Author: Energy Storage News

Los Angeles schools save ‘significant’ money on bills with battery storage

The board of education at a California school district which found that it could use batteries to reduce energy bills at seven learning facilities by US$5.7 million has contracted ENGIE Storage to deliver 3.5MW / 7MWh of energy storage systems.

ENGIE Storage announced the lithium-ion battery projects for Downey Unified School District in Downey, Los Angeles – which will split the battery capacity across separate systems coordinated by the company’s GridSynergy software – last week.

Downey Unified School District Superintendent Dr John Garcia said the schools’ board is “always looking for creative ways to save money and energy storage will provide our district with utility cost savings” and said that energy storage would, starting with this year, reduce energy bills significantly “for years to come”.

The district was able to fund the projects through California’s Proposition 39 legislation, which assists with energy efficiency and clean energy generation and use by schools. It will save US$5.7 million for Downey Unified over the next decade or so that the batteries will be in use, by reducing the amount of energy drawn from the grid at times when the air conditioning is running or stadium lights are in use, for example.

The peak energy used by schools is billed for by the state’s Investor-Owned Utilities in the same way that it is for commercial entities – so-called Demand Charges are levied each month based on those peaks, seen from the utility side of the meter as spikes in grid usage. Demand Charges can constitute as much as 50% of energy bills and although energy storage cannot mitigate them entirely, these charges in California have, on average, grown 80% in the past 10 years and the savings are still considered significant.

In addition to saving the district millions of dollars, the energy storage projects will “help enhance the reliability of California’s electric grid by reducing the strain on overloaded utility distribution networks,” ENGIE Storage CEO Christopher Tilley said. The company, known as Green Charge prior to takeover by ENGIE, has already executed projects at 80 schools.

As far back as 2017, solar industry veteran Jigar Shah told that energy storage was even then a compelling proposition for school districts in North America, as his company Generate Capital delivered Sharp SmartStorage units coupled with solar for Santa Rita Union School District (SRUSD), also in California.

At that time, Shah said that although the energy bill savings were one component of the value proposition, energy resiliency and in that particular case, the option to use the storage systems as backup power had really got the project over the line with decision makers.

On the technical side, ENGIE Storage touted the role its software will play in controlling and managing the 3.5MW / 7MWh of systems at Downey Unified. The cloud-based GridSynergy software calculates optimal charge and discharge cycles for the batteries based on historical and real-time data and can “continually adapt to the district’s energy needs”, the ENGIE release said.

The news comes not long after reported that newly contracted community solar-plus-storage systems ENGIE Storage is delivering in Massachusetts will join the New England ISO wholesale electricity markets, another pathway to deployment for battery storage in the US that many see as widening over the next few years, with Sunrun also awarded a similar contract for services aggregated across 20MW of interconnected residential behind-the-meter systems in New England. 

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NYPA’s 20MW battery demo to ease transmission constraints, help share renewables

With energy storage poised to take off in New York from both a deployment and industry growth perspective to meet ambitious state targets, the New York Power Authority has said it will build a grid-scale lithium battery storage demonstration project.

NYPA’s Board of Trustees has approved US$29.8 million to fund the total cost of the 20MW project, which will be built next to an existing substation in Franklin County, New York. A NYPA release said it will store energy for one hour (20MWh) and will be used to “absorb excess generation for later delivery”.

NYPA vice chairman Judge Eugene Nicandri described the project as a “great opportunity for NYPA to demonstrate a utility-scale battery project and encourage energy storage adoption throughout the state.”

“Energy storage is vital to the growth of renewable energy. This facility will promote economic development in the North Country, help resolve transmission constraints, and bring New York State closer to its energy storage targets,” Nicandri said.

NYPA is currently negotiating with a vendor for the battery facility, with construction expected to begin in October, for completion by June 2020. The authority said the site had been chosen for its strategic location: the Northern New York area has 650MW of wind resources and the nearby St Lawrence hydropower project, which has been supplying renewable power since 1958. At present, those transmission constraints alluded to by NYPA Vice Chair Eugene Nicandri mean that energy is being prevented from being delivered downstate from those significant generation resources. 

In early 2018, Navigant Research analyst Alex Eller wrote for this site about how distributed energy technologies, with energy storage at the heart, are and will be ”challenging conventional thinking around grid planning,” while Convergent Energy + Power CEO Johannes Ritterhausen recently told that most of the utilities the developer deals with have or are considering so-called ‘non-wires alternatives’ to conventional infrastructure upgrades. 

New York State has enacted legislation to supply 70% of the state’s electricity from renewables by 2030, “reduce carbon footprint to zero” and to deploy 3,000MW of energy storage to meet that goal.

Utility Consolidated Edison New York has just issued a Request for Proposals to procure its 300MW share of that target, recently reported, with another, Central Hudson Gas and Electric doing the same for its own, much smaller 10MW share.

Meanwhile, in common with other states in the US including California, there are also serious efforts being made to examine the case for “replacing or repowering” peaking power plants using energy storage. New York’s Department of Public Service recently put out a report to this effect, although that study has already been described as “flawed” by trade association and technology group NY-BEST, which said that for reasons including the use of 2013 – a year of all-time high peak demand – the report underestimates the potential for batteries to replace peaker gas plants.

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A flow battery ‘competitive with the LG Chems and Samsungs of this world’

Seeking to create a “global player” in the emerging flow battery industry, Avalon Battery and redT have been in talks about forming a combined company. has been speaking with the leadership at both, and with Alex Au, CTO of NEXTracker. Designing power plants based around its solar trackers – and the clever algorithms that drive them – NEXTracker has been using Avalon Battery products in its NX Flow range for a couple of years.

Here’s some choice words from conversations with Scott McGregor, CEO at redT, Avalon Battery president Matt Harper and NEXTracker’s chief technology officer, Alex Au. 

E-S.n: It’s been described as a ‘reverse takeover’ (RTO), but I understand it’s being considered a merger in practical terms?

Matt Harper, Avalon Battery: An RTO is a mechanism that’s usually used for a sort of shortcut for an operating company to back into an inoperative one that has been publicly listed in the past. [The London Stock Exchange] took a look at this and decided that based on the status of the two companies and based on what we’re trying to do together, that it would be deemed to be an RTO. But practically speaking, both companies are totally operational, both companies have great product in the field and a terrific pipeline of business, so to all intents and purposes, it really is a merger.

What are some of the market signs and tipping points towards long-duration energy storage becoming more commonplace?

Alex Au, NEXTracker: There’s a really powerful trend coming from the market saying: we’re looking for a four-hour firm power plant. That’s kind of like that ‘baseload’ conversation.

PV is very straightforward: I’m going to produce electrons when the sun is shining and make money.

Then when you go and add a battery component to it, if you don’t care how often you cycle it or beat up the battery, you’re going to deliver additional power to the grid at times when it’s most valuable or when there’s frequency events, those types of things. To be able to use this application in an aggressive manner – now you can not only make money when the sun shines but also make money based on what the market requires.

That has really unlocked a lot of opportunities.

The flow battery is an actual product that can really just get beat up and handle those cycles. If I come to you and say, “hey, I just ran this test, I’ve had a really aggressive 0-100% to 50% to 0 to 25% to 0 and so on and I cannot show any degradation on the electrolyte and it’s been 20 years,” I’d have just told you that I have a battery that has a better degradation profile than a solar panel. 

What brought the two companies together?

MH: We were both out looking for investment at the same time and we had the happy accident of speaking with some of the same people about investing in the company.

What some of those investors came back with in feedback is that they said: “we really like this space, we see massive opportunity in what both of your companies do and in vanadium flow in general. But we feel that there is a scale that is needed to make this business work that no one in the business has yet achieved. Is there a way that we can [put] the two companies together and then with a significant capital injection get you guys up and off to the races together?” That was the initial thinking behind it.

Scott McGregor, redT: Both companies have very different geographical footprints, so Avalon is very strong in the US and China and we are strong in Europe, Australia, South East Asia and Africa.

So we don’t necessarily compete with each other which is quite nice. It’s more complementary than anything and we’ve got a good global footprint to cover everywhere.

We’ve got two different technical solutions which when combined will provide value for our customers. You combine that with US$30 million of funding, it’s very good for the industry, it’ll push flow forwards faster and in more applications across the world.

People like to remind me that most of the already-installed base of energy storage worldwide is pumped hydro, with the last few years seeing a rise in lithium-ion. Yet big companies like Lockheed Martin are working on flow batteries. What does that say for the market going forward?

AA: It’s taking the discussion away from the procurement guys and putting it back in the hands of the developer. The developer does not look at [cut sheets] the developer looks at their spreadsheets.

When a spreadsheet says, here’s a very low upfront cost for this lithium-ion battery. Then there’s another line item of the cost for augmentation, replacement and management of those lithium cells as they degrade over time. Not only does it degrade over time but the efficiency changes.

Just as module mismatch, when you have mismatch on a string, your pipe gets smaller and your function is off that weakest module. The same thing happens with a bank of lithium-ion batteries. The older cells need to be managed differently than the augmented cells and the replaced battery cells so that line item when you look at it from a developer and not knowing what lithium prices are in the future, not knowing the format, not knowing the voltage range creates a tremendous amount of risk.

You then need to do a capacity maintenance plan for that.

Now, you go to a developer and say I have this asset – and this asset, it doesn’t change, you don’t have to worry about the augmentation. All those lines of risk are removed from that spreadsheet and it’s a lot easier to focus on what the product actually does. 

SM: It is good [as a sign of interest in the market]. Support from the big companies in lithium and saying hang on, we need flow as well. It supports a debate you and I often have that flow is completely different technology, it’s opposite to lithium.

Lithium is a very cheap power technology which is good for certain applications but the future of energy storage will be heavy cycling energy storage. So, heavy-duty, infrastructure energy storage which is what flow is.

That market hasn’t come online yet because of the business models and the technology availability, so as flow gets out and proves itself as a solution, you can open up many more energy storage applications that require much harder working assets that lithium can’t do.

I actually say lithium and flow are complementary technologies, doing different things.

There are already a few competitors in the space and if what you say is true, a much bigger market for flow will mean a lot more competition. What’s needed to have a competitive edge?

SM: [The merger] creates a strong player globally. Every player so far is a little bit narrow in their reach because they don’t want to be spread around the world. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this merger does create a global player: which does create scale in terms of funding, we can then get behind all of the project finance work that you need to do with insurance on the products and create the ability to deal with international companies.

MH: The thing that Avalon has done fundamentally differently than every other flow battery manufacturer is that we’ve taken a highly integrated platform-centric approach where we’ve built a lot of very good quality things at very low cost and have used that as a way of being ready to really build tremendous market adoption with this type of technology.

AA: We believe through all the testing and modelling we’ve done, supply chain and value add or cost reduction through volume that this is a much better product in the large-scale stationary storage application.

I applaud this, I think it’s a great thing for the industry to identify that this player is coming out and saying, we’re making the right decision to compete against the Samsungs and the LGs of this world through this avenue.

This article has been amended to correct Matt Harper at Avalon Battery’s title to president and chief product officer. Larry Zulch is CEO at Avalon Battery. 

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BloombergNEF: Bullish on cost reductions, in line with others on global battery market forecast

BloombergNEF has predicted an exponential multiplying of non-pumped hydro energy storage installations around the world, culminating in nearly 3,000GWh of deployments by 2040.

The research firm has just produced its annual investment outlook report on the space, finding that 9GW / 17GWh of energy storage was deployed as of 2018 and forecasting this to rapidly grow to 1,095GW / 2,850GWh by the year 2040.

In short, energy storage “will become a practical alternative to new electricity generation [presumably meaning in combination with renewable or other distributed energy sources, although a BloombergNEF release did not make this clear], or network reinforcement”, while customer-sited behind-the-meter energy storage systems will more commonly provide network services.

In terms of expected battery demand, the firm gave a combined forecast of 4,584GWh for both electric transportation and stationary energy storage systems by 2040. Electric passenger vehicles “could make up a third of the global passenger vehicle fleet by then”, BloombergNEF said.

In March this year, the firm’s head of energy storage analysis, Logan Goldie-Scott had predicted that an ‘average’ lithium-ion battery pack could cost as low as US$62 per kWh by 2030, noting however that some companies will “undershoot” and price their packs even cheaper than that while others will come in with higher prices.

‘Further sharp declines’ in lithium-ion battery costs

Meanwhile, rival research group Navigant issued new analysis in June that predicted that cost declines may not happen as rapidly as some have forecast, but will nonetheless continue on an aggressive downward trajectory. From around US$139 per kWh this year, battery cells could fall to US$76 per kWh by 2030.

BloombergNEF’s release to media on its new outlook report did not offer forecasts on price guidance, but did say that there could be a further halving of battery cell cost per kilowatt-hour by 2030, which appears to reiterate Goldie-Scott’s previously issued forecast.

“Further sharp declines in the cost of lithium-ion batteries, on top of an 85% reduction in the 2010- 2018 period” would be a key factor in enabling that predicted 122-fold increase in installed base. Getting up to that 4,854GWh figure will require US$622 billion of investment.

Market leading regions, installs forecast roughly in line with rival analyst predictions

The company said it modelled the impact of demand taking off in the two distinct markets of electric transportation and stationary energy storage on an increasingly solar and wind-penetrated global electricity system.

“Two big changes this year are that we have raised our estimate of the investment that will go into energy storage by 2040 by more than US$40 billion, and that we now think the majority of new capacity will be utility-scale, rather than behind-the-meter at homes and businesses,” BloombergNEF energy storage analyst Yayoi Sekine said.

Logan Goldie-Scott said that developers and grids are putting in place new contract structures that are ushering in a “new era of dispatchable renewables”, with his team seeing renewables and solar-plus-storage in particular as a “major driver for battery build”.

China and the US will be the world’s leaders by 2040, BloombergNEF said, usurping current leader South Korea. This was also the conclusion of a recent report from another team of analysts, this time at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, which claimed that this overtaking could happen sooner rather than later, with the global superpowers dominating the market with a 54% share by 2024. Wood Mackenzie meanwhile offered its own prediction that after deploying 7GW / 12GWh in the five years up to 2018, global annual deployments will reach 63GW / 158GWh. Roughly speaking, that tallies with the BloombergNEF latest forecast, with 158GWh a year taking roughly 18 years to overshoot the 2040 BNEF predicted figure.

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ROUNDUP: WA utility picks ‘secure’ software, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Japan demo, New CEO at Eos

W Australia state-owned utility gets ‘Secure’ on software to integrate solar, batteries

31 July 2019: A software-based switching solution provided to homeowners in Western Australia by utility Horizon Power will mitigate the impact of “limited solar hosting capacity” on the local grid, the company has said.

Software provider SwitchDin’s energy management solutions include ‘Secure Gateway Devices’, controllers that ensure customer-owned devices including solar PV panels and batteries “can be smoothly and securely integrated into the local grid’s operation,” SwitchDin CEO Dr Andrew Mears, said.

SwitchDin’s SGD will provide feed-in management, demand management and battery management capability for individual sites. It will provide Horizon Power with the ability to orchestrate these resources to maximise system-wide efficiency.

It means residential solar-plus-storage can be integrated into virtual power plant networks. Horizon Power is state government-owned and is seeking to overcome the “well recognised challenge” of “limited solar hosting capacity”. A Western Australia government taskforce was set to meet yesterday for a workshop to discuss a Distributed Energy Resources Roadmap for the state. 

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Delta Electronics combine gas, PV, batteries for Japan hybrid demonstrator

31 July 2019: A demonstration power plant at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries-owned manufacturing facility in Japan will be equipped with lithium-ion battery storage for enabling “low-cost, environmentally friendly” distributed energy.

Delta Electronics has delivered the energy storage system, which includes a lithium-ion battery with a 4C charge rate. This makes it a potential direct source of power for electric vehicles (EVs) to charge as well.

Delta supplied a 331kWh containerised battery storage solution with DC bi-directional charge and discharge capabilities which can operate under high voltage and current safely. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries actually developed the batteries in Japan and assembled them in Taiwan, where Delta is also headquartered. Defat also supplied four 50kW PV inverters and four 125kW power conditioning systems with DC connection to the batteries as well as AC connection to the grid, again allowing for bi-directional power flows.

The hybrid’s battery will help integrate solar PV production along with a reciprocating engine, smoothing out fluctuations in solar production, while a press release stated that Delta is also developing “next-generation applications” for its storage range including virtual power plant (VPP), enabling self-consumption of solar and grid stabilisation functions.

“The system’s main advantage is its ability to stabilise the volatile output of renewable energy by combining three types of power sources, ultimately enabling low-cost power supply provided by an environmentally-friendly, multi-purpose distributed generation system,” a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries statement read.

Executive overhaul at zinc battery player Eos

30 July 2019: Aqueous zinc battery maker Eos Energy Storage has made three executive appointments, including a new CEO, CFO and Senior Commercial Advisor.

Two of the new appointments have come from GE group companies. New CEO Joe Mastrangelo was president and chief exec at GE Power’s Gas Power Systems division, joining the Eos board as an advisor in 2018. Meanwhile, new Senior Commercial Advisor Kevin Walsh was previously MD and head of US renewable energy for GE Energy Financial Services. New CFO Mack Treece is the former CEO of energy software company Viridity Energy Solutions before its sale to Ormat in 2017.

The company continues to follow its pilot deployment with efforts to commercialise and scale-up its technology. In June, reported that the company had just supplied two 120kWh systems in the US and was eyeing the UK market for possible opportunities. Eos has also said that a 40MWh project for developer Convergent Energy + Power, for which contracts were signed in 2015, is still going ahead. 

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Los Angeles County gas plant to be partially replaced by batteries and solar

An aging gas power plant in Glendale, California will soon be repowered by a combination of distributed solar, energy storage, and geothermal energy.

Municipal utility Glendale Water & Power (GWP) received approval to move ahead with the project from Glendale City Council on July 23. Its original proposal, which consisted primarily of thermal generation and battery storage, was rejected last year.

The new proposal involves retrofitting the Grayson Power Plant with a 75MW / 300MWh battery energy storage system and up to 50MW of distributed energy resources, which will include solar photovoltaic systems and energy efficiency and demand response programs. The plant will retain 93MW of thermal generation from up to five combustion turbines to meet peak demand.

The Grayson plant current combustion engines are due to be retired in 2021. The future of the plant has become a source of contention between GWP and environmentalists and locals opposed to the installation of new gas-powered infrastructure.

It is the second time this month that a dirty gas plant in California has been partially replaced with cleaner alternatives, as utilities scramble towards meeting a new state law that requires 100% of electricity generation to come from climate-friendly sources by 2045. In Oakland, a 40-year old jet-fuel power plant is set to be replaced by solar-plus-battery systems, in that instance through networking devices in customer households.

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Southern Power to develop 345MWh quartet of energy storage projects

Wholesale power provider Southern Power is to develop up to four utility-scale energy storage projects totalling 86MW / 345MWh.

Of the four projects, all in California, one has already closed financing. Southern Power is working with developer esVolta on the portfolio.

“Battery storage is an emerging technology with the potential to revolutionize how energy is supplied,” said Southern Power President Bill Grantham. “These projects and our partnership with esVolta are a great strategic fit for our business, and these transactions will further position Southern Power to meet our customers’ needs as the energy industry continues to evolve.”

Contract details were not revealed but a statement from Southern Power said the deal was aligned with its “low-risk business strategy of developing or acquiring interests in projects covered by long-term contracts”.

“Southern Power is an outstanding company and a leader in the US electricity sector,” said Randolph Mann, founder and president, esVolta. “Our collaboration will enhance esVolta’s ability to capitalize on the strong growth of the energy storage business, and we are excited to work alongside the outstanding team at Southern Power to bring additional high-quality utility-scale storage projects to fruition for our utility customers.”

Larger projects are becoming increasingly commonplace in California. Last month Fluence broke ground on the Alamitos project. The 100MW / 400MWh install is being developed in Southern California for AES, one half of the Fluence joint venture.

In April Southern California Edison signed contracts for six projects with a total capacity of 181MW. The group are in being built to protect the local network from gas shortages after the leak at Aliso Canyon.

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Oklahoma picked out for NextEra’s next big wind-solar-battery hybrid

Wholesale electricity supplier NextEra Energy Resources will be deploying a major US complex combining solar, wind and storage batteries, a mix the broader NextEra group sees as increasingly promising.

The Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC) has agreed to become the offtaker for the 700MW Skeleton Creek hybrid, which NextEra wants to deploy in the state of Oklahoma.

A power purchase agreement (PPA) has been signed for wind and solar installations of 250MW capacity each, paired with a 200MW four-hour battery energy storage system.

The three installations are set to be built in the counties of Garfield, Alfalfa and Major, in the northern strip of Oklahoma state.

The wind plant is due to go live later this year, while the PV and battery elements are both expected to start operations by the end of 2023.

According to NextEra, the project is the first to mix wind, solar and batteries in the 14-state grid region known as the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).

The 700MW size makes the co-located venture the largest of its kind ever to see the light across the entire country, the company went on to claim.

Not NextEra’s first triple hybrid

The Skeleton Creek announcement emerged just as another affiliate of the NextEra group, NextEra Energy Partners, signalled its belief in the potential of such hybrids in the US.

At a conference call on quarterly results just this week, NextEra Energy Partners CFO Rebecca Kujawa was bullish on solar’s potential, both as standalone and paired with others.

“The combination of low-cost renewables plus storage is expected to be increasingly disruptive to the nation’s generation fleet, providing significant growth opportunities well into the next decade,” the CFO explained.

The optimism appears to extend to Skeleton Creek’s offtaker WFEC. The addition of batteries to already “lower than ever” wind and solar prices will lead to affordable supply even “when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining,” said the power cooperative’s CEO Gary Roulet.

The triple hybrid is not NextEra’s first, however. In February this year, the firm unveiled plans for what it billed as “first of a kind” such scheme in the US.

The project in question will see NextEra deploy 300MW of wind, 50MW of solar and a 30MW battery system in Oregon, alongside state utility Portland General Electric.

This article first appeared on PV Tech

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From fossil fuels to sustainable futures: an (almost) virtuous circle

Say it loud and clear. The technology is “absolutely there” now for humanity to switch over to using huge amounts of renewable energy, reliably, says Wärtsilä VP for Europe Melle Kruisdijk. Then again, if you’re not reading this site for the very first time, you probably already know that.

So why has a natural gas generator manufacturer contacted to argue the business case for a 100% renewable energy future? We will get to that shortly, but first, to put things in context, yesterday, our sister site PV Tech reported on efforts by a trio of US House Committee Chairs to introduce a plan to shift to a “100% clean economy by 2050”.

A series of meetings and consultations will be launched to draw on a wide pool of relevant stakeholders. The results of those meetings will then inform a piece of legislation with the 2050 target at its heart, PV Tech’s John Parnell wrote.

“That’s all well and good,” as lawyer Kirsti Massie of UK firm White & Case told me a couple of weeks ago in reference to the UK setting a similar target for the same year, but the policy details then quickly need to fall into place for things to then happen in the years leading up to 2050. We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can meet those goals without doing so and the need to limit the catastrophic effects of climate change is even more urgent than that. 

While we want the policy big hitters to start turning rhetoric into action, the industry has not been afraid to take up the thread. Wärtsilä, a major player in maritime energy systems as well as gas turbine manufacture and French oil giant Total are among those has spoken to that, despite their continuing business interests in those existing industries, are advocating strongly that the technology to get to majority, then to 100%, renewables is already here, although implementing that will take time and a series of steps.

A little while ago, as we looked at some notable recent big acqusitions, including the takeover of energy storage system integrator Greensmith by the Finnish gas engine manufacturer, Greensmith’s current interim man-in-charge Andy Tang had said that reaching a 100% renewable energy future is about more than incrementally adding higher shares of renewable energy, more needs to be done on energy systems both on-grid and off-grid to integrate that flexibility. Particularly when we go above 20% penetration of solar capacity.

Today, as Greensmith’s parent company announced a 100MW / 100MWh energy storage system delivery and EPC contract at an unspecified location in South East Asia, Wärtsilä once again touted that it is “enabling the transition towards 100% renewable energy around the world by designing and building flexible systems that integrate renewables, traditional thermal assets and energy storage”.

So what does that actually mean? Is it really a means to making renewable energy the main source of powering the world, or is Wärtsilä cleverly leveraging some new technologies to continue selling its gas engines?

Melle Kruisdijk says that in fact, it was one of Wärtsilä’s customers that “showed us a way in which our engines can utilise and actually enable the uptake of more renewables,” at a Texas wind farm.

“Our legacy technology is reciprocating engines. Those were used in marine to power the ships. In the 90s we started using these engines to build land-based power plants.

“What we found out from our customers later is that they used these plants in a different way than we intended them for. We intended them for baseload power – and they started using them in much more, ‘start and stop cycles’.

“They called this power plant a ‘wind chaser’. [The customer said] ‘all the fluctuations introduced by the variations of wind, is now smoothed out thanks to your technology’. That was quite an eye-opener.”

Although eventually, renewables must replace conventional thermal generation, if gas engines can complement renewables to provide system stability, “we looked at it as our technology complimenting and actually enabling renewables,” Kruisdijk says.

“That’s what also brought us to this 100% renewable energy vision. Then, the final push in our view is that when there’s so much renewable energy on the system, that you have situations when there’s too much electricity, there’s more electricity from renewables than you can actually take up. At that point in time, you can use that electricity for input for other processes. Like for example, power-to-gas, to generate synthetic fuels.”

So, Wärtsilä’s customers brought this potential for independence from fossil fuels to the company’s attention. What’s driving forward continuing change in this direction is not ideology however, but economics. Avoiding stranded assets and using the cheapest sources of energy to build today – solar and wind – make economic sense. As a commercial entity, Wärtsilä is responding to the market and as the costs of renewable energy drop further and further, Kruisdijk and his team simply see that this is the direction of travel.

Of course, this is, not, and the fact that Wärtsilä’s Melle Kruisdijk is speaking to us, means that battery energy storage is nonetheless key to this “100% renewable energy vision”.

The crucial role of Greensmith in this ‘vision’ is twofold: the addition of batteries, typically lithium-ion batteries and Greensmith’s GEMS software platform, adds flexibility to often very large systems, dramatically reducing the amount of fossil fuels needed to stabilise the grid (or microgrid). Secondly, battery system integrators like Greensmith need to be total system integrators, able to coordinate and add diverse energy resources – or the entire system will not work and the battery – likely to be the single most expensive component, will not work properly, or last as long as it should.

“The path is there, it’s about having this technology, it’s also about being able to integrate those different resources, all those fluctuations, of course on the consumer side you are connecting electric vehicles that consume or produce.”

Wärtsilä’s engines can be ramped up in two minutes and ramped down again in one minute. Previously however, the gas generators had to be run at 50% of their load, as a minimum sustainable operating point, which “of course is not good”, Kruisdijk says, whereas with the addition of batteries, the engines run-time is significantly reduced.

“First of all, it is not the most efficient operating point for those plants, and they’re generating emissions, and actually they’re not needed. So somewhere in another part of the system they will be curtailing renewable power because all the space on the grid is already taken. If you would replace that old conventional with these flexible units, you would actually enable space on the grid to take up more renewables, without jeopardising the stability because the flexibility can be brought up online, within just a matter of seconds.”

“Let’s be realistic, nobody thinks of replacing all oil and gas right away with renewables, but there’s a strong path,” Michael Lippert, sales director at battery system technology supplier and integrator Saft – majority-owned by French oil and gas giant Total – says.

“Total was among the first to say that oil and gas will remain important – but not the only energy carriers. The path [towards renewables] will only happen if people like Total and others, go step-by-step. And Total has engaged this path a couple of years ago,” Lippert says.

The consequences of choosing this path have translated into a sustainable energy division of Total that includes SunPower as well as Saft and electric vehicle sector interests too. So while we talk about a shift to 100% renewables, its perhaps as much about making the subtle distinction in the way we look at energy. For major companies like Total to transition to renewables begins with “dealing with electricity as an energy carrier and developing an offering along the entire value chain which means starting from renewable generation to retailing to the end customer,” Lippert says. Of course, “energy storage is part of the story”.

Like oil and gas rivals like Shell and other major incumbent energy majors like utilities E.On, Engie and EDF, Total’s acquisitions of interests in the renewables and wider distributed energy space have been prolific. And while they represent a much smaller sum of spending than majors and supermajors still put int the fossil fuel businesses, companies like Total do not “spend money for the sake of spending money,” Lippert says.

Lippert agrees with Melle Kruisdijk’s assertion that the real strength of batteries and their key role in the energy transition lies with providing flexibility to accommodate renewables. The majority of Saft’s business is, Lippert says, “still linked with renewables”.

“But, of course the penetration of renewables on the grid puts our grids under stress and I think on the horizon five years from now we will see batteries used as flexibilities for operating the grid.”

One example where the policy space, electricity networks and private companies can come together is a proposed project by a French transmission system operator (TSO) that the battery integrator is in talks to be involved with.

The project would “create virtual power lines to deal with peak power flows on the grid and you use storage for this. It’s one of the interesting and quite large-scale projects to start to think about how to use energy storage in congestion management on the grid,” Lippert says.

It’s unhelpful to imagine that people are working in the fossil fuel industry today for the express purpose of destroying the planet. Many have an affiliation which goes back to wanting to make the world a better place by enabling energy production and infrastructure alike to power our world using engineering solutions. It’s no secret that salaries in those legacy industries in general still far outstrip renewables and there is undoubtedly a financial motivation for the involvement of many, but even were that to be the case, the business case for renewable energy grows in tandem with cost decreases.

Being led to this way of thinking by a customer, Wärtsilä’s Melle Kruisdijk says, shows that there is no longer a contradiction between smart economics and more efficient, more sustainable energy supply and use. Although both the Saft and Wärtsilä representatives say that regulation needs to change to catch up with technology, the economic benefits are as clear as the environmental ones.

“The path [to 100% renewables] will be different in different countries, but we’re convinced it will happen,” Melle Kruisdijk says.

“Not only because of regulation but also because of economics. We see the costs for renewables dropping all the time. New renewable energy is more competitive than new conventional at the moment and obviously there will be an increasing amount of renewables. And apart from this, it’s obvious that you will need flexibility. That flexibility to firm up the system will come, for example from engine technology but also from battery and other sorts of technologies.

“Our view is that as soon as there is an abundance of electricity you can use that, the whole stream you can utilise in that infrastructure. Then, you’re really at a 100% renewable system.” 

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Con Edison seeks 300MW of storage of ‘at least four hours’ duration to meet New York goals

US utility Con Edison New York (CECONY) is seeking ‘at least’ 300MW / 1,200MWh of energy storage as its contribution to the state’s 3GW target by 2025.

Widely reported economic and environmental sustainability plans rolled out by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration include the above target, in a regional market thought to hold a great deal of potential but as yet held back by factors including stringent permitting and planning processes.

Each of New York’s utilities has been instructed to procure 10MW of ESS capacity for its networks, excepting CECONY, which was set the target of “at least 300MW”. In a Request for Proposals document published 15 July, CECONY and Orange and Rockland Utilities set out their ‘Bulk energy storage scheduling and dispatch rights’, with Orange and Rockland seeking its own 10MW of projects through the undertaking.

According to the document, which can be publicly accessed here, to comply with the terms set by the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) in that state Storage Order, projects need to be operational by the end of 2022. Bidders must now submit a questionnaire for pre-qualification by the end of this month.

In notes taken for a recent, unrelated interview, Johannes Ritterhausen of developer Convergent Energy + Power described New York State as being “very promising for storage”.

“They have adopted now a more aggressive target than California in terms of developing storage in the state. They have a state procurement agency, NYSERDA that’s running a lot of the incentives to purchase storage, so it’s a direct procurement, incentive process,” Ritterhausen, Convergent’s CEO said, adding that authorities in New York are also currently talking about “retiring a great majority” of gas peaker plants in the state, which could provide another strong market opportunity for energy storage and related technologies.

As mentioned, strict planning and permitting processes have been considered one significant barrier to deployment thus far in the state, particularly in the densely packed urban environment of New York City itself. Roger Lin of NEC’s Energy Solutions business said that “rightly so, it is one of the toughest places to install anything new”.

“The permitting and the standards that you have to go through with both FDNY (fire department) and the Dept of Buildings are the toughest that we’ve seen in the world,” Lin, the company’s VP for marketing, told

“We’ve recently started installing stuff in the city and have been working very closely with FDNY and the Department of Buildings to ensure that our systems around lithium-ion are installed in the safest manner possible.”

Four initial projects installed by NEC are being watched closely, being among the first lithium-ion systems to be installed within NYC, after a project by Demand Energy for Con Edison at a housing complex some time before that. After that, the gauntlet will have been run, and as an old cliche goes, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. For now, the industry will settle for making it in New York.

“On the permitting side, if you’re doing something within NYC it’s still going to be case-by-case, but once you get outside of NYC [into the wider state], development is easier for sure,” Convergent Energy + Power’s Johannes Ritterhausen said.

“There are now precedents for doing this in NYC. Every project is still a unique piece in terms of permitting, based on what local agencies have in different jurisdictions, and you have to work with them collaboratively obviously, but NY state broadly is a huge focus for us and an enormous growth market over the next five years.”

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