Tag Archives: Batteries

How California Blackouts Will Make Solar and Batteries A National Story

By Bill Roth, Triple Pundit

California again faces potential blackouts. This time it is tied to a natural gas storage facility called Aliso Canyon owned by Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas. The site’s ability to deliver energy was crippled by a natural gas leak described as an ecological disaster comparable to the BP oil rig explosion. State officials worry that this key facility will not be able to deliver sufficient supplies to California’s natural gas generating plants during summer peak electricity demands.

Here’s how solar and distributed generation could become national news this summer. It is 7 p.m., and Los Angeles is blacked out. It’s the third day of a blistering heat wave made more intense by global warming. People cut back on their air conditioning in the first two days in response to public service announcements to “save the grid.” But on that third evening, it was still over a 100 degrees from the valley to the beaches. Everyone decided they had to get cooler. Collectively they only moved their thermostats back down just a couple of degrees. But that was enough. The increased draw of electricity overwhelmed the grid. It automatically shut down because it just could not produce and deliver any more electricity.

But across LA, there are customers with power. They have lights. Even more importantly, they have air conditioning. Customers flock to these businesses. Neighbors walk over to ask their solar-powered neighbor about how they still have electricity.

The press see a media opportunity. Camera crews show up in front of the homes and businesses that have electricity because of solar systems connected to batteries. They ask questions about cost and find that these customers are actually saving money too. Then the reporters turn to the camera and ask, “Could this be the next iPhone-like technology breakthrough that California creates for all of us?”

Read full article from Triple Pundit

Too Much Solar in California? Not If You Bottle It

By Lauren Sommer, KQED

The cost of solar power has plummeted in recent years, which has led to a renewable energy boom in California.

But there’s a big hang-up: solar energy doesn’t provide a 24-hour supply. When the sun sets, the power from solar farms drops off, just as California needs it most. That’s sparked new interest in technology that stores electricity. And the energy storage technology race is going far beyond your typical battery.

Solar Peaking

“Pretty much everyday, we hit peak output,” says Michael Wheeler, a vice president at Recurrent Energy in San Francisco, looking at a screen showing the solar farms his company manages. But earlier this spring, something happened that, at first, doesn’t seem to make sense.

It was the middle of the day, when one of the solar farms was cranking out electricity, and his company got a message. There was too much electricity on the grid. The electric grid managers were telling solar farms to shut down. “The project went from almost peak output to zero for about two hours,” he says.

This happens on sunny, spring days when there is plenty of solar power but Californians aren’t using a lot of air conditioning yet, so demand for power is low. The solar and wind power comes in on top of what natural gas power plants are generating. Because renewable energy production goes up and down with passing clouds and wind conditions, grid operators say they need the continuous supply from natural gas to make up for those fluctuations.

Shutting down natural gas would leave the power supply less stable. Many gas plants can take between four and eight hours to restart, once they’re turned off. As more solar farms come online, the pressure to shut them down on mild, sunny days is only expected to become greater. California plans to get 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Read full article from KQED

Related article: What will California do with too much solar? (KQED) – April 4, 2016

Local schools save with solar panels, batteries

By Pat Maio, The San Diego Union-Tribune

With power rates skyrocketing for San Diego County school districts, Escondido’s has become the latest to agree to a power purchase agreement with a Silicon Valley-based solar company. The deal could help bring $9.8 million in savings over the next 20 years, a district official said.

Escondido Union High School District has dodged some of the larger power bills hitting school districts in San Diego County because of past initiatives to replace old heating and air-conditioning units, and replace light fixtures with more-efficient ones, said Michael Simonson, associate superintendent of business services with the Escondido school district. Over the past two school years, for instance, the Escondido school district has cut its demand for power by 958,000 kilowatt hours.

Meanwhile, its power bill from San Diego Gas & Electric Co. has risen by about $195,000, or 13 percent, from $1.43 million in the 2013-14 school year to $1.62 million, this past year. “The increased costs paid to utilities are dollars that we can’t spend on the classroom,” Simonson said. “We are trying to put that destiny in our hands and balance out some of those potential rate increases. When you look at what is in front of us, this is a good start for the next 20 years.”

San Jose-based SunPower Corp. hopes to begin construction of the solar panels by next summer at Del Lago Academy, and Orange Glen, San Pasqual and Escondido high schools. The panels will be situated atop carports planned for the student parking lots, and will provide shade during the day, and protection from rainy weather. The carports will be wide enough to shade two rows of cars.

The solar panels are just one part of the Escondido district’s energy-conservation plans. Tesla Motors Inc. also has a deal in place to build stationary battery storage systems for three of the Escondido school district’s high schools — a project that officials hope could save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in electricity costs.

Read full article in the San Diego Union-Tribune

PG&E Presents Innovative Energy Storage Agreements

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) this week expanded its commitment to clean energy by presenting its first 75MW of energy storage contracts to the California Public Utilities Commission for review and approval. California’s Energy Storage Decision requires investor-owned utilities to procure 1,325MW of storage by 2020. PG&E’s share is 580MW.

Storage is expected to play an increasingly important role for California utilities as they work to achieve the states ambitious clean energy goals. By the end of 2015, PG&E forecasts that about 30 percent of its retail electric deliveries will come from renewable sources. Energy storage will help integrate many of those resources, such as wind and solar, which are intermittent or provide peak output during times of low demand.

Energy storage has been a part of PG&E’s power mix for decades, starting with the Helm’s Hydroelectric Facility and continuing with pilot projects such as the 2MW Battery Storage Pilot at the Vacaville Substation and the 4MW Yerba Buena Battery Energy Storage System located on the property of Silicon Valley storage technology company HGST.

The seven projects selected include four Lithium Ion Battery projects, two Zinc/Air Battery storage facilities and one Flywheel project, a first for PG&E. Flywheel technology uses kinetic energy to store energy and later supply that energy to the grid. The first projects are due to come online in May of 2017.

Read full press release from PG&E

Energy Storage: Power Revolution

By Peter Fairley, Nature

It is 2025 and another sweltering summer’s day in California. Millions of solar panels are soaking up the Sun’s rays to power the air-conditioning systems that keep homes and offices throughout the state cool. The devices are working efficiently thanks to an intelligent conversation taking place between the appliances and the electrical grid. As clouds drift across the Sun, casting shadows, the air conditioners deftly increase or decrease their output in sync with the varying flow of solar energy. In areas where the demand for electricity looks as though it will overload the power-transmission lines, home air-conditioning units take it in turns to go offline for an hour. In other areas, where solar power threatens to exceed demand, hot-water heaters are turned on to absorb the extra energy.

This imagined future power grid demonstrates the same degree of flexibility that energy-storage advocates predict will occur with the widespread implementation of batteries, but there is no electrochemistry involved — software manipulates energy-consuming equipment so that most electricity is used when it is most abundant, cheap or green.

The concept is called ‘demand dispatch’, because it would activate and deactivate power demand — much as grid operators dynamically dispatch electricity generated by power plants today. In the future, power grids will probably use both the ‘virtual storage’ created by demand dispatch and the true energy storage from batteries. But demand dispatch could be the bigger player of the two, with smart use of existing appliances offering a smaller environmental footprint and slimmer price tag than batteries.

Read full article in Nature

From theory to practice: The challenges in moving to ‘Utility 2.0’

By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

For all the theorizing about what the utility of the future will look like, real world examples of how to adapt current power sector business models to the new world of renewables and distributed resources can seem few and far between.

While utilities often trumpet their new smart grid technologies, microgrid projects and storage pilots, actually working out how to make those solutions scalable and profitable can be a lot harder than it looks from the outside.

But utilities across the nation can learn from each other’s experiences, with the aim that the questionable technologies of the day can become the ubiquitous tools of tomorrow.

That was the goal of the emerging technologies panel at the recently-concluded Energy Storage North America 2015 conference in San Diego. There, representatives from four major utilities—PG&E, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), Southern California Edison, and Consolidated Edison—highlighted the challenges and successes of a diverse set of DER pilots, hoping their struggles could translate into easier adoption of distributed resources and demand side resources at other companies…

Read full article from Utility Dive

Tesla batteries to power office buildings in California

By Katie Fehrenbacher, Fortune

Tesla’s batteries aren’t just for cars anymore. They’ll be used in battery farms at buildings around California. A big real estate developer and a well-connected tech startup have a plan to install batteries from electric car company Tesla at office buildings in a Los Angeles suburb.

On Monday, developer The Irvine Company and startup Advanced Microgrid Solutions announced that they plan to build large battery farms —each the size of about five parking spaces—at buildings in Irvine, Calif. The startup’s software can switch the buildings to battery power when electricity demand on the power grid is high like during hot summer afternoons when air conditioners are blasting. This relieves some of the stress on the power grid during peak times.

The deal is part of Advanced Microgrid Solution’s work with the local utility Southern California Edison to provide it with the equivalent of 50 megawatts of battery systems. As part of that, Advanced Microgrid Solutions plans to install about 10 megawatts of batteries in Irvine in 2016. Ten megawatts is enough energy to power about 10,000 homes.

Read full article from Fortune

Battery-stored electricity could reduce power use and save money, report says

By Ivan Penn, The Los Angeles Times

Utilities would save consumers money and help support the electric grid if the companies tapped unused power stored in existing home and business batteries, according to a report released Thursday by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

The report, titled “The Economics of Battery Energy Storage,” states that most batteries already in use serve only as backup power when other electricity isn’t available. Instead, the electricity in the batteries could help reduce congestion over power lines as utilities work to send power from various plants during high demand. The battery-stored electricity also could immediately provide support to the grid in an emergency. And for customers, the batteries could help them better manage their electricity use and reduce their costs. Consumers could tap the stored power during times when electricity costs are high rather than buying from the grid, reducing their electric bills beyond the use of solar panels alone.

In particular, California already is seeking to employ more energy storage along with increasing use of renewable sources such as solar and wind to help reduce pollution, said Jesse Morris and Garrett Fitzgerald, the authors of the report. The mandates from state regulators largely target the utilities, but Morris and Fitzgerald said the existing storage in homes and businesses creates another opportunity for the state, the utilities and consumers.

Read full article in the Los Angeles Times

Zero-net energy home pilot set to open in Fontana

By Ivan Penn, The Los Angeles Times

Global renewable giant SunEdison announced Wednesday that it would supply advanced battery technology for nine Southern California homes that will generate and store their own energy. The first of the project’s so-called zero-net energy homes, which are being built in Fontana, is expected to be completed by the end of September with the remaining eight finished by the first quarter of 2016.

A zero-net energy home is supposed to generate as much energy as it consumes. SunEdison, which develops, finances and installs equipment for renewable energy sources such as solar, designed a system that will monitor and control how energy is used in the homes. SunEdison partnered with builder Meritage Homes and Southern California Edison to develop the project. SunEdison is supplying a five-kilowatt battery for each of the homes.

The effort, led by the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, is considered an important part of future grid planning. The California Public Utilities Commission’s Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan aims to have all new homes be zero-net energy, beginning in 2020. For commercial buildings, the target year is 2030.

Read full article in the Los Angeles Times

Related Article: SunEdison supplies batteries for net-zero energy homes in California (Computerworld)

Beyond batteries: The diverse technologies vying for the bulk storage market

By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

All the talk in the electric utility industry these days seems to be about battery storage, but there are other ways to save generated electricity for later.

With more demanding state renewable portfolio standards, the finalization of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and utilities increasingly turning to renewables as a least-cost option, grid operators are likely to need more and bigger storage options by the mid-2020s, if not before.

“The excitement in the market now is around the policies we have in place, which very specifically exclude big pumped hydro applications,” explained California Energy Storage Alliance (CESA) Sr. Advisor Mark Higgins, the VP/COO at Strategen Consulting. “Those policies were designed to create a diversity of technologies. Bulk storage would work against that.”

But, Higgins said, by around 2024, when California gets to about 40% renewables, there will be a real need to shift excess renewable energy supplies from the middle of the day to the late afternoon and evening. “That will require storage resources that can handle big amounts of energy over long periods of time.” Higgins expects California regulators to again take the lead, as they did with the AB 2514 policy now driving battery technology growth, and put in place incentives for long duration storage technologies. Following is an overview of some of the diverse technologies vying for the bulk storage market…

Read full article from Utility Dive