solar storage

Energy Storage Is Going Primetime in 2015

solar storageThe electricity grid is set for a major transformation – arguably one of its biggest since the inception of the grid – and energy storage is going to play a center stage role. The radical pace of innovation is driven by governments, utilities and energy companies whose understanding and acceptance that the way energy is generated and distributed has changed, and is continuing to change at an increasingly rapid rate. With renewable energy now a major part of the mainstream grid and the drive to move away from nuclear and fossil fuels, it is clear that energy storage is the missing link.

This expanded role for energy storage began with the mandates issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), who regulate the publicly-owned utilities that deliver over two-thirds of total electricity demand in that state. These policies require adoption of procurement targets for utilities to acquire viable and cost-effective energy storage.


volkswagen electric storage

VW Said to Buy Battery Startup Stake for Tesla Challenge

volkswagen electric storage
Winterkorn sees new battery technology possibly boosting the range of electric vehicles “to as much as 700 kilometers (430 miles)”

Volkswagen AG (VOW) bought a stake in battery startup QuantumScape Corp. with the aim of developing technology that can more than triple the range of its electric cars, according to people familiar with the matter.

VW is considering using the energy-storage technology, which is fireproof, for vehicles from the namesake brand as well as Porsche and Audi, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. Tests to show the system is viable for cars are due to be completed in mid-2015, they said. The VW of America unit bought a 5 percent holding and has options to raise the stake, one of the people said.



Musk Battery Works Fill Utilities With Fear and Promise

Tesla Motor Inc. associates work on a Model S at the company’s factory in Fremont, California. More than 100,000 plug-ins have been sold in California, according to data from and Baum & Associates, though electric vehicles make up less than 1 percent of all U.S. car sales.

Here’s why something as basic as a battery both thrills and terrifies the U.S. utility industry.

At a sagebrush-strewn industrial park outside of Reno, Nevada, bulldozers are clearing dirt for Tesla Motors Inc.’s battery factory, projected to be the world’s largest.

Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, sees the $5 billion facility as a key step toward making electric cars more affordable, while ending reliance on oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At first blush, the push toward more electric cars looks to be positive for utilities struggling with stagnant sales from energy conservation and slow economic growth.

Yet Musk’s so-called gigafactory may soon become an existential threat to the 100-year-old utility business model. The facility will also churn out stationary battery packs that can be paired with rooftop solar panels to store power. Already, a second company led by Musk, SolarCity Corp., is packaging solar panels and batteries to power California homes and companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

US Navy solar battery

US Navy Pushes Solar Energy Storage Solution

US Navy solar battery
Imergy Vanadium Flow Battery

We just got wind of a major new oil industry campaign to tear down California’s clean energy rules, but we’re thinking these guys are going to be outflanked by the shockingly rapid growth of the energy storage sector. Case in point: the Navy Mobile Utilities Support Equipment facility in Port Hueneme, California, is hosting a new cutting edge smart microgrid project that can go into “island mode” using only solar power, thanks to vanadium flow batteries for solar energy storage.

If you’re new to the topic, it may come as somewhat of a shock to see Navy and solar energy in the same sentence. However, recall the Navy’s leadership transition from wind power to coal, oil, and nuclear energy, and you can see how this particular branch of the armed services is all over the next big energy thing like white on rice.


Envision Solar’s Portable Solar Chargers to Enhance EV Charging Infrastructure

520-envision-solarLack of charging stations has been holding back growth of the electric vehicle market for years now, and it seems that it will continue to be one of the biggest obstacles EV adoption for years to come. The stalemate surrounding the EV charging infrastructure is mostly due to the fact that charging stations are pretty expensive to build, and their number will not increase before electric cars really go mainstream, unless some alternative charging solution is introduced, that is more cost-effective and whose implementation will not depend on the number of EVs on the road.

The Electric Vehicle Autonomous Renewable Charger (EV ARC) might just be one of those potential solutions that could help speed up EV adoption, while waiting for an expansion of the existing charging station network. The solar-powered charging system developed by Envision Solar, a company that designs and manufactures renewable energy charging systems, and it can make charging electric vehicles much more convenient.

It’s a portable charging station, powered by photovoltaic cells, and it does not have to be connected to the power grid, and does not require a foundation, thus eliminating installation costs associated with conventional charging stations. The 9-by-16-foot charger is comprised of a steel base, that weighs around 11,000 pounds, along with a solar panel that generate electricity and charge a 22-kWh lithium-ion battery. The solar panel can tilt up to 15 percent to track the sun, thanks to a couple of electric motors. It can easily fit in a regular parking spot, and can be transported by truck. Since the installation of these chargers does not involve construction or waiting for permits, it only takes a couple of minutes to get it up and running.

The EV ARC has numerous applications, but it’s most suitable for businesses and government agencies that want to support sustainable commuting, and make it easier for their employees who own electric cars to recharge them during working hours. Each of these portable chargers cost $40,000, and businesses that decide to buy one, can get a return on their investment by selling ad space on it, as it features a 45-inch digital screen that can display ads, but it is still too big of an investment for individual EV owners. However, the company says that car owners can be eligible for various incentives and tax breaks if they decide to buy one of these portable chargers, which could bring their price down by as much as 40 percent. In any case, the $40,000 price tag is way cheaper than conventional charging stations, that can cost up to $150,000 to build and install.

Another great thing about the EV ARC is that it does not put extra train on the power grid, which could be a very serious issue in the future, if the number of electric cars grows as expected. As Desmond Wheatley, the CEO of Envision Solar said, the ultimate goal that the company wants to achieve through the development of portable EV charging systems is to radically change the way electric cars are charged, and make it more similar to the way cell phones are charged – pretty much whenever and where ever you want, by bringing a charger along with you wherever you go, instead of having to go to a charging station.

“Staggering” Energy Storage News From California

520-energy-storageThis organization called Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) just crossed our radar, and since its membership includes SolarCity, GE, Microsoft, Philips, Verizon, and a few score other corporate sluggers we’re going to pick apart some energy storage news it passed along last week. Specifically, AEE is all excited over a “staggering” 2,221 MW energy buy just announced by the utility Southern California Edison, which includes a 250 MW energy storage buy described as the biggest of its kind ever purchased by a utility.

So, what is this impressive energy storage system?


New Battery Startup, Alevo, Has Raised $1 Billion In Private Funding, Looking To Blow Up US Energy Storage Industry | CleanTechnica


A new battery startup based out of Martigny, Switzerland — the Alevo Group — has, reportedly, raised over $1 billion in funding from anonymous Swiss investors, and is now aiming to “revolutionize” the US energy storage industry/market.

The company has created a new battery that lasts notably longer than the current industry standard, according to the company, as well as being considerably cheaper to manufacture.

The company’s plan is to sell the batteries as grid-scale energy storage devices. The battery has been in development for about a decade, in secret, according to those involved.

“We’ve been very stealth,” stated Jostein Eikeland, a Norwegian entrepreneur backing the company. “We didn’t know if we were going to succeed.”

4 Trends Shaping the US Solar-Plus-Storage Market

520-energy_storage_benefitsEnergy storage is expensive but offers a host of opportunities, both in revenue generation and cost reduction. Paired with solar, energy storage is even more attractive, offering savings on the energy portion of the bill and access to ITC benefits when eligible — through 2016, anyway.

The chart below, presented by GTM Research senior grid analyst Ravi Manghani at Solar Power International, highlights a number of reasons end customers might consider before implementing a solar-plus-storage system. Some of these benefits, such as ancillary services and demand response, are not yet available to end customers in all states.

Manghani went on to describe the future of solar-plus-storage in the United States, and in doing so, he identified four trends that are driving the current market:

A battery startup no one has heard of says it’s building a billion-dollar factory in North Carolina

alevoThere are a few reasons why startups try to make a big splash in the press: they’re ready to start selling their product, they’re looking for partners or customers to test the product or they want to raise money. The last of those would be my guess why a battery startup called Alevo – with offices in Switzerland, a newly purchased factory building in North Carolina and a Norwegian entrepreneur founder — has decided to do a full-court press on the media for its coming out party this week.

Alevo says that, for the past ten years, it has been working on a new type of battery made from lithium iron phosphate, and it was officially founded as a company six years ago. Alevo officials say their battery can be charged and discharged over 40,000 cycles, which is a very long life time for this type of battery, and they say their secret sauce is an inorganic electrolyte made from sulfur that significantly reduces the battery’s degradation over time.

Power storage group Alevo plan 1bn US battery plant

520-alevoThe Philip Morris plant in Concord, North Carolina used to manufacture a billion cigarettes a year. But Americans are smoking less, and in the tobacco giant shuttered the factory’s doors years ago and announced plans to sell the 2,100 acre, the 3.5 million square foot facility. In a sure sign that the U.S. economy is changing for the better, the empty space is not being turned in an outlet mall or water park but into a giant manufacturing site for utility-scale batteries that will store wind and solar electricity. Alevo, the Swiss maker of the battery technology, plans to open the plant Tuesday, and says that within three years they will create 2,500 high paying jobs.

Alevo, which has been working on its battery technology for more than a decade, is entering a crowded field where dozens of startups and some established players such as AES Energy Storage are vying for a market that is poised to explode. According to a recent report from Navigant Research, worldwide revenue from advanced batteries for utility-scale energy storage applications will grow from a paltry $164 million in 2014 to more than $2.5 billion in 2023.

Solar + Batteries: are we all going off-grid?

electric-sunset-520For over a hundred years, power plants have been built in a very specific way: large, centralized facilities usually located far from where actual energy consumption takes place. These plants typically have been owned by big corporations (mostly utility companies) on which consumers rely to get electricity. More important, these centralized plants have made the electric grid indispensable, as power needs to be transported and distributed to the load centers.

However, with rapid declines in the cost of solar energy and with new developments in battery energy storage, this is bound to change. At a time when 3-D printers allow us to manufacture at home, distributed generation through customer-owned rooftop solar systems makes perfect sense. Increased efficiencies and significant cost reductions over the last decade have convinced many to embrace the technology. But, as the critics point out, the intermittency of renewable energy and the fact that solar cannot power our homes at night still prove the need for a grid that can provide uninterrupted power.

Energy storage, batteries flourish at SPI 2014

las-vegas-convention-centerWhether it is ultimately the PV industry that pulls the battery and energy storage industry up with it as it expands, or whether battery and energy storage ultimately pushes PV along, what became clearer at the SPI 2014 show last week is that the two sectors are becoming more inextricably intertwined.

Last week’s SPI confab in Las Vegas showed just how intertwined the energy storage and PV sectors have become.

Perhaps the most notable among battery and energy storage launches was Enphase’s AC Battery unit, powered by Daiwa House-backed ELIIY Power lithium-ion chemistry, and offering 1.2 kWh of energy storage with a 275 Watt to 550 Watt power output. Enphase is rolling out pilot tests in the United States, Europe and Australia and will begin shipping it early in 2015. “We want to do for energy storage what we’ve done for PV,” says company co-founder Raghu Belur.

Among many other notable announcements from battery and energy storage companies during the show were the following:

Will Stem’s Battery Systems Combined With Kyocera’s Solar Boost Energy Storage Adoption?

stemThe convergence of rooftop solar PV and behind-the-meter batteries continues. On Tuesday, Japanese solar module giant Kyocera announced it has teamed up with Stem, a startup that’s installed about 6 megawatts of behind-the-meter lithium-ion batteries, to “offer an integrated solar photovoltaic (PV) and energy storage solution for commercial power users.”

Under the non-exclusive agreement, Stem will work through Kyocera’s sales channels and sales force to pitch its core business proposition — batteries that inject power into buildings when they’re about to exceed certain thresholds that trigger expensive demand charges, pricing tier changes, or other components of a typical utility rate scheme for commercial customers that can jack up bills.

This demand management function could in turn serve as a hedge against the future value of on-site rooftop solar, Karen Butterfield, Stem’s chief commercial officer, noted in a Tuesday interview. Consider that customer-owned solar PV is primarily paid today on the basis of kilowatt-hours, or how much energy it pumps into the utility system over time. But for commercial customers with demand charges and tiers to worry about, controlling kilowatts — how much electricity is being consumed at any one moment — is just as important.

That means Stem’s battery systems don’t have to store enough solar energy to keep the building powered overnight, for example, she said. They need just enough to mitigate what Stem’s software knows will be the day’s coming peaks, accounting for all the uncertainties that come with predicting power usage. Stem backs the promise of quick returns on investment by financing its systems and paying itself back through utility bill savings, and it recently raised $100 million for these no-money-down deals.

As for Stem’s key role, “It’s the software, the software, the software,” said Butterfield, who previously served as the manager of SunPower’s commercial systems group. “It’s predictive analytics software, it’s look-back software. It can see what the solar is doing, what the demand of the building is doing, and dispatch the battery at exactly the right time for economic benefit.”

GTM Research predicts the U.S. market for distributed energy storage will grow at a 34 percent cumulative annual growth rate to reach 720 megawatts by 2020, driven largely by the demand-charge business case, but also boosted by solar integration needs.

Solar-linked battery systems provide interesting opportunities for future revenue streams, though most will require significant changes to state-by-state utility regulations to achieve. Much of that value will be determined by how well the software in charge of all that energy balancing manages the day-to-day demands imposed by the building and the grid to optimize revenue, while tracking battery discharge depth and cycling to keep it healthy over its ten-year-plus lifespan.

Right now, Stem and Kyocera will target California, New York and Hawaii as their initial markets. These are the states that provide the biggest incentives for distributed storage. They’re also furthest along in revamping their energy regulations to better incorporate distributed energy assets, including energy storage, into the grid.

That’s made California in particular a target for solar-storage projects. Companies like Sunverge, Coda EnergyGreen Charge Networks, andSolarCity and battery partner Tesla, are all deploying megawatts’ worth of distributed assets across the state, fueled by the Self-Generation Incentive Program rebates that can cover more than half of system costs.

Meanwhile, batteries have been making their way into solar PV module manufacturers’ sales pitches, largely on the residential side, where some homeowners are willing to pay extra for emergency backup power during an outage. Currently, homeowners don’t have a way to “sell” their battery’s capabilities back to the utility, although New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative proposes the creation of a category of distribution system operators that could open these distributed assets up to the grid. Commercial customers could provide a more immediate target for distributed, aggregated energy storage at grid scale, given that demand charge reduction already covers so much of the cost of getting a system installed in the first place.

“The future is really the aggregation of these assets, and being able to discharge when the grid needs it and when the grid can pay for it,” Butterfield said. Stem is already testing the waters on this front with a Northern California pilot project that’s paying its customers to bid into state grid operator CAISO’s fifteen-minute grid balancing market. It’s also working with Hawaiian Electric Co. to deploy 1 megawatt worth of its systems in the 18-kilowatt to 54-kilowatt size range at commercial properties across the island of Oahu to help manage its solar-stressed system.

How Carla Peterman and the CPUC will Make Calif. an Energy Storage Leader

Carla Peterman
Carla Peterman

Energy storage has been hailed as a “holy grail” for clean energy. Through energy storage, renewable power can be tapped whenever it’s needed, not just when nature cooperates.

This means that utilities can overcome the intermittent production of renewable energy while controlling power supply and demand. And residential homeowners capturing unused electricity from rooftop solar systems for later use can enter into a new level of freedom from utility rate volatility.

Despite the promises of energy storage, adoption has been historically slow. It’s been hard for businesses and consumers to justify the premium price tag that comes with this emerging technology.

But many industry watchers say we are at a tipping point. And now is the time to integrate storage in a meaningful way into the energy mix so we can take full advantage of the increasing amount of renewable power being generated.

Helping to drive energy storage adoption on a large scale is Carla Peterman. She is one of five commissioners serving on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Peterman was appointed by California’s governor in December 2012 to the commission, which in part regulates privately owned electric companies. In addition to her work at the CPUC, Peterman is pursuing a doctorate in energy and resources at the University of California Berkeley.

Peterman’s previous experience includes a post at the California Energy Commission where she was lead commissioner for renewables, transportation and natural gas. She has also been a Rhodes Scholarship recipient.

Since taking a seat at CPUC’s head table she has been charged with implementing the nation’s first energy storage targets. An assembly bill, formally called AB 2514, gave the CPUC the authority to set energy storage targets for investor-owned utilities.

In October of last year, the CPUC approved a mandate requiring the state’s big three investor-owned utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — to procure a total of 1.325 gigawatts of energy storage by 2020. Of that, 200 megawatts will be carved out for customer-side storage.

At the time, the CPUC said the target was a six-fold improvement from California’s then 35 megawatts of energy storage. The commission also said it was the largest energy storage target of its kind in the world.

According to the mandate, utilities will procure energy storage through four solicitations. The first request for proposals will be issued at the end of the year.

It’s a big job to make sure all stakeholders come through with hitting the 1.325-gigawatt storage target. spoke with Peterman about the task at hand and the challenges she foresees.

SolarEnergy: Will utilities be including new residential consumer storage in their first round of energy storage solicitations slated to take place at the end of the year?

Carla Peterman: The utilities didn’t propose new programs at this time for customer side storage. They are relying on the existing Self-Generation Incentive Program, which supports storage as well as permanent load shifting programs in order for them to meet they’re customer side target this side around. Those are existing programs that provide incentives for installing storage that customers can take advantage of already.

SE: What needs to happen at a policy level to increase energy storage for residential consumers?

CP: We need to be thinking about how to align our policies that promote distributed generation with our policies to promote storage. For example, the commission this past year adopted some changes to the net metering program to allow for rooftop PV that is paired with storage to be able to qualify for net metering.

We also need to get more systems out there and learn from them. Learn what are the grid impacts, understand how customer side storage can help reduce peak demand, and how it can help with reliability. Because energy storage is in its infancy, we’re going to need to gain some operational experience with it.

SE: What will guide you as you work to assess the value of customer-side storage?

CP: In terms of AB 2514, the legislation sets out objectives for us to think about as we’re procuring storage. One is greenhouse gas reduction, another is helping to integrate renewables, and another is avoiding upgrades to the distribution system. To the extent that customer-side storage can help with those, particularly upgrades to the distribution system, there will be some value.

SE: How will the CPUC help evaluate the technology being used for energy storage?

CP: One of the things that we are collectively working on is better identifying when and how storage is needed on the system. This will help customers and suppliers of customer side storage figure out what the best products are to provide.

SE: How do you think California’s mandate will impact storage adoption across the country?

CP: I think it’s been a signal to the market that this is a product that has value. I hope that we’ll spur providers of this technology, and more choice for customers. This is all about giving customers some choices in terms of their energy procurement and management.

SE: What measures are in place to make sure California stays on track with hitting its energy storage target?

CP: We are going to do a big assessment of the program in 2016. We’ll have a chance to evaluate what we’ve been doing and whether new measures are needed. We are also coordinating with the Independent System Operator on a storage roadmap so we can identify what are the regulatory barriers to developing more storage.

SE: How do you create policy that fairly pushes the adoption of an emerging technology among diverse, at times adversarial, stakeholders?

CP: No one gets everything that they want, but ultimately I hope that we are able to address the largest concerns and the largest barriers.

My general approach is that we need to be moving forward. We need to be sending the right signals for the type of energy system we want. But we have to have enough sensibility in our approach to adapt to uncertainty, and I think that’s the challenge.