Breakthrough could help solve solar power’s biggest problem: Power generation at night Extreme Tech, By Joel Hruska on April 16, 2014
One of the most fundamental barriers to the widespread adoption of renewable energy has been the inconvenient truth of planetary rotation. Solar power has advanced enormously over the past few decades but panel efficiency and solar concentration plants are of limited assistance when Apollo is busy elsewhere on the Earth. Now, researchers think they’ve found a partial solution to that problem by combining the known properties of one substance with everyone’s favorite technological advance: carbon nanotubes……….
What’s needed is a simple method of converting energy gathered during the day into a resource that can be tapped at night — and Timothy Kucharski, a post-doc at MIT and Harvard, thinks his team has found it.
Of photoswitches and nanotubes
Kucharski’s work is based on the well-known properties of azobenzenes. These are molecules, dubbed photoswitches, that have one particular molecular configuration by default but, when struck by certain frequencies of ultraviolet light, assume a new configuration, as shown below. (diagrams) ……..
The goal would be to create a short-term thermal battery that could be used to power a stove or other heat sources during the night after charging all day. A gravity system would be simple, with few moving parts. The long-term goal is to create a system that could be used to provide thermal power for entire buildings and to further increase efficiency.
While it’s not a full-scale solar battery, discoveries like this could make solar power far more useful in developing nations, which still rely primarily on wood or peat for cooking fuel. http://www.extremetech.com/electronics/180697-breakthrough-could-help-solve-solars-biggest-problem
Startup Thinks Its Battery Will Solve Renewable Energy’s Big Flaw, Technology Review, By Kevin Bullis on January 23, 2014 Aquion has started production of a low-cost sodium-ion battery aimed at making renewable energy viable. A former Sony TV factory near Pittsburgh is coming to life again after lying idle for four years. Whirring robotic arms have started to assemble a new kind of battery that could make the grid more efficient and let villages run on solar power around the clock.
Aquion, the startup that developed the battery, has finished installing its first commercial-scale production line at the factory, and is sending out batteries for customers to evaluate. It recently raised $55 million of venture capital funding from investors including Bill Gates. The money will help it ramp up to full-speed production by this spring…….
Most importantly, by providing an affordable way to store solar power for use at night or during cloudy weather, the technology could allow isolated populations to get electricity from renewable energy, rather than from polluting diesel generators. Combining solar power and inexpensive batteries would also be cheaper than running diesel generators in places where delivering fuel is expensive (see “How Solar-Based Microgrids Could Bring Power to Millions”).
The batteries could allow the grid to accommodate greater amounts of intermittent renewable energy. As Aquion scales up production and brings down costs, the batteries could also be used instead of a type of natural gas power plant—called a peaker plant—often used to balance supply and demand on the grid. When recharged using renewables, the batteries don’t need fuel, so they’re cleaner than the natural gas power plants…….
The battery is made of inexpensive materials including manganese oxide and water. In concept, it operates much like a lithium-ion battery, in which lithium ions shuttle between electrodes to create electrical current. But the new battery uses sodium ions instead of lithium ones, which makes it possible to use a salt water electrolyte instead of the more expensive—and flammable—electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries.http://www.technologyreview.com/news/523391/startup-thinks-its-battery-will-solve-renewable-energys-big-flaw/
Hitachi Announces Storage Technology for Renewable Energy Bloomberg, By Brian Wingfield - Dec 2, 2013 Hitachi Ltd. (6501) unveiled an energy-storage system that the company said will support wind and solar power and allow users to sell electricity into deregulated markets such as California.
The units can be installed on high-voltage power lines, and will be able to capture excess energy produced by wind and solar sources so it can be sold back into the network when the demand for power exceeds the supply. The systems, which include telecommunications and lithium-ion battery technologies developed by Tokyo-based Hitachi, will also minimize volatility on the power grid, company officials said today at a press conference in Washington.
“As the use of renewable energy expands, stabilization has become a very important priority,” Masaaki Nomoto, general manager for the company’s transmission and distribution systems division, said through a translator. He said the potential customers for the technology will include anyone who wants to sell power into the market, not just utilities……http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-02/hitachi-announces-storage-technology-for-renewable-energy.html
Energy storage fans are rejoicing all across the country on the heels of a new ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which opens the floodgates to connecting more solar arrays and wind farms to the power grid. FERC adopted the new ruling, Order 792, in order to bring its existing rules for small generators up to speed with new developments in the energy storage field.
As FERC explained when issuing Order 792:
…the Commission finds it necessary under section 206 of the Federal Power Act to revise the pro forma SGIP [Small Generator Interconnection Procedures] and pro forma SGIA [Small Generator Interconnection Agreement] to ensure that the rates, terms and conditions under which public utilities provide interconnection service to Small Generating Facilities remain just and reasonable and not unduly discriminatory.
Our friends over at the Energy Storage Association contributed to public comments on the rule during its proposal phase and they tipped us to the new ruling, so let’s see what they have to say about it.
Energy Storage Gets A Boost From FERC Order 792
In a nutshell, Rule 792 adds energy storage as a power source that is eligible to connect to the grid. It effectively puts energy storage in the same category as the existing Small Generator Interconnection Procedures and makes it eligible for the existing Fast Track process.
Darrel Hayslip, who chairs the ESA, was fast out of the box with a big thank-you to FERC:
We commend the FERC Commissioners for acknowledging that energy storage should be able to participate in the small generator interconnection process on our electric grid and that our rules and policies should evolve as well. These reforms are good news for storage project developers and further facilitate the deployment of storage on the power grid………
Barn Door Is Already Open
If you’re thinking that it will be a while before energy storage technology can get to the point where the industry can take advantage of the new FERC rules on a mass scale, guess again.
Energy storage for wind and solar is already well on its way to the mainstream………
The addition of utility scale storage facilities is expected to have a ripple effect on the renewable energy market in Hawaii, by contributing to grid flexibility.
Not for nothing, but Xtreme Power has some heavy hitters in its investment portfolio, including some that indicate the fossil fuel industry is continuing its slow (very slow) and lurching pivot to a more diversified approach to energy generation.
That would be BP Alternative Energy (yes, that BP) and Dominion Resources (yes, that Dominion). http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/renewable-energy-barriers-fall-with-new-ferc-order-67494
The battery storage system that could close down coal power REneweconomy, By Giles Parkinson on 19 November 2013 (Editors note: This is part of a series of interviews and stories that will run over the next few weeks looking at Germany’s Energiewende, and the transition of Germany’s energy grid to one dominated by renewable energy. You can find them all in our Insight section).
You don’t have to go far inside the headquarters of German battery storage company Younicos, or even their website for that matter, to find out what they are about. “Let the fossils rest in peace,” the logo suggests. Another sign at their technology centre east of Berlin proclaims: “You are now leaving the CO2 producing sector of the world.”
This sign is designed to mimic those which adorned the checkpoints that separated the various sectors of east and west Berlin before the wall was torn down. Younicos believe they have a technology that is equally disruptive, and can break down one of the last barriers to 100 per cent renewable energy: the need to run fossil fuel generation to control the “frequency” of the grid, and the other system services such as voltage control.
The company, based in Berlin Adlershof, on the eastern outskirts of the capital, is developing 10MW-sized battery parks, using battery systems that it says can stabilise the grid faster, cheaper and with greater precision that conventional generation. Continue reading
The Future Of Renewable Energy Can Now Be Found Inside A Shipping Container Sitting Off The I-95 Corridor BUSINESS INSIDER, ROB WILE NOV 2 2013, If you want to see the future of renewable energy in the U.S., you should check out the large container sitting next to a nondescript office building off the I-95 corridor in Maryland.
Inside of it is a system that helps solve one of the key problems in the renewable industry: how to store power for longer periods of time in an economical way……. The parts to focus on are the inverter, the batteries, and the transformer.
The inverter is used to convert the electricity generated by Konterra’s new rooftop solar panels, which come with the system, into a usable current to power either the building or the local grid. The battery, which is actually just an off-the-shelf lithium ion package, can be tapped by the local grid to temporarily charge or discharge excess power in the surrounding area.
Finally, the transformer can remove the Konterra building from the grid in case of a regional power outage, providing up to four hours-worth of backup supply. Current renewable storage set ups are pretty expensive. This system helps make it more economical………..http://www.businessinsider.com.au/konterra-solar-2013-11
The group is now turning its attention to developing applications such as energy storage solutions utilizing the reverse side of solar cells.
Solar Panels (Batteries Included) http://www.energymatters.com.au/index.php?main_page=news_article&article_id=3999 28 Oct 13 As power companies grow more belligerent and households start considering leaving the grid altogether; the topic of energy storage is becoming increasingly popular. One development could see solar panels also fulfil the role of batteries by using the same material that creates the electricity – silicon.
Scientists at Vanderbilt University have found a way to create supercapacitors using silicon structures coated in graphene.
While supercapacitors can be recharged much faster and have a longer service life; one of their challenges is size. Energy storage capabilities of supercapacitors is directly tied to the surface area available; meaning the devices tend to be bulky.
The need for a large surface area is being addressed to a degree through the use of nanotechnology to create microscopic ridges, valleys and pores on materials. Continue reading
The PUC’s big storage decision will boost renewable energy production My desert.com October 17th, 2013 | by K Kaufmann My Twitter feed and email box are lighting up with big news that the California Public Utilities Commission has voted to approve an order requiring the state’s three big utilities to start procuring renewable energy storage technology, with the goal of having 1,325 megawatts of storage on the grid by 2020.
You can read the full text of the original proposed decision, as released Sept. 3, here.
Both Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric will be required to procure a total of 580 megawatts of storage, with 310 megawatts dedicated to transmission, 185 megawatts on distribution and 85 megawatts going to the consumer market, which presumably means distributed generation or rooftop.
San Diego Gas & Electric will be responsible for putting on 165 megawatts of storage, with an 80-55-30 split on the transmission, distribution and customer requirements. The three utilities have until Jan. 1, 2014 to file individual applications on how they will run their first solicitations for energy storage facilities.
Those are the quick basics. Expect plenty of press and discussion on this decision. Its potential impacts are huge — in terms of providing a big push for more research and investment in storage technology in the state and in pushing California to go beyond its current 33 percent renewable energy target. If renewable power can be stored for use when the wind is not blowing and sun isn’t shining, then the potential for clean energy development will be limitless……http://voices.mydesert.com/2013/10/17/the-pucs-big-storage-decision-will-boost-renewable-energy-production/
Energy storage mandate expected to bring large-scale renewable energy projects onto the electric grid http://photos.mercurynews.com/2013/10/16/energy-storage-mandate-expected-to-bring-large-scale-renewable-energy-projects-onto-the-electric-grid/ Oct 16, 2013
The first-in-the-nation energy storage mandate is expected to help integrate large-scale renewable projects onto the electric grid, help the grid better manage unpredictable events such as storms or wildfires, push utilities to consider a wider range of emerging technologies and jump-start the storage market as a whole. PG&E’s Yerba Buena Battery Energy Storage System Pilot Project, based in East San Jose, charges batteries when demand is low and sends stored power to the grid when demand grows, allowing operators to balance supply and demand. The project, which cost $18 million, uses the sodium-sulfur batteries made by NGK in Japan that have 4 megawatts of capacity and can store electricity for roughly six hours
PG&E’s Yerba Buena battery energy storage project, seen Tuesday morning Oct. 15, 2013, is capable of storing up to four megawatts of power from its place in the hills above Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. A California law that requires utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind is widely credited with accelerating the state’s cleantech economy. Now state regulators are poised to compel utilities to invest in “energy storage,” which could jump-start technology long considered the holy grail of the electricity industry. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
U.S. Dept. of Energy Supports New Renewable Energy Storage System Oil Price, By John Daly | Sat, 28 September 2013 The two bottlenecks inhibiting further use of renewable energy systems are cost and the fact that the sun doesn’t always shine or the wind blow-in one word, storage. While mass production of components such as solar photovoltaic cells means that their price has been dropping, the issue of storing and releasing electricity generated by renewable sources during their down times has led engineers worldwide to tackle the problem.
Large-scale, low-cost energy storage is needed to improve the reliability, resiliency, and efficiency of next-generation power grids. Energy storage can reduce power fluctuations, enhance system flexibility, and enable the storage and dispatch of electricity generated by variable renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and water power.
Now one technology seems sufficiently promising that it is receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Energy Storage Program.
What is this promising new technology?
Isothermal compressed air energy storage (ICAES) refers to storage of compressed air at a constant temperature, which is a key element in the improved energy efficiency of the system.
SustainX has completed construction of its first utility scale ICAES system. It was hooked up to the grid earlier this month and it’s now in the process of revving up to speed. The DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s Energy Storage Program underwrote $5,396,023 of the system’s cost……..
The DOE is certainly impressed, noting on its “Isothermal Compressed Air Energy Storage” webpage; “SustainX’s ICAES technology offers several advantages: it can be sited anywhere, and it is not dependent on advantageous geological formations. It allows power and energy to scale independently. It consumes no fuel and produces no emissions. It utilizes proven mechanical systems and is composed almost entirely of steel, water, and air. It offers 20 years of performance at full power and capacity and 100% depth of discharge.” Governmental endorsements don’t come much stronger than that.
And how big is the compressed air energy storage industry going to become? According to Navigant Research director Kerry-Ann Adamson, the market will grow dramatically over the next decade. Adamson remarked, “Rapidly changing energy mixes and increasing renewable energy penetration will continue to introduce instability onto electricity grids worldwide in the coming years, while the volatility of load profiles will challenge grid operators to deliver reliable and secure electricity. These macro conditions will drive demand for CAES, helping to rejuvenate a sector that has been largely dormant for the last two decades.” http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Renewable-Energy/Bill-Gates-Backs-New-Renewable-Energy-Storage-System.html
No Mem-Brainer Flow Battery Delivers Big http://www.energymatters.com.au/index.php?main_page=news_article&article_id=3904 23 Aug 13, A palm-sized experimental flow battery developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers has the potential to solve intermittency challenges in utility-scale renewable energy systems.
The MIT team has engineered a prototype flow battery storage system without the expensive membrane usually required. Continue reading
Rechargeable flow batteries could be cheaper solution to renewable energy storage http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/rechargeable-flow-batteries-could-be-cheaper-solution-renewable-energy-storage.html Megan Treacy August 19, 2013 Researchers at MIT have developed a battery that could bring us reliable and cheap large scale energy storage. Based on flow battery technology, the researchers took out the costly membrane and created a battery that has a power density that is an order of magnitude higher than lithium-ion batteries and three times greater than other membrane-less systems.
MIT reports, “The device stores and releases energy in a device that relies on a phenomenon called laminar flow: Two liquids are pumped through a channel, undergoing electrochemical reactions between two electrodes to store or release energy. Under the right conditions, the solutions stream through in parallel, with very little mixing. The flow naturally separates the liquids, without requiring a costly membrane.”
The reactants used are liquid bromine and hydrogen fuel, which is cheap, but also has had issues with breaking down the membrane in other flow batteries. By taking out the membrane they were able to speed up energy storage and extend the life of the battery.
“Here, we have a system where performance is just as good as previous systems, and now we don’t have to worry about issues of the membrane,” says Martin Bazant, a professor of chemical engineering. “This is something that can be a quantum leap in energy-storage technology.”
As we bring more renewable technologies like wind and solar into the grid, affordable and reliable energy storage is increasingly important. While solar and wind energy output varies based on weather conditions, large scale energy storage systems can smooth out the power delivery from those technologies by storing any excess energy when it’s produced and using it when the output is lower or demand is higher.
“Energy storage is the key enabling technology for renewables,” says Cullen Buie, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “Until you can make [energy storage] reliable and affordable, it doesn’t matter how cheap and efficient you can make wind and solar, because our grid can’t handle the intermittency of those renewable technologies.”
MIT says, “Braff built a prototype of a flow battery with a small channel between two electrodes. Through the channel, the group pumped liquid bromine over a graphite cathode and hydrobromic acid under a porous anode. At the same time, the researchers flowed hydrogen gas across the anode. The resulting reactions between hydrogen and bromine produced energy in the form of free electrons that can be discharged or released.
The researchers were also able to reverse the chemical reaction within the channel to capture electrons and store energy — a first for any membraneless design.”
Now that the team’s experiments have lined up with their computer models, they’re focused on scaling up the technology and seeing how it performs. They predict that the technology will be able to produce energy costing as little as $100/kWh, which would make it the cheapest large scale energy storage system built yet.
Wind Turbines Store Energy For Less Breezy Days HUFF POST, 7 Aug 13 “……a new wind turbine that generates more electricity at lower wind speeds, stores some excess energy for sale to the grid later (allowing owners to take advantage of higher prices), and also does a better job of analyzing and predicting the supply of wind energy too. In short, many clean energy advocates are pretty excited about GE’s 1.6-100 and 1.7-100 wind turbines and power management system.
Specifically, here are some of the features that clean tech geeks are getting excited about:
- Improved blade designs resulting in a 47 percent increase in “swept area” (the square feet of the rotor) compared to previous models – meaning a 20-24 percent increase in power.
- More energy harvested at lower wind speeds, resulting in a class-leading capacity factor of 54 percent. (Detail alert: the capacity factor is the actual power output over time, compared as a percentage to the theoretical power output of the turbine if it was producing at its maximum output at all times.)
- A battery storage system that allows wind turbine operators to save excess electricity — either because they are producing more electricity than the grid needs at a given moment, or because they’ll get a better price for it later.
- A sophisticated package of analytics equipment and software, which helps owners predict both when power will be needed and when the wind will be blowing, allowing communication between turbines in what’s been described as “an industrial Internet”.
Individually, each of the developments represented in the Brilliant turbines are a big deal. Collectively, says Andrew Burger of CleanTechnica, they have the potential to be game changing. In an enthusiastic, three-part series on the Brilliant turbines (see alsopart two, and part three), Burger explains why all this really matters to the rest of us – namely that the cost of wind energy has come down by 60 percent in recent years, making it competitive with new coal and natural gas plants. And that’s before you even start calculating all the hidden, but very real economic costs caused by our reliance on fossil fuels…. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/07/wind-turbines-store-energ_n_3715788.html
Liquid Metal Batteries Would Make Renewable Energy Viable Engineering.com Tom Spendlove on July 26, 2013 Electricity demand has to be in constant balance with electricity supplied – this is the large scale problem Donald Sadoway wants to solve in this TED Talk. The constraints of this problem are immense. A solution would need to generate incredibly high power, have a long service life and come at a very low cost.
Energy storage is the solution. Giant batteries could address the problem of intermittency that prevents wind and solar from contributing to the grid like a coal burning power plant.
Donald Sadoway: The missing link to renewable energy
Sadoway knows that battery science is straightforward and that the first battery was simple. Alessandro Volta’s invention in the early 1800s only required two electrodes, metals of different compositions, and an electrolyte. ….
Through research at MIT, the battery designs evolved from a shot glass-sized cell storing 1 Watt-hour to a saucer-sized cell storing 200 Watt-hours. Sadoway started his own company to produce larger batteries that will stack to fill a forty foot shipping container.
These large scale batteries would contain 2 MegaWatt-hours, enough energy to meet the daily needs of two hundred American homes.
Solar towers and storage – about to change the energy game? http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/solar-towers-and-storage-about-to-change-the-energy-game-91721, By Giles Parkinson on 4 July 2013 The 110MW Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant, a concentrated solar power project due to be completed in Nevada early next year, will not just be the largest solar power tower plant with fully integrated energy storage built – it could also challenge the way the world thinks about renewable energy. Or even energy sources in general.
The $1 billion Crescent Dunes project near Tonopah in the Central Nevada Desert, some 300kms north of Las Vegas, was developed by the Santa Monica-based SolarReserve and features the company’s market leading molten salt power tower technology with fully integrated energy storage.
What makes it unique and a potential game changer in the electricity industry is the flexibility and dispatchability of its power, meaning that it can deliver electricity whenever it is needed by customers; and its cost, which already beats diesel, is competitive with new build coal and gas generation.
The Crescent Dunes facility will have 10 hours of molten salt storage, which on average will allow it to deliver 110MW of baseload capacity to Las Vegas between the hours of 12 noon and midnight each day, when the city needs it most to power the lights and air conditioning of its casinos and entertainment palaces. It has signed a 25-year power contract with NV Energy, Nevada’s largest utility, to do that. Continue reading
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