How floating turbines could harness the awesome power of the tides

Ross Jennings for The Conversation:  The world’s tides contain enough energy to power the entire UK’s electricity consumption. And, since it effectively harnesses the moon’s constant and predictable gravitational pull, tidal power overcomes one of renewable energy’s classic problems – the fact you never know quite how much sun, wind or rain to expect. Now, underwater windmills positioned just below the ocean surface could be a major breakthrough for tidal power. Costly technology and inaccessible locations have thus far held things back. Large, heavy and expensive turbines mounted on the seabed have been developed, but these are aimed at commercial scale developments. Tidal power needs its equivalent of the rooftop solar panel. Imagine then a wind turbine, but underwater, and not fixed to the seabed – these so-called “mobile floating turbines” are a cheaper and more adaptable alternative to big, fixed developments. Most floating turbines look something like this:   Cont'd...

Plug-and-play battery seeks to upstage Tesla

By Morgan Lee for the San Diego Union Tribune:  It looks like a simple floor lamp, or a sleek picture frame on the wall.  Inside lies a tantalizing future for household energy storage -- a 2 kilowatt-hour battery that plugs into a standard wall outlet and can keep an electrical circuit hot for several hours or more if a power outage strikes. The unproven concept for a plug-in-play battery was introduced Thursday by San Diego-based Orison during a forum at the University of California San Diego. Len Hering, executive director of the Center for Sustainable Energy, praised the 2-year-old startup's efforts in a news release. Orison CEO and co-founder Eric Clifton, drawing on seven years of experience in green technology startups, believes the battery tower and wall unit can play a prominent role in the emerging Internet of Things, providing the energy-storage equivalent of the Nest smart thermostat. "The way we look at it, we are the Nest of the energy industry," he said. Clifton believes that other early household battery entries -- most notably the Powerwall from electric car maker Tesla Motors -- miss the mark on bringing energy storage to the masses. Tesla's hefty home battery has to be professionally mounted and hardwired into household circuity, potentially involving inspections and permits. With Orison's batteries, you don't have to own a home, or even live in one, Clifton said. The batteries fit in with an apartment dweller in Manhattan.   Cont'd... ​

Tesla already has reservations for $1bn worth of energy storage

Tesla has taken 100,000 reservations for its Powerpack and Powerwall battery products, worth approximately $1bn, according to founder Elon Musk. Speaking on the company’s quarterly earnings call, Musk said Tesla had taken reservations (non-binding agreements) which led him to believe the company would sell $50m of storage in the fourth quarter of 2015, and up to $500m in both 2016 and 2017. Musk said: "If you just take the reservations that have been made thus far, it's well over $1 billion worth of Powerpacks and Powerwalls. And that's with no marketing, no advertising, no sales force to speak of, really, we're not trying to sell it". Tesla chief technology officer Jeffrey Straubel, who was also on the call, said that around 70% of the reservations were for the larger 1MW Powerpack system, which is focused at commercial users and large-scale energy generators.   Cont'd...

Norway Could Provide 20,000MW of Energy Storage to Europe

Mike Stone  for GTM:  Norway has a lot of hydroelectric plants: a total of 937 of them, which provide a population of 5 million with around 98 percent of its electricity. In fact, the Scandinavian country is home to roughly half of all the hydroelectric water storage reservoirs in Europe. This vast system could also offer a Europe a substantial amount of energy storage -- up to 20 gigawatts of it -- if an ambitious scheme currently being proposed can overcome political and social hurdles and get the necessary funding. That’s according to Kaspar Vereide, an engineer at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. And his models suggest it could all be achieved in seven years. Vereide is not alone in thinking Norway could become a vast green battery for Europe. The Centre for Environmental Design of Renewable Energy has concluded that there are four realistic scenarios for pumped hydro energy storage in the country, ranging from a Nordics-only scenario, where Norway only looks after its own needs, plus some of those of its Scandinavian neighbors; to a so-called ‘big storage’ scenario, which, it says, would see “Norwegian hydropower play an important role in integrating variable renewable sources into the European power system by providing large volumes of balancing over various time horizons to the North Sea countries through highly integrated grids and power markets.” It’s this "big storage" scenario -- with Norway becoming "the green battery of Europe" -- that Vereide has in mind.   Cont'd...

Battery Costs Set To Fall 60% By 2020 From Energy Storage 'Megashift'

By Sophie Vorrath for RenewEconomy:  The key role energy storage will play in the electricity grids of the future – and the vital importance of investing in and testing the various emerging battery storage technologies – has been highlighted in a major report published by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency on Monday, which predicts a 40-60 per cent price plunge for certain battery technologies by 2020. The 130-page report prepared by AECOM predicts a “mega-shift” to energy storage adoption, driven by demand – from both the supply side, as networks work to adapt to increasing distributed and renewable energy capacity, and from consumers wishing to store their solar energy – and by the rapidly changing economic proposition; a proposition, the report says, that will see the costs of lithium-ion batteries fall by 60 per cent in less than five years, and by 40 per cent for flow batteries.  Cont'd...

Renewable energy boom will mean vastly cheaper electricity

By Lucas Mearian, ComputerWorld:  Renewable energy, combined with prolific battery storage, will soon result in vastly cheaper electricity -- and solar power that's less expensive than what fossil fuel-based power plants can produce. Additionally, solar power with lithium-ion and flow-battery storage systems will make the combination of renewable energy so inexpensive that it will surpass nuclear power and obviate the need for futuristic power sources such as fusion. That was consensus view from a several keynote speeches delivered at the Intersolar Conference in San Francisco this week. Eicke Weber, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, said that in sun-rich countries, the cost of solar power is already below 5 cents per kilowatt and it will continue to plummet as battery storage systems become more prolific and less expensive. Cont'd...

Hydrogen Gas / Smoke Detector with Intrusion Alarm for Battery Room

From Eagle Eye Power Solutions: The Eagle Eye HGD-3000 Hydrogen Gas and Smoke Detector with (optional) Silent Intrusion Alarm is designed for unattended battery installations or remote shelters containing gassing lead acid batteries and charging systems... Lead-acid batteries on charge emit hydrogen gas after reaching the 80% recharge point. When mixed with enough air, hydrogen becomes a highly flammable gas that can ignite easily with just a spark, destroying equipment and harming personnel. The lower explosive level (LEL) for hydrogen is 4.1% by volume. Hydrogen Gas Detection Attach the HGD-3000 to the wall, ceiling, or optional junction box using the mounting holes at the top and bottom of the detector box. The HGD-3000 will turn on an exhaust fan when hydrogen gas levels reach 1% and will alarm at 2%. This alarm consists of a local 80db horn, a flashing red LED, and a dry contact switch closure for remote alarming. Smoke Detection The photoelectric smoke sensor detects minute combustion products from smoldering wire insulation, battery cases, and other material. When smoke is detected, a distinctive alarm is emitted from the 80db horn and a separate dry contact switch is activated. At this time, the exhaust fan is inhibited in order to deny the fire increased oxygen from outside air. Temperature, Loss of Power, & Intrusion During normal operation and in the absence of an alarm condition, an internal thermostat will turn on the exhaust fan at a preset temperature to reduce heat buildup in the room. Loss of power to the unit will also generate a dry contact alarm. Additionally, an optional infrared intrusion alarm will trigger a silent dry contact switch. Product website

New benches that'll use solar power to charge your phone

This is the "Strawberry bench". The solar-powered smart bench (yes, really) collects energy via a solar panel on its roof, and uses it to power a range of functions: monitoring air quality, disseminating information about the local area, offering free power-ups for the phones of passers-by. This summer, four of these benches will be installed around Canary Wharf, the privately-owned office and retail estate at the heart of London's Docklands. The concept was the winner of the "Cognicity Challenge", a competition intended to find innovative proposals to use technology to create smarter urban environments (and, as a side effect, make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy towards the Canary Wharf Group). The name, incidentally, has nothing to do with actual Strawberries. The company behind them is Belgrade-based Strawberry Energy, whose previous products include the "Strawberry Tree", a vaguely familiar solar-powered mobile phone charge and wifi hub with a bench attached to it. Both products were the work of architect Milos Miliojevic.

New method can make cheaper solar energy storage

Storing solar energy as hydrogen is a promising way for developing comprehensive renewable energy systems. To accomplish this, traditional solar panels can be used to generate an electrical current that splits water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter being considered a form of solar fuel. However, the cost of producing efficient solar panels makes water-splitting technologies too expensive to commercialize. EPFL scientists have now developed a simple, unconventional method to fabricate high-quality, efficient solar panels for direct solar hydrogen production with low cost. The work is published in Nature Communications. Many different materials have been considered for use in direct solar-to-hydrogen conversion technologies but "2-D materials" have recently been identified as promising candidates. In general these materials—which famously include graphene—have extraordinary electronic properties. However, harvesting usable amounts of solar energy requires large areas of solar panels, and it is notoriously difficult and expensive to fabricate thin films of 2-D materials at such a scale and maintain good performance. Kevin Sivula and colleagues at EPFL addressed this problem with an innovative and cheap method that uses the boundary between two non-mixing liquids. The researchers focused on one of the best 2-D materials for solar water splitting, called "tungsten diselenide". Past studies have shown that this material has a great efficiency for converting solar energy directly into hydrogen fuel while also being highly stable.   Cont'd...

Is Adding Solar Batteries Worth it?

Seeking to help states better address the value proposition of solar+storage systems, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC) engaged Clean Power Research (CPR) to develop a methodology that could be used to value solar energy coupled with battery storage. The methodology described in the report can be applied in any location. It focuses on Hawaii as an example, as it is likely to be an early adopter of storage regulations.  "The concept of adding batteries alongside a utility customer's solar array intrigues utility customers, solar developers, and utility planners on several levels, but the underlying question for everyone is whether adding batteries is 'worth it,'" says Jason Keyes, Partner at Keyes, Fox & Wiedman LLP, attorney for IREC and report collaborator.  Though still at a nascent stage, the recent rapid growth in the distributed energy storage market suggests that now is an opportune time to take a closer look at distributed energy storage, especially in combination with distributed solar, and the values it has to offer. The new IREC study lays out the methodology to do just that and sets forth a pathway for more robust analysis and dialogue.   Cont'd...  

24M Introduces the Semisolid Lithium-Ion Battery

Today, 24M emerged from stealth mode to introduce the semisolid lithium-ion cell, a revolutionary technology that solves the grand challenge of energy storage by enabling a new, cost-effective class of the lithium-ion battery. 24M’s semisolid lithium-ion is the most significant advancement in lithium-ion technology in more than two decades and combines an overhaul in battery cell design with a series of manufacturing innovations that, when fully implemented, will slash today’s lithium-ion costs by 50% and improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries. The technology will accelerate the global adoption of affordable energy storage. Until now, the energy storage field has had two options to try to drive down costs – build massive and complex factories to produce lithium-ion batteries in high volumes or pursue entirely new chemistries that may never move from the lab to the commercial floor. With the invention of the semisolid lithium-ion battery, 24M presents a third option – work with the world’s preferred energy storage chemistry and unlock new opportunities for cost reductions through new cell design and manufacturing innovations. 24M’s platform is the most significant advancement in lithium-ion technology since its debut more than 20 years ago.

Nissan to incorporate used Leaf batteries in home energy storage system

Following in the footsteps of Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, Nissan is now set to become the latest automaker to offer battery packs for stationary energy storage. Although pricing information has yet to be provided, the Nissan product should be relatively affordable, as it will incorporate used batteries from Nissan Leaf electric cars. Nissan designed the battery packs as part of the 4R Energy joint venture with Sumitomo Corp., and has partnered with commercial energy storage company Green Charge Networks to manufacture them. While Nissan is the source of the actual "second life" lithium-ion batteries that no longer meet the demands of automotive use, Green Charge is providing the power management software. According to Nissan, this is the first time that used EV batteries have been commercially utilized for such an application. "A lithium-ion battery from a Nissan Leaf still holds a great deal of value as energy storage, even after it is removed from the vehicle, so Nissan expects to be able to reuse a majority of Leaf battery packs in non-automotive applications," says Brad Smith, director of Nissan's 4R Energy business in the US.   Cont'd..

Designer Carbons Are Getting a Boost from Nanotechnology

By Richard Martin for The MIT Technology Review:  A group of Stanford researchers have come up with a nanoscale “designer carbon” material that can be adjusted to make energy storage devices, solar panels, and potentially carbon capture systems more powerful and efficient. The designer carbon that has reached the market in recent years shares the Swiss-cheese-like structure of activated carbon, enhancing its ability to catalyze certain chemical reactions and store electrical charges; but it’s “designed” in the sense that the chemical composition of the material, and the size of the pores, can be manipulated to fit specific uses. The designer carbon tested at Stanford is “both versatile and controllable,” according to Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering and the senior author of the study, which appeared in the latest issue of the journal ACS Central Science. “Producing high-surface-area carbons with controlled chemical composition and morphology is really challenging,” says Bao. Other methods currently available, she says, “are either quite expensive or they don’t offer control over the chemical structure and morphology.”   Cont'd...

Mercedes-Benz To Follow Tesla With Its Own Home Batteries

Stephen Edelstein for Motor Authority:  Tesla Motors may be the first automaker to try selling standalone battery packs for powering homes and businesses, but it may not be the only one for long. Mercedes-Benz could soon enter the energy storage business as well. A division of parent company Daimler has been testing battery packs that can power houses or store excess electricity from the grid, and plans to launch commercially in September, according to Australia's Motoring. Called ACCUmotive, this division was created in 2009 to develop lithium-ion batteries. Like Tesla before its recent announcement, the Daimler arm has been testing energy storage systems under the radar for some time. It recently built an energy storage array operated by German electricity joint venture Coulomb. The array consists of 96 lithium-ion modules that together boast a combined 500 kilowatt hours of storage capacity, which is used to stabilize the Saxony Kamenz power grid. There are plans to expand it to 3,000 kWh of capacity. ACCUmotive has reportedly delivered more than 60,000 lithium-ion cells to customers—which may include Mercedes itself—and employs more than 250 people. 

Five lessons on how to sell home energy storage

TRISTAN EDIS writes:  Reposit Power are one of the first companies in Australia that have teamed up with Tesla in the roll-out of their Powerwall home energy storage system. The interesting thing about Reposit is that its primary businesses isn’t selling energy hardware but, rather, using software to aggregate and trade lots of little sources of power generation into the electricity market. Most battery retailers and installers in Australia have their roots in the off-grid market – they have sold batteries to customers because their only other option was expensive, maintenance-intensive diesel generators. But Reposit is inherently bound to the grid where there are lots of generators connected which they trade against. It means Reposit, in trying to get batteries rolled out (which they can then use to trade into the power market), face a far more challenging sales proposition. Grid-connected customers don’t really need the battery system – it’s an optional extra because the grid works extremely well in providing reliable and affordable power. Yet participants in the solar PV market know there is some considerable latent demand for batteries among householders – particularly those with solar systems – provided the offering is right. The challenge is working out what the successful marketing formula needs to be to tap this latent demand. Dean Spaccavento, chief product officer with Reposit, explained what they’ve found out so far, outlining 10 lessons of which I’ve plucked out five. The overall message is it is extremely hard to sell a grid-connected household an energy storage system. And Reposit had the benefit of an ARENA grant which allowed them to discount the price of their $25,000, 14kWh battery system by a very hefty $10,000. This was a one-off, small volume offer. To sell battery systems in Australia it will need to happen without the benefit of such a big rebate. The five lessons below provide one overarching lesson – batteries won’t be sold on some kind of pure sophisticated financial calculus of rate of return or NPV. Instead, it will be a mixture of rule-of-thumb financial hurdles and a strong dose of emotion.   Cont'd....

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