Month: March 2019

Florida utility plans world’s largest battery combined with solar

Major US utility Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is planning to build the world’s largest battery energy storage system adjacent to an existing solar power plant, with plans to roll out multiple other storage systems across the state.

With the key proposed battery standing at 409MW capacity, the Florida energy company claims it will be four times larger than the largest battery currently operating worldwide. Furthermore, the system will help reduce fossil fuel usage and thereby accelerate the decommissioning of two neighbouring, 1970s-era natural gas power units.

The FPL Manatee Energy Storage Center will be powered by an existing PV plant in Parrish, Manatee County, and capable of distributing 900MWh of electricity. It will start serving customers in 2021, with the batteries being used particularly during peak demand periods, thereby reducing the requirement for electricity from other power plants. It will be able to provide energy the equivalent of 329,000 homes for a period of two hours, saving FPL customers more than US$100 million in the process.

Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL, said: “This is a monumental milestone in realizing the full benefits of solar power and yet another example of how FPL is working hard to position Florida as the global gold standard for clean energy.”

The company has 18 solar power plants currently in operation and four more entering construction, but it is no stranger to solar-plus-storage, having opened the largest plant combining solar and storage at Babcock Ranch in Charlotte County in 2018, and the company is now also planning smaller battery installations and solar plants across the state. This, while carrying out efficiency upgrades to existing combustion turbines at other power plants, will help to replace 1,638MW of traditional generating capacity.

“Even as we aggressively execute on our plan to install 30 million solar panels by 2030, we never lose sight of finding innovative ways to bring our customers the benefits of solar energy, even when the sun’s not shining,” added Silagy. “Replacing a large, ageing fossil fuel plant with a mega battery that’s adjacent to a large solar plant is another world-first accomplishment.”

FPL’s two-decade-long modernisation programme has tended to involve replacing oil-based power plants with US-produced natural gas units. However, it is FPL’s increased knowledge of how to optimise solar and batteries as well as the new technologies’ rapidly declining costs, that is allowing FPL to take on these alternative technologies simultaneously.

“The way we generate, store, transport and use electricity is being reinvented. New technology, like large-scale battery storage, is a critical step on the path to a cleaner, cheaper and more efficient energy future. Achieving this outcome is critical to the well-being of our economy, our communities and our planet,” said Temperince Morgan, executive director of the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

FPL, which serves more than 10 million people, will also soon shut down its only remaining coal plant in Florida by the end of this year.

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BYD in Mexico: Chinese company signs 100MWh deal with investment fund

China’s BYD has signed a deal which could see up to 100MWh of its systems deployed in Mexico as part of a distributed energy and large-scale solar buildout by finance group Pireos Capital.

The battery, electric vehicle and stationary storage system manufacturer has signed a deal with Pireos for projects in the Latin American country. Pireos, an energy fund created to finance projects combining PV and energy storage systems (ESS), has a two-year plan in place to execute 240MW of distributed energy and large-scale solar projects for Mexico.

According to BYD, the pair is already in talks with potential engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) partners to deploy half of the 100MWh project capacity within the next 12 months. Pireos was only founded last year, although the company’s management claims more than two decades of experience of developing solar projects in 17 different countries. The company is seeking to foster investment opportunities in solar, storage and electric transportation, headquartered in Mexico City.

“We have created a specialised financial vehicle to finance the largest PV+ESS project pipeline in Mexico,” Pireos Capital CEO Manuel Vergara said.

BYD makes energy storage systems using lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries for residential and commercial through to large and utility-scale. A BYD press release said that the partnership will enable Pireos to offer integrated solar-plus-storage solutions with smart, software-driven integration capabilities in Mexico for the first time. BYD said this could mitigate the risks associated both with deploying new technologies such as lithium batteries for the grid and reducing the challenges posed by integrating battery systems from multiple vendors.

Navigant: Mexico open for energy storage business

The market for energy storage in Mexico appears to have been slow to develop, with few big announcements emerging since GE claimed in 2017 to that it was at the “very early stages” of developing large-scale storage systems in the country. Then, at the beginning of January this year, Navigant Research analyst Ricardo Rodriguez wrote in a company blog that the nascent battery storage sector in Mexico is now “open for business”, following the 2013 deregulation of the grid which ended a state-run monopoly for electricity supply.

“Although most investment to date has centred on the generation side, deregulation has also greatly expanded opportunities for battery storage,” Rodriguez wrote.

“While the most desired applications for battery storage are similar to those in the US market, including demand reduction, transmission upgrade deferral, peak capacity, and renewables integration, the underlying context for those needs differs in its details – primarily the result of geography.”

Areas of mountainous terrain and the need for extensive transmission system upgrades just to maintain the status quo of energy supply is putting a strain on transmission lines, for instance. Meanwhile, Mexico’s first large-scale battery, a 12MW/12MWh system at a car factory in Monterrey, was installed to ensure the reliability of power supply at that facility in the event of existing gas engines failing. Electricity prices for industry rose significantly in some parts of the country last year, providing a further opportunity for energy storage, Rodriguez highlighted.

BYD and Pireos did not specify which applications the former’s LFP systems will provide, but the battery company said they would be capable of providing a variety of business cases and services from transmission investment deferral, frequency regulation, peak shaving, emergency backup and load shifting to virtual power plants (VPP) and net-zero energy projects, such as housing complexes.

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AMS’ California VPP at ‘important milestone’ with 2GWh of grid services delivered

A contract with utility Southern California Edison (SCE) has led to Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) supplying 2GWh of grid services from just 60MWh of energy storage during 2018, with one analyst dubbing the feat an “impressive milestone”.

AMS CEO and founder Susan Kennedy was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff when the Terminator actor served as the ‘green’ Republican Governor of California. Her company has built up a portfolio of ‘Hybrid Electric Buildings’, deploying commercial energy storage systems at customer sites and helping them to reduce their energy bills, while also using the same Tesla battery systems to make money from grid services.

The California-based provider netted US$200m in project financing from Macquarie in 2016 and in 2017 raised another US$34m in a Series B investment round. Meanwhile, California investor-owned utility SCE awarded AMS a contract to help reduce peak demand in the LA Basin, through deploying a number of connected and aggregated battery storage systems nearby.

In 2018, 11MW / 60MWh of that virtual power plant became operational, the first phase of a project which is planned to eventually reach 62MW / 352MWh. Macquarie Capital owns the project, which AMS manages using its Armada software platform. In 2018 alone, the VPP delivered 2GWh of grid services, AMS said yesterday.

“As a whole it is a great milestone for the industry that links into the wider development of how distributed energy storage can provide critical grid services,” Julian Jansen, research and analysis manager for energy storage at I.H.S. Markit told

“AMS and other players in North America are leading the way in aggregating distributed energy storage to provide these type of services, whether it’s peaking capacity or other grid services that grid operators require to ensure the continuous security of [electricity] supply and an operational power grid as part of the wider transformation of the energy system.”

Last year Jansen’s team looked into the US commercial and industrial (C&I) energy storage space in detail, which we wrote about for this site and for our technical journal PV Tech POWER. Jansen said that while most competitors in AMS’ field are approaching slightly different market segments and using different business models, others are currently looking at projects – and commercial contracts – of this type in California and across the wider US.

AMS’ early successes are testament also to the assertion made in that analysis of the US C&I space that rather than hardware, leading players are focusing on the operational and software platform side of the technology. More so than hardware, Jansen said, “it’s really about creating energy solutions and utilising software to effectively aggregate and dispatch them to provide grid services.”

While the C&I systems allow businesses to cut energy costs by helping them reduce peak demand – and therefore the demand charges levied onto US industrial electric customers – the deployment of behind-the-meter storage systems for SCE has also leaned heavily on the grid services the batteries can also deliver to make the economics work in this case. AMS – and others – are effectively ‘value stacking’ (delivering multiple applications and value, often simultaneously), Jansen said.

“It’s a combination [of services] or a value stack in this case. In order to develop such a large portfolio of projects, the capacity contracts that they hold are crucial, but this is usually coupled with customer-sited benefits such as demand charge management.”  

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Residential flourishes and utility flounders in mixed 2018 for US PV

Tariff and policy uncertainty saw installations decline across US utility and non-residential PV last year even as the residential segment bounced back, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie.

The latest update from the trade body and the consultancy found a 7% year-on-year dip for US utility-scale PV installations in 2018.

The segment, the analysis found, produced the bulk (6.2GW) of PV-wide capacity additions (10.6GW) in the country last year but faltered under “disruption, delay and even cancellation” due to Section 201 tariffs.

Adopted last year, the US levies on module and cell imports prompted sponsors to postpone 2018 commercial launches to 2019, according to the SEIA and Wood Mackenzie. In the Carolinas, delays were compounded by a hold-up with interconnections under the PURPA programme.

For utility-scale PV, the flip side to the Section 201 tariffs was that module prices are falling faster than expected. This, the analysis pointed out, boosted competitiveness and helped drive the signing of 13.2GW of utility solar PPAs in 2018; the resulting, current contracted pipeline of 25.3GW marks an all-time record for US solar. 

PV in US power addition top two for sixth year running

According to the SEIA and Wood Mackenzie, the 10.6GW added across all PV subcategories in 2018 marks the sixth consecutive year where solar is amongst the US top two for power additions, together with natural gas.

Unlike utility solar, the residential segment reversed its decline throughout 2017 by recording in 2018 year-on-year installation growth of 7%. The steady pace of addition indicates the market is nearing its maturity point, the new analysis indicates.

According to the document, installations across California, Massachusetts and the other typical residential heavyweights are being fast overtaken by new-entrants including Texas and Florida.

Future residential growth can be fuelled by incentives and net metering – Nevada saw a 261% jump in 2018 after reinstating the policy – but could be hindered by high customer acquisition costs, the SEIA and Wood Mackenzie noted.

Their analysis found a slight decline – 8% – in non-residential installations of US PV in 2018. Massachusetts and California alone saw a joint 450MW dip last year, although the former (64% drop) bore the brunt to a greater extent than the latter (17%).

See here for more information on the US Solar Market Insight by the SEIA and Wood Mackenzie

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