James Vincent for The Verge: Tesla completed its $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity this week, and, to celebrate, the company has announced a major solar energy project: wiring up the whole island of Ta’u in American Samoa. Previously, the island ran on diesel generators, but over the past year Tesla has installed a microgrid of solar energy panels and batteries that will supply "nearly 100 percent" of power needs for Ta’u’s 600 residents.
The project seems intended to show off the potential benefits of the SolarCity acquisition, with Ta’u’s microgrid comprised of 5,328 solar panels from SolarCity and Tesla, along with 60 Tesla Powerpacks batteries for storage. But buying SolarCity remains a risky move for Tesla, with the purchase including billions of dollars of debt for a company that's far from profitable (SolarCity spends $6 for every $1 it makes in sales). Nevertheless, Tesla CEO Elon Musk describes the acquisition as "blindingly obvious" — a necessary step in his so-called "Master Plan" to integrate clean energy generation and storage. Cont'd...
Michael Kanellos for Forbes: The optimism in the energy storage industry is based on soaring demand, rapid technological advances, expanding capacity and, for some, what will likely be a scary competitive environment.
First, the good news. Lithium ion battery packs over the last ten years have declined faster than the cost of solar, said John Carrington, CEO of Stem, which makes behind-the-meter storage systems for hotels and other commercial customers looking to shave peak power costs, during a hallway meeting at Finance West sponsored by the American Council of Renewable Energy this week.
Solar panels have declined by 50% or more in the last five years. Batteries have declined by 80% in three years, he said. Battery packs hit the under $300 per kilowatt hour mark last December, Carrington added. By 2020, battery pack prices could drop to $190 per kilowatt hour. (In 2007, lithium ion battery packs in the wholesale markets sold for around $1,000 per kilowatt hour.) Cont'd...
Michael McDonald for OilPrice.com: 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...
John Petersen for Investor Intel: Rooftop solar is an odd duck. A consumer buys an expensive capital asset with the expectation that he’ll recover his investment through lower electric bills. As a matter of metaphysics, he’s decided to go into the power business with the primary goal of satisfying the most important and discriminating customer on the planet. The value proposition he currently offers his local electric utility is:
- I’ll buy less electricity from you because of my solar panels, but I need you on standby 24/7 to supply my nighttime needs and fill any weather related power production gaps;
- Since my solar panels will frequently produce more power than I need, I want you to give me credit for any excess power production, let me draw equivalent power from you when I need it, and structure it all as a tax free swap;
- You can, of course, bill me for any difference between what I deliver and what I take;
- I’ll have no duty to buy a fixed amount of power from you or deliver a fixed amount of power to you, but you must supply whatever I need and take whatever I don’t need; and
- You will be required to pay all of the costs associated with weather related production gaps and pass those costs through to your other customers.
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...
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...
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:
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...
Adele Peters for Co-Exist: Less than a year after Tesla unveiled its Powerwall battery for storing electricity at home, a startup has designed a much cheaper alternative that you can plug in yourself, without an electrician.
The modular batteries, called Orison, can be hung on the wall or set on the ground to double as an LED lamp. If you want more power, you just add the units together.
"Think of Orison like Legos," says co-founder and CEO Eric Clifton. "The 2.2 kilowatt-hour unit is really just one piece, so you can actually add as many as you need." The 2.2 kilowatt-hour version is as large as the company could make one unit and keep it under 40 pounds, so it could be easily shipped and moved.
With one unit, if your power went out in a storm, you could keep an energy-efficient refrigerator running for about two days. If you want to back up everything in your house, you'd connect a long series of batteries together.
For someone with solar panels on the roof, the batteries can store power to use at night. Right now, most people can sell extra solar power back to the grid when they're not using it, but many state laws are about to change so people will make less money. Batteries can help solar homeowners save money by making use of the power they've generated. Cont'd...
JuiceBox Energy and ReVision Energy Install Innovative Solar Energy Storage Technology at Historic Maine Library
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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