Is 2016 The Turning Point For Energy Storage?

Michael McDonald for  In the future, when investors look back at the year that represented the turning point for clean energy, 2016 may be it. The industry overall is growing at a breath-taking pace, but perhaps not for the reason that some investors think. Energy storage rather than solar power and wind power are the real factors that are driving a revolution across the electrical power industry.

Energy storage changes the equation, not only in the renewables space, but in the conventional utility space as well. The concepts of spin/non-spin reserve costs, peaker prices, and a variety of other conventional concerns for utilities, lose meaning in the context of efficient and cost-effective energy storage. While energy storage was available previously, it’s only today that costs are coming down substantially. Tesla’s economies of scale on battery storage are well-known, but small start-ups like Orison are finding ways to lower costs in innovative ways as well. The graphic below from a recent EPRI presentation highlights the role that multiple layers of costs savings can play in creating economical battery storage.  Cont'd...

Siemens unveils new hot rocks energy storage system

Jocelyn Timperley for BusinessGreen:  A new energy storage technology currently under development by Siemens is set to see excess wind energy converted to heat rocks, allowing the energy to be stored using an insulated cover.

The system consists of a fan that uses an electrically-heated air flow to heat the stones to high temperatures, with the thermal energy then converted back to electricity when needed using a steam turbine.

The simple principle of the set-up promises to deliver a low-cost way of storing energy, Siemens said, with the only limit to the concept being the space required for the rock-filled insulated container.  Cont'd...

New solar panel integrates battery storage, inverter, and smart software into a single unit

Derek Markham for TreeHugger:  This startup is reinventing the solar panel, and aims to cut the cost of integrating clean power and energy storage to homes by half.

Home solar has the potential to reduce, and even eliminate, electricity costs for many people, but even with the rapid advancements we're seeing in solar technology, there are still weak points that can be addressed and overcome, such as energy storage and 'smart' home integration. But a newcomer to the residential solar scene believes it has the answer, in the form of a standalone solar and battery unit which can be used singly or connected in an array, and which may be able to lower the overall costs considerably.

SunCulture's SolPad solar device integrates solid state batteries directly into the solar panels themselves, offering its users the ability to not only generate their own clean electricity, but to also store if for use after dark or during peak demand times, when electricity costs are higher. The SolPad units also incorporate an inverter, which converts the electricity from the DC generated and stored by the device to the AC required by most household appliances, and includes "intelligent software" that communicates with both the users and with their home's systems, allowing for granular control over which rooms or devices will receive the solar power.  Cont'd...

Full Press Release:

Tesla Wins Large Contract with Utility for Energy Storage

Jon LeSage for HybridCars:  Tesla’s energy storage division just won a very large contract with a major California utility to stabilize power outages.

While the acquisition cost hasn’t been announced, Tesla Energy will supply 20 megawatts of energy storage to Southern California Edison – enough to power about 2,500 homes for a full day. It’s part of SCE’s efforts to prevent blackouts by fossil-fuel electricity generation with lithium-ion batteries. Investment in Tesla’s product, called Powerpacks, is thought to be worth tens of millions of dollars, and is expected to be operational by the end of this year.

The deal ties into Tesla’s plans to broaden its base beyond manufacturing and selling electric cars, similar to its recent investment in SolarCity. It also signifies advancements being made in energy storage, which is reaching a much faster pace – months instead of years, according to an analyst.  Cont'd...

SunPower Embraces Drones and Robots to Help Evolve Its Solar Farms

Katie Fehrenbacher for Fortune:  Solar panel maker and farm developer SunPower is embracing the latest in computing technology to help lower the cost of its solar panel farms while minimizing the impact that the farms have on land.

The Richmond, Calif.-based company on Tuesday announced an array of new technology that it’s using to design, build, operate, and monitor big solar panel farms that are built to sell energy to utilities and large companies.  Cont'd...

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New technology puts solar power to work all night long

ScienceDaily:  Energy storage is crucial for taking full advantage of solar power, which otherwise suffers interruptions from cloudy skies and nightfall. In the past few years, concentrating solar power plants have begun producing additional electricity at night and during peak demand periods by using stored heat energy to propel a steam turbine.

Current thermal energy storage systems rely on materials that store less energy per kilogram, requiring more material at a greater cost to meet energy storage requirements.

Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Argonne National Laboratory have designed an inexpensive thermal energy storage system that will be significantly smaller and perform more than 20 times better than current thermal systems.  Cont'd...

Making waves: Shetland tidal power breakthrough is another world first for Scotland

Martin Hannan for The National:  HOUSEHOLDERS on the Shetland Isles were not aware of it, but when they plugged in their kettles recently, they were sharing in a bit of history.

For the Shetland Tidal Array at Bluemull Sound, installed by Nova Innovation of Edinburgh, has become the world’s first tidal power array to be connected to a grid and deliver power on a commercial basis – to dozens of homes on the islands.

The achievement has been hailed by environmentalists and the renewable industry as a turning point in the development of marine power.

Nova had shown its technology could work with a single turbine which generated electricity in March. But the installation of second turbine that is also working to the grid proves that large tidal power arrays can and do work. Commercially viable tidal power is seen as something of a Holy Grail by the industry, since it is one of the few renewable energy sources that is entirely predictable – as one industry source once put it: “there will be tidal power available as long as the moon is in the sky”.  Cont'd...

'Ideal' energy storage material for electric vehicles developed

Walt Mills for  The energy-storage goal of a polymer dielectric material with high energy density, high power density and excellent charge-discharge efficiency for electric and hybrid vehicle use has been achieved by a team of Penn State materials scientists. The key is a unique three-dimensional sandwich-like structure that protects the dense electric field in the polymer/ceramic composite from dielectric breakdown. Their results are published today (Aug. 22) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"Polymers are ideal for energy storage for transportation due to their light weight, scalability and high dielectric strength," says Qing Wang, professor of materials science and engineering and the team leader. "However, the existing commercial polymer used in hybrid and electric vehicles, called BOPP, cannot stand up to the high operating temperatures without considerable additional cooling equipment. This adds to the weight and expense of the vehicles."  Cont'd...

US Energy Dept says "holy grail" of clean energy storage is imminent


Cat Distasio for inhabitat:  Many countries are on the brink of becoming self-sufficient in their clean energy production, thanks to advances in battery technology that allow electricity from renewable sources to be stored and used on demand. Over the years, as renewable energy generation methods have charged forward, utility companies have struggled with how to integrate that clean energy in usable ways. Now, scientists at Harvard, MIT, Stanford, the Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge labs, and other agencies are working on energy storage projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, with their sights set on what the department calls the ‘holy grail’ of energy policy. The department says the industry could be transformed in as little as five to ten years.

Earlier this year, Advanced Research Projects-Energy (ARPA-E), the division of the U.S. Department of Energy founded in 2009 to oversee these projects, claimed to have achieved that goal. Without pointing to a specific invention or discovery, ARPA-E insists that the solution lies amid the 75 projects the agency is funding. The breakthrough technology—the next generation of renewable energystorage—is expected to be developed for large-scale usage in as little as five to ten years.  Cont'd...

Audi converts potholes to power with new eROT system

JAKE LINGEMAN for AutoWeek:  Aim for those bumps; save the planet.  Audi is working on a new suspension system called eROT (electromechanical rotary damper) that turns the kinetic energy of damper travel into usable, fuel-saving power.

“Every pothole, every bump, every curve induces kinetic energy in the car. Today’s dampers absorb this energy, which is lost in the form of heat,” said Dr. Stefan Knirsch, board member for technical development at Audi AG. “With the new electromechanical damper system in the 48-volt electrical system, we put this energy to use. It also presents us and our customers with entirely new possibilities for adjusting the suspension.”

The electromechanical dampers are arranged horizontally and feed electricity from the motion -- 100 to 150 watts on an average road during testing in Germany -- to a lithium-ion battery. A DC converter connects the 48-volt electrical subsystem to the 12-volt primary.  Cont'd...

Renewable energy storage revolutionised by flywheel device

Tereza Pultarova for Engineering & Technology Magazine:  A flywheel-based device invented by a Lancaster University student could help solve the renewable energy storage problem, offering a better alternative to battery technology.

The Flywheel Energy Store, designed by 21-year-old Abigail Carson, retains energy kinetically in a levitating floating mass. The flywheel, about the size of a football, doesn’t require any additional control mechanisms, inputs or maintenance.

“The global energy crisis is the biggest and most urgent problem that needs addressing,” said Carson, who is awaiting a patent for the device. “The Flywheel Energy Store can be used for a vast range of applications – most significantly in providing energy security and independence for everyone globally, but also including eliminating waste in power networks, pumping water to villages and allowing for cleaner cooking and heating in developing countries, instant charging of electric vehicles, and off-grid energy storage.”

Carson’s flywheel can rotate at up to 144,000 revolutions per minute (rpm). The majority of existing flywheel designs usually achieve a maximum of around 60,000rpm.  Cont'd...

Tesla Lowers Bid, Agrees to Pay $2.6 Billion for SolarCity

Chris Martin for Bloomberg Technology:  Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors Inc. reached an agreement to buy SolarCity Corp. for $2.6 billion, about $300 million less than an initial proposal criticized as a “bailout” for the solar company in which he’s the largest shareholder.
SolarCity investors will receive $25.37 a share in stock under the agreement, according to a statement Monday. Musk initially offered $26.50 to $28.50 a share in Tesla stock. Analysts have said in the past that the bid was too low and investors have questioned the wisdom of Musk combining his electric-car maker with the clean-energy company.  The deal, which allows SolarCity to solicit competing takeover offers through Sept. 14, will now go to the shareholders of the companies for approval.   Cont'd...  

Molten storage and thermophotovoltaics offer new solar power pathway

Georgia Institute of Technology:  New computer modeling suggests that high temperature TPV conversion -- which captures infrared radiation from very hot surfaces -- could one day rival combined-cycle turbine systems when combined with thermal storage using liquid metal at temperatures around 1,300 degrees Celsius. Advances in high-temperature components and improved system modeling, combined with the potential for conversion costs an order of magnitude lower than those of turbines, suggest that TPV could offer a pathway for efficiently storing and producing electrical power from solar thermal sources, a new study suggests.

The underlying technologies of high temperature storage and thermophotovoltaic conversion could also be used to produce grid-scale batteries able to rapidly supplement other power sources by storing heat for quick conversion to electricity. The research, supported by ARPA-E, was reported July 4 in the journal Energy and Environmental Science by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  Cont'd...

Energy Storage Would Get U.S. Tax Credits in Bipartisan Bill

Chris Martin for Bloomberg Politics:  Energy storage would gain access to the same tax incentives that helped make renewable energy the biggest new source of electricity in the U.S. last year under a bill introduced in the Senate.

Batteries like the lithium-ion ones in phones and electric vehicles would be eligible for the tax incentives when connected to the utility grid at homes and businesses under a bill introduced Tuesday by Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich from New Mexico. The bill has eight co-sponsors including Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, according to a statement.

Other energy storage technologies such as pumped hydroelectric power, flywheels and compressed air would also have access to the tax credits, modeled after incentives for the solar industry, which reimburse as much as 30 percent of installation costs.  Cont'd...

Intersolar and ees North America 2016 underway in San Francisco

Since its establishment in 2008, Intersolar North America has become the most attended solar event and the premier networking platform for the North American solar industry.'s special coverage report brings all the important headlines from this years event.

Visit the Intersolar North America website.

Click here for's Special Intersolar Newspage

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