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...
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.
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....
Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ.: Stanford Univ. scientists have created a new carbon material that significantly boosts the performance of energy-storage technologies. Their results are featured in ACS Central Science. "We have developed a 'designer carbon' that is both versatile and controllable," said Zhenan Bao, the senior author of the study and a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. "Our study shows that this material has exceptional energy-storage capacity, enabling unprecedented performance in lithium-sulfur batteries and supercapacitors." According to Bao, the new designer carbon represents a dramatic improvement over conventional activated carbon, an inexpensive material widely used in products ranging from water filters and air deodorizers to energy-storage devices. "A lot of cheap activated carbon is made from coconut shells," Bao said. "To activate the carbon, manufacturers burn the coconut at high temperatures and then chemically treat it." The activation process creates nanosized holes, or pores, that increase the surface area of the carbon, allowing it to catalyze more chemical reactions and store more electrical charges.
Scientists in South Korea have developed a new way to store energy that also offers a solution to a growing environmental problem. Reporting their findings in the IOP Publishing journal Nanotechnology, the research team successfully converted used cigarette butts into a high performing material that could be integrated into computers, handheld devices, electric vehicles and wind turbines to store energy. According to the study, this material outperforms commercially available carbon, graphene and carbon nanotubes. It may someday be used to coat the electrodes of supercapacitors: electrochemical components that can store extremely large amounts of electrical energy. "Our study has shown that used cigarette filters can be transformed into a high performing carbon-based material using a simple one step process, which simultaneously offers a green solution for meeting the energy demands of society," says co-author Professor Jongheop Yi of Seoul National University.
Ryan Wallace for The Science Times: Known as the "Powerwall", Tesla's newest invention is a thin, wall-mounted battery that is the size of a flat screen TV. And with this new battery home owners who have already invested in solar power will be able to entirely go off the grid, and even to sell their excess solar juice back to energy companies. Developed in conjunction with the lithium-ion batteries that Tesla uses for its electric vehicles, the Powerwall unit is an inexpensive unit, only running $3,000 to $3,500, and with it Musk and his companies believe that humans may one day be able to transition to solely using energy derived from the Sun. Though the installation may look like an artpiece, it packs quite a punch at 10 kWh, and with it consumers will not only be able to store their energy for dark solar-free nights, but also more efficiently contribute to global energy use by contributing carbon-free energy back into the mix.
Late Thursday night in Los Angeles, Tesla announced "Tesla Energy," described by the company in a statement as "a suite of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities fostering a clean energy ecosystem and helping wean the world off fossil fuels." The statement continued: "Tesla is not just an automotive company, it’s an energy innovation company. Tesla Energy is a critical step in this mission to enable zero emission power generation." Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the official announcement onstage at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, CA, just south of LA. The home battery, call the "Powerwall," is intended to store solar energy and enable customers to bank grid electricity from non-peak periods and use it during peak times, saving money. It looks "like a beautiful piece of sculpture," Musk said. You can order it now, and it comes in different colors. "The Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to store energy at a residential level for load shifting, backup power and self-consumption of solar power generation," Tesla said. "The Powerwall consists of Tesla’s lithium-ion battery pack, liquid thermal control system and software that receives dispatch commands from a solar inverter. The unit mounts seamlessly on a wall and is integrated with the local grid to harness excess power and give customers the flexibility to draw energy from their own reserve."
Toshiba Begins Operation of Independent Energy Supply System Utilizing Renewable Energy and Hydrogen
Toshiba Corporation announced the start of demonstration operation of H2One, an independent energy supply system based on renewable energy and use of hydrogen as a fuel for power generation. Kawasaki City and Toshiba have installed the system at the Kawasaki Marien public facility and Higashi-Ogishima-Naka Park in the Kawasaki Port area. H2One combines photovoltaic installations, storage batteries, hydrogen-producing water electrolysis equipment, hydrogen and water tanks, and fuel cells. Electricity generated from the photovoltaic installations is used to electrolyze water and produce hydrogen, which is then stored in tanks and used in fuel cells that produce electricity and hot water. Since H2One uses only sunlight and water for fuel, it can independently provide electricity and hot water in times of emergency, even when lifelines are cut. Kawasaki Marien and Higashi-Ogishima-Naka Park, a municipal facility to promote Kawasaki Port, is a designated emergency evacuation area. In times of disaster, H2One will use stored hydrogen to provide an estimated 300 evacuees to the site with electricity and hot water for about one week. The H2One system is housed in a container, and can be transported to disaster-hit areas on trailers.
Professor Donald Sadoway remembers chuckling at an e-mail in August 2009 from a woman claiming to represent Bill Gates. The world’s richest man had taken Sadoway’s Introduction to Solid State Chemistry online, the message explained. Gates wondered if he could meet the guy teaching the popular MIT course the next time the billionaire was in the Boston area, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its May issue. “I thought it was a student prank,” says Sadoway, who’s spent more than a decade melting metals in search of a cheap, long-life battery that might wean the world off dirty energy. He’d almost forgotten the note when Gates’s assistant wrote again to plead for a response. A month later, Gates and Sadoway were swapping ideas on curbing climate change in the chemist’s second-story office on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. They discussed progress on batteries to help solar and wind compete with fossil fuels. Gates said to call when Sadoway was ready to start a company. “He agreed to be an angel investor,” Sadoway says. “It would have been tough without that support.” Sadoway is ready. He and a handful of scientists with young companies and big backers say they have a shot at solving a vexing problem: how to store and deliver power around the clock so sustainable energies can become viable alternatives to fossil fuels. How these storage projects are allowing utility power customers to defect from the grid is one of the topics for debate this week at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York. Today’s nickel-cadmium and lithium-ion offerings aren’t up to the task. They can’t run a home for more than a few hours or most cars for more than 100 miles (160 kilometers). At about $400 per kilowatt-hour, they’re double the price analysts say will unleash widespread green power. “Developing a storage system beyond lithium-ion is critical to unlocking the value of electric vehicles and renewable energy,” says Andrew Chung, a partner at Menlo Park, California–based venture capital firm Khosla Ventures.
From Benzinga: Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry has revealed some interesting information about Tesla Motors Inc 's new product line. Outside of the fact that it will not be a car, very little is known about what Tesla plans to announce. Some experts think it could be a motorcycle. Others assume that it will be an in-home battery that involves solar energy. If Chowdhry's information is correct, it seems that Tesla is ready to launch the latter. In a note to investors, Chowdhry said that he knows of two people that own a residential battery from Tesla. He spoke to one of those owners and detailed the following bullet points: "There are about 230 Households in California, who currently have Tesla Stationary Battery installed in their Homes. Another about 100 Households are out of California. This customer had the Tesla Stationary Battery for about One and a Half years, and is installed in his garage." Last year, Chowdhry attended a sustainability conference and learned that Google Inc is "widely believed" to have a few Tesla (commercial-grade) batteries in some of its buildings. Apple Inc. might also purchase some of these batteries for its new campus. Chowdhry believes that Tesla's commercial-grade batteries are rated at more than 400 kWh.
Friday's solar eclipse highlights the importance of energy storage to the continued growth of solar, experts have claimed. Energy consultancy Frost & Sullivan estimate that by covering 85% of the sun; the eclipse removed 35GW of solar power from the European grid - equivalent to 80 conventional power plants. This sort of instability will drive generators to invest in better storage facilities to ensure a constant security of supply, according to the consultants. "Dealing with events like this one requires investment in various storage tools and monitoring techniques which create a certain amount of flexibility in the energy system," said the report. The nascent technology of pump storage - pumping water uphill into large reservoirs when power is abundant and then letting it flow down again to generate power when needed - will reportedly be valuable in preparing for the eclipse in Germany.
ydney-based energy investment group Tag Pacific has today announced it has won a landmark deal to deliver Australia’s largest energy storage system to be operated alongside the University of Queensland-owned Gatton solar power plant in south-east Queensland. The battery storage project, valued at around $2 million, was won by Tag’s wholly owned power business MPower, which is also working with Rio Tinto and First Solar in the remote town of Weipa, Queensland, to build an ARENA-supported 1.7MW solar PV project, which will serve a remote bauxite mining operation and could be expanded to 6.7MW The newly announced energy storage project, will be grid connected; a slightly different tack for MPower, which has tended to specialise in remote, and off-grid solar plus storage hybrid systems.
In the Lloydminster area, a Calgary company is ready to carve out large underground salt caverns to store excess wind energy — the first use of the technology in Canada. Rocky Mountain Power president Jan van Egteren says the storage sites could be ready in five years. Salt caverns have been used to store natural gas for years, but only two other projects in North America are using them for compressed air that is turned into electricity. The caverns are carved out by pumping water deep down to dissolve the underground salt layer peculiar to the Lloydminster area. Excess wind electricity would be used to pump compressed air into caverns about the size of a 60-storey building. The salt walls allow very little to escape. Then, when the wind dies, the compressed air is released and used to turn a generator to make electricity. The cavern could store enough compressed air to provide electricity for five days to a city the size of Red Deer, says van Egteren. “It could really help stabilize the grid by taking off power when the wind is really blowing.”
Siemens is developing a system of storing thermal energy in rocks with the aim of using it to harness excess power from wind turbines. A spokesperson told Windpower Monthly that the project is in the early stages of development and there is no specific timescale for the construction of a prototype of the system. He said the system would be scaleable for use on site at different projects. The company was unwilling to reveal specific technical details about the process, but said it relied on established technology. The storage of heat in rocks has been used as a method of energy retention for some time. But Siemens' system will transform the stored thermal energy back into electricity rather than use it for heating. This would be done in a "conventional manner" the spokesperson said. The captured heat would be used to create steam to generate electricity through steam turbines.
Sunrun, the largest dedicated residential solar company in the United States, today announced a partnership with OutBack Power Technologies, Inc. to pilot renewable energy storage-based systems for a select group of Sunrun solar customers. OutBack Power is a designer and manufacturer of power conversion systems incorporating energy storage for off-grid and grid-connected renewable energy applications. As part of the pilot, Sunrun will combine and test OutBack Power's technology consisting of weather-resistant batteries and inverters with home solar systems in both indoor and outdoor environments. "It is now more affordable than ever for consumers to run their homes with clean power, and we strongly believe that the next evolution of solar as a service for our customers is home solar paired with energy storage," said Sunrun's chief operating officer, Paul Winnowski. "With OutBack Power, we will further our commitment to providing customized and affordable home solar that allows customers to be a part of the solution for building a clean, modern grid that provides power when it is needed the most."
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