24M's Batteries Could Better Harness Wind and Solar Power

Elizabeth Woyke for MIT Technology Review:  Lithium-ion batteries power everything from smartphones to electric vehicles. They’re well suited to the job because they are smaller and lighter, charge faster, and last longer than other batteries. But they are also complex and thus costly to make, which has stymied mass adoption of electric transportation and large-scale energy storage.
Yet-Ming Chiang thinks his startup 24M has the answer. The key is a semisolid electrode. In a conventional lithium--ion battery, many thin layers of electrodes are stacked or rolled together to produce a cell. “Lithium-ion batteries are the only product I know of besides baklava where you stack so many thin layers to build up volume,” says Chiang, who is a cofounder and chief scientist at 24M as well as a professor of materials science at MIT. “Our goal is to make a lithium-ion battery through the simplest process possible.”  Cont'd...
 

Electric Utilities Prepare for a Grid Dominated by Renewable Energy

Julia Pyper for GTM:  A growing number of electric industry leaders agree that it’s only a matter of time before renewable energy resources dominate their grid systems.

In California, it’s already a reality, said Steve Berberich, president and CEO of California Independent System Operator Corporation. On a typical day, CAISO will pull about 30,000 megawatts of energy production, with around 6,500 megawatts from solar, 5,000 megawatts from wind and another 5,000 from geothermal and other services on the system. In addition, California’s grid system has roughly 4,000 megawatts of behind-the-meter solar, which is growing at a rate of about 70 megawatts per month.

In any given day, California gets more than 30 percent its electricity from renewable energy. On many days that amount climbs to 40 percent, and on some days renewables reach 50 percent, said Berberich.

“Now we have to think about the system as a renewable energy-based system complemented by other things,” he said, speaking at the Edison Electric Institute’s annual convention this week in Chicago.  Cont'd...

Virtual Power Plants Get Around Solar Power's Intermittency Problem

Richard Martin for MIT Technology Review:  Attempting to harness the power of distributed rooftop solar installations to make its grid more flexible and reliable, New York utility Consolidated Edison is launching a pilot program this summer to link dozens of small solar arrays into a single, software-connected power plant. The utility is working with solar power developer SunPower and energy storage company Sunverge to create a “virtual power plant”—a network of distributed assets that functions as a unified resource on the grid.

The project will include 300 homes with a combined total of 1.8 megawatts of solar capacity and batteries that can store up to four megawatt-hours of electricity, enough to run 300 average U.S. households for about 10 hours.  Cont'd...

Energy Storage: It's About the Software

Carl Weinschenk for EnergyManagerToday:  Renewable initiatives rely on the ability to save the generated energy for a rainy – or windless – day. It follows that the software driving the pivotal task of managing the energy storage system is of paramount importance, says Gabe Schwartz, the Director of Marketing for Stem, which describes itself as an intelligent storage company that combines hardware and software storage platforms.

The core storage technology itself is important, of course. But the linchpin – the secret sauce – is the way in which that energy is handled once it is generated. “It is not a solar panel…where if the sun is shining you are in good shape,” Schwartz said. “It must shift use from one time to another knowing exactly when most valuable time to do that is and have the ability to act quickly when those opportunities present themselves both to the customer and the grid.”

The market for storage – and the software that drives it — is growing.  Cont'd...

The inventor of this solar-powered water filtration system wants to win the Nobel Peace Prize

Clinton Nguyen for Tech Insider:  Marco Attisani wants his company to be the first to win the Nobel Peace Prize. It's a lofty goal for a 10-person startup, but Attisani is sure that the solar-powered water filtration systemsthey're producing will earn a spot on the shortlist.

The filtration machines manufactured by Attisani's Italian company, Watly, are covered in photovoltaic panels that feed electricity into internal batteries. This allows the systems to be installed in the world's most remote locations, free of the need to connect to a power grid. The 40-foot-long, 15-ton units also serve as Wi-Fi hubs and charging stations. 

Each machine can process 5,000 liters of drinking water each day and provide Wi-Fi access within a half-mile radius, according to CNN . The team claims the units will last roughly 10 years before they require maintenance. 

Watly tested two units in its production facility in Talmassons, Italy in 2013 and 2014 before piloting a unit in rural Ghana in 2015. The company has also started an Indiegogo campaign to help fund an expansion into Sudan and Nigeria.   Cont'd...

Three takeaways from the national energy storage conference in Charlotte

John Downey for Charlotte Business Journal:  A Charlotte energy executive surveying the scene at the third day of the Energy Storage Association’s Annual Conference and Expo expressed satisfaction and a little surprise at the bustle and buzz the event produced.

On a large scale, the conference put top storage developers and vendors together with power producers and systems operators looking for sparks. But there were interesting stories on a smaller scale as well.  Here are a few of those quick shots:

WattJoule Develops Cost Breakthrough for Liquid Energy Storage

WattJoule Corporation, a developer of next-generation liquid electrical energy storage systems, has developed and built a new system demonstrating a major industry cost breakthrough. The new storage platform is called ElectriStor™ and will be offered to system integrators as the preferred core component for storing large amounts of solar and wind energy. 
One of the major barriers preventing the widespread adoption of large-scale energy storage has been cost. WattJoule has engineered the ElectriStor™ platform based on the redox flow battery concept where electricity is stored in a liquid. WattJoule's proprietary liquid electrolyte is mostly water, and the company has developed a new, inexpensive process to make it in large quantities. Early liquid energy storage systems have suffered from a number of technical and cost limitations. Recently there have been several technical breakthroughs to overcome these constraints. WattJoule has both developed and exclusively licensed key technologies that, in combination, dramatically lower energy storage costs to $150 per kilowatt-hour in its first-generation energy storage product.   Full Press Release:  
 

Two-thirds of US solar installers do not offer storage, study finds

Ian Clover for PV Magazine:  A study by EuPD Research shows just 34% of PV installers in the U.S. offer storage solutions to customers, with those reluctant to do so citing cost concerns. However, 26% that currently do not offer storage hope to include it in their portfolios this year.

For all the glitzy product launches by the likes of Tesla and Sonnen, the solar+storage landscape of the U.S. is still largely shaped by what leading installers are – or aren’t – prepared to offer to customers, and a recent survey has found that around two-thirds do not currently include storage technology in their product portfolio.

EuPD Research’s latest PV Installer Survey USA 2015/16 revealed that only one-third of installers already offer energy storage to homeowners or businesses in the U.S. looking to adopt solar power. Of the two-thirds that do not, 38% said that current pricing of batteries impedes demand, meaning margins are too low for installers and the "technological maturity" of the systems on the market is not currently convincing.

However, the mood does appear to be shifting in favor of storage, with 26% of survey participants saying they hope to add storage products to their portfolio at some stage in 2016.  Cont'd...

Could uphill train tracks solve the problem of energy storage?

James Murray for BusinessGreen:  is commonly regarded as a green form of travel, typically boasting lower levels of carbon emissions and air pollution than road transport, but could it also serve to deliver a cleaner and more resilient power grid?

That is the hope of innovative US start up Advanced Rail Energy Storage, LLC, which yesterday announces it has secured a crucial right-of-way lease from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to develop its planned 50MW gravity-based energy storage project.

The ARES Nevada project uses the same principles as pumped hydroelectric energy storage projects, but instead of relying on water in a water-stressed region it plans to make use of an inclined rail track and generator locomotive cars that will run along it.  Cont'd...

Tesla Discontinues 10-Kilowatt-Hour Powerwall Home Battery

Julia Pyper for GTM:  Tesla has quietly removed all references to its 10-kilowatt-hour residential battery from the Powerwall website, as well as the company’s press kit. The company's smaller battery designed for daily cycling is all that remains.

The change was initially made without explanation, which prompted industry insiders to speculate. Today, a Tesla representative confirmed the 10-kilowatt-hour option has been discontinued.

"We have seen enormous interest in the Daily Powerwall worldwide," according to an emailed statement to GTM. "The Daily Powerwall supports daily use applications like solar self-consumption plus backup power applications, and can offer backup simply by modifying the way it is installed in a home. Due to the interest, we have decided to focus entirely on building and deploying the 7-kilowatt-hour Daily Powerwall at this time."

The 10-kilowatt-hour option was marketed as a backup power supply capable of 500 cycles, at a price to installers of $3,500. Tesla was angling to sell the battery to consumers that want peace of mind in the event the grid goes down, like during another Superstorm Sandy. The problem is that the economics for a lithium-ion backup battery just aren’t that attractive.  Cont'd...

GE has figured out how to make solar power batteries using greenhouse gasses

Brad Reed for BGR:  We typically think of carbon dioxide as an unhealthy byproduct of our over reliance on fossil fuels. But what if CO2 could be used to help us move away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources? GE Global Research has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy to come up with a way to use excess carbon dioxide produced by power plants to store extra solar power and deliver it back to the grid for later use.

There are two major components to this solar power storage system: The first component captures solar energy and keeps it stored in molten salt, while the second component takes surplus electricity from the grid to cool off carbon dioxide to the point where it becomes dry ice. To keep the solar energy stored, the molten salt will then be released into the CO2, which will act as a battery capable of deploying power when needed.

The CO2-molten salt mixture will then flow through a specially designed CO2 turbine that GE says “can generate as much as 100 megawatts of ‘fast electricity’ per installed unit.” The advantage of this system is that these turbines would be able to operate at night when there’s no solar power being directly absorbed.  Cont'd...

After record year, U.S. energy storage forecasted to break 1 GW capacity mark in 2019

Peter Maloney  for UtilityDive:  The U.S. energy storage market put in a strong showing in 2015 with its “best quarter and best year of all time,” according to the GTM/ESA report. And current market trends point toward continued strong growth.

The recent extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit, and new guidelines under consideration at the Internal Revenue Service are expected to further boost energy storage and the pairing of storage with renewable resources.

In the fourth quarter alone, the U.S. deployed 112 MW of storage capacity, representing more than the total of all storage deployments in 2013 and 2014 combined.

For the full year, 221 MW (161 MWh) of storage was installed. In 2014 65 MW (86 MWh) of storage was installed in the U.S.  Cont'd...

Here's How Electric Cars Will Cause the Next Oil Crisis

Tom Randal for Bloomberg Business:  With all good technologies, there comes a time when buying the alternative no longer makes sense. Think smartphones in the past decade, color TVs in the 1970s, or even gasoline cars in the early 20th century. Predicting the timing of these shifts is difficult, but when it happens, the whole world changes.

It’s looking like the 2020s will be the decade of the electric car.

Battery prices fell 35 percent last year and are on a trajectory to make unsubsidized electric vehicles as affordable as their gasoline counterparts in the next six years, according to a new analysis of the electric-vehicle market by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). That will be the start of a real mass-market liftoff for electric cars.

By 2040, long-range electric cars will cost less than $22,000 (in today’s dollars), according to the projections. Thirty-five percent of new cars worldwide will have a plug.  Cont'd...

Energy-Storage Startup LightSail Plots Long-Term Game Plan

Barbara Haislip for the Wall Street Journal:  Few industries are more daunting for entrepreneurs these days than clean energy.

Developing the technology and hardware is expensive, and setbacks are common. Even if all goes well, getting a product to market can take a decade or more. Most venture-fund investors, meanwhile, want a quicker payout.

Danielle Fong, co-founder and chief scientist of LightSail Energy, is trying to keep investors happy while working toward some ambitious clean-energy goals. Her company’s aim, she says, “is to produce the world’s cleanest and most economical energy-storage system” through a technology that uses compressed air to store energy from the grid. LightSail’s technology will do this more efficiently than other solutions, Ms. Fong says, by capturing some of the excess heat that comes when compressing air.  “Until now, this was wasted, reducing efficiency,” she says.

Founded in 2009, Berkeley, Calif.-based LightSail has raised $70 million from several investors, including Bill Gates, Peter Thiel,Khosla Ventures and the French energy giant Total.  Cont'd...

Apple leftovers key for future energy storage

By Tereza Pultarova for E&T:  German researchers have developed a new carbon-based active material that can be manufactured from apple leftovers and used to build better energy storage systems.

The apple-based material can be used as the negative electrode in sodium-ion batteries, which are currently being researched as a more environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

Instead of energy-intensive lithium mining, which frequently damages the environment, battery manufacturers in future could be using organic waste to make batteries.

In tests, the new material discovered by researchers from the Helmholtz Institute Ulm of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, has demonstrated ‘excellent electrochemical properties’, allowing the researchers to carry out 1000 charge and discharge cycles during which the apple-based battery demonstrated high stability as well as capacity.  Cont'd...

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