Wartsila case study: DC-coupled energy storage systems ideal for real-time trading

At-a-Glance:

With more opportunities to sell energy into new energy markets, energy developers are thinking creatively about wasted energy and harnessing greater efficiency. There are two important evolutions in energy storage technology that solar power producers are opting for when purchasing new systems: solar projects are leveraging the efficiencies of DC-coupled design in energy systems just at the emergence of market bidding as a new industry standard. As more developers pair solar systems with energy storage, the convergence of these two trends serve as an anchor design for utility-scale solar and storage projects going forward to ensure these systems are as optimized and impactful as possible. To learn more, read “Wärtsilä case study: DC-coupled energy storage systems ideal for real-time trading.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Wärtsilä recently announced a solar PV and storage project that incorporates both DC-coupled design and market bidding and illustrates the most efficient designs and revenue-generating systems out there.
  • The Wärtsilä system, a 40-MW/80-MWh energy storage system, located in Mitchell County, Georgia, will enable a subsidiary of RWE Renewables (Hickory Park Solar) to sell nearly 200 MW of generation from the solar PV panels to Georgia Power Company.
  • The RWE project is Wärtsilä’s first DC-coupled system and the largest application of the GridSolv Quantum solution which is a fully integrated modular energy storage system that is highly optimized for DC-coupled systems.
  • The RWE project is also the first application of Wärtsilä’s new cloud-based IntelliBidder software. IntelliBidder leverages machine learning and optimization algorithms based on automated and forecasted data and real-time trading for elevated value-based asset management and portfolio optimization.

Path to 100% Perspective:

This is one of the very few projects globally on this scale using DC-coupling. Delivery of this innovative equipment is scheduled for September 2021 and the plant is expected to commence commercial operations in November. The global technology company previously delivered energy storage solutions to RWE Renewables in Texas and Arizona.

New SunPower CEO Wants Buying Solar as Easy as Amazon Purchases

At-a-Glance:

The new CEO of SunPower Corp. – a veteran of Amazon.com Inc. – wants to make the rooftop solar-buying process easier for homeowners. in an interview Wednesday. “Until we make getting solar as simple as buying a book on Amazon, we’re not going to stop,” SunPower Chief Executive Officer Peter Faricy said. To learn more, read “New SunPower CEO Wants Buying Solar as Easy as Amazon Purchases.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Interest in residential solar is surging in the U.S. with climate change a threat to the power grid, however, only about 3% of the country’s homes are equipped with panels.
  • Rooftop-solar companies attribute market penetration to lengthy permitting processes and low-tech sales techniques.
  • SunPower’s new CEO, Peter Faricy, who spent 13 years at Amazon.com, thinks the solar business is ripe for digital innovation.
  • SunPower deployed 77 megawatts of residential solar in the first quarter, up from 70 megawatts during the same period last year.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Solar energy generates only about 2% of Earth’s electricity today, it is projected to generate 22% by 2050. Electric utilities and governments across the world are moving towards 100% carbon-free energy. To succeed, they need to not only increase renewable generation, but also to rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels. Renewables and storage alone cannot rapidly decarbonize  power systems fast enough. Optimizing power resources, renewable energy and future fuels is the way to pave the Path to 100%.

Tucson Electric turns on its biggest renewable-energy plants to date

At-a-Glance:

The electricity powering most of Tucson, including the University of Arizona, got a little cleaner the week of May 3, as Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP) switched on its biggest solar and wind power plants to date. To learn more, read “Tucson Electric turns on its biggest renewable-energy plants to date.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The 1,130 acre project, built and owned by NextEra Energy, includes 30MW of linked battery storage to bank solar power for use when the sun goes down.
    • The Wilmot Energy Center is expected to generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 26,000 typical TEP homes.
  • TEP’s biggest renewable energy resource, the 250MW Oso Grande Wind Project in New Mexico, went online a couple of weeks later. Consisting of 62 wind turbines on 24,000 acres, Oso Grande is expected to generate enough energy each year to serve about 90,000 homes.
  • With Wilmot and Oso Grande online, TEP will have 628MW of large, community-scale wind and solar resources – with the 99MW Borderlands Wind Project, being built 100 miles south of Gallup, New Mexico, coming online by the end of 2021.
  • The new solar and wind farms will help TEP toward its goal of generating 70% of its power from renewables and cutting its carbon emissions by 80% by 2035.
  • TEP has dedicated a portion of its output to provide the UA campus with “100% clean energy” under a 20-year, green energy agreement announced in 2019.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Electric utilities such as TEP are embracing their role in reducing climate emissions by shifting to renewable energy sources, like solar and wind. As a growing number of cities, states, and nations set goals for increasing amounts of renewable energy, economics is helping bring those plans to fruition. Over the past 20 years, the cost per kilowatt of wind power plants has decreased by 40%, while the cost of solar generation has dropped by 90%. The cost-competitiveness of renewables is making it possible to accelerate decarbonization of power systems such as TEP.

NextEra Aims to Buy More U.S. Power Lines to Fuel Renewable Push

At-a-Glance:

NextEra Energy Inc. wants to buy more power lines to tap into rising demand for renewable energy, weeks after closing a $660-million deal for such transmission wires. The Florida-based company plans to expand its business both by developing and acquiring transmission assets. In March, NextEra bought GridLiance, which owns about 700 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, for about $660 million from Blackstone Group Inc. To learn more, read “NextEra Aims to Buy More U.S. Power Lines to Fuel Renewable Push.”  Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Corporate executives are encouraged by President Joe Biden’s focus on renewables, which is in turn encouraging more companies to expand their investment in renewables.
  • NextEra plans to add up to 30,000 megawatts of wind, solar and battery storage by 2024.
  • The country will need to expand its transmission grids by as much as 60% for wind and solar to make up half of U.S. electricity capacity by 2030 to meet the President’s goal of a fully green U.S. power grid by 2035.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Carbon neutral and carbon free systems must install enough capacity (with the right capabilities) to meet energy needs in worst-case scenarios. At a minimum, to assure reliability and avoid blackouts, utility system planners and policy makers need to account for seasonal trends in availability of renewable resources. Meanwhile, inflexible power systems cannot keep up with wind and solar’s variability, so power plants have to stay online and burn fuel even on sunny or windy days when they are not needed. In practice, this limits power systems to using perhaps 30% renewable generation. Any more than that gets curtailed. Therefore, additional investment in more transmission is required to meet the growing demand.

 

Study: California can Reach a Decarbonized Electric Grid Affordably and Reliably by 2045

At-a-Glance:

California can eliminate carbon emissions without markedly increasing the cost of electricity while preserving the reliability of the state’s grid, according to an analysis published in the online journal, Issues in Science and Technology. To learn more, read Study: California can Reach a Decarbonized Electric Grid Affordably and Reliably by 2045.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The study employed three different models of California’s electricity system to quantify the costs of a variety of future scenarios for new sources of clean, reliable electric power.
    • Each team’s model determined how much electricity would cost under a variety of scenarios.
    • The models also considered the physical implications of building the decarbonized grid, examining questions like how much infrastructure would be required; how quickly the state would need to build it; and how much land would be needed.
    • While each team approached the challenge differently, they all produced similar results that kept the cost of generation and transmission between 7 and 10 cents per kilowatt hour, comparable to the current costs of generation and transmission for California’s investor-owned utilities.
  • While the teams found that renewables like wind and solar will remain critical to the state’s path toward decarbonization, California will need to tap into clean electricity that is available on demand, for as long as it is needed, whenever it is needed.
    • Known as “clean firm power,” this type of energy includes geothermal and nuclear power as well as natural gas that utilizes carbon capture and storage technology to sequester CO2.
    • Clean fuels such as hydrogen manufactured with no life-cycle emissions could also be added to the mix.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Meeting California’s goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2045 while ensuring affordable and reliable power is a tremendous challenge. This analysis shows the potential of Power-to-Gas technology, in conjunction with energy storage, as a source of firm carbon-neutral power that can help the state achieve an optimal, decarbonized power system while keeping costs low for ratepayers and ensuring a secure supply of electricity.

Photo by Francesco Casalino on Unsplash

Experts explain why green hydrogen costs have fallen and will keep falling

At-a-Glance:

As electric and gas utilities contemplate investing in low-carbon hydrogen and the technology to produce it, the high price of today’s supplies and equipment – and the potential for cost declines – are major considerations. At the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference, hydrogen experts and stakeholders expressed confidence that the cost curve will indeed bend in the coming years. The March 2 panel on low-carbon hydrogen production and technologies offered a detailed breakdown of the forces behind the price trend. To learn more, read Experts explain why green hydrogen costs have fallen and will keep falling.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Norwegian electroyzer-maker Nel ASA in January announced a goal of producing green hydrogen at $1.50 per kilogram by 2025. Malaysian oil and gas giant Petronas is targeting hydrogen production costs from the nation’s hydropower and solar resources in a range of $1-2/kg.
  • Green hydrogen produced with renewable resources costs between about $3/kg and $6.55/kg, according to the European Commission’s July 2020 hydrogen strategy. Fossil-based hydrogen costs about $1.80/kg, and the commission estimated the cost of blue hydrogen at about $2.40/kg.
  • Access to low-cost renewable electricity will be the most important factor in driving green hydrogen costs down to $1.50/kg, according to Everett Anderson, vice president for advanced product development at NEL Hydrogen AS.
  • The hydrogen production process of methane pyrolysis is attracting attention and investment for its ability to decompose methane at high temperatures to produce solid carbon rather than carbon dioxide. This could allow hydrogen production at nodes between natural gas lines and distribution systems.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Power-to-hydrogen is an alternate Power-to-Gas pathway. Power-to-hydrogen requires only electrolysis, where electrolyzers use excess renewable energy to produce hydrogen (from water) for direct use as a fuel. In addition, hydrogen as a fuel is carbon free. Complexities arise as there is, unlike the existing infrastructure for methane, no comparable hydrogen infrastructure. Still, hydrogen is an efficient and carbon-free alternative to renewable synthetic hydrocarbons and is worth investigating. Power plant technology manufacturers seem to understand this as many of them are in the process of developing technologies that are fueled by 100% hydrogen.

 

Photo by Neenu Vimalkumar on Unsplash

The 10 Ways Renewable Energy’s Boom Year Will Shape 2021

At-a-Glance:

With the uncertainty of 2020 behind us, the new year kicked off with surging growth for renewable energy. Growth will likely continue into 2021, fueled in part by last year’s major turning points. Some analysts have started predicting that the U.S. power sector is approaching peak natural gas. That would leave room for solar-panel installations to build on the ongoing boom. To learn more, read The 10 Ways Renewable Energy’s Boom Year Will Shape 2021.” Reading this article may require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Although U.S. residential solar installations dropped nearly 20% in the second quarter of 2020 from the first, by the end of the year, the sector bounced back and the country added 19 gigawatts of total solar power.
  • New battery capacity in the U.S. more than doubled in the third quarter of 2020 from the second, according to Wood Mackenzie and the U.S. Energy Storage Association. Projects in California were a key reason for the surge.
  • Electricity from Spain’s solar farms was up over 60% in 2020 compared to 2019, generating over 15,000 gigawatt hours of power, according to data from the country’s grid manager Red Electrica.
  • Renewable power beat out fossil fuels in the European Union for the first time, with approximately 40% of electricity in the first half of 2020 coming from renewable sources compared with 34% from plants burning fossil fuels.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Despite the upheaval caused by COVID-19 in 2020, the demand for renewable energy has not slowed and the path to 100% is becoming clearer as countries around the world commit to carbon-free sources of electricity. Developments such as China’s commitment to reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 and the European Union’s shift to renewables as the dominant power source provide further evidence that the tide is turning toward decarbonization. Ambitious goals, a commitment to research and development, and ongoing collaboration will continue to pave the path to a renewable energy future.

 

Photo by Jason Ng on Unsplash

Cal-ISO renewable capacity climbs, storage resources coming onto system

At-a-Glance

The California Independent System Operator added 2.1 GW of capacity to its grid in 2020 with another 3.3 GW permitted with online dates in 2020 or 2021 as the state works to achieve its ambitious 100% clean energy mandate over the next 25 years. To learn more, read Cal-ISO renewable capacity climbs, storage resources coming onto system.”

Key Takeaways

  • In 2020, Cal-ISO had 2.1 GW of capacity added through September of which 1.3 GW was gas-fired, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.
  • EIA also shows 3.3 GW permitted with an online date in either 2020 or 2021. About 2,500 MW of this is under construction which includes 1.5 GW solar, 800 MW battery and 200 MW wind.
  • Cal-ISO president and CEO Elliot Mainzer has said the grid operator is working to improve its resource adequacy system following the rotating outages in August.
  • “Longer term, we’re working very closely with the [Public Utilities Commission], the Energy Commission and others in the regulatory space to try to make sure the resource adequacy paradigm in California is modernized sufficiently to recognize the changing resource mix,” Mainzer said. “There’s a lot of additional solar and batteries and wind and other renewables coming onto the system.”
  • Renewable generation curtailments in 2020 were up 220% year on year, according to ISO data.

Path to 100% Perspective

No power system can achieve 100% renewable electricity just by adding more renewable generation. It also needs to slash fossil-fueled generation. That means reducing reliance on traditional gas- and coal-fired plants, whether they’re used for baseload or to back up variable renewable generation. And that can be harder than you might think. The challenge is that traditional fossil-fuel-powered plants are inflexible: they can’t just switch off when the sun is high and switch back on when the sun sets. Because traditional power stations require many hours to shut down and many hours to start back up, they cannot power up and down quickly enough to handle predictable shifts in demand and generation, let alone unexpected changes in the weather. To ensure a steady flow of electricity, California’s traditional gas-fired power stations have to keep running at 40% to 50% capacity, even on a bright, sunny day. Running at low capacity is inefficient and emits large amounts of climate-warming carbon.

 

Photo by Jarosław Kwoczała on Unsplash

6 Out-of-the-Ordinary Energy Concepts From 2020

At-a-Glance

It’s been a “business-as-usual” year for renewables, despite the societal upheaval wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. Most 2020 headlines continue to highlight conventional renewable segments such as solar and energy storage. On the margins, virtual power plants have gone mainstream and green hydrogen has emerged as the energy carrier of choice for tomorrow’s fuel systems. But COVID-19 did little to dampen enthusiasm for more obscure energy concepts. To learn more, read “6 Out-of-the-Ordinary Energy Concepts From 2020.” 

Key Takeaways

  1. Filipino engineering student, Carvey Ehren Maigue has developed Aurora Renewable Energy and UV Sequestration or AuREUS, which uses vegetable-based panels as tinted films that can be applied to existing surfaces, such as walls and windows.
    • AuREUS’ ability to capture diffused ultraviolet rays is said to deliver a capacity factor of up to 50 percent, compared to a maximum of around 25 percent for photovoltaic (PV) solar energy.
  2. Salient Energy emerged from Shell’s GameChanger program with a zinc-ion battery chemistry believed to be cheaper, safer and longer-lasting than anything else on the market.
    • Salient claims its proprietary cathode materials store energy in zinc in a way that has never been commercialized before.
  3. Puerto Rican startup ReSynth specializes in “fuel enhancement” to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations from diesel and marine oils.
    • The fuel emulsion cuts sulfur and nitrous oxide emissions as well as carbon. Plus it has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Coast Guard. It works with engines from major manufacturers such as Wärtsilä.
  4. Spanish firm Vortex Bladeless was founded in 2014, but 2020 was a year for notable milestones for the innovators. Vortex launched a small-scale product, less than three feet tall, to compete with low-power off-grid PV.
  5. The Ocean Grazer concept, based at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands has developed the Ocean Battery which stores energy by pumping fresh water into flexible bladders that are deflated by the pressure of the seawater column when power is needed.
  6. Alberta-based Eavor Technologies believes one of its Eavor-Loop systems can pull energy from the center of the earth to heat 16,000 homes or produce industrial-scale electricity via heat-to-power engines.

Path to 100% Perspective

The path to 100% has not already been paved, therefore, commitments to innovation and creativity are essential to developing solutions for different communities, regions and utilities. However, grid operators also navigate balance between obscure energy concepts and sustainability for power systems that energize communities around the world. The possibilities are endless as entrepreneurs and energy experts continue to collaborate towards flexibility and sustainability in order to reach a renewable energy future.

 

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

The New Green Energy Giants Challenging Exxon and BP

At-a-Glance

A decade ago, NextEra, Iberdrola and Enel were sleepy regional utilities with little name recognition. Now they are fast-growing giants with market values rivaling the likes of oil majors Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP PLC, thanks to their early all-in bets on wind and solar farms. Their early lead in the global transition away from oil has put these companies on track to become the major energy companies of the coming decades—the “green energy majors.” But they now face the threat of increased competition as some of the oil titans that have traditionally dominated the energy industry diversify into wind and solar power. To learn more, read “The New Green Energy Giants Challenging Exxon and BP.” Reading this article could require a subscription.

Key Takeaways

  • NextEra, Enel SpA and Iberdrola SA are Wall Street darlings, after Spain’s Iberdrola and Italy’s Enel became global builders of green energy projects, while NextEra became America’s largest generator of wind and solar power.
  • Enel and Iberdrola have outlined plans to substantially expand their portfolios of renewable-energy projects over the next decade with about $170 billion in collective investments.
  • Florida-based NextEra grew into America’s largest renewable energy producer by keeping debt levels low, capitalizing on federal tax subsidies available to help finance wind and solar projects around the country and reinvesting its profits to expand further. NextEra expects to have invested $60 billion in renewable energy projects between 2019 and 2022.
  • Denmark’s Ørsted A/S, a company formerly known as DONG Energy that focused on oil and gas, has transitioned into a leading player in offshore wind projects.

Path to 100% Perspective

As NextEra became more valuable than Exxon in 2020, it became increasingly clear that the status quo in energy is now in the rearview mirror and the path to 100% is nearly paved. Oil companies are not holding on to the past or unrealistic expectations for the future of energy. Instead, they are joining the race to renewables using their name recognition, influence in the energy sector and budgets to spur more competition to the benefit of those striving for a renewable energy future.

 

Photo by Efe Kurnaz on Unsplash

California’s pathway to 100% clean electricity begins to take shape, but reliability concerns persist

At-a-Glance

California’s energy agencies are taking a first stab at assessing possible pathways to the state’s ambitious goal of achieving 100% renewable and zero-carbon electricity by 2045, but concerns about system reliability — especially in light of the rolling blackouts — continue to plague regulators. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Energy Commission (CEC) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) released a draft report on getting to a 2045 clean electricity portfolio, which indicated the goal is technically achievable. To learn more, read “California’s pathway to 100% clean electricity begins to take shape, but reliability concerns persist.”

Key Takeaways

  • The report presents important initial insights into potential paths for the electric sector, Mary Nichols, CARB chair, said at the workshop, adding that “the initial work highlights the enormous challenge ahead, requiring a complete transformation in the type of electricity that Californians consume.”
  • California’s carbon goals are part of legislation passed by the state in 2018, called Senate Bill 100, which calls for 100% of electric retail sales in the state to come from renewable energy and zero-carbon resources by the end of 2045.
  • The bill also required the three energy agencies to create a report evaluating the policy and follow it up with updates at least every four years. The agencies intend to submit a final version of the initial report early next year.
  • Based on this analysis, the report concludes that achieving the 100% clean electricity goal is technically achievable, and could cost around 6% more than the baseline 60% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) future by 2045, although that could change if renewables continue to decline in cost at a faster rate than anticipated by the models.

Path to 100% Perspective

A place where the transition to renewables has progressed quite far already is California. The lessons learned along the way have been plentiful, but powerful nonetheless. The record-breaking heat wave that swept across the western part of the country and caused a series of blackouts in the Golden State, offered additional modelling opportunities to demonstrate the most effective mix of energy to accommodate any extreme weather situation during the transition, and to meet clean power mandates. The big challenge facing California and the rest of the world is how to integrate renewables into the grid while building security of supply and a sustainable power system with an affordable plan for everyone involved.

 

 

Photo by Matthew Hamilton on Unsplash

Amazon Backs 26 Green Projects in Drive to Renewable Energy

At-a-Glance

Amazon.com Inc. made an announcement in December to say it was backing 26 new wind and solar utility projects around the globe, a massive investment that the company said made it the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy. The retail and technology company said the utility-scale projects, located in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S., would have the capacity to produce 3.4 gigawatts of electricity. To learn more, read “Amazon Backs 26 Green Projects in Drive to Renewable Energy.” Reading this article could require a subscription.

Key Takeaways

  • In 2019, Google was the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy and claimed the previous high water mark that year with a 1.6 gigawatt purchase in a single announcement.
  • “Amazon is helping fight climate change by moving quickly to power our businesses with renewable energy,” Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said in a statement.
  • Amazon has said it aims to power its operations with renewable energy sources by 2025, five years ahead of an earlier target, and to become carbon neutral 15 years later.
  •  Including the new deals, Amazon has backed 127 wind and solar projects, with 6.5 gigawatts of capacity.

Path to 100% Perspective

Ambitious renewable energy goals make headlines every week, with some organizations competing for the title of energy leader. This form of competition is accelerating the path to decarbonization through strategic investments in emerging technologies and innovative ways to integrate renewable energy into business plans and power systems. As more organizations join forces to find solutions designed to decrease carbon emissions, the marketplace and utility sector are able to more easily visualize a renewable energy future on the horizon.

 

Photo by Bryan Angelo on Unsplash