Author: Energy Storage News

New York City’s biggest: Enel X connects grid-scale battery storage in Brooklyn

A 4.8MW / 16.4MWh battery energy storage system supporting the local grid of utility Con Edison in Brooklyn, New York, has begun operation through Enel X and global real estate firm Related Companies.

It’s not the biggest battery project so far in the state, which is newly embued with full-on low carbon energy transition policy ambition – the state wants to go use 100% renewable electricity by 2040 – and has an energy storage target of 3GW by 2030 to match.

That accolade currently is held by developer Key Capture Energy’s 20MW lithium-ion system supplied by NEC, which Energy-Storage.news took an in-depth look at back in September. While New York has long been discussed as a region of huge potential for energy storage, the market has been relatively slow to take off for reasons including a need for stringent safety regulations in the state’s many densely populated urban centres.

The 16.4MWh front-of-the-meter (FTM) battery energy storage system (BESS) deployed by Enel’s new energy spin-off Enel X is, however, the largest in New York City so far, Enel X said in a release today. Hosted by Related Companies at one of its properties in East New York, the batteries will help support Con Edison’s grid in times of peak demand. Con Edison said in July that it is seeking 300MW of energy storage of at least four hours duration.

Perhaps the more important ‘bigger picture’ aspect of the BESS’ switch on in Brooklyn, is that it is the latest piece of the feted Brooklyn-Queens Neighbourhood Program (aka Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management Program), which is an initiative designed to use demand response, energy efficiency and related technologies including BESS and virtual power plants via aggregated behind-the-meter (BTM) resources to relieve grid congestion in the area.

Investment in the programme, which since 2016 has also included 13MWh of storage from Green Charge (now ENGIE Storage) could potentially save big money on the need to upgrade transmission and distribution infrastructure. The programme already led to the deployment by Enel X of a solar-plus-storage microgrid at the Marcus Garvey Apartments. Meanwhile, Enel X claimed that the novel lease arrangement between Related Companies, Enel X and Con Edison could be widely replicated to help the state meet its clean energy goals.  

“New York is a complex, densely-populated market in continuous growth, which requires innovative technologies to address evolving energy challenges. Storage systems, like this one, are among the critical tools that can help take on these challenges, by increasing energy systems’ flexibility and stability,” Enel X chief, Francesco Venturini, said. 

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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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Arizona Public Service, Fluence to discuss safety at industry event in aftermath of ESS fire

While an investigation into a recent fire incident at one of its energy storage facilities remains ongoing, representatives of utility Arizona Public Service (APS) will appear onstage with technology provider Fluence to discuss fire safety at an upcoming event in California.

The organisers of Energy Storage North America (ESNA), which takes place 5 – 7 November at San Diego Convention Center, emailed Energy-Storage.news this week to announce that Fluence and APS will participate in a special keynote panel on “safety management in a fast-changing landscape”, with Ford Motor Company also taking part.

The fire at McMicken energy storage facility in Surprise, Arizona, caused injuries to a number of firefighters, some thought to be serious and potentially life-changing. The US national Energy Storage Association has said that it hoped “investigative outcomes from APS will inform our path forward as we continue to develop health and safety policies and standards.”

Other keynote addresses at the ESNA event will come from Lt Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis and Germany’s energy minister, Andreas Feicht, who will discuss the politics of transitioning the energy system to low-carbon sources.

“We are thrilled to be hosting such a diverse array of global energy storage leaders and market makers who are leading the charge in safely transitioning the stodgy North American grid to the twenty-first century decarbonised grid of the future,” Janice Lin, ESNA’s co-founder and chair, said of the event’s seventh annual edition.

Energy-Storage.news is proud to be a media partner to ESNA.

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Renewable, unstoppable: Five (and a bit) things we learned at #SPIcon 2019

Ok, my colleagues and family are bored of hearing how great Solar Power International / Energy Storage International was in Utah last week and indeed, of how welcoming Salt Lake City was to the 12,000+ renewable energy industry professionals and interested parties that attended. Here are my top takeaways from the show in order of narrative, if not in order of importance: 

1. The capacity factory – how and why tomorrow’s solar-plus-storage can be an equal on the grid to today’s fossil fuels 

Of the dozens of panel discussions taking place, perhaps the most animated involved some shouting and finger-pointing that occurred apparently almost as soon as this reporter left the room for another meeting.

In short, Alex Au, CTO of NEXTracker, came out fighting passionately for solar to find its rightful place on the grid. We caught up with Alex afterwards and he told us that, despite the huge success enjoyed by the industry, a solar power plant still isn’t considered the equal of a thermal generator by the utilities. PV plants, using technical solutions that rely on smarter system architecture and energy storage, could help solve the issue of curtailment that looms larger as shares of renewable energy on the grid increase rapidly.

Solar is still “just one small part of generation” that nonetheless gives the grid operators a headache in integrating, Au argues. Back in 2016, NEXTracker’s famous request for proposal “Decapitating the duck” looked at how to best use renewable energy to flatten the peaks of grid energy demand versus supply. It’s a problem the industry had seen for a long time coming before that too, Au told us. 

“It’s now almost 2020 and we have not done anything to build our plants differently to allow modification and future proofing of our power plants to meet and address constantly changing utility market needs,” Au said.

2. LFP vs NMC – reaction to safety fears provokes new turn in the discussion 

Well, it’s not a debate over which is better, so much as deciding which of the two main lithium-ion sub-chemistries is more suitable for your application, when it comes to lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries ‘versus’ nickel manganese cobalt (NMC).

That’s what we heard from a range of manufacturers: first-time exhibitors at the show included the likes of KORE Power, a US start-up which tapped a major Chinese 631 ratio NMC high power cell producer Duo-Flouride Chemicals, which had previously never exported before, to create large commercial and utility energy storage racks with 110.7kWh capacity in a standard 19” rack.

Conversely, another first-time SPI / ESI exhibitor was China’s CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited), which again, despite major status and high volume sales in China – primarily to the EV market – has not targeted the US or Europe markets heavily, until an industry show debut at Intersolar Europe in Munich this year.

CATL is a major player in e-mobility, but has now developed an LFP battery energy storage range of products that it plans to deploy at scale. We heard at the show that some utility requests for proposals (RFPs) in the US are appearing to stipulate the use of LFP rather than NMC or other cells, due to a perceived concern over the safety of deploying the latter in large systems. The company is set to go up against the likes of Eon Battery and SimpliPhi, two well-known domestic providers of LFP-based energy storage batteries and systems.

3. Energy storage-as-infrastructure – creating an asset class for the ‘workhorse’ of the grid 

We’ve heard all about energy storage as-a-service, primarily in the commercial space, where batteries are used to help business customers cut their running costs, or to enable more renewable energy use onsite.

For the really big stuff, it doesn’t make sense to work on merchant opportunities, or multiple contracted revenues: echoing the thoughts of many that we heard from at the Solar & Storage Live show in Birmingham, England last week, better recognition of the role energy storage could play as an infrastructure asset could be key to unlocking not just the whole benefit and usefulness of energy storage, but also unlock investment in the technology as an asset class.

Andy Tang at Wartsila told Energy-Storage.news at the Salt lake City show that the key to doing that in the US is to encourage and enable more and more utilities to consider energy storage in their long-term resource planning. That’s already starting to happen, but as we heard on a panel hosted by NREL, transparency, quality of data and proactive planning to capitalise on the benefits of distributed energy resources (DER) are also vital assistance that the industry can bring to the table.

Longer-term planning also potentially means more long-duration energy storage projects could be invested in. Proponents of vanadium flow batteries, for example, would argue that without degradation in the battery stack after even decades of use, it will be easier for investments to be justified to ratepayers and financiers alike, while the show was awash with numerous long-duration storage providers. In terms of which chemistries folks pointed out as promising, most said just one word: zinc.

4. #StorageITC – a market accelerator, not a market saviour 

An ITC (investment tax credit) for energy storage. I went along expecting this to be a real bone of contention, but it goes to show that you can’t really ever tell what you’ll find until you arrive.

The industry has advocated it for some time, because at present, energy storage equipment purchases can only qualify for the 30% tax credit if installed simultaneously with a solar system i.e. not even a retrofitted battery at an existing solar site would qualify and a standalone battery, no chance.

I get the sense, as an outsider looking into America, that the industry doesn’t want to ‘rock the boat’ by making aggressive demands for what could still – rightly or wrongly – be perceived as a handout or a major subsidy. So, I agreed to keep comments off the record, but in short, between five and 10 company representatives spoken to all said that they were supportive of an ITC for storage, that it would make sense and would be a fair way to help accelerate the industry in a manner analogous to how the ITC has supported solar.

However, and this is perhaps the most encouraging thing, no respondent said the ITC is in their view essential to the successful deployment of energy storage in the US, although desirable. That said, its establishment – which currently enjoys bi-partisan political support – could send positive signals to investors and create better certainty over the business case for storage in an increased number of applications and jurisdictions, while the likes of the US Energy Storage Association would perhaps argue that it could also help create domestic jobs and a sustainable industry ecosystem. 

5. Is software actually the single most important ‘component’?

There was a lot technology on show as usual and I’ve written about and tweeted a good few photos of interesting things we saw and heard about. The increased number of DC-coupled solutions promising to dramatically increase efficiency of solar-plus-storage would probably be the headline.

In a more general sense, however, there’s a real recognition of the role software has to play in the wider energy industry, as well as in specific energy storage-related applications. For instance, Pason Power, a previous E-S.n guest blog contributor, was there with its modelling software for project outcomes and contracts.

Meanwhile, Homer Energy, perhaps best known for its work with the micro- and off-grid space, demonstrated to us a software package that incorporates dozens of US utility rate tariffs, market and local data and then uses that to calculate how much individual businesses can save from peak shaving.

If it works effectively, software solutions like these have the potential to greatly reduce the risk perceived by investors, giving much greater transparency to all stakeholders. However, as we’ve seen in solar, the software and modelling will only be as good as the data available, and often it can take a while for that accuracy to filter into modelling.

Going forward, one company with a ‘corporate PPA matching solution’ software platform, LevelTen Energy, touted the use of its services to help corporate customers work with developers and offtakers to create ‘blended’ portfolios of PPAs. Company representatives told Energy-Storage.news that this has not impacted on the energy storage space yet, but could well do in the near future. 

…and finally:

Renewable, unstoppable

The SEIA produced a roadmap for solar PV to become 20% of US generation by 2030, which would’ve sounded like crazy science fiction not long ago, but certainly seems a darn sight more feasible today. Especially when you look at how the trade group has carefully broken down the milestones and markers to that goal.

As I mentioned on the latest edition of the Solar Media podcast, perhaps we were in a little bit of an industry bubble at the show itself, but we did not meet any people outside the show that expressed antipathy towards renewable energy, nor scepticism of climate change.

Indeed, one local that we met said that members of friends’ families have died from ‘black lung’ as a result of years working in coal mines and that this was not an uncommon story. Conversely, another local told us his friend had launched a solar developer business and was now able to support his extended family comfortably. For these people, the energy transition can’t come soon enough and it occurred to us that actually, for all the high-level pro-nuclear advocates and coal revivalists quoted in newspapers, there’s a huge base of ordinary people and workers around both industries keen to see what cleaner and safer alternatives might look like. While not many are prepared to put names to comments, we’ve also heard that many workers in the UK and all over the world would much rather figure out how to be a part of the new world being created before our very eyes than continue to watch their industries flail endlessly to keep nuclear and fossil fuels economically afloat. 

We also visited Soleil Lofts, a housing development not far from Utah’s ‘Silicon Slopes’, the metropolitan area around Salt Lake City that has attracted a growing number of tech workers in recent years. The project includes 17.1kWh of battery energy storage in each household, adding up to 12.6MWh in total, all supplied and fitted by Sonnen, alongside rooftop solar generation. As well as offering backup power, and allowing local utility Rocky Mountain Power to use the batteries as a virtual power plant (VPP) to balance the grid.

The whole community is therefore going to be electrified, with residents already moved in to some of the apartments. What I hadn’t realised before going there is that Salt Lake City sits in a huge bowl surrounded by mountains, meaning that despite the beautiful weather, air quality can be really bad. So the project’s apartments don’t just have an emotional or ‘eco’ appeal to customers, they also appeal to their general sense of well-being, offering a potential pathway to dramatically improving the quality of the air residents of Utah breathe every day. 

Bonus point:

Bifacial modules 

There was definitely a lot going under the ‘business as usual’ column for the solar folks at the show. While I was almost permanently called away on energy storage business, I did manage to speak afterwards with PV Tech’s founder, senior news editor Mark Osborne.

Mark told me that with at least 5% expected gains in the amount of power a ground-mounted solar farm can generate annually, bifacial PV modules (front and rear-side generation) is now a “no-brainer” for US utility-scale projects.

As we mentioned on this week’s podcast, there’s still a lot of discussion about what bifacial modules and their extra generation are worth, as – again – data from the field is still only just beginning to emerge.

The exclusion of bifacial modules from import tariffs has undoubtedly created a boom in demand in the US, Osborne said, although increasing panel sizes and weight, partly due to modules being mounted between panes of glass, mean that bifacial modules may not yet be optimum for use with many types of tracker, with the likes of LONGi’s HI-MO 4 modules utilising 166mm wafer / cell sizes.

However, according to the ‘Osborne Oracle’, shortages of glass from China at the required 2.5mm thickness could mean that bifacial cells with transparent backsheets could also gain in popularity of use.

This article has been amended from its original form to accurately reflect that NEXTracker’s ‘Decapitating the duck’ RFP came out in 2016, not 2012. 

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ROUNDUP: Ex-First Solar CEO’s VC group to invest in ESS, Batteries for missiles, Arizona fire laws

Ex-First Solar CEO Hughes’ new VC group joins the low-carbon race

30 September 2019: Former First Solar CEO Jim Hughes’ new investor group has entered the energy transition space, citing that it is “pursuing opportunities created by the global transition to a lower-carbon energy system,” with energy storage as a focal and entry point to the market.

EnCap Investments, a venture capital (VC) group in the North American independent energy and renewables sector, is seeking investments in power generation via wind, solar and inevitably natural gas, which it said will be “enhanced by the implementation of low-cost, proven battery storage systems”.

Hughes, who was also added to the board of directors at zinc battery energy storage company Eos Energy Storage back in 2016, is joined on the EnCap board by fellow First Solar former senior exec, Tim Rebhorn.

“Fossil fuels will continue to play an essential role in meeting global energy demand in the coming decades. However, renewable energy sources are poised for rapid growth. In fact, renewables are projected to be the fastest growing source of electricity generation in North America,” EnCap managing partner Doug Swanson said, adding that “we believe the market dynamics in renewables will present very exciting investment opportunities for our firm.”

Nickel-zinc batteries trialled to support US intercontinental ballistic missile facility

1 October 2019: The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) facility used by the US Air Force will be supported by a nickel-zinc battery system, supplied by ZAF Energy Systems.

ZAF claimed a “breakthrough in cycle life” for its “next generation” energy storage devices, which company president and CEO Randy Moore said could compete “with lithium-ion without the safety hazards in many applications,” back in May. 

ZAF emailed Energy-Storage.news this week to announce the award of a US$1.4 million contract to deploy nickel-zinc batteries to support the ICBM ground facility in a project set to run for 24 months and “expected to result in a prototype stationary energy storage system capable of powering the silo’s systems in the event of a power outage, and until stand.”

VP of engineering at ZAF, Eivind Listud, said that the nickel-zinc systems have a longer operational life than existing lead acid batteries in use at the facility, and can be “stored, without charging, for a very long time—as much as 20 years—without damage or the need for float charge.”

In related news, last week, Energy-Storage.news reported that a substation in Hungary will have its lead acid batteries replaced with Saft’s nickel battery systems. 

Arizona city fire depts change laws after battery incident – report

2 October 2019: Local news outlet AZ Central in Arizona has reported that the fire departments of three cities in the US state have enacted laws around the installation and building of battery storage facilities.

This comes in the wake of a fire in April that caused injuries to four firefighters at the McMicken battery facility in the service area of utility Arizona Public Service (APS). According to the AZ Central report, the cities of Phoenix, Peoria and Surprise “enacted laws that for the first time address how giant batteries are stored,” with another, Mesa, “considering doing the same.”

An investigation is currently ongoing. However, AZ Central reports that utilities “now need to notify cities” when building facilities, with permitting and inspection procedures in place. Installation laws meanwhile apply to residential, commercial and public buildings installing battery energy storage.

Fire officials told the AZ Central reporter that the laws will give first responders knowledge of where batteries are located and that the cities worked with the likes of New York City fire officials and used the International Fire Code as a starting point. Fire safety remains an important issue across the stationary energy storage space, with the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recently publishing a best practices and standards guide.

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GE’s systems selected for 100MWh of projects by developer Convergent

GE Renewable Energy, an arm of the US engineering giant, will supply 100MWh of battery energy storage systems (BESS) to three projects being developed by Convergent Energy + Power in California.

The three unnamed projects sit in a US state which has been prolific in its deployment of energy storage, as regular readers of this site will know. A recent contributed article from Strategen Consulting discusses many of the initiatives – including energy storage – which are being used to help integrate large shares of renewables onto the California grid.

Indeed, yesterday sister publication PV Tech reported on the acquisition of 80MW / 160MWh of energy storage in the state by East Bay Community Energy. That deal, which is combined with 225MW of solar PV generation, will see solar power exported at average prices of just US$22/MWh, a sum deemed “astoundingly low” by EBCE’s CEO Nick Chaset. 

GE Renewable Energy and Convergent also declined to state how the 100MWh will be distributed across the three systems, but a press release did explain the two main purposes for their deployment:

“First, they provide targeted local capacity to enhance grid reliability during peak periods,” GE Renewable Energy said.

“Second, as fast-acting stabilisation devices, the battery energy storage systems can charge and discharge rapidly to regulate frequency and contribute to grid stability, helping to balance and facilitate the ever-growing penetration of variable renewable energy.”

Convergent was recently bought out by investor Energy Capital Partners for “several hundred million” dollars. Convergent CEO Johannes Ritterhausen told Energy-Storage.news at the time that this would fuel significant expansion for the developer, which to date has typically worked on projects worth around US$2 million to US$25 million on large commercial and industrial sites. Ritterhausen said however that projects for utilities, particularly at distribution system level, also offer a big opportunity.

Meanwhile, with this deal, GE Renewable Energy will reach a total of 495MWh of battery energy storage already in operation or under construction. The company will also guarantee augmentation plans for battery cells and modules and has entered a long-term service agreement for the 100MWh supplied. 

Energport California systems will play into PJM’s merchant markets

It’s not the only large-scale energy storage announcement out of California in the past few days. Installation has also now begun on a 72MW / 72MWH BESS for an unnamed independent power producer’s (IPP) project by Energport, a US-based supplier of turnkey energy storage systems and management platforms.

Playing into the PJM Interconnection service area’s fast responding frequency regulation markets when fully commissioned by the end of 2019, the 72MWh is divided across two sites, using 36 separate 2MWh containerised energy storage systems based on lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery technology.

Energport said its systems met PJM’s Reg D performance score requirements. The company claims its LFP systems can “effectively handle a rigorous 24/7 operation with aggressive multiple daily cycling requirements” and come with built-in redundancy so that they can operate at full nameplate capacity.

Similar to statements recently accompanying project news and product launch news provided by rivals, Energport said its BESS Energy Management System uses smart algorithms for dispatch control of the batteries, thereby optimising performance and mitigating the degradation impacts on the battery cells.

The company claims it was able to assemble and ship the systems, including HVAC, power conversion system, fire suppression and other Balance of Plant component integration within four months of receiving its order. Energport has a strategic partnership in place with lithium-ion battery cell and pack producer Guoxuan High-Tech.

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