Category: 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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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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Japan’s Mitsui sells 679MW of solar and wind in Canada

Japanese trading corporation Mitsui & Co has sold its interest in a 679MW portfolio of operational Canadian wind and solar to Canadian infrastructure management firm Axium.

The C2C Power Wind & Solar Generation portfolio comprises 12 contracted plants across Canada with an enterprise value of CAD$1.9 billion (US$1.45 billion).

Mitsui’s renewables business, MIT Renewables Inc., offloaded its stake in the portfolio through a purchase and sale agreement with a new limited partnership led by one of the portfolio’s existing partners, Axium.

Engie Canada Inc is also invested in the portfolio, which includes contracted plants in Ontario and British Columbia that started operations between 2007 and 2014.

This transaction is expected to complete in March 2020 after regulatory approval and after honouring an agreement where existing shareholders are entitled to first refusal.

In a release, the Japanese firm said that the divestment was “strategic asset recycling” and that “strengthening of the financial base continues to be one of [Mitsui & Co’s] key initiatives.”

The Japanese conglomerate is invested in solar via its renewables business but also through its financial institutions.

In July, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, a subsidiary of Mitsui, agreed to upsize an existing loan in Jinko Solar from JPY5.3 billion (US$49 million) arranged in 2018 to JPY6.7 billion (US$62 million). In April, Canadian Solar subsidiary, Canadian Solar Projects K.K. expanded and renewed its credit facility with a syndicate of four finance leasing institutions led by Sumitomo Mitsui (SMFL) and in the same month, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank invested ¥14.2 billion (US$127 million) in a 36.4MW PV development by Sonnedix in Japan.

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DE Shaw buys 180MW project duo from First Solar in Utah

DE Shaw Renewable Investments has purchased two neighbouring PV projects in Utah contracted to provide power to Facebook from developer First Solar.

The projects, which have a combined capacity of 180MW, are expected to come online in the second and fourth quarters of 2020. They will power Facebook’s new Eagle Mountain data centre through a long term power purchase agreement (PPAs) signed with regional utility Rocky Mountain Power, a division PacifiCorp. The $100 million 970,000 square foot data centre is set to come online in central Utah next year.

Once powered up, the two plants will be operated by First Solar Energy Services.

The project duo is the fifth in a series of acquisitions DE Shaw has made from First Solar in the western US over the years, most recently the 100MW Willow Springs project in Kern County, California purchased in late 2018.

The Utah projects will be equipped with First Solar modules, and the firm said in a statement that a new module manufacturing plant in Ohio expected to open early next year will boost annual production of its proprietary ‘Series 6’ module technology to 5.4GW per year. This will make allegedly make the 20-year old solar firm “the largest solar manufacturer” in the US.

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Acciona buys 4GW of US solar and storage from Tenaska

Spanish renewables company Acciona has inked a deal to acquire 3GW of PV projects and 1GW of energy storage from US independent power producer Tenaska.

The deal includes 20 projects in the PJM Interconnection and Southwest Power Pool markets, spanning the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Acciona expects that eight projects, totalling 1.5GWp – or 1.2GW of rated power – to be in service by the end of 2023.

Tenaska’s development services arm, Tenaska Solar Ventures, will work alongside Acciona on project development.

The new solar plants will plump Acciona’s North American renewables portfolio, which is currently heavily weighted towards wind. The Spanish firm’s US solar activity is currently limited to a 64MW concentrated solar plant (CSP) in Las Vegas.

Rafael Esteban, Acciona’s North American energy division director, said that the new solar and storage capacity will give the company the “opportunity to increase our commitment to renewable energy and sustainability in the United States through photovoltaic and energy storage technology, after the investments we have already made in wind power.”

In a statement, Acciona said it counted 1,207MWp of solar capacity worldwide at the end of the first quarter of 2019.

Nebraska-based Tenaska is no stranger to inking megadeals. In November 2018, the Nebraska-based IPP signed an agreement with Swiss asset management company Capital Dynamics to develop 2GW of solar across the Midcontinent System Operator (MISO) market.

US solar prospects will take centre stage at Solar Media’s Solar & Storage Finance USA, to be held in New York on 29-30 October 2019.

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