Posts Tagged ‘energy storage’

As renewable energy is expanding throughout the world in response to declining, insecure and climate changing fuel sources, the issue of intermittency has prompted the development and deployment of energy storage.  Below are just a few examples:


Less than a month after Tesla Inc. unveiled a new backup power system in South Australia, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery has already been put to the test.

Reports today say that it appears to be far exceeding expectations. In the first three weeks alone, the Hornsdale Power Reserve smoothed out at least two major energy outages, responding even more quickly than the coal-fired backups that were in place to provide emergency power.

The area where the battery has been deployed in South Australia is in the grips of an energy crisis. In 2016, an outage left 1.7 million residents in the dark and storms and heat waves have caused additional outages.  With the price of electricity soaring in Australia, this test of an industrial battery backup is being closely watched.

In March, Elon Musk vowed on Twitter to deliver a battery system for South Australia’s struggling grid. By early July, the state had signed a deal with California-based Tesla and the French-based energy company Neoen to produce the battery, and by Dec. 1, South Australia announced it had switched on the Hornsdale battery.

Fed by wind turbines at the nearby Hornsdale wind farm, the battery stores excess energy that is produced when the demand for electricity isn’t peaking. It can power up to 30,000 homes, though only for short periods — meaning that the battery must still be supported by traditional power plants in the event of a long outage.

Nonetheless, the Hornsdale reserve has already shown that it can provide what’s known as a “contingency or ancillary” service — keeping the grid stable in a crisis and easing what otherwise would be a significant power failure.

And, more important, the project is the biggest proof of concept yet that batteries such as Tesla’s can help mitigate one of renewable energy’s most persistent problems: how to use it when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.


United Kingdom/Europe

In the UK, Pivot Power is not far behind, as they’ve just unveiled plans for an ambitious network of grid-connected energy storage and electric vehicle charging which could simultaneously balance supply and demand on the grid, and also provide electric vehicle rapid charging to hundreds of vehicles at once—without causing the kinds of surges in demand that naysayers were once so worried about.

Specifically, once built, the proposed battery network would be the world’s largest of its kind—consisting of 45 sites (already identified) with 50MW of stationary battery storage at each location. Each spot would be co-located with electricity sub-stations in order to maximize grid-stabilization services, but also happen to be near major towns, cities or roads—potentially supporting up to 100 rapid 150KW chargers, and even 350KW chargers once cars are around that can charge that fast.

Pivot Power is pretty explicit about their intention—and that’s to “accelerate the decline of petrol and diesel”.

If nothing else, it’s refreshing to hear clean technology advocates talking in such ambitious, absolute terms. Because there’s no doubt that this is what needs to happen in order to achieve a low carbon transition.

And for those folks who fear a shift from petrol/diesel car dependency to electric car dependency, it’s an encouraging sign that the Pivot Power network isn’t just focused on private car ownership. Alongside public charging, the network is also looking at providing services for “electric bus depots and bases for large transport fleets.”


The Middle East

There is increasing high-level interest in the potential for energy storage in the Middle East, with grid-connected systems forecast to reach 1.8GW in the region by 2025.

The region is at present a small market as far as energy storage and especially utility-scale advance battery energy storage is concerned. In fact, the majority of the Middle East’s installed base comes from just one project, a 108MW sodium-sulfur battery energy storage project for Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water Authority supplied by Japanese company NGK. While energy storage is in its infancy in the region, it is unlikely to remain so long term.

The UAE, Saud Arabia and Qatar are among the region’s countries that have enjoyed progress in solar PV in very recent times, with all of them adding significant utility-scale projects. Meanwhile Jordan, another of those countries to see large-scale PV rollout underway, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a 20MW battery-based energy storage system with AES Corporation in 2015.


Latin America

According to the World Economic Forum, energy storage in the form of large arrays of batteries is still in the early stages of deployment in Latin America. However, the role of electricity storage promises to become much more significant as the region diversifies its sources of power generation, and looks to batteries to help smooth out intermittent energy generation and mitigate the costs of peak demand.

Some policymakers and private companies in the region are already preparing for the rise of battery storage with test projects and new policies. In Mexico, General Electric has announced plans to develop five energy storage projects that will help integrate solar and wind projects into the grid. And in the Dominican Republic, two 10MW arrays of batteries, installed by AES Dominicana in August 2017, were credited with helping that country’s grid remain operational when Hurricane Irma struck a few weeks later.

Energy storage will affect the entire electricity value chain across Latin America as it replaces peaking plans, alters future transmission and distribution (T&D) investments, reduces intermittency of renewables, restructures power markets and helps to digitize the electricity ecosystem.


Africa: A great opportunity for a continent of developing countries

Namibia, a nation that’s considerably bigger than Texas but with only around 2.5 million people, installed almost 55 megawatts of generation from renewables and has projects under construction for another 121 megawatts, according to NamPower, the state-owned utility.  However, the total installed capacity combined with committed renewable generation is reaching a threshold, at least until their grid can catch up.

This illustrates how intermittent power generation penetration hits limits in these nations before bigger investments are required in the power distribution network.

Technically, Nambia can handle about 275 megawatts of renewables, which is about half of the midday load according to a 2017 study. The country relies on imports for about 60 percent of its electricity, mainly from South Africa’s state-owned Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., and even the import of baseload power does not guarantee grid reliability as some areas have daily power outages as a norm.

Africa presents huge opportunities for developers of renewable-energy plants, since wind and solar are quicker and sometimes cheaper to build than coal and natural gas plants. While renewable sources such as wind and solar can leapfrog traditional generation, they do not provide consistent 24-hour baseload electricity.

Namibia’s biggest domestic source of power is the Ruacana hydropower plant near the border with Angola. However, it has its own intermittency limit as it depends on the seasonal run of the Kunene River.

Reaching a bottleneck hasn’t deterred Namibia from adopting more renewables in the future as it aims to reduce power imports. The National Integrated Resource Plan includes an allocation for biomass power plants with capacity of as much as 200 megawatts.

Concentrated solar power is also called for in the plan. That technology concentrates the sun’s energy on heating a liquid that drives power turbines. Because the liquid can retain heat for a time after the sun goes down, those systems also can be used to store energy and deliver power to the grid at predictable times.

If African nations begin to adopt storage into their power distribution network, it could go a long way to stabilizing their grids and potentially their countries.



Stories like these are happening all over the globe.  Right here at home, the Department of Energy recently awarded $20 million in funding for nine projects to advance early-stage solar power electronics technologies. The projects chosen were deemed critical to addressing solar photovoltaic reliability challenges, lowering the cost of installing and maintaining a photovoltaic solar energy system and achieving the DOE’s goal of cutting in half the cost of electricity for a solar system by 2030.

Three million was awarded to engineering researchers at The University of Texas at Austin to overcome the same dilemma of overcoming the issues of intermittency with renewables.

Experts from UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering have developed a way to integrate solar power generation and storage into one single system, effectively reducing the cost by 50 percent. The UT project will develop the next generation of utility-scale photovoltaic inverters, also referred to as modular, multifunction, multiport and medium-voltage utility-scale silicon carbide solar inverters.

Big Batteries Raise Texas-Sized Policy Questions at PUC

Utility-scale energy storage holds great promise both for energy conservation and grid reliability. But the quickly advancing technology also raises tough regulatory challenges, especially for complex power markets like that existing in Texas.

Look for a future guest blog post from Public Citizen’s retired director, Tom “Smitty” Smith on the history of deregulation in Texas and what the impacts of that policy change are having on this new technology.

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Back in the 1990s, the EPA introduced rules to stop acid rain by cutting the emission of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Critics thought it couldn’t be done, but inventive engineers came up with new and better ways to scrub the pollutants out of the smokestacks.

Now the same is believed for the newly proposed EPA regulations on carbon emissions, but there are many reasons to disagree with the skeptics. Many opposed are saying that the new regulations will bring elevated electricity bills and even plunge the nation into blackouts. But, in reality, emissions cuts have already been achieved in some states and those states are faring better economically than many other parts of the United States.

The new EPA carbon rules in a nutshell:

  • EPA logoBy 2030 the EPA seeks to reduce America’s carbon dioxide emissions 30% from 2005 levels.
  • States will have until June 30, 2016 (with the potential for some extensions) to come up with a plan on how to implement the rule and reduce their average emissions per megawatt-hour of electricity. If they refuse the EPA says it will impose its own plan.

Success Stories:

One way that some states have got a foot up on meeting the emissions standards is by joining the Northeastern cap-and-trade program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which first put in a carbon cap in 2009. In the cap-and-trade system, the participating state governments placed an upper limit on total carbon emissions and issued permits for those emissions, which companies bought and sold from one another.

Nine northeastern states have already entered the program and have substantially reduced their carbon emissions in recent years. At the same time, those states have had stronger economic growth than the rest of the country.

Since 2009, the nine states have cut their emissions by 18 percent, while their economies grew by 9.2 percent. By comparison, emissions in the other 41 states fell by 4 percent, while their economies grew by 8.8 percent.

The states in the program reduced emissions faster and more efficiently than was previously assumed, and this gives a ray of hope to the rest of the United States. The sharp cut in emissions in the Northeast did not inhibit the economy there from doing just as well as elsewhere.

What’s the Problem, then?

Martin_LakeSome of the biggest opposition to the new regulations comes from heavily coal dependent states. However, many of them have been given more moderate goals to meet with the new regulations due to their reliance on coal and their limited renewable energy resources. But even in states that have made big cuts, the Obama plan is inciting some wariness with officials in those regions, who are pointing out that the plan would burden them with rigorous targets requiring them to go further in reducing emissions.

There are many different options that states can choose between when determining how to cut carbon emissions though. While cutting emissions in general is the goal, the ways of achieving those cuts can either push progress forward even more or just do what little needs to be done in order to meet the requirements. By choosing to rely on energy storage and renewable energy sources states will be able to not only cut emissions but help the world to move forward in a more sustainable way, with economic benefits for those states.

Why is Energy Storage a good option?

Energy storage has the potential to not only cut costs, but also allow us to keep energy in reserves for the future and times of emergency. Energy Storage systems are also fuel neutral, which means regardless of how the energy was generated the storage systems can save it.

Energy storage cuts costs primarily by lowering the overall cost of electricity. It also allows customers to avoid premium pricing when demand for electricity is highest. But most importantly, energy storage helps to reduce the amount of power outages and equipment failures that take place as well as limiting the amount of time the power is out. This not only helps to save time and money but it also can help to save lives.

Why are renewables a good option?

solar installationRenewable resources are inexhaustible. They can be utilized without any fear of depletion. Unlike the burning of fossil fuels, which spew dangerous greenhouse gases that lead to global warming, wind and solar farms are emissions free. That is just one of the many reasons to convert to renewables. By switching there is also a great increase in job creation. In total there were 142,698 solar workers in the U.S. as of November 2013. This is a 20 percent increase over 2012 figures and ten times higher than the national average employment growth rate, which was 1.9 percent. Veterans also make up about 9 percent of the solar workforce compared with 7.5 percent of the national economy. These numbers are all very optimistic, but while the U.S. could see million of new jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency, this will only happen with the necessary leadership, research, development, and public policy at the federal and state levels. The new EPA regulations took that first step.

The potential ways of meeting the new EPA emissions regulations are in abundance, but the only way we will start seeing change is if we begin to implement those solutions. By turning to renewable energy sources and supporting energy storage we can make sure that our country is not only able to meet the EPA regulations but goes above and beyond and to help clean up and protect our earth to make it safe for our children and their future. It is already evident that states can cut emissions and still see economic growth, so what are we waiting for?

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Long thought to be the last commodity that can’t be saved for later use, large scale electrical energy storage is finally looking like a technology who’s time might have come.

Recently introduced the “Storage Technology of Renewable and Green Energy Act of 2010” Act (S. 3617) introduced by U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) stands to finally get things moving in the energy storage development space.

To go along with that, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced that they are taking applications for a Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP) new technology implementation grant (NTIG) on energy storage based on a bill that got passed last session (yes they did pass a few bills last session). Anyone that needs a cool 3 mil to get a project off the ground should consider applying as applications are due by September 17 and, if congress can get their act together, there might be a 20% tax credit to sweeten the pot.

Energy storage has been called the holy grail of renewable’s by members of the Leg and could potentially solve a bunch of technical issues on the Texas electrical grid depending on the technology implemented. Compressed air storage, fast acting flywheels, super conducting magnetic loops and all sort of different batteries each provide a different solution to various problems.

Grid stabilization is one that needs to be looked at in the near future. Using solid state electronics these storage solutions can react in fractions of a second (and less then one of the 60 cycles per second our electrical system runs on) to smooth the flow of electrons from the generator to your home and business and reducing the speed that a gas generator needs to react to an increase or decrease in load on the electrical grid.

Large scale storage will allow wind (which blows mostly at night in Texas) and solar to be stored and used when the energy is most needed (all though solar produces most of its energy at peak load already). Batteries, suitably placed like the one EET built in Presidio can reduce the need to build new transmission lines and substations. Lets hope our Legislators (both in Texas and at the federal level) can do something to move this new technology along. It can support the increasing amount of renewable’s we need to build, stabilize our electrical system and reduce emissions by making renewable energy available when we need it, and providing fast acting response when the grid needs a little extra juice, rather than firing up another gas turbine, or help us, a coal plant.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Local energy storage company Xtream Power inks a deal to supply the Tres Amigas project with their technology. CH2M, another firm with central Texas connections (who has been hiring some of Austins finest green talent) lands the construction contract. Will local green engineers Kurt Lyell (one of the original founders of Austin Bio-fuels) or John Hoffner (KOOP radio Shades of Green) be working on this gem?

CH2M Hill lands contract for managing construction on the project. Will one grid rule them all?

A 22.5-sq.-mile site in the small town of Clovis, New Mexico is the only place in the United States where the three grids that service the western states, some eastern states, and the entire state of Texas all meet.

Tres Amigas Super Station in Clovis new mexico

TresAmigas Superstation

Sort of. The three grids come close to each other, but they aren’t connected. This prevents electricity from being transferred between the Eastern Interconnection (which services states like New York), the Western Interconnection (which services states like California), and the Texas Interconnection (well, this one is obvious).  In that sense, it’s like the nation’s fragmented roads in the 1950s, before the Interstate Highway System linked the country.

With Tres Amigas, California conceivably will be able to siphon off excess wind capacity from Texas. At the current juncture, that is physically impossible. The transmission structure doesn’t exist and energy storage technologies — flow batteries, compressed air, sodium batteries — aren’t yet economical enough to start planting them en masse in the desert.

CH2M Hill is overseeing the construction of Tres Amigas SuperStation, a project that will change all that. The project will connect the entire power grid across America for the first time. The initial phase of the project will cost $600 million, but the hub is expected to make money by buying and selling electricity to utilities (and could make some $4 billion in revenue every year).

In the last 20 years, blackouts have increased to 124 percent in the United States. Smart grids could predict a potential outage and send electricity to the places where it is needed. (more…)

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The following editorial from the San Antonio Express News is an excellent take on the issue of the South Texas Project nuclear expansion. Kudos to Carlos Guerra!

Expert offers uniquely Texan power solution

Carlos Guerra – San Antonio Express News

With a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from UC-Berkeley, Arjun Makhijani has followed energy issues and innovations for decades. But with his uncanny understanding of economics, and a willingness to put a pencil to what comes along, when he says something, you listen.

Or, at least, you should.

Makhijani’s most recent book, “Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free” is now a must-read on emerging energy solutions. And last fall, he studied CPS Energy’s plans to participate in the doubling of the South Texas Project.

Among other things, the engineer concluded that the two new reactors would cost more than twice what was projected.

CPS’ latest forecasts now almost echo Makhijani’s.

And Wednesday, he advised CPS to closely re-examine its drive to expand the STP and, especially, its latest twist in the deal: to sell excess electricity on the wholesale market to offset the regular rate increases that would be made necessary to pay for the new reactors.

“Especially in a deep recession, when demand for electricity is going down throughout the country, and nobody has any idea when it will recover,” he said, “for San Antonio to say they are going to sell electricity on the open market at rates that will benefit ratepayers is gambling with public money.”

Makhijani did compliment our utility’s newfound commitment to promoting greater efficiencies and relying more heavily on wind energy. But he also offered alternatives to the pricey investment in nuclear power that he says would be better and safer — economically and environmentally — and yield better results more quickly.

“The combination of efficiency, storage and wind, and concentrating solar thermal energy would be the right mix,” he said. “And the pace at which you do that should depend on the economic circumstances. You shouldn’t be overbuilding anything, not wind, solar or whatever.

“In San Antonio, the first thing to do is to start making money on efficiencies so bills don’t go up for consumers,” he continued.

“That will lay the foundation for a solid electricity sector that will be modern and that can accommodate changes.”

And since CPS leads Texas in its commitment to buying wind energy, it should incorporate storage strategies so it can purchase excess electricity when it is cheapest, and distribute it to augment other electricity sources when demand — and other electricity prices — soar.

The Japanese, Makhijani noted, are already using large industrial sodium-sulfur batteries to do just that with wind energy.

But in Texas, storing energy as compressed air in massive underground caverns — as is done with natural gas — might make more sense. And it is a proven technology.

Then, when energy demand peaks, the compressed air is heated with small amounts of natural gas and used to drive turbines to generate electricity that can help meet the peak-load demands.

When you think about it, that would be a perfectly Texan solution. When temperatures soar and air conditioners are cranked up, we could solve our peak demand problems with natural gas and a lot of hot air.

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Looks like our friends over at ReEnergize Texas have scored a couple interviews with two 2010 Senate race hopefuls, Democratic Mayor of Houston Bill White and Republican Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams.

Trevor Lovell, Statewide Director for ReEnergize Texas, reports:

We are not joining the throng of cable news reporters more concerned with the 2010 election than with fixing the country in the meantime. But we did score big with two interviews that could help shape the midterm US Senate race here in Texas.

The US Senate race in Texas has a slightly funny story. Longtime US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is expected to step down and throw her hat in the ring to become the next Texas Governor. The spot she may vacate (but has not yet vacated) is already being contested by a number of potential candidates, the most notable being John Sharp and Bill White on the Democratic side, and Michael Williams and Florence Shapiro on the Republican side.

Check ’em out:

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Read on for Lovell’s analysis of the interviews! (more…)

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towncrier3asWant Austin to do think outside the box on energy efficiency?

Think we should invest in storage technology to store all that beautiful wind and solar energy?

Want to see city hall but never had a reason to?

On Wednesday, Jan 28, Austin Energy will host a town hall meeting at city hall (301 W. 2nd Street) to solicit public comments and input on their future energy planning.  Here’s the full schedule.  If you can’t make one, make the other.

January 28, 2009 (Wednesday) City Hall Council Chambers (301 West 2nd Street); 6-9 PM

February 3, 2009 (Tuesday) Town Lake Center – Assembly Room (721 Barton Springs Road)

February 5, 2009 (Thursday) Carver Branch Library  (1161 Angelina)

Public Citizen, in case you were unaware, recommends mega energy efficiency programs (since there’s so much available in Texas), larger investment in renewable power (especially solar), and development of energy storage technologies like compressed air energy storage, thermal storage, advanced batteries, ultracapacitors, and flywheels.  Learn more here.  Austin Energy’s info is here.


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Researchers at MIT have developed a fuel cell which could revolutionize not only how we get energy but how we think about it. The old model has always been to hook up your home to a power grid and an electric utility which buys electricity from coal and gas-burning power plants (and to a lesser degree nuclear and in the last few years some wind).

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With this breakthrough, we can conceivably turn our homes into “power plants… and gas stations” according to MIT’s Daniel Nocera.

How the solar fuel cell storage would work - from MIT

How the solar fuel cell storage would work - from MIT

With Daniel Nocera’s and Matthew Kanan’s new catalyst, homeowners could use their solar panels during the day to power their home, while also using the energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen for storage. At night, the stored hydrogen and oxygen could be recombined using a fuel cell to generate power while the solar panels are inactive.

This is an important breakthrough that will lead to lower energy prices for us, but we have to act quickly. We need to deploy smart meters in our cities and start getting ready for plug-in hybrids or fully electric vehicles. Bring it up with your Congressman, Senator, State Legislator, City Councilmember, or electric Co-op board member and get ready for the next generation in energy.

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