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...

Low-cost energy storage for power grid can be found in your Water Heater

By David Shaffer  for Star Tribune:  The least-expensive battery to store energy from the electric power grid may be sitting in homeowners’ basements — the electric water heater.

That is the surprising finding of research released Wednesday by the cooperative power industry, including Maple Grove-based Great River Energy, and an environmental group.

Customers at many utilities already save money by heating water at night, taking advantage of low, off-peak electric rates. It requires a special electric water heater that holds a day’s worth of household water, but offers long-term savings.

Now, a study by the Brattle Group, an economic consulting firm, says that the nation’s 50 million residential electric water heaters can address bigger challenges on the power grid, such as storing intermittent renewable energy from wind farms and solar arrays.  Cont'd...

Boeing delivers fuel cell energy storage system to U.S. Navy

Ryan Maass for UPI:  Boeing has delivered its reversible solid oxide fuel cell, for generating clean electricity, to the U.S. Navy for testing.

The fuel cell system is designed to generate, compress and store hydrogen from renewable sources such as wind and solar to produce zero-emissions electricity.Boeing's delivery to the Navy follows 16 months of development.

The technology is capable of both producing and storing energy. The first unit was commissioned on the Southern California power grid prior to its installation on the Navy's 'microgrid' for further testing.

"This fuel cell solution is an exciting new technology providing our customers with a flexible, affordable and environmentally progressive option for energy storage and power generation," Boeing Advanced Technology Programs director Lance Towers said.

Boeing officials say they were able to develop the fuel cell using their experience with the energy systems used for their unmanned undersea vehicles.  Cont'd...

Orison Plug-And-Play Energy Storage System Live On Kickstarter

Orison, an energy storage company, announced today that the first true plug-and-play energy storage system is now available for pre-order on Kickstarter. Orison powers homes and businesses to reduce energy costs, provide backup energy during blackouts, and contribute to a clean energy future. The Orison Kickstarter Campaign can be found at: 
Orison envisions a future with abundant, clean, and affordable energy for all. The networked, distributed energy storage solution gives consumers control so they can store energy from any electricity source, including grid or solar power, to access energy whenever it's needed. When powered by the grid, it stores energy when utility rates are low to power homes and businesses when rates are high. If connected to solar, Orison allows consumers to locally store the energy they produce so that it will not be sold at a loss to the utility. By localizing energy distribution, Orison helps to save money and reduce peak demand.   Full Press Release:

The Two Things To Note In The DOE's Solar + Storage Initiative

Michael Kanellos  for Forbes:  The Department of Energy doled out $18 million in grants this week as part of an effort to drive down the cost of solar plus storage down to less than 14 cents a kilowatt hour. The DOE, under its SunShot program, has long had a goal of driving down the cost of solar alone to 6 cents per kWh by 2020.  So far, the program has hit its milestones.

Grants recipients include Austin Energy, Carnegie Mellon University, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Aquion Energy, among others.

The DOE regularly gives out grants, but the latest program is somewhat interesting because:

First, that’s a really low price for storage. Utility-scale solar, generally cheaper than residential solar, without storage delivered power for 14 cents a kilowatt hour in 2014. The cost of batteries, however, has been declining rapidly. Ten years ago, batteries progressed slowly compared to other electronic devices: Tesla Motors TSLA +0.50% co-founder and CTO J.B. Straubel was famous for noting that the performance of batteries doubled every decade, versus the roughly two year cycle for semiconductor.   Cont'd...

Energy Storage in Underwater Balloons

Tom Lombardo for  Grid-level energy storage takes many forms, including flow batteries, Li-ion batteries, pumped hydro, compressed air in underground caverns, and even flywheels. Toronto’s Hydrostor just added another tool to the arsenal: underwater compressed air energy storage (UCAES). Hydrostor recently activated a pilot UCAES plant - the first of its kind - that will provide grid-level storage for the city of Toronto. In addition to supplying the city with cost-effective energy storage, the system will allow engineers to study its behavior and optimize the design. Can UCAES become a viable energy storage technology?
The idea has been around for many years: when supply exceeds demand, use the excess energy to run an air compressor and store the air in an underwater balloon. When power is needed, open a valve and let the compressed air run a turbine to generate electricity. The principle is simple, but the economic feasibility has yet to be demonstrated. Hydrostor hopes that their facility becomes the proving ground.  Cont'd...

Tidal power: An inside look at how it works

From EnergyDigital:  Tidal power, a sister resource to wind, takes advantage of the predictability of the ocean tides to generate electricity, either via estuary barges or directly from the currents themselves via tidal streams. According to the Ocean Energy Council, the ideal area to net the most potential power is an area with a tidal range of at least seven meters. Energy can be generated via floating devices that drive hydraulic pumps, oscillating water columns within cylindrical shafts to create air movement, or hydropower turbines.

The Pacific Northwest coast of the United States is an excellent location for tidal power, given its broad range of tide movement. According to Renewable Northwest, some areas of potential development include:

• Makah Bay, Washington (by AquaEnergy Group)

• Newport, Oregon (by Oregon State University / Oregon Department of Energy)

• Tacoma Narrows (by Tacoma Power)

• Puget Sound (by Snohomish County Public Utility District)

The following sites are under development in Wales due to their wide tidal height variation and economically receptive marketplace:

• Swansea Bay (by Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay)

• St. Asaph (by North Wales Tidal Energy & Costal Protection)

As a whole, the UK has the potential for over 11,000 MW, a staggering amount given the relatively small landmass of the country. This makes it the single largest source of hydrokinetic power in Europe, enough theoretically support 10 percent of the world’s energy consumption.  Cont'd...

Small-scale solar power growing in the United States

By Daniel J. Graeber for  Small-scale solar installations in the United States account for about a third of the overall capacity on the grid, a report from the federal government said.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates total U.S. solar-power output in September, the last full month for which data are available, at 3.5 million megawatt hours. Of that, just more than 30 percent came from small-scale solar installations.

"Generation from roof-top photovoltaic systems has become an increasingly important part of total solar generation in the United States," EIA AdministratorAdam Sieminski said in an emailed statement.

A September report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, with support from green energy market adviser GTM Research, found second quarter residential solar capacity grew 70 percent year-on-year to 473 megawatts.  Cont'd...

German battery maker launches scheme to share solar power

Reporting by Vera Eckert for Reuters:  German battery maker Sonnenbatterie has launched a scheme to connect households with solar panels and other consumers, aiming to better distribute surpluses of the renewable energy and help members to become more independent of conventional suppliers.

The start-up company hopes the scheme, called "sonnenCommunity", will boost demand for its batteries which store solar power, allowing owners to use the clean energy even when weather conditions are not favourable.

SonnenCommunity takes the storage idea a step further, allowing solar power to be shared among its members.

Sonnenbatterie said the scheme would initially target the 1.5 million solar power producers who, if they sign up to the community, will receive a battery storage system with a starting price of 3,599 euros ($3,812). But eventually, the offer will also be open to non-producers, it added.

If the idea of battery-powered buildings takes off, it could pose a challenge to traditional utilities such as RWE and E.ON, which still derive the bulk of their power from big centralised power stations running on fossil fuels.  Full Article:

Mercedes Is Proposing A Novel Solution To Meet Energy Storage Demand

By Michael McDonald for  Ever since Tesla announced its PowerWall battery project earlier this year, interest in stationary storage and battery technology in general has been explosive. Now, Mercedes Benz has put together an interesting project built around recycled batteries that might help drive even more interest in grid scale utility storage and help to blend the consumer and commercial markets for batteries.

Under Mercedes’ new project, a consortium of companies is going to create the world’s largest grid storage facility using used batteries in Lunen, Germany. The project will have the capacity to store 13 megawatts of power (enough to meet the demand of 130,000 homes) based on reusing automotive batteries. The basic premise is that when the battery from an electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid vehicle is no longer reliable enough to start a car, it still has up to 80% of its original storage capacity remaining. As a result, a large series of these batteries can be connected to store energy from renewable sources like solar and wind power.  Cont'd...

Toronto Hydro to test world's first underwater energy storage system

Dario Balca , CTV Toronto:  Toronto Hydro has announced it will launch the world’s first-ever underwater energy storage system in Lake Ontario.

The utility has partnered with Hydrostor Inc., a company that specializes in innovative energy storage systems, for a two-year-pilot project intended to create a backup for the city’s electricity grid big enough to power approximately 350 homes.

"We're very excited to see this new technology in action,” said Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines. “Toronto Hydro has been very busy exploring new ways to power our grid, and I think this is the most creative project we've been involved in so far. Supporting innovative solutions for Toronto's power needs will continue to be a focus for our organization."

The system works by taking electrical energy and converting it into compressed air so that it can be stored under water in large, balloon-like structures.

The storage facility will be located three kilometres off the southern tip of the Toronto Island and 55 metres under water.

When the city’s electricity grid needs power, crews will open a valve that lets the pressurized air out. The air is then converted back into electricity and fed into the grid.  Cont'd...

Innovative energy storage project to be unveiled by Ryerson, eCamion

GREG KEENAN - The Globe and Mail:  Ryerson University in Toronto and a high-tech startup company called eCamion Inc. will unveil a pilot project Wednesday that allows energy to be stored in a unit that sits on hydro poles.

An eCamion storage unit combined with a smart controller developed by Ryerson researchers and students will enable utilities such as Toronto Hydro to store power, integrate more renewable power and improve the reliability of the system, the company and Ryerson say.

The unit uses lithium-ion batteries that charge during off-peak hours of hydro usage and discharge during peak hours.

One of the benefits if the storage devices win widespread adoption is better availability of power for recharging electric vehicles, said Hari Subramanian, eCamion’s chief executive officer.

“These are the enabling technologies you need for electric vehicles to really have an uptake,” Mr. Subramanian said.

In many areas, the current hydro infrastructure could not handle the demand if several electric vehicles in a small section of a city were being recharged at the same time, he said.

The storage device allows utilities to “flex their grid” to meet varying demands at various times, he said.  Cont'd...

Solar Power Thrives In Chile, No Subsidies Needed

William Pentland, Contributor for Forbes:  In Chile’s most recent power auction, the bids from solar project developers came in at between $65 and $68 per megawatt hour (MWh) were considerably more competitive than bids made by coal plants, which were priced at $85 per MWh. Solar power projects were awarded the lion’s share of the 1,200 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity contracts sold.

Chile boasts one of the world’s biggest solar resources. High electricity prices and strong demand from Chile’s mining industry have driven demand growth for solar, especially large scale commercial or utility projects.

The total installed solar capacity in Chile increased from less than 4 MW in 2013 to more than 220 MW last year. Nearly 1 GW of solar is projected to be installed in Chile in 2015. Meanwhile, a total of about 8 GW of solar power projects have been approved for development in Chile. First Solar and SunEdison are two of the biggest U.S. solar companies active in Chile.  Cont'd...

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