Do You Think Utilities Should Be Able To Own Rooftop Solar?


If utilities own the solar on customers’ roofs, it will increase penetration, save the distribution grid, and set the stage for a new business model. In Idaho, natural gas exploration representative David Hawk said that’s not the utility’s business.

Idaho Power is struggling to do the right thing by its shareholders and its customers. It wants to keep prices as low as possible and to make profits. It still sees those as tied to kWh sales.

Last week Idaho Power’s Integrated Resource Plan Advisory Council met. Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman covered the meeting in some detail. Based on the coverage, it appears that Idaho Power is hampered by a belief that solar prices will not continue to drop and so has not included solar in its integrated plan.

Not surprisingly, many on the Council and in attendance disputed this position. Rocky Barker reports the following exchange:

Idaho had hundreds of people eager to build solar systems as the price of panels dropped – until Idaho Power filed a proposal with state regulators that removed the financial incentives.

“Idaho Power brought a case to kill it,” said Peter Richardson, an energy attorney.

That brought a terse response from David Hawk, who represents natural gas exploration companies.

“I don’t think building solar units on individual houses is the role of a utility,” he said.

Hawk was apparently against allowing third-party financing of solar installations as is done in California, because “electric prices are higher in California than they are in Idaho, making such programs more useful and profitable.”

There should be no doubt that the price of solar will drop precipitously; the Department of Energy is investing millions to ensure it does (DOE Sunshot Initiative). More importantly, a big chunk of the investment targets driving down residential rooftop solar costs. Distribution utility focus on making distributed generation and storage work ensures a future for them, and a big part of that could be owning solar and storage at customers’ sites.

If we do not give utilities a chance to own the solar and storage, we will doom them to eventual bankruptcy. Before that occurs, of course, we will pay too much for a poorly functioning grid because they will not have the funds to invest, which brings hardship on customers as well as investors. Let’s give the utilities a path to save themselves instead.


Stanford scientists calculate the carbon footprint of grid-scale battery technologies


Solar and wind power pose a challenge for the U.S. electrical grid, which lacks the capacity to store surplus clean electricity and deliver it on demand. Researchers are developing grid-scale storage batteries, but the fossil fuel required to build these technologies could negate some of the environmental benefits of new solar and wind farms, say Stanford scientists. Credit: Eugene Water & Electric Board/NREL.

Stanford scientists looked the energy stored on investment (ESOI) of various storage technologies. At the low end were lead-acid batteries with an ESOI of 2.0, meaning they are only able to supply twice the amount of energy that it takes to manufacture them. Of all the battery types evaluated, lithium-ion was the best, but they only had an ESOI of 10.0. The main reason for the poor ESOI figures is that all batteries have a limited number of charge/discharge cycles compared to the energy it takes to build them.

In contrast, hydro pumped storage had an ESOI of 210. Of course, there are limited geographic opportunities for hydro pumped storage. Compressed air energy storage (CAES) using caverns had the best ESOI, 240. This may bode well for companies like SustainX and LightSail Energy that seek to bring CAES on an industrial scale without the use of caverns.

via Stanford scientists calculate the carbon footprint of grid-scale battery technologies.


Germany’s onsite energy storage incentives creates technical advantage


Germany’s upcoming incentives for energy storage could have a major impact on the prevalence of storage and its cost to consumers.

The German Federal Ministry of Environment announced plans to introduce incentives for energy storage, especially storage for solar photovoltaic systems, this year.

In the same way that Germany took the lead in developing and installing solar on a large scale, Germany is going to take the lead in onsite electric storage. In Germany, solar electricity is cheaper than utility electricity and rates paid for excess power fed into the grid are less than prices for power from the grid, presenting a real opportunity for storage.

Not only will this spur the development of new types of stationary battery storage, but it will give German companies a leg up in developing the hardware and software to manage the triumvirate of solar electricity, grid electricity, and electric storage. It will have to ensure optimal use of the battery from a lifetime use perspective as well as determining when to charge the battery and take power from the grid. This will necessarily involve incorporating weather forecasts to develop forecasts of solar energy production.

Unlike the manufacture of solar panels, hardware and software to manage these combined energy systems will be a high value product.

More at Germany’s newest incentives to kickstart energy storage for solar.


Toyota recycling old hybrid batteries into energy-storage systems for dealers


Toyota is going to recycle nickel-metal hydride batteries from old hybrids into energy management systems.

Douglas Short‘s insight:

Toyota will get experience in marrying their battery technology to customer use and grid prices. The energy management system knowledge they gain will be invaluable as they move downstream to homes and, ultimately, embed this knowledge in their cars with batteries. Yes, your Toyota will be a home energy storage device.

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EV Solar And Battery Powered Charging Station Ready To Charge At Indiana’s Clay Terrace


Shoppers at Clay Terrace in Carmel, Ind. can, as of yesterday, charge their EV while shopping through an innovative charging station.

Shoppers at Clay Terrace in Carmel, Ind. can, as of yesterday, charge their EV while shopping through an innovative charging station. The Simon Property Group, Toshiba Corporation, Duke Energy …
Douglas Short‘s insight:

The key item, I think, is not the solar charging of EVs. Instead, it is the solar + storage solution they have created.

“The solar energy can be stored in the Toshiba 75-kilowatt lithium ion battery, located next to the charging system. Toshiba developed its end of the ‘Plug-in Ecosystem’ for North America by combining existing micro-EMS (energy management system) optimization control capabilities with our latest rechargeable battery technology. This system ensures the efficient management of load within the EV charging system.”

It sounds exactly like what is needed, on a smaller scale, for homes and small businesses to store excess solar energy.

See on -Today, 3:59 PM


UBS: Boom in unsubsidised solar PV flags energy revolution


See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

Analysts from UBS say energy markets are facing a revolution caused by the success of unsubsidised solar. They say solar costs have fallen so far, it was a no-brainer for households to install roof…

Douglas Short‘s insight:

In the past, it has been climate change and renewable energy advocates who envisioned, and said, there would be solar panels on every roof and wall. Now investment bank UBS agrees, at least with regard to much of Europe, and ups the ante by saying there will be batteries, too! I have so far been unable to get the original UBS report, though, and I am a little concerned that the graph above appears to compare wholesale market prices with on-site solar / battery unitized costs. At the meter prices are much higher, of course, but this does show that even if utilities adopt a fixed fee structure for distribution costs, it will still be cheaper to install solar and batteries.

If you have a link to the full report, please let me know.

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Germany: Promoting solar power storage


See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

The Federal Solar Industry Association or BSW welcomes the announcement by the German government to promote the development of solar power storage.

Douglas Short‘s insight:

The current wave of solar generation was started, almost single-handedly, by Germany’s massive investment in solar panels. Now, Germany is going to promote on-site storage for solar power, but clearly storage can be used for load shifting as well. The storage will likely involve not just increasingly efficient batteries, but software to optimize the batteries and the switching between battery charging and grid consumption. If Germany’s investment is able to drive the on-site storage market in the same way as it drove the solar panel market, it will be a significant force for disruption.

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Energy storage systems signal arrival of ‘baseload’ renewables


See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

Energy storage systems may be a bigger game-changer for the electricity market than solar PV. An affordable system developed by an Australian company means households will be able to produce their …

Douglas Short‘s insight:

I just came across this article from November 2012. Because of Australia’s high peak prices (over 50 cents/kWh in some places), energy storage for renewables is becoming viable. This company, Zen Energy Systems, has made several smart choices. They made their battery / server look like a friendly appliance, the refrigerator. They focused on software optimization instead of battery optimization. Specifically, their software optimizes individual battery use based on grid prices and battery characteristics. Smartly, they also included a software layer that would let utilities manage individual batteries or groups of batteries for dispatch. This allows utilities to use them on the grid, or to sell or lease them to homeowners but still manage them as an aggregated resource. See also: For the U.S. Electricity Future, Look To Australia

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Introducing an ultra low cost, long lasting battery made of water and blue dye


A battery from water and blue dye with a 5-10 year life for less than $100/kWh. Whether it is Aleveo Energy or someone else, cost-effective stationary storage will be a reality. If its footprint and weight are small enough for the amount of energy it stores, it will be an alternative to an emergency generator, helping to justify its costs. If linked with solar, it could dramatically reduce reliance on, and purchases from, the grid.

A startup called Alveo Energy, with technology developed at Stanford University, is building an ultra low cost and long lasting battery that could help deliver breakthrough energy storage technology for the power grid.

What if you could create a battery using water as the electrolyte (one of the key building blocks of batteries)? Its materials could be as cheap and plentiful as, well, water. That was the question that Stanford PhD student turned entrepreneur Colin Wessells set out to answer when he started out on his thesis four years ago.

Today Wessells is the CEO and co-founder of a half-year-old startup called Alveo Energy, which is looking to develop and commercialize a battery made out of water, Prussian blue dye — which is used to color things like blue jeans, crayons and paint — iron and copper. The battery is meant to be ultra low cost and long lasting, and if successful, could help deliver breakthrough energy storage technology for the power grid.

. . .

And perhaps VCs are smart to be more risk averse this time around. Alveo Energy is still in the prototype and R&D phases. They’ve created version one of their prototype, and they published data on that technology about a month ago. Version two of the battery is what they’re working on now and hoping to scale up in size and performance. Currently generation two can provide battery power without degradation (batteries degrade over time) for between one and two calender years — the team hopes that the eventual commercialized battery will provide closer to five to ten years of battery life.

Power grid applications

Unlike some lithium ion batteries that are being used in the next-generation of electric cars, Alveo Energy’s batteries aren’t meant to provide intense bursts of power to move large objects. They have a lower voltage and deliver a smaller charge than typical lithium ion batteries — about one tenth the energy, one third the voltage, and one third the charge, said Wessells.

That’s because only one sixth of the ions in the Alveo batteries’ structure are electrochemically active. Alveo’s battery is made by taking Prussian blue dye and adding in some iron and copper to optimize a battery structure that can use a water-based electrolyte — the optimal structure just chemically works out that way.

Wessells says Huggins first raised the idea of using Prussian blue dye, which is electrochromic, back around the Christmas of 2009 — before that Wessells was working on trying to use lithium. The next two years were spent on devising the structure of Prussian blue dye, iron and copper. Alveo itself is a word that is related to the Latin for something like channels or honeycomb.

The structure also meant that Alveo’s batteries are relatively large and meant, mostly, to be stationary. They’ll be about three to four times bigger than a standard car battery, said Wessells, and will eventually be developed into a 1 kilowatt, 50 kilogram, prototype.

The potential low cost of such a battery is the real breakthrough for Alveo, and the reason why they’re willing to concede on voltage and charge. Wessells says that they’ll be able to make the battery for below $100 per kilowatt hour. Lead acid batteries, which are far cheaper than lithium ion batteries, are being made for around $150 to $200 per kilowatt hour. Lithium ion batteries are far, far more expensive.

Read more at: Introducing an ultra low cost, long lasting battery made of water and blue dye — Cleantech News and Analysis.


Advances in Lithium-Ion Batteries Will Make Electric Vehicles Competitive, But It Will Take a Decade


McKinsey projects battery costs for electric vehicles will come down  enough to make them cost-competitive.  In a decade . . .

It will likely take a decade, but improvements to lithium-ion batteries could lead to much cheaper EVs.

By Kevin Bullis on November 9, 2012

Why It Matters

Electric vehicles could reduce petroleum consumption and curb greenhouse-gas emissions. But that will only be possible with better batteries.

Overcharged: Electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, shown recharging here, are expensive. Cheaper batteries could eventually change that.

Overcharged: Electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, shown recharging here, are expensive. Cheaper batteries could eventually change that.

There are plenty of reasons why electric cars aren’t catching on, but one problem is certain: the batteries cost far too much.

For electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to compete with gas-powered cars, battery prices need to drop by between 50 and 80 percent, according to recent estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy. Getting there might require inventing entirely new kinds of batteries, but there’s also a strong case that improvements to the lithium-ion batteries that power the current generation of electric vehicles may be enough.

The United States could have the capacity by 2015 to produce enough battery packs for 500,000 cars. But this year, due to high prices, plug-in vehicle sales won’t even reach a tenth of that in the United States. As a result, advanced battery makers in the United States have struggled. A123 Systems went bankrupt. Dow said its battery joint venture Dow Kokam had dropped markedly. And an LG Chem factory meant to supply batteries for the Chevrolet Volt has been built, but the factory is sitting idle, waiting for demand to pick up.

Electric vehicles cost less to operate than gas-powered ones, but that economic advantage largely disappears in the face of expensive batteries. The battery pack for the Chevrolet Volt costs about $8,000. The larger battery in the Nissan Leaf costs about $12,000.

The cost for the Leaf battery could drop to under $4,000 by 2025, according to a recent study by McKinsey, just by increasing the scale of battery production, forcing down component costs through competition, and approximately doubling the energy density of batteries, which reduces materials costs.

One startup, Envia Systems, has already built prototype lithium-ion battery cells that store about twice that of the best conventional lithium-ion batteries and can be recharged hundreds of times (see “A Big Jump in Battery Capacity” and “Should the Government Support Applied Research?”). And crucially, it’s similar enough to conventional lithium-ion batteries that it can be made on existing manufacturing equipment. The technology still needs work, and could take several years to start appearing in cars, the company says.

Jeff Dahn, a lithium-ion battery researcher at Dalhousie University, says cars like the Leaf and Volt use a special type of flat lithium-ion cell that is made with recently developed equipment that is still relatively slow. More conventional cylindrical lithium-ion cells cost roughly half as much to make because they use much faster equipment and are made at a larger scale. Dahn also notes that many of the components, such as a plastic film that separates electrodes in a battery, are overpriced. “You can’t tell me separator cost can’t come down.”

Read more at:  Advances in Lithium-Ion Batteries Will Make Electric Vehicles Competitive, But It Will Take a Decade | MIT Technology Review.


Government Subsidies are Scaring Away Capital from Green Deals, Investment Banker Says


Mature firms acquiring alternative energy companies because they can use their distribution channel muscle to sell the products.

Top three technologies:  solar, building energy efficiency, storage.

Michael Butler, Cascadias chairman and CEO, says the global, economic downturn is a principal reason for flat or declining investments in sustainability and cleantech. However, observing that “the deals in that sector have been pretty few and far between,” Butler also told AOL Energy that “investors wont touch a company that has any dependency on government subsidies, and they use the wind industry as one of the prime examples of why theyre so frightened of subsidies.”Theyre saying,” Butler continued, “Look at all the money that the government has poured into wind for years and years and its still an industry that cant stand on its own. Theyre looking at biofuels and, to a lesser extent, wind, and saying, “I dont want to invest in an industry thats subject to the whims of government. So, the investors are looking for companies that have value and economically sensible propositions that are completely independent of government subsidies.”Asked why European investors are apparently much more willing to partner with their governments in wind-farm investments, Butler said, “I would definitely agree that Europes [private sector] support for wind is substantially more robust than it is here, but those investors have a greater level of confidence that their governments will stand behind their commitments to that industry. In the United States, we seem to have concerns about our public commitments every year.”Conversely, Butler added, “I think the area where we see opportunities growing under the radar is in corporate acquisitions of companies with mature technologies. Were finding corporations that you wouldnt expect to see in renewable energy buying companies or investing in them.”In fact, Butler pointed out, Cascadia is about to announce a deal in which the firm brokered the acquisition of a fuel cell company by an OEM engine manufacturer. “We were very surprised by the engine companys interest, but they said they had the distribution network and customer relationships to spur [fuel cell] sales. The deal suggests to me that corporate America is thinking about cleantech and sustainability differently than the perception, out there, because theyre finding ways to profit from those investments. Its encouraging.”Corporations, Butler pointed out, dont need investment banks to finance the acquisitions. “But they need help,” he added, “finding the companies [to acquire] because a lot of them are off the beaten path.”And which technologies will attract the interest of acquisitive corporations? “I think solar will continue to be a good area because its costs are coming down,” Butler said. “Technologies to make buildings more energy efficient is a very exciting area, and a third area that will eventually be very popular is energy storage, although the technology isn’t there, yet.”

Read more:  Government Subsidies are Scaring Away Capital from Green Deals, Investment Banker Says.


A hot trend in cleantech: startups targeting energy data and analytics


Stem plans to marry data analytics, energy efficiency, and battery storage to optimize your energy costs.

Stem, an energy management software and service startup is growing at a time when investors are keen to invest in energy software startups, particularly those who target businesses as customers. The California startup just got a new CEO.

Startup Stem is one of a growing number of young cleantech startups that are using data, analytics and energy storage, like batteries, to manage companies’ energy consumption. It’s an area that can take advantage of the latest trends in information technology like big data, cloud computing and cheap batteries.

Stem’s software uses data — from weather, from buildings’ energy consumption, from electricity rates — to show its customers their energy use patterns, and how much they’re paying across different buildings. The analytics then allow them to forecast their electricity use and control their energy budgets.

Stem also employs energy storage systems, like batteries, to send electricity to its customers at times when energy from the grid is more expensive, such as during hot summer days. Its customers could pair the energy storage service with a set of solar panels so that they could generate their own power and further reduce their reliance on their local utilities.

Read more at:  A hot trend in cleantech: startups targeting energy data and analytics — Cleantech News and Analysis.


Tesla scores $10M grant from CA for Model X


Tesla is on its way to developing a full line of electric vehicles.  Now a stylish SUV.

Electric car maker Tesla has scored a $10 million grant from the California Energy Commission to help it make its next-generation electric SUV/minivan the Model X, Forbes reports. The article says that Tesla will use the grant to hire another 700 workers in 2014, and Tesla will match the grant with $50 million of its own funds.

Tesla unveiled the Model X — a crossover vehicle with “falcon” wing doors (double-hinged doors) that could appeal to women and families — in February of this year. The Model X will be built on the Model S platform and will be priced in the same range as the Model S.

via Tesla scores $10M grant from CA for Model X — Cleantech News and Analysis.


Tesla unveils free solar-powered car charging stations for Model S owners — Cleantech News and Analysis


Free fuel for your Tesla model S!  How are Detroit and Tokyo going to match that?

Electric car maker Tesla has quietly built out solar-powered rapid electric car chargers at six locations around California and has plans to install many more next year. The tech, which uses a solar system from SolarCity, will be offered for free for Model S owners.

Electric car maker Tesla announced on Monday night that it has installed its “Supercharger” rapid car charging network at an initial six locations throughout California and Tesla says charging at these stations will be free “indefinitely” for Model S owners. Tesla says the Superchargers will be powered by solar technology, developed by solar installer SolarCity (Tesla CEO Elon Musk also is an investor and the Chairman of SolarCity).

Musk has been discussing the idea of a Tesla-bankrolled Supercharger for almost a year and I first heard about the plan back in November 2011. The idea is that because the market for electric cars is so new, Tesla wants to help build out the charging infrastructure, which is one of the industry’s biggest barriers.

Musk called the Supercharger “the answer to the three major problems holding back electric vehicles” in his remarks during the event. These problems are being able to drive electric vehicles long distances conveniently, the issue of electricity being generated at a distant fossil fuel power plant, and the issue of cost of electricity.

One of the surprising parts of the announcement is that Tesla will be installing a lot more stations than I had originally thought. While Tesla announced the locations of its first six stations at the event tonight (“constructed in secret”), the company also says that in 2013 it wants to install many more Supercharger stations throughout the U.S. as well as Europe and Asia. Within two years the U.S. will be covered in Superchargers, said Musk during the event.

In that respect Tesla is making a considerable commitment to becoming an infrastructure installer and is developing more of a vertical business model for electric cars. I wonder how the companies who are building business models off of electric car charging — like Better Place, NRG Energy, Ecotality and Coulomb — feel about Tesla crossing over into their turf.

Because the technology is using solar power, as well as previously designed technology for Model S charging, Tesla says the chargers are cheap to build and install. There’s also the fact that there’s just not a whole lot of Model S drivers out there yet that will be using the power. For those reasons Tesla is offering long distance charging free for Model S owners.

The Superchargers can charge the Model S cars with 100 kilowatts of power and provide three hours of driving at 60 mph in about half an hour.

via Tesla unveils free solar-powered car charging stations for Model S owners — Cleantech News and Analysis.


Toyota plans expanded range of hybrids – Business – The Boston Globe


Toyota does not think batteries are good enough for electric vehicles, yet, and so will offer lots of hybrids.  They think there will be lots of fuel cell powered vehicles in 2020s.

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. is boosting its green vehicle lineup, with plans for 21 new hybrids in the next three years, a new electric car later this year, and a fuel cell vehicle by 2015 in response to growing demand for fuel efficient and environmentally friendly driving.Toyota said Monday it will offer an electric compact called eQ, based on its iQ model, in Japan and the United States in December though the number of the vehicles made will be extremely limited — about 100 for special fleet use, according to the company.The car, which will be called the iQ EV in the United States is pricey at $45,000 and has a cruise range of 62 miles.In the United States, an electric version of the Rav-4 sport utility model, which Toyota worked on with US electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, goes on sale this month.The fuel cell vehicle, which runs on hydrogen to produce electricity, will be offered from 2015.Like other Japanese automakers, Toyota is gearing up for expansion after getting battered the last few years by the financial crisis and disasters in northeastern Japan and Thailand that disrupted production.The manufacturer is also counting on its reputation for green technology that it has built with its hit Prius, the world’s leading gas-electric hybrid, to woo buyers and fix its brand battered by the massive recall scandal in the United States a few years ago.But rivals are working on green offerings, too, such as Nissan Motor Co. focusing on its Leaf electric car. Another challenge is that customers in emerging markets, which are driving growth in demand for autos, are still not as interested in hybrids and other fancy — and expensive — technology.Takeshi Uchiyamada, the executive overseeing technology and new model development at Toyota, said the long-term potential for fuel cells was great, compared to electric cars, because of greater cruise range and shorter charging time. He said tens of thousands of fuel cell vehicles were likely to be sold in the 2020s.A good compromise at the moment is the plug-in hybrid, which works as an electric vehicle until the battery runs down, and then switches to its hybrid motor, so there’s less chance of being stranded than with a standard electric car.Toyota has sold 15,600 of the vehicles since launching it this year.Uchiyamada said the positive reception for new technology, such as the hybrid, surprised Toyota, underlining the deep interest the public has in reducing emissions and protecting the environment.Although annual hybrid sales were tiny when the Prius first went on sale in 1997, such sales have grown to more than one million a year worldwide, comprising 10 percent of Toyota’s global sales.In Japan, where green subsidies have been a big plus in recent years, hybrids make up nearly half Toyota’s sales, Uchiyamada said.

via Toyota plans expanded range of hybrids – Business – The Boston Globe.