG) noted that its “third-quarter results reflect significant growth in Europe” as its “solar business outside the U.S. reached an all-time high.”

Add that to the U.S. solar market showing signs of returning to its pre-pandemic installation levels and emerging markets like India and China accelerating their renewable energy efforts, and 2021 looks like it will be another record year for renewables.  

2. The continued rise of solar plus storage

The cost of battery storage has fallen dramatically over the years. A decade ago, it cost between $71 to $81 per megawatt-hour (MWh) for a four-hour battery storage adder to a wind or solar energy project. But by 2020, the cost of adding a battery storage component had plummeted to between $6 to $12 per MWh. And it’s currently on track to fall to a range of $4 to $9 per MWh by 2022.

Because of the dramatic decline in costs, more projects will include battery storage in the future. Only 28% of the utility-scale solar projects built in 2019 had battery storage, but most projects developed in 2021 will likely feature it as companies like NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) want to supercharge the country’s battery storage capacity. In addition to including battery storage in newly developed projects, companies will likely also retrofit more existing ones with it in 2021. 

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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants3 Things to Watch in Renewable Energy in 2021

Fluence, the Energy Storage Systems Developer, is Now Worth Over $1 Billion After QIA Investment

on January 4, 2021

The Qatar Investment Authority  is investing $125 million into energy storage systems integrator and power management tech developer, Fluence, in a deal that will value the company at over $1 billion.

The joint venture between the American independent power producer, AES Corp. and the German industrial conglomerate Siemens,  was already worth $900 million prior to the transaction, according to Marek Wolek, the vice president of strategy and partnerships at Fluence.

With the new cash, Fluence will look to develop and acquire software and services that can expand the company’s offerings to its core clients among utilities and independent power project developers, Wolek said.

And it might not be too long before the company seeks additional liquidity from the public markets, Wolek said. He noted that the QIA is already backing the battery company QuantumScape,  which was acquired by a special purpose acquisition company in late November and whose shares have been on a meteoric rise ever since.

After the QIA investment, AES and Siemens will remain majority shareholders. Each will hold a 44% stake in the company after the investment.

“We believe the global problem of climate change can only be tackled by leveraging the combined capabilities of technologists and investors from around the world,” said Manuel Perez Dubuc, Fluence’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “We see  energy storage as the linchpin of a decarbonized grid and adding QIA to our international shareholder base will allow Fluence to innovate even faster and address the enormous global market for large-scale battery-based energy storage.” 

One of six founding members of the One Planet Sovereign Wealth Fund Initiative, QIA is a multibillion dollar investment vehicle that has significant stores of capital to continue its support of climate tech companies like Fluence.

Fluence has already deployed roughly five gigawatts of energy storage and management systems to a wide array of customers, according to Wolek.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsFluence, the Energy Storage Systems Developer, is Now Worth Over $1 Billion After QIA Investment

Is Lithium-Ion the Best Way to Power a Renewable Energy Future?

on January 4, 2021

Venture outside of Las Vegas and Reno and into the high desert, and you’ll see a whole lot of wide, open space. It’s mostly full of sagebrush and desert grasses. But, in the Silver Peak Range of central Nevada, something else is buried underneath the ancient volcanic rock: lithium.

The metallic element has been used for decades in everything from antidepressant medications to ceramics. Now it’s being harvested in massive quantities, primarily for electric vehicles.

Lithium-ion batteries are helping to pave the way toward a renewable energy future. The technology powers our laptops, smartphones and electric vehicles. But it’s also had its share of well-publicized safety issues. Some say it might not be the answer to our bigger energy needs.

“It poses additional risks because it stores more energy. The energy density of lithium-ion is higher than most other batteries,” said Andrew Klock of the National Fire Protection Association.

Klock said even with some famous lithium-ion battery explosions, he’s not that concerned about the safety of electric vehicles. That’s because EVs and other devices have battery management systems that alert users when something’s wrong.

“My Android the other day told me I’ve got too many apps open. It’s overheating. ‘Shut them down immediately,’ ” Klock said. “So that’s a good management system, right?”

For one battery cell, sure. But Donald Sadoway, professor of materials science and engineering at MIT, said it’s hard to keep large-scale systems, like those that store energy from solar or wind facilities, cool.

“The lithium ion requires safety measures to put in play, so that you don’t get thermal runaway, which could lead ultimately to fire,” Sadoway said.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsIs Lithium-Ion the Best Way to Power a Renewable Energy Future?