Month: November 2019

ROUND-UP: Savion’s solar-plus-storage arm, Enphase pre-orders, Ingeteam & Pylontech compatibility

21 November: Savion launches US-facing solar-plus-storage development arm

Renewables developer Savion has launched a utility-scale solar-plus-storage project development firm in the US. Savion has assembled a veteran development team responsible for the construction of more than 8GW of solar and storage projects and brings backing from Macquarie’s Green Invest Group to the table.

The company is to target utilities, municipalities, corporate end users and landowners across the US, aiming to collaborate with them to bring forward utility-scale solar and storage projects.

Rob Freeman, chief executive at Savion, said the new business unit was a new chapter for the company, lauding Macquarie’s backing as having provided it with a “strong financial footing” to pursue new projects.

 

20 November: Enphase opens pre-orders for back-up power-enabled batteries

Enphase Energy is taking pre-orders for domestic battery storage systems based on its Ensemble energy management technology.

Enphase’s Encharge 3 and Encharge 10 systems can be installed alongside the Ensemble technology which provides homeowners with back-up power capabilities in the result of a power cut or other grid failure.

Enphase Energy president and CEO Badri Kothandaraman pointed to recent power outages in California triggered by wildfires and the disruption they have caused as placing more importance on back-up power capabilities.

Encharge pre-orders are available in the US only and are expected to ship from Q1 2020.

 

25 November: Ingeteam bybrid inverters meet Pylontech Powercube storage 

Ingeteam and Pylontech have proven the compatibility of the duo’s respective technologies.

Ingeteam’s hybrid Ingecon Sun Storage inverter and Pylontech’s Powercube and Force line of HV batteries have been proven to be compatible after the two companies tested and certified them at their respective research and development facilities.

Spain-based Ingeteam said the use of its inverter range allows for the connection of battery storage systems with a PV array within the same unit, helping to reduce overall system costs for domestic and C&I applications by eliminating the need for additional inverters on the PV side.

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Lockheed Martin locked onto 2020 flow battery launch

Defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin wants to be the first disruptive company of the flow battery era, with the expectation that its first devices will go into series production before the end of this year.

Energy-Storage.news met earlier this year with company VP for business development Dan Norton, who said that Lockheed Martin’s own coordination chemistry flow battery (CCFB) had neared the end of its development and test programme, which had gone “swimmingly and as planned”. The product has been some time in development, originally teased as expected to hit the market before the end of 2018, although this target was always understood to be flexible. 

“We begin serial production on our unit number 1 towards the end of the year and we’ll go for full launch in the market some time next year,” Norton said, in an interview taped at this year’s Solar Power International in late September but only cleared for publication approval later.

That in itself is an indication of Lockheed Martin’s focus. The flow batteries are being developed within Lockheed’s Missiles and Fire Control division, and Norton said that as an energy security asset, the technology and market is “the next logical progression” for the company.

While Lockheed has already launched GridStar lithium and seen successful deployments of over 100 units in North America, as the market moves from shorter to longer duration energy storage, Norton said, it identified a further opportunity.

“So we invested in (Sun Catalyx), a technology that’s a spinout of MIT, to create a co-ordinated compound chemistry flow battery, that is human- and environmentally-safe, that is balance-of-plant cost-effective and that is deployable worldwide,” Dan Norton said. 

Projects could be ‘multiple megawatts to hundreds of megawatts’

Long-duration flow batteries offer a potential to decouple energy and power, meaning that while they tend to cost more upfront than lithium-ion batteries, they can effectively scale up fairly easily, simply by increasing the capacity of the tanks the electrolyte is pumped through. While the small handful of flow battery companies already out there in the market tend to favour either vanadium or zinc bromine, Lockheed is keeping tight-lipped still on the makeup of the proprietary electrolyte its GridStar Flow products will use.

Norton was however, more explicit on the type of projects Lockheed Martin will be going after.

“[We’re] talking about applications being major grid-scale, multiple megawatts, to hundreds of megawatt-sized storage. We want to do larger projects: the economies of scale certainly work out better on larger projects.”

There’s to be some expansion of the market areas covered by the company’s lithium-ion battery energy storage outside of North America in the coming months, but Norton said that focusing on that market alone – where customers tend to be commercial and industrial (C&I) scale, from community microgrids to military installations, rather than utility or larger-scale – would be limiting.

“As we know, lithium-ion is really good and effective in the two to four hour range. It has its limitations as you lengthen out the time you need to store,” Norton said.

“And as the world is marching to renewables and the ability to generate when the sun shines or the wind blows and then the ability to dispense when it doesn’t, you need longer duration than two to four. So you need to be able to think eight, 10, 12 hour duration storages and that’s the beauty of our flow battery.”

Staking an early disruptive claim

A report recently out from Navigant Research identifies a number of ‘leaders’ of the early flow battery market, including CellCube, Sumitomo Electric, Vionx and others. The market has been notoriously tough going already, with earlier leading players such as Immergy and VIZN Energy already falling by the wayside – although fighting talk persists from the team behind US-based VIZN.

Dan Norton argues that Lockheed Martin’s operational scale and established name and reputation stand it in good stead to take on that market.

“There’s been a lot of concern over the ability to deliver from small or medium-sized companies working in this marketplace. All of our customers, when they come and talk to me about long duration say that our logo really matters, because they know when they put it in the field that it’s going to work every time, all of the time.”

Norton said that his customers “want to work with larger players with a reliable reputation”. Meanwhile, flow competitors RedT and Avalon Battery are hoping that a merger between their two vanadium redox flow energy storage technology and development companies will create a “global player” in the market.

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‘Interconnection rules for energy storage are a work in progress’, even in the US’ leading states

Even the US states leading in energy storage market development still have work to do when it comes to adopting the best and lowest-cost grid interconnection procedures, an expert in regulatory affairs at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), has said.

In an exclusive blog published this week on Energy-Storage.news, Sara Baldwin, the national group’s VP for regulatory affairs, wrote that while “interconnection procedures are the rules of the road for the grid,” at this stage, such rules vary hugely state by state.

“Without common rules and predictable processes, gridlock and costly projects can result. Alternatively, the adoption of statewide interconnection standards (i.e., rules that apply to all regulated utilities) that reflect well-vetted best practices can provide greater consistency across utilities and help streamline the grid connection process for all involved stakeholders,” Sara Baldwin wrote.

IREC produced its latest Model Interconnection Procedures in September this year, applicable nationally and designed to “reflect the latest evolution in best practices to facilitate higher penetrations of distributed energy resources (DERs) on the grid,” including wind, solar, electric vehicles and, of course, energy storage.

The 2019 edition provides a “necessary update” to the guide first published in 2005 and subsequently updated in 2009 and 2013, Baldwin said at the time it was released, aimed at informing stakeholders including utility regulators, industry professionals and policymakers.

While the new document includes an initial framework for the interconnection of energy storage systems, as outlined in the IREC expert’s blog, they remain very much a work in progress and “do not yet resolve every question around energy storage.”

“For example, they (the procedures) do not address how to screen those energy storage systems that may have some ‘inadvertent export’ for a very short duration in response to sudden customer load fluctuations,” Baldwin wrote.

“But as the interconnection of energy storage evolves in the coming years, best practices for how best to analyse their grid impacts will continue to emerge.”

Read Sara Baldwin of IREC’s blog for Energy-Storage.news, “Encouraging signs: interconnection rules in the age of distributed energy storage”, here.

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Encouraging signs: interconnection rules in the age of distributed energy storage

As US states work to address and enable the swift growth of distributed energy resources (DERs), including solar and energy storage, the issues surrounding their interconnection to the electric grid require close attention. 

Not only to maintain safety and reliability as new technologies connect to the grid, but also to provide a clear, transparent and efficient process for customers, developers and utilities
alike.

Interconnection procedures are the rules of the road for the grid. Without common rules and predictable processes, gridlock and costly projects can result. Alternatively, the adoption of statewide interconnection standards (i.e., rules that apply to all regulated utilities) that reflect well-vetted best practices can provide greater consistency across utilities and help streamline the grid connection process for all involved stakeholders. Interconnection rules are designed to handle current and anticipated growth of DERs, while also enabling more cost-effective and efficient clean energy projects.

In particular, interconnection standards can help states address the integration of newer technologies that are transforming the energy system, i.e., energy storage, solar-plus-storage, and smart inverters. Energy storage in particular requires more explicit provisions to address its unique flexibility and ability to operate differently based on different applications.

What’s so special about energy storage?

So, for example, energy storage is controllable in a way not typically seen with distributed generation, such as rooftop solar. Many energy storage systems can be designed with the capability to limit or prevent export onto the grid, which impacts how the system should be studied and interconnected to the grid.

In IREC’s recently released 2019 Model Interconnection Procedures, we take the first steps toward defining a clear interconnection process for energy storage systems to provide a useful starting point for states navigating these issues. By addressing the unique qualities of energy storage, the 2019 procedures create an initial framework for reviewing energy storage and verifying energy storage system capabilities.

IREC’s model procedures have been around since 2005 (with updates made in 2009 and 2013) and have served as a template for nearly all states that have adopted statewide interconnection standards. In addition to addressing energy storage, the 2019 edition provides other needed updates to reflect new best practices for interconnection.

However, the model procedures do not yet resolve every question around energy storage.

For example, they do not address how to screen those energy storage systems that may have some “inadvertent export” for a very short duration in response to sudden customer load fluctuations. But as the interconnection of energy storage evolves in the coming years, best practices for how best to analyse their grid impacts will continue to emerge.

Leading and lagging states alike may recognise that interconnection standards are a linchpin to the advent of a more modern grid, but they need assistance as they work toward the adoption of next generation best practices, especially to address the uniquely flexible and controllable nature of energy storage.

A growing number of states (such as Maryland and Nevada, most recently) are updating their outdated interconnection standards to more proactively address energy storage, which is creating a clearer path for this game-changing resource to play a bigger role going forward. Other states that have never had statewide standards are now beginning to examine and adopt interconnection rules. Arizona is one example of a state that had no statewide standards but in November adopted comprehensive interconnection rules that address energy storage.

Key questions for statewide interconnection procedures to address

Ideally, to clarify the process for all involved stakeholders, the questions below should be clearly addressed in statewide interconnection procedures:

APPLICABILITY & ELIGIBILITY

  • Does the state have interconnection standards that apply uniformly to all utilitieswithin the state’s jurisdiction?
  • Are the interconnection standards applicable to all projects or are there size or design limitations that may prevent state jurisdictional projects from having a clear path to interconnection?
  • What DERs are covered by the interconnection standards?
  • Is energy storage explicitly addressed, defined, and given a clear path to proceed through the interconnection review process?

SYSTEM SIZE & REVIEW PROCESS

  • What are the size limits for the different levels of review?
  • Is there an option to have expedited review process for small, inverter-based systems unlikely to trigger adverse system impacts? (e.g., under 25 kW)
  • Is there an option for a Fast Track review process for larger DERs (e.g., up to 5 MW) that utilises a set of technical screens to determine whether projects are unlikely to require system upgrades and/or negatively impact the safety and reliability of the grid?
  • What technical screens are applied for the Fast Track review process?
  • Is there a transparent Supplemental Review Process for interconnection applications that fail the Fast Track screens?

TIMELINES

  • Are both the utility and the interconnection customer meeting established timelines?
  • What methods, approaches and tools are in place to improve the timeliness of the interconnection process (e.g., electronic application submittal, tracking and
  • signatures)?
  • Is there an explicit process to clear projects from the interconnection queue if they do not progress?
  • Are there clear timelines for construction of upgrades or meter installs?

DISPUTE RESOLUTION

  • Is there a clear, efficient and fair dispute resolution process?

INFORMATION SHARING & TRANSPARENCY

  • Is there a Pre-Application report that allows DER customers to obtain (for a reasonable fee) basic information about their proposed point of interconnection prior to submitting a full interconnection application?
  • Is there a transparent reporting process and publication of the interconnection queue to allow customers and regulators to see how projects in the queue are progressing?

Let’s get on the right road!

As if all of these issues aren’t enough to consider, there are a number of interconnection related questions that states and utilities will need to address as a result of the adoption of the IEEE Standard 1547 TM -2018 for Interconnection and Interoperability of Distributed Energy Resources with Associated Electric Power Systems Interfaces. This voluntary, nationally applicable Standard by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) will transform how DERs interact with and function on the grid.

More specifically, the Standard requires DERs to be capable of providing specific grid support functionalities relating to voltage, frequency, communications and controls. Once widely utilised, these functionalities will enable higher penetration of DERs on the grid, while maintaining grid safety and reliability and providing new grid and consumer benefits.

Clearly defining DER settings in statewide interconnection rules will help increase efficiency, minimise confusion, and reduce costs.

States or utilities which have not yet adopted interconnection rules could begin the process today with IREC’s Model Interconnection Procedures in hand as a useful starting point that reflects best practices that will help ensure a more efficient and affordable process for all involved stakeholders, including customers adopting clean energy technologies.

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California deserves better than ‘draconian’ wildfire shutoffs, SimpliPhi CEO says

Power shutoffs affecting millions in California, enacted by utilities Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison to prevent wildfires and their spreading, are a “draconian” measure and don’t address the real problems, SimpliPhi Power CEO Catherine Von Burg has said.

PG&E has said that shutting off power to remote but grid-connected areas of California could go on for another decade. The company is currently facing the prospect of significant financial liability for some wildfires, while SCE has just reached a US$360 million settlement with cities and counties impacted by three fires and a mudflow.

Going forwards, its been widely reported that shut-offs have already occurred, lasting for days at a time in some cases and by now affecting well over a million people in the state. Numerous providers of energy storage and solar equipment have stepped forward to claim that better distributed energy solutions could help homeowners and businesses in affected areas. 

One of those companies, SimpliPhi, is known for having emerged from the off-grid sector (setting up power solutions for Hollywood filming locations, in fact) and touts the safety of its lithium iron phosphate systems at various scales from residential to commercial.

“Shutting off power is tragically touted as the primary solution to avoiding fires. Yet fires started and spread despite the shutoffs, including the Maria fire in Ventura County, started when a shutoff transmission line was re-energised,” Von Burg said in a statement.

“The ‘Public Safety Power Shutoffs’ don’t provide long-term safety to Californians.”

Catherine Von Burg believes that California’s energy laws are antiquated, as are its regulations and infrastructure, an irony for the state often considered the nation’s leader in solar and now storage, as well as the home state to Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs and tech wizards.

“These draconian shutoffs, which PG&E says could last a decade, don’t even begin to address the innovation, decentralization and reform we need to protect our lives, communities and economy, and to achieve the state’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2045. We need to update our entire system of laws, incentives and regulations to provide real long-term safety and prosperity,” Von Burg said.

There has been some immediate response from the state, including an emergency revision to the California Self-Generation Incentive Programme (SGIP), which incentivises solar equipment purchases. The SimpliPhi CEO believes that utilities should be required to embrace renewable energy as well as “distributed, customer-sited energy generation and storage,” and that such systems can “protect Californians from the catastrophic damages we’ve seen,” adding that the systems will “more than pay for themselves.”

Suitable systems for the job

However, it’s worth considering what type of systems those Californians will want to deploy in their households. Typically, energy storage systems sold to households are not done so in the expectation of backing up large loads, or even for being off-grid for an extended period of time.

Greg Smith, technical training manager with Sonnen, recently posted a note on LinkedIn that said one of the lessons learned already post-PG&E shut-off was that customers should not be sold “undersized PV/Storage systems”.

Smith said that his golden rule is to “size the system to the loads, not to the homeowner’s budget”.

“I have had numerous conversations with installers who have irate homeowners with no power during the blackouts because their system was so undersized,” Smith wrote.

“Solar + storage is going to start really booming here in CA because of these outages and people are looking to us to help them. Generators are only good if they have enough fuel to run AND the gas stations are open during the power outage.”

Opportunity for startups

In addition to the likes of Sonnen, Enphase, Sunrun and Vivint (which has created a solar-plus-storagePPA specifically for California), several startups and relatively new names – at least internationally so – have come forward to tout the solutions to market in affected areas:

  • Mission Critical Energy, a turbine manufacturer, has developed and launched its Super Wind SW350 mobile wind turbine, that weighs just 11.5kg and is rated up to 350w. Military battery provider Ultralife Corporation has now tested and approved its URB range of lithium iron phosphate batteries for use in combination with the turbines, replacing the legacy use of lead acid for storing and discharging the wind turbines’ output. “The URB range far outstrips its lead-acid analogues, being rated for over five times as many full depth charge-discharge cycles as the best lead acid (SLAs) available. This effectively makes them five times as reliable, even before considering the increased charge density. The low internal impedance relative to SLAs also allows for heavy switching loads, such as inverters and high-power communications,” Ultralife Corporation applications engineering manager JD DiGiacomandrea said.

 

  • Startup BoxPower emailed Energy-Storage.news to confirm that it has experienced a “surge” in demand for its products in the wake of the PG&E shut-offs getting underway. BoxPower has created a modular microgrid design including solar and battery for backup power that it claims is packed into a shipping container for ready assembly, kind of like an “IKEA kit” (although presumably they come with more than just a few abstract diagrams for assembly instructions). BoxPower, which deployed one of its microgrids in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, claims that this makes for rapid installation. The company said there has been a “sharp increase in demand for our modular microgrid systems , from local and county emergency relief centres as well as off-grid residential, commercial and agriculture customers, looking for reliable solar + battery backup alternatives”. 

 

  • Neovolta, a manufacturer of lithium iron phosphate battery energy storage systems for home use, has had its systems added to the California Energy Commission’s approved list of ESS providers in October, joining SMA (which uses a variety of battery providers including LG Chem and BYD), and Sungrow which were added to that list back in August. 

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Vivint Solar swells revenue, installations and operating losses in Q3 2019

US residential solar installer Vivint Solar has posted a year-on-year increase in revenue, installations and operating losses for the three-month period spanning July to September.

In its quarterly earnings release, the firm revealed that its attributable net loss swelled from US$7.9 million recorded in Q3 2018 to US$13.8 million. Revenues increased 33% year-on-year, from US$77.8 million to US$103.8 million.

The Utah-headquartered company installed 65MW, a 20% increase on the same quarter last year, hitting 1,228MW of overall installations. It expects to install roughly the same amount of capacity in the final quarter of the year.

Two-thirds of Vivint Solar’s revenue in Q3 2019 was generated by customer agreements and sales whilst one third came from solar energy system and product sales.

In an earnings call with investors on Wednesday, CEO David Bywater said: “it has never been a better time to be at Vivint Solar.”

The company pegs its value at US$2.19 billion, up from US$1.93 billion in Q3 2018. The gross value per watt decreased from US$2.09 to US$1.98.

Baywater noted that the company was gaining traction with its storage offerings in Hawaii and California.

“Although the numbers of customers requesting storage is still low relative to our overall volume, we are seeing a significant increase in customer awareness and have doubled our storage installation sequentially from the second quarter,” he said. “Storage is becoming an increasing portion of our business and we believe it will be a material part next year as we expand our scope and efforts.”

A portion of Q3’s operating losses went to a “one-time expense,” broken up between sales and marketing and G&A (general and administrative) related to the settlement of a lawsuit in California, as Rob Kain, vice-president of investor relations, explained on the Wednesday’s earning call.

Vivint Solar hit headlines lately when it was accused by short-seller Marcus Aurelius Value of forging customer signatures on direct-to-home sales contracts. The firm rebutted the allegations, which hinge around 28 separate court cases across the US, when approached by PV Tech in late September.

A PV Tech analysis in August showed Vivint’s quarterly revenues have stayed above the US$60 million mark since Q2 2017, hitting the highest four-year value – US$90.8 million – in Q2 2019. In that quarter, the firm saw the highest year-on-year roll-out growth of a group of major US residential installers.

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Walmart withdraws lawsuit against Tesla over solar install fires

Walmart has called off a court campaign it had launched against Tesla three months ago, when it linked a string of store blazes to the latter’s alleged “gross negligence” with PV installs.

The US retail giant and Elon Musk’s outfit reached a truce this week after Walmart moved, in a filing released on 4 November, to withdraw the lawsuit it had entered before the New York County Supreme Court in August.

“Walmart’s Complaint is voluntarily discontinued without prejudice as to Defendant Tesla,” reads the new filing, published as both firms took to the media to declare a formal ceasefire after months of behind-the-scenes discussions.

“Walmart and Tesla are pleased to have resolved the issues raised by Walmart concerning the Tesla solar installations at Walmart stores,” the duo said in a joint statement, aired by CNBC and others. “Safety is a top priority for each company and with the concerns being addressed, we both look forward to a safe re-energization of our sustainable energy systems.”

The olive branch marks a defusing of a conflict that broke out when Walmart alleged Tesla’s “systemic, widespread failures” with solar installations and maintenance were the culprit of a raft of rooftop blazes over the past decade.

In its court filings of August, Walmart had described a timeline of fires across PV-equipped stores in the US between 2012 and 2018. The retail colossus had linked the incidents to, among other factors, Tesla’s alleged use of staff lacking “basic solar training and knowledge”.

Walmart’s strong-worded demands in the lawsuit – seeking damages from Tesla as well as a full removal of its solar installs – gave way to a more conciliatory tone only one week later, when both firms announced they were working to address “all issues” behind the store blazes.

For Tesla, the litigation reprieve follows the court defeat it experienced one month ago, when a US federal administrative judge ruled the firm repeatedly violated US labour laws by hindering the efforts of factory staff to unionise.

Over the summer, the Silicon Valley group also had to respond to reports by Bloomberg and others claiming e-commerce giant Amazon had also pinned a fire at one of its Californian warehouses in June 2018 on Tesla’s solar installs.

Prospects have brightened on the business front, however. Successive quarterly updates show Tesla’s PV installs bounced from 29MW in Q2 2019 – a record low for the firm – to 43MW in Q3 2019. Meanwhile, storage roll-out continues to hit new records, topping 477MWh in Q3 2019.

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