Sunday, December 26, 2010

Germany's E.ON to Add 300MW Pumped Hydro Energy Storage

E.ON intends to considerably enlarge the capacity of Waldeck pumped-storage hydroelectric station on Lake Eder in the federal state of Hesse in central Germany. E.ON will begin building a new 300 megawatt pumped-storage plant next to the existing Waldeck 2 facility in 2012. E.ON is one of Germany and Europe’s biggest hydro operators, with 212 facilities in four countries and total installed hydro capacity of nearly 6.2 gigawatts.

Like Waldeck 2, the new plant will have an underground turbine room. Construction is expected to take four years, with the new capacity entering service in 2016. Planned investments for the project total about €250 million ($USD328 million). E.ON expects the project to be approved in late 2011.

Caption: E.ON plans to adds 300MW of pumped hydro energy storage to its present Waldeck facility.

“Powerful, highly efficient pumped-storage hydro stations play a key role in making Germany’s energy supply reliable and flexible. Pumped-storage stations are superbly suited to balancing out the intermittent output of renewables because they can store energy very efficiently and come onstream at a moment’s notice to supply zero-carbon, environmentally friendly electricity,” E.ON Energie CEO Dr. Ingo Luge said.

The company said the Waldeck site is ideal for building new capacity because of the existing facility and infrastructure. The new plant, including the penstock pipes and generating equipment, will be built completely under ground, making it particularly environmentally friendly. It will be built directly next to Waldeck pumped-storage hydro station and use the same access tunnel. The reservoirs for the new plant already exist. The volume of Waldeck 2’s upper reservoir will be increased by about 10 percent by raising its retaining walls. The next plant will use Waldeck’s existing, on-site switching yard to deliver power onto the network.

When the new plant becomes operational in 2016, Waldeck will have a total of 920 megawatts of flexible capacity for generating power and for storing power that is not needed when it is produced. This is equal to about 15 percent of Germany’s total pumped-storage capacity. “Enlarging Waldeck pumped-storage hydro station underscores E.ON’s ambitious plans for supporting renewables growth in Germany. Renewables can only begin to realize their full potential when they work in tandem with flexible energy-storage systems like pumped-storage hydro stations,” Luge continued.

Caption: The existing Waldeck facility.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Battery Maker Electrovaya Gets $5M in Financing

Electrovaya Inc.(TSX:EFL)completed a financing for Cdn $5 million ($USD4.9 million). The funding is in consideration of a 6% secured promissory note in the aggregate principal amount of Cdn $5 million and 500,000 common share purchase warrants issued to the lender.

"This financing provides valuable working capital for future growth, including certain strategic initiatives and enables us to further expand our existing manufacturing capabilities through increased automation" says Dr. Sankar Das Gupta, Chairman and CEO. "The increase in manufacturing capacity is important as we continue to grow and address new opportunities in the clean transportation and stationary energy-storage markets."

Electrovaya also announced that the Company's Board of Directors has approved the formation of an Office of the Chairman. Lead directors Thomas W. LaSorda, Clarence J. Chandran, and Dr. Bejoy Das Gupta join Dr. Sankar Das Gupta, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, in the newly created office.

"As the global growth in lithium ion batteries for transportation and energy storage applications accelerates, the Office of the Chairman will focus and build on the opportunities for Electrovaya through joint ventures, licensing, strategic investors and partnerships across the industries of electric transportation, utility scale grid energy storage and consumer electronics," commented Dr. Sankar Das Gupta. "Electrovaya's highly differentiated and proprietary Lithium Ion SuperPolymer battery technology, with its clean manufacturing technology, is receiving increasing attention from corporations across the globe. We are delighted that our three directors, in their expanded roles, have joined this Office to focus Electrovaya's efforts."

A co-founder of the company, Electrovaya's CEO, Dr. Sankar Das Gupta, has served as Chairman of the Board of Directors since April 1999. Mr. Thomas W. LaSorda, formerly the Chief Executive Officer and Board member of Chrysler Group, joined Electrovaya in March 2010 as a member of the Board Directors and Special Advisor to the CEO. Mr. Clarence J. Chandran, formerly the Chief Operating Officer of Nortel, joined Electrovaya's Board of Directors in August 2010. Dr. Bejoy Das Gupta, joined Electrovaya's Board of Directors in March, 1999, and is Deputy Director of the AsiaPacific Department of the Institute of International Finance, a global association of financial institutions based in Washington, DC.

Battery Maker ABAT to Acquire Shenzhen Zhongqiang

Advanced Battery Technologies, Inc. ("ABAT" or the "Company") (Nasdaq:ABAT), a leading developer, manufacturer and distributor of rechargeable Polymer Lithium-Ion (PLI) batteries, as well as a manufacturer of electric vehicles, plans to acquire Shenzhen Zhongqiang New Energy Science & Technology Co., Ltd. ("Shenzhen Zhongqiang"). Shenzhen Zhongqiang is a manufacturer of lithium batteries for mobile phones and MP3 and video game consoles with a daily capacity of 70,000 battery cells. The total purchase price is $20 million, of which approximately $13.5 million will be used to satisfy existing liabilities of Shenzhen Zhongqiang. The Company expects to close this acquisition on January 1, 2011.

In order to add additional battery capacity, on the same day that it signed the acquisition agreement, ABAT also entered into a letter of intent to purchase the land use right to a 54,000 square meter parcel of land together with buildings having 56,000 square meters of usable space in Dongguan City (see photo), Guangdong Province. The total purchase price will be approximately $26 million, and ABAT has already made a deposit of approximately $1.3 million. After further investment, the company plans for this new facility to have a capacity to produce 500,000 mobile phone battery cells and 70,000 Ah medium/large batteries on a daily basis, which could yield over $100 million in annual sales. It will take at least 6 months to complete construction of the new facility.

Mr. Zhiguo Fu, CEO of ABAT, stated, "We are pleased to announce this new acquisition in Southern China. After further investment and construction, we will have three production bases in China with high standards of environmental protection and energy saving."

Advanced Battery Technologies, Inc., founded in September 2002, develops, manufactures and distributes rechargeable Polymer Lithium-Ion (PLI) batteries. The Company's products include rechargeable PLI batteries for electric automobiles, motorcycles, mine-use lamps, notebook computers, walkie-talkies and other electronic devices. ABAT's batteries combine high-energy chemistry with state-of-the-art polymer technology to overcome many of the shortcomings associated with other types of rechargeable batteries. Early in 2009, the Company acquired Wuxi Angell Autocycle Co. Ltd., an electric vehicle business, and renamed it Wuxi Zhongqiang Autocycle Co., Ltd. ("Wuxi ZQ"). The Company has a New York office, with its executive offices and manufacturing facilities in China.

USABC Contracts $5.43 Million in Battery Research

The United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), an advanced research collaboration among Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company, announced approximately $5.43 million in advanced battery development and technology assessment contracts to five firms.

The competitively bid contract awards are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and include a 50 percent cost-share from each of the contracted companies.

USABC awarded the contracts to develop and assess advanced energy storage technologies for hybrid-electric vehicles (HEV), a lower-energy energy storage system (LEESS) for power-assist hybrid-electric vehicles (PAHEV) and electric vehicle (EV) applications.

The companies receiving advanced battery development contracts are:

  • Envia Systems Inc. of Newark, Calif., which was awarded a $3.65 million contract for a three-year project to develop a high-energy cathode material for vehicle applications and pouch cells that exhibit performance metrics that meet or exceed the minimum USABC EV goals.

  • Quallion LLC of Los Angeles, Calif.,
    which was awarded a $1.41 million contract for an 18-month demonstration of its Matrix™ battery design, a hybridized battery pack using a mixture of high power and high-energy lithium-ion cells, and to demonstrate the performance of the packs against USABC EV goals.

The companies receiving technology assessment contracts are:

  • ActaCell Inc. of Austin, Texas, which was awarded $179,015 for a 16-month technology assessment contract to evaluate the company's high-power lithium-ion cells for increased cycle and storage life against USABC PAHEV goals.

  • Leyden Energy Inc. of Freemont, Calif., which was awarded a $117,733 contract for an eight-month technology assessment of its lithium-ion technology for EV applications in a pouch cell and to evaluate them against USABC EV battery goals.

  • K2 Energy Solutions Inc. of Henderson, Nev., which was awarded a $73,644 contract for a 12-month technology assessment of the company's 51 amp-hour (Ah) cells and planned 45 Ah cells configured in "flat-pack" modular batteries and large laminated cells in relation to USABC EV battery targets.

"We are pleased to announce the award of these contracts as part of USABC's broad battery technology research and development programs," said Steve Zimmer, executive director of USCAR. "These programs are essential to advance the technology needed to meet both near- and long-term goals that will enable a broad spectrum of vehicle electrification."

USABC is a subsidiary of the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR). Enabled by a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), USABC's mission is to develop electrochemical energy storage technologies that support commercialization of electric, hybrid electric and fuel cell vehicles. As such, USABC has developed mid- and long-term goals to guide its projects and measure their progress.

The U.S. DOE's overarching mission is to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States. DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program works with industry, academia and national laboratories to develop advanced transportation technologies that reduce the nation's use of imported oil and increase our energy security. Electrochemical energy storage has been identified as a critical enabling technology for advanced, fuel-efficient, light and heavy-duty vehicles.

Friday, December 24, 2010

AES Completes $17M DoE Loan on Energy Storage Project

A $17.1 million loan guarantee has been finalized a 20MW energy storage installation at the AES Westover 119MW coal-fired stationl near Johnson City, New York. The loan guarantee, annaounced by Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, will support the construction of an energy storage system using advanced lithium-ion batteries, including those manufacturing by A123 Systems.

A year ago, AES (NYSE: AES) and A123 Systems (Nasdaq: AONE) joined forces on a similar project in Chile: A 12MW frequency regulation and spinning reserve project at AES Gener's Los Andes substation in the Atacama Desert of Chile. Goal of the was to help improve the reliability of the electric grid in Northern Chile. A123 Systems' Hybrid Ancillary Power Units (Hybrid-APU™), based on lithium-ion battery technology, were used. The Chile installation is shown on the right, below. Before that, a 2MW system was installed in California (show on left).

“The AES project helps reduce carbon emissions and strengthens our energy infrastructure by allowing for more renewable energy sources like solar and wind to contribute to the electrical grid,” said Secretary Chu. “Bringing more efficiency and reliability to the grid will help cut costs for consumers and power a cleaner energy future.” AES has been addressing emissions at the coal-fired plant for some years. In December 2006, AES announced the company would install emission-reducing technology on Unit 8 of the Westover station. Construction on the $50-million project began in early 2007 and was completed in 2008. AES installed a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system for a ninety percent reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. A dry scrubber and fabric filter bag-house was built to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO₂) emissions by ninety-five percent. AES expected mecury emissions would be reduced by ninety percent because of these additions.

The new AES energy storage technology can help reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent compared to frequency regulation provided by fossil energy suppliers. Traditionally, grid frequency regulation, which is needed to balance power generation and consumption on the grid, is maintained by burning additional fossil fuels at power plants. The AES project eliminates the need to burn fossil fuels and instead uses battery technology and new software that will provide the same regulation at a lower price. This advanced frequency regulation capability will allow renewable electricity generation to play a larger role in New York’s transmission network.

Hear Matt Rogers, Senior Advisor to Secretary Chu, explain why grid frequency regulation matters and how energy storage technology will help integrated renewable energy and promote stability:

A123's Hybrid Ancillary Power Unit energy storage system can serve two functions. First, it will absorb (charge) energy from the grid during times when the frequency or voltage is too high and inject (discharge) that energy back to the grid when it is too low. A123's H-APU is expected to allow greater use of variable sources of energy such as wind and solar by rapidly absorbing or injecting energy as these sources vary. The H-APU is expected to provide variable service much faster than existing power plants responding in seconds rather than minutes. And, because it is recycling energy already in the system, it will provide these services without unnecessary emissions.

Second, the Hybrid Ancillary Power Units are designed to provide backup services by storing energy until it is needed by the grid in the event of a power plant or other asset failure. In some markets, the portion of thermal power plant capacity normally reserved for ancillary services to provide reserve capacity and frequency regulation services can be freed up to operate at a higher capacity and produce more electricity and associated revenue.

Beacon Advances 20MW Flywheel Energy Storage Install

Beacon Power Corporation
(Nasdaq:BCON), a provider of fast-response energy storage systems and services to support a more stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid, announced that it has made substantial progress toward completion and partial start-up of the 20-megawatt (MW) flywheel frequency regulation plant the Company is building in Stephentown, New York.

More than 10 MW of energy storage capacity (i.e., more than 100 flywheels) has been installed and fully tested by Beacon and is ready for grid connection. Of this, 40 flywheels (or 4 MW) have been running successfully in a "virtual" mode, connected to a temporary on-site generator that simulates the grid connection. In addition, all support systems and ancillary hardware for the plant's eventual matrix of 200 flywheels -- including control software, power electronics, cooling and other equipment -- are in place.

The first 4 MW will be interconnected to the grid when the local utility, NYSEG, completes work on its adjacent electrical substation. The high-voltage wiring to Beacon's plant is in place and all major substation components have been installed. The substation is now in system check-out, testing and commissioning stage.

NYSEG is making an extraordinary effort to finish all remaining tasks as soon as possible, with crews on site seven days a week. Once NYSEG completes its substation, the first 4 MW of energy storage capacity will be connected and begin providing revenue-generating regulation service to the New York grid. Additional megawatts will be brought steadily online, rapidly increasing the plant's frequency regulation capacity and revenue.

"We are very grateful for the excellent support we are receiving from our friends at NYSEG as we finish the last remaining steps before beginning commercial operation," said Bill Capp, Beacon president and CEO. "Once the substation upgrades are complete, our only pacing item to reach full 20 MW capacity utilization will be building and installing the remaining flywheels in Stephentown, as all other associated support systems and infrastructure are already in place."

Flywheel energy storage works by accelerating a cylindrical assembly called a rotor (flywheel) to a very high speed and maintaining the energy in the system as rotational energy. The energy is converted back by slowing down the flywheel. The flywheel system itself is a kinetic, or mechanical battery, spinning at very high speeds to store energy that is instantly available when needed.

At the core of Beacon's flywheel is a carbon-fiber composite rim, supported by a metal hub and shaft and with a motor/generator mounted on the shaft. Together the rim, hub, shaft and motor/generator assembly form the rotor. When charging (or absorbing) energy, the flywheel's motor acts like a load and draws power from the grid to accelerate the rotor to a higher speed. When discharging, the motor is switched into generator mode, and the inertial energy of the rotor drives the generator which, in turn, creates electricity that is then injected back into the grid. Multiple flywheels may be connected together to provide various megawatt-level power capacities. Performance is measured in energy units - kilowatt-hours (kWh) or megawatt-hours (MwH), indicating the amount of power available over a given period of time.

Beacon's Smart Energy 25 flywheel has a high-performance rotor assembly that is sealed in a vacuum chamber and spins between 8,000 and 16,000 rpm. At 16,000 rpm the flywheel can store and deliver 25 kWh of extractable energy. At 16,000 rpm, the surface speed of the rim would be approximately Mach 2 - or about 1500 mph - if it were operated in normal atmosphere. At that speed the rim must be enclosed in a high vacuum to reduce friction and energy losses. To reduce losses even further, the rotor is levitated with a combination of permanent magnets and an electromagnetic bearing.

Beacon Power's grid-scale Smart Energy Matrix is made up of multiple integrated systems of (10) Smart Energy 25 flywheels, interconnected in an array, or matrix, to provide energy storage for certain utility applications. The Smart Energy Matrix can absorb and deliver megawatts of power for minutes, providing highly responsive frequency regulation capabilities for increased grid reliability.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

$74 Million in Fuel Cell R&D Funding Offered by DoE

The U.S. Department of Energy is accepting applications for a total of up to $74 million to support the research and development of clean, reliable fuel cells for stationary and transportation applications. Hydrogen systems can serve as viable energy storage options.

The solicitations include up to $65 million over three years to fund continued research and development (R&D) on fuel cell components, such as catalysts and membrane electrode assemblies, with the goal of reducing costs, improving durability and increasing the efficiency of fuel cell systems.

The funding also includes up to $9 million to conduct independent cost analyses that will assess the progress of the technology under current research initiatives and help guide future fuel cell and hydrogen storage R&D efforts. These awards will help support U.S. leadership in the emerging global fuel cell market, while limiting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

“The investments we’re making today will help advance fuel cell technology in the United States,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “This is part of a broad effort to create American jobs, reduce carbon pollution and help ensure the U.S. stays competitive in the growing clean energy economy.”

Fuel cells use the chemical energy of hydrogen or other fuels to cleanly and efficiently produce electricity or heat with minimal byproducts, primarily water. They can produce power in large stationary systems such as buildings or for vehicles such as commercial forklifts, buses and automobiles.

The Department will be funding research and development initiatives related to fuel cell system balance-of-plant components, fuel processors, and fuel cell stack components such as catalysts and membranes, as well as innovative concepts for both low and high temperature systems to help meet commercial viability targets in terms of cost and performance. Applicants will likely include teams of university, industry and national laboratory participants.

The cost analysis funding opportunity will help to determine the economic viability and technical progress of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies for stationary, transportation, and emerging market applications, including light duty vehicles, forklifts, buses and stationary power plants, as well as hydrogen storage systems. Under the program, the grantees will be expected to conduct life cycle cost analyses for different manufacturing volumes to help gauge the near-term, low-volume market viability for these technologies, along with their long-term potential.

Applications for the $65 million research and development program are due by March 3, 2011. Applications for the cost analysis solicitation are due on February 18, 2011. Funding for both programs are subject to congressional appropriations.

The Fuel Cell Technologies Program has a comprehensive portfolio of activities that address the full range of barriers facing the development and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cells with the ultimate goals of decreasing our dependence on oil, reducing carbon emissions, and enabling clean, reliable power generation.

In a related story, The International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE), with support from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Program, recently released the 2010 Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Global Commercialization Development Update report. This document outlines the role hydrogen and fuel cells can play in a portfolio of technology options available to address the energy-related challenges faced by nations around the world. It offers examples of real-world hydrogen and fuel cell applications and the progress of the technologies, including government policies that increase technology development and commercialization.

The members of IPHE have been coordinating activities since 2003 to accelerate the adoption of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies into the global economy. Four priority focus areas of the IPHE are: 1) accelerating the market penetration and early adoption of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and their supporting infrastructure; 2) policy and regulatory actions to support widespread deployment; 3) raising the profile with policy-makers and the public; and 4) monitoring hydrogen, fuel cell and complementary technology developments.

The report notes that several fuel-cell based energy storage projects are underway. As covered in an earlier post, a partnership in Canada between the Federal Government, BC Hydro, Powertech, and G.E. is converting excess off-peak electricity and storing as hydrogen via an electrolyser, resulting in an estimated decrease in Bella Coola, B.C.’s diesel consumption by 200,000 L/year and 600 tons of GHGs/year.

In Russia, a pilot project called “Ikebana” is using hydrogen for energy storage and aims to improve efficiency of power generation with a variety of power sources including renewable energy.

In Germany, there are several projects underway using hydrogen as an energy storage medium.

  • Germany’s Enertrag AG, one of the world’s largest wind power companies, is building Germany’s first hybrid power plant utilizing hydrogen produced from wind power as energy storage. The 6.7 MW plant will have a hydrogen storage capacity of 1,350 kg and will also produce hydrogen for transport applications.

  • The RH2-WKA project in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is developing a 300 bar hydrogen storage system in conjunction with its 180 MW wind park to help balance fluctuating wind energy.

In essence, fuel cells are electrochemical devices that combine fuel with oxygen from the ambient air to produce electricity and heat, as well as water.The non-combustion, electrochemical process is a direct form of fuel-to-energy conversion, and is much more efficient than conventional heat engine approaches. CO2 is reduced, due to the high efficiency of the fuel cell, and the absence of combustion avoids the production of NOx and particulate pollutants.

Fuel cells incorporate an anode and a cathode, with an electrolyte in between, similar to a battery.The material used for the electrolyte and the design of the supporting structure determine the type and performance of the fuel cell.

Figure 1, courtesy of Fuel Cell Energy illustrates the process for FuelCell Energy (FCE) Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFC).

Fuel and air reactions for the molten carbonate Direct FuelCell occur at the anode and cathode, which are porous nickel (Ni) catalysts.The cathode side receives oxygen from the surrounding air. As can be seen in Figure 1, hydrogen is created in the fuel cell stack through a reforming process, which produces hydrogen from the reforming reaction between the hydrocarbon fuel and water. The gas is then
consumed electrochemically in a reaction with carbonate electrolyte ions that produces water and electrons.

The electrons flow through an external circuit to provide the power to the fuel cell load, and then return to be consumed in the cathode electrochemical reaction. The O2 supplied to the cathode, along with CO2 recycled from the anode side, reacts with the electrons to produce carbonate ions that pass through the electrolyte to support the anode reaction.The electron flow through the external circuit produces the desired power (DC current). An inverter is used to convert the DC output to AC.

FERC's Wellinghoff on Energy in the U.S.

An interesting article in the New York Times titled Making the Consumer An Active Participant in the Grid, by Erica Gies, focuses on the views of Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He believes the average consumer with solar panels, wind energy generators and energy storage systems (in the form of electric cars) could and should be more active in the grid. Here's an excerpt from the article related to energy storage:

Energy storage is another resource that will become more common in this new energy world. Grid-scale storage, which include things like pumped storage hydroelectricity, compressed air, flywheels and large batteries, can help operators better smooth out shifts in supply and demand, whether it be minute by minute or by time of day, week and year. These services will become even more necessary with the widespread deployment of renewable energy.

For the moment, storage developers in most markets have no way of getting paid for these services because storage is not a recognized asset. That could change soon.

“We’re reviewing the economic benefits of storage and how storage should be compensated for the various services it can provide to the grid,” Mr. Wellinghoff said.

He said that beyond grid-scale energy storage, he was “starting to see more and more people who have very creative ideas of using distributed storage in ways that I think will become very economical.”

“For example, the electric cars, which are a kind of storage, benefit the grid because the device, the car, is being primarily used and bought for something else,” he said.

Thermal storage technologies, including ice and ceramic bricks, are also could have a wide effect because they are integrated into the grid and focus on off-peak power.

If you'd like to hear more from Wellinghoff, here's a link to a video of the closing keynote speech that he gave at the U.S. Energy Association's third annual Energy Supply Forum. He spoke about new technologies and innovations for energy, focusing on the supply of resources. He also talked about smart grid benefits and adequate regulation of energy resources.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Networking Home Energy Storage: Tantalus Wins PEI Order

In what is described as one of the most innovative energy efficiency initiatives to date in Canada, the city of Summerside, Prince Edward Island’s second largest city, has selected Tantalus Systems Corp. to provide smart grid technology that will tie together the municipality’s fiber-to-the-meter network, wind generated power, and in-home energy storage devices. Together, these will enable the city to optimize the performance of its distribution network and significantly reduce its carbon footprint by providing consumers with a reliable, low cost source of renewable energy.

The Tantalus system will allow Summerside to precisely measure, monitor and control devices connected to its distribution network including special furnaces that can be charged with power generated by wind turbines. The ability to automatically turn energy storage devices on and off when wind is on the grid using two-way Tantalus technology will enable Summerside to quickly shift to stored power whenever peak load conditions arise, while using the less expensive energy to heat homes at night. Tantalus’ command and control functionality is also used by several utilities to regulate consumption on direct load appliances such as hot water heaters and air conditioners that are enrolled in load control programs. Time-stamped records verify that the action has taken place and indicate whether a customer opted out of an event, which is important for accurate billing and determining how much power was actually saved.

Terry Murphy, Summerside’s Chief Administrative Officer, said that wind is expected to satisfy roughly half of the city’s power needs over the course of a year. Furthermore, when the wind is blowing at full tilt, it can sometimes produce a surplus of energy which Summerside can sell back to other utilities, accelerating the payback on this large infrastructure project. “But you can’t flip a switch and turn on the wind,” he added. “Our ability to capture as much clean power as possible in the storage units whenever the wind is blowing, and then quickly access this power source as needed is what makes this system so efficient and unique.”

Summerside’s wind farm has been providing power to the city for over a year. Roll out of Tantalus smart meters and energy storage devices begins in January 2011. The city will run fiber to each home participating in the program.

Summerside is the seventh utility to deploy a Tantalus Homerun™ Network which leverages a municipal fiber optic network for Smart Grid functionality, and which can also be used as the backbone for triple-play media including internet, telephone and television. Its fiber-to-the-meter network supports upload and download rates of 1 Gigabit over an active Ethernet connection, which establishes the city as one of the fastest, most connected cities in North America.

“The Tantalus Homerun Network provides the speed needed for tightly coordinated demand response applications,” said Eric Murray, Tantalus President & CEO. “By adding a high proportion of renewables to the energy mix, Summerside can greatly reduce its need to purchase energy from the mainland as well as reducing its reliance on the diesel powered generators used to supplement the power supply during critical peak periods.”

The city expects to reap both economic and environmental benefits from its broadband network. The advanced infrastructure is attracting interest from high technology businesses which require a high speed, high capacity network for research & development. Recently, Summerside held discussions with automotive firms interested in using the city as a test site for electric vehicles, which can also serve as power storage units.

Murray concludes: “Summerside realizes that building a Smart Grid is not a single step or a single technology, but a series of projects that must interoperate as a unified system. We’re very excited to be involved in this groundbreaking project, with a team that is bent on creating a clean, green and economically robust community.”

DoE Guarantees $1.45 Billion Loan for 250MW Abengoa Solar Thermal Project

A $1.45 billion loan guarantee has been finalized for Abengoa Solar Inc.’s Solana project, the world’s largest parabolic trough concentrating solar plant. The announcement was made by U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu. Located near Gila Bend, Arizona, the 250-megawatt (MW) project is the first large-scale solar plant in the United States capable of storing energy it generates. Large insulated tanks filled with molten salt will be used with concentrating solar power (CSP) to store the heat. This stored heat can then be used to produce energy during periods of low or no sun, including the evening hours. Solana will produce enough energy to serve 70,000 households and will avoid the emissions of 475,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year compared to a natural gas burning power plant.

Molten salt is used in solar power tower systems because it is liquid at atmosphere pressure; it provides an efficient, low-cost medium in which to store thermal energy; its operating temperatures are compatible with todays high-pressure and high-temperature steam turbines; and it is non-flammable and nontoxic. In addition, molten salt is used in the chemical and metals industries as a heat-transport fluid, so experience with molten-salt systems exists for non-solar applications.
Generally speaking (according to a report from Sandia) the molten salt is a mixture of 60 percent sodium nitrate and 40 percent potassium-nitrate, commonly called saltpeter. The salt melts at 430°F and is kept liquid at 550°F in an insulated cold storage tank. The salt is them pumped to the top of the tower, where concentrated sunlight heats it in a receiver to 1050°F. The receiver is a series of thin-walled stainless steel tubes. The heated salt then flow back down to a second insulated hot storage tank. The size of this tank depends on the requirements of the utility; tanks can be designed with enough capacity to power a turbine from two to twelve hours. When electricity is needed from the plant, the hot salt is pumped to a conventional steam-generating system to produce superheated steam for a turbine/generator.

The uniqueness of this solar system is in de-coupling the collection of solar energy from producing power, electricity can be generated in periods of inclement weather or even at night using the stored thermal energy in the hot salt tank. The tanks are well insulated and can store energy for up to a week. As an example of their size, tanks that provide enough thermal storage to power a 100-megawatt turbine for four hours would be about 30 feet tall and 80 feet in diameter. Studies show that the two-tank storage system could have an annual efficiency of about 99 percent.

Abengoa Solar Inc., the project sponsor, estimates that the Solana project will create between 1,600 to 1,700 new construction jobs and over 60 permanent jobs. The jobs created by the project will be located in Arizona and in neighboring states. To accommodate the project’s need for over 900,000 mirrors, a mirror manufacturing facility will be built outside of Phoenix.

U.S. providers and manufacturers will supply 70 percent of Solana’s components, such as mirrors, receiver tubes, and the heat transfer fluid. Electricity from the project will be sold through a long-term power purchase agreement with Arizona Public Service Company.

“The finalization of the DOE loan guarantee is a major milestone for both Abengoa and Arizona Public Service, which will purchase the power output of the plant,” said Julia Hamm, President and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association. “The addition of 250MW of solar electric capacity to the APS portfolio will be a great thing for the company’s customers as well as the whole state of Arizona,” said Hamm.

“Storage technologies can play a crucial role in modernizing our nation’s electric grid, including increasing the value of solar electricity to the purchasing utility. The storage capacity of the Solana plant will allow it to provide power to the grid during times of passing cloud cover and help serve APS’s peak demand by providing power even after the sun goes down,” Hamm added.

Abengoa Solar is currently building the largest solar platform in Europe. Located just outside of Sanlúcar la Mayor, Seville, this solar thermal and photovoltaic installation complex will have a nominal power output capacity of 300MW, obtained through tower technology, parabolic trough collectors, and photovoltaic technology. The photo above shows the copany's PS10 and PS20 solar plants there which incorporates thermal storage that allows full production for 30 minutes, even after the sun goes down.

This 3:20 minute video produced by Abengoa gives and overview of the energy storage capabilities of the Solana project, set to some classical guitar music.

Virtual Power Plants Set to Potentially Change Power Structure

Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor at POWERGRID International, reports on the evolution of virtual power plants, which could help distributed energy resources, such as energy storage, be incorporated and optimized.

The traditional vertically-integrated power utility may be supplanted in the future by distributed generation and various renewables, meaning that the classic linear structure of power could be replaced by a mixture of generation, transmission and distribution connections shaped much like a wagon wheel—with multiple spokes interconnected at one spot known as the virtual power plant.

The concept of virtual power plants isn’t new. It’s an idea that’s been batted around since the first discussions of how to incorporate renewables and energy storage into the power mix. As the smart grid gains ground and the delivery side of the power industry gets sharper, however, the idea of being able to quickly pull in distributed power to the overall infrastructure plan doesn’t seem quite so impossible these days.

In reality, a virtual power plant (VPP) isn’t really a power plant at all. It doesn’t actually exist. It’s a power plant of the IT mind—a plant locked in the digital world that can shift from traditional generation to smart-grid-enabled renewables at will. The VPP exists only in the software used to manage the different options, a classic Oracle that knows the answers and can, additionally, dispatch solutions in electric form.

“A VPP is the aggregation of distributed resources that can be utilized in the same manner as conventional generation,” said Matt Wakefield, program manager for smart grid at the Electric Power Research Institute, which is currently working with American Electric Power (AEP) on a virtual power plant simulation project. “In many cases, the resources are negawatts, or load relief, but can also be other options. Ideally, the dispatch of the VPP would be fully integrated into utility system operations such that it would be transparent to the system operator.”

The Bits and Bytes of the VPP

Because the backbone of the VPP—the software programming holding the pieces together and directing their actions—is a virtual concept, an examination of the VPP is best started with the more tangible concept: distributed energy.

A general concept of distributed energy resources (DER) for Wakefield and EPRI includes many options: storage, demand response (DR), renewable generation and more traditional distributed generation. And, Wakefield sees these options becoming more important in the fight against greenhouse gas problems. “There is no silver bullet to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG),” Wakefield said. “A portfolio of solutions will be required, and integration of DER is a big piece of the smart grid portion of that portfolio.”

Add to the DER options the growing smart grid option, which involves a meeting of the IT and power engineering minds, and Wakefield sees new opportunities to integrate “these thousands or millions” of DERs into a virtual power plant. “The more effectively that’s accomplished in an interoperable fashion, the more important DER will be to achieve those goals,” he said.

As experts like Wakefield at EPRI began to examine the options that DER could provide, the question of transition still remains. Incorporating distributed energy is a big change from the one-line power structure the industry is used to. Wakefield admits that the transition has been a slow process, happening on only a small scale even today with demonstrations and simulations (like those within the EPRI Smart Grid Demonstration Project, including the AEP VPP).

As the industry moves beyond demonstrations and pilots, Wakefield sees the adoption of standardized communications as a key to creating a world where VPPs can exist in real-time.

Pike Research’s third-quarter 2010 report on virtual power plants titled “Demand Response, Supply-side, Mixed Asset and Wholesale Auction VPPs: Market Analysis and Forecasts” identifies another key: utility participation.

“Unlike microgrids, utilities will have to play a major role in the evolution of the VPP market, by nature of their reliance upon the distribution (and possibly transmission) grid infrastructure, including smart meters and (increasingly) personalized billing service envelopes,” the authors wrote in the report summary.

VPPs are DER options connected by smart digital software programming to read data and dispatch solutions—from traditional to renewable to storage to negawatt DR—in real-time. Reaching a VPP future will require standardized communications, completed viable pilots and utilities’ support.

Will the industry make it to a VPP world? While standardized communications might be up in the air at the moment, pilots and utility support are on the VPP horizon.

FENIX Flies in Europe

Europe’s progress with VPPs may be a step or two ahead of the U.S. For the last few years, the European Union has been testing the VPP concept with FENIX, a project meant to boost DER by showing how distributed energy can contribute to the power system. FENIX is making that point with large-scale virtual power plant and decentralized management demonstrations.

The project was organized in three phases, including analysis in two future scenarios, development of a layered communication and control solution (with recommendations on international power standards) and validation through field deployment. FENIX project leaders developed a general VPP architecture that could be adapted to any European country. They then ran two specific demonstrations for southern Europe in Spain and northern Europe in the UK, showing adaptations based on current products from vendors like AREVA and Siemens. In Addition, the DeMoTec laboratory [Design Centre for Modular Supply Technology] at Fraunhofer IWES was used to demonstrate ancillary services by DER units aggregated in a laboratory VPP under the FENIX project.

The final FENIX project book reported that the cost-benefit analysis was attractive to business stakeholders with distributed assets, any partners involved and the electricity sector at large. The book also noted, however, that this means “fierce competition” for large-scale traditional central generators who might not like the challenge to their market power.

While FENIX recently wrapped up in Europe, VPP demonstrations, including the EPRI project with AEP, are just beginning in the U.S.

The AEP VPP project is addressing a fully integrated and robust smart grid’s functionality and performance from end-use to regional transmission operator (RTO), according to EPRI’s recent report “EPRI Smart Grid Demonstration 2-Year Update.” The project involves lab research and several pilot locations. A South Bend, Ind., pilot includes 10,000 customers, smart meters, communications, end-use tariffs and controls, distribution automation and voltage control with robust modeling and simulation platforms. A larger and more comprehensive demonstration project involves 110,000 AEP customers in central Ohio that also adds community energy storage devices, energy management systems and other smart devices. The AEP project will develop technology models that will be applied to smart grid circuits and develop simulations of how these technologies will interact. These simulations can then be leveraged to become a VPP.

AEP’s VPP project is one of 18 projects under EPRI’s smart grid demonstration research. All the projects are designed to progress the smart grid. Wakefield doesn’t see a single strategy for the grid but believes if DER penetration keeps growing VPPs could play a significant role.

“We do not think there is a one size fits all strategy for improving our energy future. When you look at the overall power grid infrastructure, it is not likely to change significantly in the near term. We are seeing accelerated growth and promise of deploying DER,” he said. “The VPP will be important as one of the pieces of a whole portfolio of solutions to support the grid.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

GM's Verbrugge on Electrochemical Energy Storage and the Automotive Industry

In the "just found on the web category": Mark Verbrugge, Director, Chemical Sciences and Materials Systems Lab General Motors Research & Development Center, gives a Berkeley Lab Environmental Energy Technologies Division lecture (this lecture was given in November of 2009 but it's still timely). The first portion of the lecture looks at global energy challenges to trends in personal transportation. A short overview of technology associated with lithium ion batteries for traction applications is followed by new research results that enable adaptive characterization of lithium ion cells. "Experimental and modeling results help to clarify the underlying electrochemistry and system performance. Specifically, through chemical modification of the electrodes, it is possible to place markers within the electrodes that signal the state of charge of a battery through abrupt voltage changes during cell operation, thereby allowing full utilization of the battery in applications," Verbrugge says. In closing, he highlights some promising materials research efforts that are expected to lead to substantially improved battery technology.

Mark Verbrugge started his GM career in 1986 with the GM Research Labs after receiving his doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the College of Chemistry at the University of California (Berkeley). In 1996, Mark was awarded a Sloan Fellowship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received an MBA. Mark returned from MIT in 1997 to join GM's Advanced Technology Vehicles (ATV) as Chief Engineer for Energy Management Systems. In 2002, Mark rejoined the GM Research Labs as Director of the Materials and Processes Lab, which maintains global research programs ranging from chemistry, physics, and materials science to the development of structural subsystems and energy storage devices. In 2009, the Lab was expanded and renamed Chemical Sciences and Materials Systems Laboratory. Mark has published and patented in topic areas associated with electroanalytical methods, polymer electrolytes, advanced batteries and supercapacitors, fuel cells, high-temperature air-to-fuel-ratio sensors, surface coatings, compound semiconductors, and various manufacturing processes related to automotive applications of structural materials.

Mark is a Board Member of the United States Automotive Materials Partnership LLC and the United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC, an adjunct professor for the Department of Physics, University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and he serves as the GM Technical Director for HRL Laboratories LLC, jointly owned by GM and Boeing.

Mark's research efforts resulted in his receiving the Norman Hackerman Young Author Award (1990) and the Energy Technology Award (1993) from the Electrochemical Society as well as GM internal awards including the John M. Campbell Award (1992), the Charles L. McCuen Award (2003), and the Boss Kettering Award (2007). Mark received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the United States Council for Automotive Research in 2006 and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2009.

Pumped-Hydro Energy Storage to be Installed at Portugal’s Venda Nova III

Voith Hydro Heidenheim has been awarded a new order from the Portuguese facility EDP (Energias de Portugal) for two reversible pumped storage units. Voith Hydro, in a consortium with Siemens Portugal, is to supply the complete electromechanical equipment and pumped storage units.

Voith Hydro says that with variable speed capability, the pumped storage units of Venda Nova III will be able to adapt their number of revolutions continuously and take capacities from the grid in the range between 319 and 380MW. Units with fixed speed do not provide this range - their pumping power is regulated with the aid of further units or plants. For the development of wind power, whose supply capacities are intermittent and not precisely predictable, a flexible energy storage system plays a crucial role, the company notes. In combination with variable speed pumped storage, wind power plants become more reliable and more profitable. "Variable speed technology supports direct grid control," says Dr. Siegbert Etter, Executive Vice President Technology of Voith Hydro Holding. "In the era of renewable energies this is the new role pumped storage plants are playing."

Voith Hydro will supply two pumped storage units with variable speed, with 380MW (rated power in turbine mode) each, and two asynchronous motor generators -- with a rated capacity of 420 megavolt ampere -- the frequency converters, the control system and the hydraulic steel structures.

In early 2015, Venda Nova III will be connected to the grid, becoming Portugal’s largest hydroelectric power station. The project includex engineering and civil construction works for nearly 9 kilometers of underground tunnels, a below-ground powerhouse chamber more than 50 meters high, surge and intake shafts, as well as all other related infrastructure.

The country's government plans to develop further 5,400 megawatts of wind power capacity.

3M Develops Li-Ion Battery Alloy Technology

3M has developed technology that enables the use of alloy anode materials in commercial lithium ion batteries. Cells utilizing this technology can be made by conventional means and are expected to have an improvement of in energy density of 20% over conventional lithium ion cells. 3M’s alloy materials are now in the process of scale-up for commercialization: Researchers from 3M were awarded a U.S. patent, 7,851,085, for lithium ion (Li-Ion) battery anodes alloys that include a composition of silicon, aluminum, a transition metal, tin, and a fifth element that contains yttrium, a lanthanide element, an actinide element, or a combination thereof. The alloy composition is a mixture of an amorphous phase and a nanocrystalline phase.

The technology includes:

  • silicon-based nanocrystalline alloys with low raw
    materials costs
  • a water-based binder system utilizing conventional
    coating methods
  • an electrode formulation that increases energy
    density, while significantly reducing volume
  • an electrolyte system that forms a stable SEI-layer
    on alloy materials

According to 3M, new chemistries of high capacity anode and cathode materials are required to significantly increase the energy density of today’s lithium ion cells. It has long been known that elements that alloy with lithium have significantly higher volumetric and gravimetric capacities than graphite. However the implementation of alloy materials in commercial cells is challenging for a number of reasons. These challenges include maintaining the integrity of the alloy particles and the composite coating during cycling, forming a stable SEI layer on the alloy surface to avoid degradation of the electrolyte, ensuring good rate capability, thermal stability and accommodation of the alloy volume expansion to avoid cell swelling and electrode distortion or tearing. Furthermore, to be
commercially viable an alloy anode needs to be made from low cost raw materials and utilize practical manufacturing methods.

This figure shows a coin cell test of a 3M alloy in a coating formulated for low volume expansion and a high loading coating for an 18650 energy cell. Although the alloy itself has a volume expansion of 115%, the volume expansion of the coating is only 50%. The volumetric capacity of the coating is about twice that of a graphite

According to the patent filing, most commercially available lithium ion batteries have anodes that contain materials such as graphite that are capable of incorporating lithium through an intercalation mechanism during charging. Such intercalation-type anodes generally exhibit good cycle life and coulombic efficiency. However, the amount of lithium that can be incorporated per unit mass of intercalation-type material is relatively low.

A second class of anode material incorporates lithium through an alloying mechanism during charging. Although these alloy-type materials can often incorporate higher amounts of lithium per unit mass than intercalation-type materials, the addition of lithium to the alloy is usually accompanied with a large volume change. Some alloy-type anodes exhibit relatively poor cycle life and coulombic efficiency. The poor performance of these alloy-type anodes may result from the formation of a two-phase region during lithiation and delithiation. The two-phase region can create internal stress within the alloy if one phase undergoes a larger volume change than the other phase. This internal stress can lead to the disintegration of the anode material over time.

Further, the large volume change accompanying the incorporation of lithium can result in the deterioration of electrical contact between the alloy, conductive diluent (e.g., carbon) particles, and binder that typically form the anode. The deterioration of electrical contact, in turn, can result in diminished capacity over the cycle life of the anode.

The 3M patent describes a lithium ion battery that contains a cathode, an anode, and an electrolyte that is in electrical communication with both the anode and the cathode. The anode includes an alloy composition that contains (a) silicon in an amount of 35 to 70 mole percent, (b) aluminum in an amount of 1 to 45 mole percent, (c) a transition metal in an amount of 5 to 25 mole percent, (d) tin in an amount of 1 to 15 mole percent, and (e) a fifth element that includes yttrium, a lanthanide element, an actinide element, or a combination thereof in an amount of 2 to 15 mole percent. Each mole percent is based on a total number of moles of all elements except lithium in the alloy composition. The alloy composition is a mixture of an amorphous phase that includes silicon and a nanocrystalline phase that includes tin and the fifth element.

A method of making a lithium ion battery is also described that includes preparing an anode that contains an alloy composition, providing a cathode, and providing an electrolyte that is in electrical communication with both the anode and the cathode. The alloy composition contains (a) silicon in an amount of 35 to 70 mole percent, (b) aluminum in an amount of 1 to 45 mole percent, (c) a transition metal in an amount of 5 to 25 mole percent, (d) tin in an amount of 1 to 15 mole percent, and (e) a fifth element that includes yttrium, a lanthanide element, an actinide element, or a combination thereof in an amount of 2 to 15 mole percent. Each mole percent is based on a total number of moles of all elements except lithium in the alloy composition. The alloy composition is a mixture of an amorphous phase that includes silicon and a nanocrystalline phase that includes tin and the fifth element.

The alloy composition contains (a) silicon in an amount of 35 to 70 mole percent, (b) aluminum in an amount of 1 to 45 mole percent, (c) a transition metal in an amount of 5 to 25 mole percent, (d) tin in an amount of 1 to 15 mole percent, and (e) a fifth element that includes yttrium, a lanthanide element, an actinide element, or a combination thereof in an amount of 2 to 15 mole percent. Each mole percent is based on a total number of moles of all elements except lithium in the alloy composition. The alloy composition is a mixture of an amorphous phase that includes silicon and a nanocrystalline phase that includes tin and the fifth element.

Leoch in JV with EV-Maker to Develop Cadmium-Free Lead Acid Batteries

Leoch International Technology Ltd., a manufacturer of lead-acid batteries in China, has established a joint venture with Chengdu Shenhua Vehicle Industry Corporation Ltd., the largest electric car brand in Chengdu. Leoch also said will also acquire a 30% stake in an unnamed battery manufacturer in Malaysia.

Established in Sichuan's Chengdu, a western city of China, the joint venture company will mainly be engaged in the production, assembly and sale of cadmium-free lead-acid batteries. Leoch International will invest RMB20 million ($USD2.66 million) in the joint venture, with an 84.04% equity interest, while Shenhua Vehicle Industry will invest RMB3.8 million ($USD569,000) in equipment, accounting for a 15.96% equity interest. Leoch International will provide technical support and working capital, while Shenhua Vehicle Industry will provide marketing and sales channels.

Leoch Enterprises consist of five China production facilities located in Guangdong, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces. The facilities cover an area of more than 500,000 square meters, with 46 battery production lines, and two R&D centers in Zhaoqing and Jiangsu. The company has more than 7,000 employees, with more than 300 researchers and technicians. Leoch has annual installed production capacity of approximately 5 .0 million KVAh.

Sopogy Lands 200MW China Project for Thermal Energy Storage

Sopogy, a Honolulu solar power technology company, is planning a 200-megawatt solar thermal project for the China's National Utility, The State Grid. The company signed a memorandum of understanding last Thursday with China’s Yu Hao Long Corp., which designs thermal-energy generators (see photo). The MOU also formalized a goal to demonstrate the combined system in Hawaii during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) which will be hosted in Honolulu.

The two companies have been collaborating on a 5-megawatt demonstration project at Kalaeloa on Oahu.

“Sopogy’s proprietary concentrating solar platform produces high-temperature heat which is a robust energy source for clean power generation,” said Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO of Sopogy. “The heat we produce is captured in thermal energy storage tanks and helps to produce firm and reliable energy during the day into the evening peak. This makes for a perfect complement with a Stirling generator and the China energy grid.”

Kimura and YHL’s Dr. Francis Fung collaborated for over a year to identify and develop a plan for the mass production of YHL’s low temperature, hybrid Stirling engines which use ready-made auto components for utility scale power generation.

Most recently, the 5-megawatt Kalaeloa Solar One broke ground on the island of Oahu which will feature Sopogy’s MicroCSP technologies.

MicroCSP technology consists of parallel rows of proprietary parabolic mirror collectors, optics and an integrated tracker to concentrate the sun’s energy on a centrally-located receiver tube and re-circulate heat transfer fluid within the system. The generated high-temperature heat will be used in conjunction with the hybrid Stirling engine to provide a renewable source of power. Sopogy’s two megawatt solar thermal field has been operational in Kona, Hawaii, U.S.A. since March 2009.

A Stirling engine is a heat engine operating by cyclic compression and expansion of air or other gas, the working fluid, at different temperature levels such that there is a net conversion of heat energy to mechanical work. Like the steam engine, the Stirling engine is traditionally classified as an external combustion engine, as all heat transfers to and from the working fluid take place through the engine wall. This contrasts with an internal combustion engine where heat input is by combustion of a fuel within the body of the working fluid. Unlike a steam engine's (or more generally a Rankine cycle engine's) usage of a working fluid in both its liquid and gaseous phases, the Stirling engine encloses a fixed quantity of permanently gaseous fluid such as air.

China's State Grid (SGCC) was established on December 29th, 2002. It is a government-owned enterprise approved by the State Council to conduct government authorized investment activities. SGCC was ranked the 8th in the Fortune Global 500 in 2010, seven ranks higher than 2009, and is the largest utility in the world. It is focused on the construction and operation of a power network that covers 26 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. Its service area represents 88% of the national territory, supported by more than 1,500,000 employees to serve a population of over one billion.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2.8MW Fuel Cell to Anchor Energy Innovation Park

Construction of a fuel cell with enough capacity to power 2,800 homes has begun on the UC San Diego campus as part of a renewable energy project with the city of San Diego and BioFuels Energy to turn waste methane gas from the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant directly into electricity without combustion. The university also plans to add an energy storage system, an electric vehicle (EV) charging station and a second chiller plant.

When completed in late 2011, the 2.8-megawatt fuel cell will be the largest on any college campus, providing about 8 percent of UC San Diego's total energy needs. The $19 million project requires no university funding: The project is eligible for $7.65 million in California Self Generation Program incentives; BioFuels Energy will provide the remaining $11.35 million in private investment, loans and investment tax credits.

Caption: UC San Diego's 2.8-megawatt fuel cell is being manufactured by FuelCell Energy, Inc. UC San Diego's Energy Innovation Park has a compressed natural gas fueling station for campus vehicles.

"Our campus currently generates 85 percent of its own power. With this new fuel cell and the near-doubling of our photovoltaic solar capacity in 2011, our campus will be able to meet as much as 95 percent of our annual electricity needs," said Gary C. Matthews, vice chancellor of resource management and planning. "The fact that we've been able to significantly increase our renewable-energy capacity in very challenging economic times with an innovative public-private partnership is as much a financial feat as it is an engineering accomplishment."

As part of a 10-year agreement, UC San Diego will buy the electricity produced by the fuel cell from BioFuels Energy at competitive rates. The university's fuel cell also offers the potential benefits of cogeneration, or combined heat and power, in which waste heat can be tapped as a secondary power source, raising the overall net efficiency of the fuel cell to about 60 percent, compared with about 33 percent for coal- and oil-fired power plants.

About 85 percent of the university's energy needs are provided by its low-emission 30-megawatt natural-gas-fired cogeneration plant, which operates at 66 percent overall net efficiency. It is also called a combined heat and power plant because it generates electricity to run lights and equipment and also captures the plant's waste heat to produce steam for heating, ventilation and air conditioning for much of the 12.5 million gross square feet of campus buildings. Waste heat from the plant also is used as a power source for a water chiller that fills a 3.8-million-gallon storage tank at night with cold water, which allows the university to reduce its peak daytime energy requirements by about 14 percent.

The fuel cell and its ancillary equipment will occupy a space about the size of a tennis court. It will form the centerpiece of UC San Diego's Energy Innovation Park on the east side of the main campus, which includes:

  • High efficiency, 5.75-kilowatt sun-tracking concentrating photovoltaic array made by Concentrix Solar.
  • A compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station for 13 CNG service vehicles, including two delivery trucks and two street sweepers, three sedans, three pick-up trucks and three buses. Vehicle emissions are lower with natural gas fuel than with gasoline because CNG-fueled vehicles emit 10 percent less carbon dioxide compared to diesel and 30-40 percent less than equivalent gasoline-fueled vehicles.
  • A chiller plant that efficiently produces the cold water required to cool the nearby Moores UCSD Cancer Center and Shiley Eye Center.

In the future the energy park will have an array of additional technologies:

  • An electric-vehicle charging station.
  • A second chiller plant with 300 kilowatts of cooling capacity that will be powered by the fuel cell's waste heat to cool the Cancer Center, Shiley Eye Center and other UC San Diego medical treatment, research and office buildings nearby.
  • An energy-storage system that will stockpile four hours' output of electricity from the fuel cell every night during off-peak hours and release the electricity to the campus energy grid during peak-demand hours in the afternoon.

The planned energy-storage system is eligible for an additional $3.4 million in Self Generation Program incentives and could reduce UC San Diego's peak energy demand by 6 percent.

"The university's increasingly sophisticated microgrid will integrate all the campus' production, consumption and stored power and cooling water into one of the most sophisticated energy-management systems anywhere," said John Dilliott, energy and utilities manager for the campus. "We will soon be able to factor in the variable cost of imported electricity and optimize the production and consumption of electricity in our entire system with a high degree of cost and energy efficiency."

The city of San Diego will make money by selling the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant's biogas, which is purified on site and injected into an existing gas pipeline that will supply three fuel cells being constructed, one at UC San Diego and two at city of San Diego sites. "This project and the uniqueness of the concept is anticipated to pave the way for similar future applications," said Frank Mazanec, managing director of Encinitas, Calif.-based BioFuels Energy.

The three fuel cells are made by Danbury, Conn.-based FuelCell Energy, Inc. and use an electrochemical process to combine the methane fuel with oxygen in ambient air to produce electricity directly. Carbon dioxide and water vapor are also produced, but no nitrate or particulate pollutants are produced because there is no combustion.

The so-called directed biogas project is the first time that a FuelCell Energy power plant will be fueled by renewable biogas generated at a distant location.

The fuel cell being built at UC San Diego is one of the largest fuel cells in the nation to use directed biogas from a wastewater treatment plant," said Kenneth J. Frisbie, also managing director at BioFuels Energy. "No university has a fuel cell this big."

Solar and Energy Storage - A Perfect Match

This article, by John Battaglini, VP of Business Development, International Battery, Allentown, PA, USA, and Michael F. Reiley, President of HNU Energy, Wailuku, HI, USA, was originally published in Photovoltaics World magazine. It is republished with permission.

Besides grid stabilization and load leveling, storage systems can potentially provide back-up power to thousands of residential and commercial customers, especially when solar or wind is not available.

Advancements in grid technologies as well as the quest for cleaner, longer-lasting alternatives to fossil fuels are driving the implementation of the Smart Grid. In fact, with renewables and the electrical grid, the ongoing challenge of balancing intermittent renewable energy, load leveling, back-up power as well as grid regulation and line efficiencies are the perfect storm for energy storage. Because of the intermittent nature of renewable power as more energy renewable sources, such as solar, are integrated into the Smart Grid, managing and storing energy are essential.

Figure 1. MEDB solar array.

Hawaiian Islands - a proving ground
As abundant as the sun is in the beautiful verdant islands, Hawaii depends on imported petroleum for most of its electrical energy needs. Unlike mainland states, Hawaii doesn't have the luxury of accessing other fuel sources, such as natural gas or large rivers, to produce hydropower. Petroleum is easy to transport and can be easily refined to create fuel for air, water and ground transportation, electricity and other uses. However, with the price of electricity the highest in the nation, combined with a desire and need to curtail the effects of global warming, Hawaii has a mandate to obtain 70% of its energy from renewables by 2030. This is a lofty goal to be sure. However, it should be attainable thanks to governmental efforts, financial incentives and advanced technology available to lessen the dependence on foreign oil and to better control energy consumption.

Stabilizing the grid
While wanting more energy produced by renewables, managing its generation is an issue. The Maui Electric Company (MECO), like other utilities across the islands, has expressed great concern about renewable power sources posing a threat to overall grid operations. Intermittent power takes time to ramp up and can go offline on cloudy or still days. This situation causes the utilities to boost production sporadically. Therefore, energy storage can directly impact grid stabilization, lessening peak demands and providing back-up power during power outages.

According to the Energy Storage Council, the Department of Energy (DOE) estimated in 1993 that energy storage could have a $57.2 billion positive impact from the widespread use of "high-density storage devices to… store power during off-peak periods and deliver it when loads exceed generating capacity." The Council has since updated this forecast to $175 billion over the next 15 years. Interestingly, Japan and Europe far outpace the U.S. in energy storage with 15% and 10%, respectively. The U.S. falls way behind with just 2.5%; the U.S. is playing catch-up, but not for long.

Putting energy storage to the test
Recently, utilities and system integrators in the U.S. have initiated several demonstration pilot programs to prove the viability of energy storage and its potential impact on the grid. Besides grid stabilization and load leveling, storage systems can potentially provide back-up power to thousands of residential and commercial customers, especially when solar or wind is not available.

Figure 2. International Battery's lithium ion technology is ideal for high-power ramp up/down and power smoothing applications. Battery system behaved very well under 3C conditions.

Another key driver for energy storage is the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) adopted by states in order to significantly increase the amount of electricity generated by renewables. According to the DOE, as of May 2009, there are 24 states plus the District of Columbia that have RPS policies in place. Together, these states account for more than half of the electricity sales in the United States. The state of Maine has an aggressive goal of 40% by year 2017. California wants to reach 33% by 2030, and many other states want to reach between 15% and 20% in the next five years and beyond. And as mentioned earlier, Hawaii has an aggressive mandate of 70% from renewables by 2030.

As an example, the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) recently wanted to assess the effectiveness of storing solar energy. International Battery teamed with solar integrator HNU Energy in Maui to develop a solar power generation and energy storage system for the MEDB (Fig. 1). HNU Energy has become a leader in Maui's rapidly growing green economy and specializes in commercial and residential photovoltaic systems as well as high efficiency LED lighting. Working as a team, a renewable energy system for the MEDB was developed and is comprised of sixty 224W photovoltaic panels, a bi-directional three-phase inverter system, and a state-of-the-art charge-controller network provided by HNU Energy. In addition, a 48V, 16.4kWh lithium-ion-based energy storage system was integrated - complete with battery management and controls - to store the energy generated from the solar array.

The energy storage system includes four battery modules, totaling 32 160Ah lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cells and a battery-management system (BMS) that is integrated into a standard Electronics Industry Alliance (EIA) style 19" portable rack mount chassis and enclosure (Fig. 2). The large-format lithium ion batteries were chosen because of their proven high-energy density, robust thermal and cycling performance, as well as easy system expandability.

The success of the MEDB project has garnered attention from a wide group of Hawaii renewable energy stakeholders including national labs, utilities, the PUC, and multi-megawatt scale solar and wind providers. Ramp up/down and power smoothing are of special interest for bringing large renewables onto the grid without destabilization. These applications require high power and energy with the ability to discharge the batteries at rates that are multiples of the battery capacity (C-rate). Lab data, shown in Fig. 2, demonstrates the ability to meet a 5MW ramp up/down requirement of three and five minutes, respectively. A single battery charge handled multiple ramp up/down cycles.

Figure 3. HNU Energy's grid management graphical user interface (GUI).

The keys to overall system performance are knowing the health and charge state of the individual battery cells, as well as understanding the temperature, depth of discharge and charging status. HNU Energy engineered an interface between the grid and International Battery's BMS, providing maximal flexibility to transition seamlessly between being grid-tied and off-grid. Figure 3 illustrates a graphical user interface (GUI) developed by HNU Energy to remotely monitor and control the BMS and grid interface. Voltage and temperature for every battery can be remotely monitored and controlled. Load balancing and power smoothing are continually optimized to ensure grid stability and maximum battery service life.

Community energy storage project
Another future outcome of the Smart Grid is community energy storage (CES). Coined by the utility, American Electric Power, CES is part of the utility's gridSMART demonstration project. This project, funded in part by $75 million DOE stimulus funding, will be deployed to 110,000 AEP customers in northeast central Ohio. The idea is to provide the utility and its customers many benefits, including load leveling, back-up power, support for plug-in electric car deployment, and renewables as well as grid regulation and improved distribution line efficiencies.

As part of this first-of-its-kind project, AEP and system integrator, S&C will test large-format lithium ion batteries (Li-Ion). Different from their smaller counterparts used in flashlights and IPods, large-format lithium ion prismatic batteries (Fig. 3) provide the right-size building blocks to deliver higher amounts of energy and scale up as energy demands increase. Of course, controlling and understanding the state of the batteries is vital, and that's where highly intelligent battery management comes in to play. Using state-of- the-art software and electronics, today's advanced battery monitoring systems can tell users the exact state of the battery, state of health, charging status and temperature. This project is currently underway and will integrate a broad range of advanced technologies in the distribution grid, utility back-office and consumer premises with innovative consumer programs. The outcome is to demonstrate the many benefits of a Smart Grid for consumers and the utility. In fact, CES holds the promise of becoming an integral component of the smart grid.

The need for efficient, scalable energy
As the Smart Grid transforms associated industries, the role and significance of energy storage will continue to increase. And, while there are different storage solutions such as flywheels, compressed air and hydro as well as various battery technologies, large-format lithium ion cells are leading the way in many high energy applications because of their near 100% efficiency, scalability and versatility. The energy storage market made huge strides during 2009. Of the $185 million granted from the DOE for 16 projects, $83.1 million was allocated to 11 battery-related projects.

Energy storage systems need to be robust and dependable. Today's advances in battery technology, combined with superior methods of monitoring and managing batteries, take energy storage to a much higher level of integration in smart energy applications. From an economic and environmentally sustainable perspective, the future looks bright for the combination of renewables with energy storage - a perfect match.

gridSMART is a sales mark of American Electric Power.

John Battaglini received his MBA from Villanova U. and an MS in electrical engineering from Clemson U. and a BS in electrical engineering from Drexel U. and is VP of Business Development at International Battery, 6845 Snowdrift Road, Allentown, PA 18106 USA; ph.:610-366-3925; email

Michael F. Reiley holds a BS in physics, an MS in optics and a PhD in electrical engineering and is the President of HNU Energy, 1765 Wilapa Loop, Wailuku, Hawaii; ph.: 808-244-7844; email

Roundtable with A123, Ice Energy and IDC Energy's Stephen Lacey talks about the energy storage landscape with A123 Systems, Ice Energy and IDC Energy Insights. They discuss technologies, markets and the role storage will need to play in the energy landscape. The discussion was taped at this year's Renewable Energy World North America Conference & Expo.

Making a Case for Flywheel Energy Storage

This article by Drew Devitt, chief technical officer at New Way Energy LLC, was originally published in Renewable Energy World North America. It is reprinted with permission.

Electricity is the ultimate in a perishable commodity. If it is not used or transformed as it is generated it will be lost. So the systems that supply electricity have been designed with flexibility in mind so that supply may be made to closely match whatever the demand happens to be.

Consumers take this balance for granted but our local electric company closely studies historical demand, accounting for the change in seasons, changes during the day, weather forecasts and even whether there is a baseball game at the stadium. When utilities turn to their supply side they may have hundreds of generator sets all varying in kilowatt rating size, cost efficiency and on/off flexibility. The electric company has taken its best bet as to which of the large inflexible turbines to have powered on. They would like to maximize the use of these turbines as they are generally the most efficient turbines to run and cleanest turbines for the environment. Due to the need to be able to follow demand they also need to have in the mix a spectrum of smaller turbines that may be turned on and off easily. this is the most expensive electricity and these are also the dirtiest turbines.
The electric company is more likely to own the larger capital intensive gensets and issue supply contracts with independent power producers for the smaller turbines (where there are deregulated markets). The contract prices are usually priced based on the kilowatts that can be provided and the speed at which they may be turned on or off. This spectrum of adjustability is referred to as "load following" on the broad scale and "frequency regulation" on the fine scale.

The need for frequency regulation is the main reason that power generators have to match supply to demand. It would sometimes be easier simply to create more electricity than is being demanded. But this is more dangerous than not supplying enough electricity. When there is more supply of electricity than is demanded the frequency of the alternating current goes above 60 Hz and when the supply is exceeded by demand the frequency drops below 60 Hz. (In Europe and other parts of the world this standard is 50 Hz.) Electric companies are mandated by federal laws to maintain 60 Hz on the grid. The bigger the disparity above or below 60 Hz the larger the fines that may be imposed on them.

Power companies are used to having a deterministic supply side. If they tell a supplier to fire up a turbine that is rated for 30 MW they can count on having 30 MW delivered within the contracted time with near certainty. With wind and solar energy, however, we are now asking the power company to deal with intermittency on their supply side and not just on their demand side. Although renewable energy sources (not counting hydroelectricity) account for less than 2 percent of the total energy generated in the United States, the popular press and politicians are talking about having 20 percent of our electricity generated by renewables within 10 years. Common sense suggests that load following and frequency regulation will become more difficult and expensive with this increase in supply side variability.

At the same time, however, a great degree of flexibility already is built into electricity supply. The classic demand curve in Figure 1 shows that within a particular regulation area with an average of 10,000 MW produced all the time, demand at any one time varies from 5,000 MW to 20,000 MW, which is a significant spread. It is sometimes insinuated that renewable energy sources will require a whole new fleet of turbines standing by when the wind dies or when clouds obscure the sun. This is simply not the case. Large utilities and control areas typically will have thousands of megawatts in reserve most of the time. And even at peak demand times they will be glad for the extra capacity.

The electric company though, has an obligation to supply the electricity that is being demanded. As the percentage of possible variability increases in their supply they will have to increase the value of contracts with deterministic generation sources. If the wind does stop blowing, the turbines they will have to turn on may not be as efficient or as clean as the turbines they might have selected in the absence of wind variability. This would have a negative impact on the value of wind energy, but new turbines and huge storage facilities will not be necessary.

The hope for renewables is aggregation. The idea is that as more renewables come on line their intermittency will average out, at least to some degree. The wind blowing harder at night will average with the sun shining bright in the day on a macro level. Likewise, as a gust of wind blows through a wind farm it won't much change the average output of the farm on a micro level. There is no doubt that there will be an averaging of renewable generated power, but on the macro side this averaging is limited by transmission constraints.

Energy storage technologies are often referred to as a way to shift time and smooth the delivery of renewable energy such as wind and solar. But the cost of energy storage infrastructure is not insignificant. Today's cost for advanced lithium batteries (one of the leading energy storage candidates) capable of storing 1 MWh of electricity is about $2 million, about the same capital cost per megawatt-hour as the wind turbine. So if a 1 MW-rated turbine has good wind and is able to produce its megawatt hour rating for 10 hours it will produce 10 MWh of energy. Storing this energy would require $20 million worth of batteries. This obviously is not an economic model.

Although energy storage does not play a significant factor in our current electrical distribution system it certainly seems like it should. One way to look into the future or see examples of how energy storage is used in smart grid applications is to have a look at what the U.S. Navy has been doing.

Navy ships historically have had mechanical, hydraulic and even steam-operated equipment on board. A Navy ship at sea has its own independent smart grid with multiple generation sources and a high requirement on the supply's reliability and capability. The ship needs to be able to go from economical cruising to full battle readiness within seconds. If there is an application where energy storage would be valuable, this is it.

One of the energy storage projects which the Navy is working on is the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS). Everyone has probably seen film footage with planes launched off aircraft carrier decks with the help of huge steam pistons located just below decks. This is still the way it's done today on modern aircraft carriers. But the Navy is planning to switch to a lighter, less maintenance-intensive linear motor that offers greater capability than current steam catapults.

The energy requirements of such electronic catapults are impressive. A 20-ton airplane needs to be accelerated to 200 miles an hour in about two seconds. This is equal to about 500,000 kWh or 0.5 MWh of energy. Remember that this energy is consumed in less than two seconds, so to maintain a constant acceleration much of that energy will be consumed in the last half second. Even if we spread the energy evenly across the two seconds the power required approaches 1,000 MW. This is equivalent to the power from larger utility steam turbines, which are obviously not practical to put onboard a Navy ship. So some type of energy storage is required.

There are multiple ways of storing energy: chemically, potentially or kinetically. A battery stores energy chemically, capacitors and pumped hydro store energy electrically and a flywheel stores energy kinetically. After evaluating the alternatives the Navy selected a flywheel system to provide kinetic energy storage for its EMALS project.

The principle behind the flywheel is that a relatively small generator can spin up or charge a flywheel over a period of, say, a minute and then take the power off the flywheel over a period of several seconds. Because it takes about a minute between aircraft launches on an aircraft carrier, the flywheel can be charged during this time. When called into action, utility-scale power can be delivered even if for only short periods of time.

Although energy storage may not be practical as a method for load following, there appears to be an application for energy storage on the finer side, frequency regulation. Earlier, we noted this is the most expensive electricity to the electric company, based on the general principle that the faster capacity can be supplied the more the utility will pay for it.

In Figure 2 the green line trending upward represents the electricity demanded and the blue line represents the supply and the utility's effort at load following. It can be seen the electric company increased the supply of electricity to meet increasing demand by about 400 MW between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Notice also that electricity demand is not a perfectly smooth line, but displays some randomness that cannot be predicted. The red line represents the difference between what is being instantaneously demanded and instantaneously supplied. When the red line is above zero as measured on the right-hand scale there is more electricity on the grid then is being demanded and the frequency is above 60 Hz. This is wasted energy. When the line is below zero there is not enough electricity on the grid and the frequency is below 60 Hz. In this example the supply line crosses the demand line about 10 times each hour.

This presents a huge opportunity for energy storage technologies as today this variability is dealt with by the electric company telling its contracted suppliers either to turn turbines on or off on a per-minute or per-second basis.
It can be seen in the example that a 1 MWh capacity energy storage device could have been completely charged and discharged five times in each hour meaning that 5 MWh of electricity could have been sold in a single hour. In contrast a 1 MW radiated wind turbine would require one hour to generate 1 MWh of electricity under the best wind conditions. The price for electricity in the regulation market is about 10 times what can be negotiated in a power purchase agreement for wind energy. This is not to disparage wind generated electricity; the object here is to point out the possibility of realizing healthy returns on investments in the energy storage sector and reducing carbon output from the dirtiest generators.

Returns on an energy storage investment targeted at frequency regulation are also more predictable than other renewable energy efforts as frequency regulation is a problem that needs to be addressed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is also a safer and easier way to implement investment. In the case of flywheels they are sustainable, having no limitation on their cycle capability, no gearbox to wear out and no visible presence.

When you consider that almost 4 TWh of electricity were generated in the United States in 2008 a 1 percent regulation market would represent 40 GWh for profit opportunity. Energy storage for frequency regulation would also be one of the most cost-effective alternatives to carbon capture, or for earning carbon credits. Remember, eliminating the dirtiest 1 percent of turbines by definition means eliminating more than 1 percent of all the carbon generated.

Other significant advantages exist for grid reliability and safety. For example, the ability to distribute electric potential away from actual generators and close to demand centers or substations increases energy storage system effectiveness. This is especially true with other ancillary services like reactive power and voltage support, which are much more effective when implemented locally rather than trying to affect them through transmission lines. And last but not least, energy storage systems with the capacity to supply large power ratings for short periods of time (like our 1 MWh-capacity flywheel that could supply 30 MW of power for two minutes) are one way to make up for instantaneous outages and offer time to get other generators started.

So why don't we already have more energy storage built into our grid distribution system? There are multiple answers to this question. One is that energy storage technologies with the capacity to deal with utility-scale demand–including the Navy's recent accomplishments–are only just being developed. A second is that the cost of natural gas or even kerosene used in frequency regulation turbines has been relatively low and there is no additional cost penalty to the turbine for being dirty, in other words no carbon tax. A third is that frequency regulation has been perceived as a marginal issue and not as sexy as wind turbines or solar power to talk about. And probably the most significant reason is that electric companies typically are not inclined to pay what these services are actually worth. Rather antiquated rules currently govern much of the contracting of purchase agreements for providing the marginal power for frequency regulation.

Considerable opportunity exists for utility-scale energy storage. Just as the Department of Energy is making an effort to bring market forces to influence the use of electricity, it also should apply the same emphasis in using market forces to influence the way electric utilities procure electricity. This would be faster to deploy than demand response through smart meters and could be stimulated simply by changing rules and laws rather than throwing billions of dollars at it.