Archive for Energy Storage

TVA forms advisory energy panels

The Tennessee Valley Authority is forming two new advisory boards this fall to give advice and counsel about the changing power market ahead.

TVA is creating a new 19-member panel known as the Regional Energy Resource Council to offer ongoing input into how TVA balances the need for reliable power and low-cost electricity with energy efficiency, cleaner energy and transmission requirements. Joe Hoagland, chief technology officer for TVA, said the new council “will provide valuable advice as TVA develops policies and strategies associated with our future.” “TVA wants to ensue that it manages the power system with all public interests in mind,” Hoagland said.

The new Regional Energy Resource Council is headed by Goodrich “Gus” Rogers, the president of the Jackson County Economic Development Authority in Alabama. Rogers is an ardent supporter of finishing the incomplete Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant his Hollywood, Ala., which TVA will consider in is long-range power plan. But other members of the 19-member panel approved by the TVA board have differing views.

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said TVA also will soon form an advisory board to help guide its Integrated Resource Plan, which is a 10-year plan for future power growth in the Valley.

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DOW Solar Powerhouse Shingle

On November 2nd, TSEA will hold the 4th annual Solar Tour. One of the stops on the tour will be with Twin Willows Development off of Hardin Valley Rd, near Buttermilk Dr. The first house, installed with DOW’s solar shingles, will be explained by subdivision developer Adam Hutsell, and his installer, Jim Laborde. This will be a first for TVA, in which a developer will be installing solar as part of the overall construction of the homes at no extra cost. In addition to the solar, the energy saving features of the construction and choice of appliances tend to save energy, reducing the cost of monthly expenses. The tour will begin with an introductory talk at 8:30, at the Public Meeting room at Knoxville Transit Center on Church St(across the street to the Civic Center). We have limited seating, so arrive as soon as possible to ensure a place on our bus!

TVA’s Bill Johnson Updates Repairs to Raccoon Mountain Pumped Store

Background: Raccoon Mountain pumped store is one of the largest in the United States holding the equivalent to 12% of the total energy used in Tennessee in one day. Both nuclear and solar PV need energy storage to maximize the return on investment. Pumped storage of water is the most cost effective massive energy storage method known today. Construction at Raccoon Mountain began in 1970 and was completed in 1978. The reservoir constructed at the top of the mountain has 528 acres of water surface. The dam at Raccoon Mountain’s upper reservoir is 230 feet high and 8,500 feet long. It’s the largest rockfill dam ever built by TVA. Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Station is a hydroelectric facility. It has four generating units with a net dependable capacity of 1,652 megawatts. Net dependable capacity is the amount of power a plant can produce on an average day, minus the electricity used by the plant itself. Several units at the 600 MW Raccoon Mountain pump storage facility were taken offline in 2010 due to rotor cracks.

Update on the status of the repair work at that plant by Bill Johnson. In an interview with Power Engineering Mr. Johnson, President of TVA, said that all four of those units were taken out of service after the discovery of cracks in the rotors. “There’s a similar plant in Europe where the cracks were first discovered, and when we inspected here we found the same thing. We are having new rotors manufactured in Europe. I would expect the first unit to be back online around July of this year, and the other three probably in the next ten to twelve months. We’re actively working on that. While the plant was down, we’ve done a lot of other things: replaced transformers, did some other things, but I would hope that we’ll see the first unit coming back in the July timeframe.”

Legislation Expands U.S. Hydropower Production Which Will Benefit Pumped Storage and Solar Dispatchability

Legislation designed to expand hydropower production in the United States by improving and streamlining the licensing process for small hydropower projects is now law. “President Obama’s signature on hydropower legislation is terrific news for expanding renewable energy and creating jobs across the country,” said Voith Hydro President and CEO Kevin Frank.
The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act will require FERC to examine a 2-year licensing process for non-powered dams and closed loop pump storage. TVA should give top priority to increasing their pumped storage using no longer active mine, coal washing stations and converting them to closed pumped storage facilities. First, these are environmentally damaged facilities that need attention. Second, by adding a surface reservoir to receive the water from the elevated tailing ponds, TVA could increase its pumped storage first with closed pumped storage, then modifying existing dams to create a lower pond below the dam receiving stream. According to one source at TVA the issue with increasing pumped storage is the objection on environmental grounds. The answer is to select those sites that would have the lowest environmental impact using groups like the Sierra Club to help with the selection and the environmental impact study.

We need to increase pumped storage for both renewables and for nuclear plants. TVA has 47 dams listed on their website. There is a good chance that some of these dams would lend themselves to pumped storage. That is where TVA should invest.

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FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff: Solar ‘Is Going to Overtake Everything’

If anybody doubts that federal energy regulators are aware of the rapidly changing electricity landscape, they should talk to Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” Wellinghoff told GTM last week in a sideline conversation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

If a single drop of water on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium is doubled every minute, Wellinghoff said, a person chained to the highest seat would be in danger of drowning in an hour.

“That’s what is happening in solar. It could double every two years,” he said.

Geothermal, wind, and other resources will supplement solar, Wellinghoff said. “But at its present growth rate, solar will overtake wind in about ten years. It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.” Advanced storage technologies also promise lower costs, he said. “Once it is more cost-effective to build solar with storage than to build a combustion turbine or wind for power at night, that is ‘game over.’ At that point, it will be all about consumer-driven markets.”

If FERC does not ensure the grid is ready to integrate the growing marketplace demand for distributed solar and other distributed resources, Wellinghoff said, “We are going to have problems with grid reliability and overall grid costs.”

Transmission infrastructure will be able to keep up with solar growth. The big changes will be at the distribution level where FERC has less influence, he explained. But the commission has been examining the costs and benefits of distributed generation (DG) in wholesale markets.

“Rate structures need to be formulated in ways that fully recognize the costs and benefits of distributed resources,” Wellinghoff said. “In many utility retail rates, a disproportionate amount of the fixed costs are recovered through a variable rate. That is problematic when a lot of people go to distributed generation.”

The net metering controversy this has caused at utilities like Xcel and Arizona Public Service, he said, can only be resolved by “the fully allocated, fully analyzed cost and benefit study of distributed resources.”

Tea Party Joins with the Sierra Club to Promote Solar in Georgia

As Debbie Dooley co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party explains, “I’m a grandmother, and I want to be able to look my grandson in the eyes and tell him I’m looking out for his future. Conservation is conservative, and protecting our children and our natural resources is a conservative value.” Those who believe in the free market need to reexamine the way our country produces energy. Giant utility monopolies deserve at least some competition, and consumers should have a choice. It’s just that simple, and it’s consistent with the free-market principles that have been a core value of the Tea Party since we began in 2009.

“In Georgia, we have one company controlling all of the electricity production, which means consumers have no say in what kind of power they must buy. A solar company could not start up and offer clean power to customers because of restrictions in state law. Our Constitution does not say that government should pick winners and losers, but that is what government is doing when it protects the interests of older technologies over clean energy that’s now available at competitive prices. I say, let the market decide” says Debbie.

She goes on to explain, “Georgians are currently and unjustly denied this opportunity, and will continue to be unless a law is passed to change the system. That is why the Atlanta Tea Party supported Senate Bill 401 in the past legislative session. Georgia Power opposed it and it never made it out of committee. We will try again when the Georgia legislature reconvenes in January 2014. All states should allow their citizens the opportunity to generate and sell their own solar power.”

So I ask our elected state and federal officeholders, “Why hesitate in voting for extending the Master Limited Partnership to renewables?” Level the energy playing field. Here in Tennessee, our citizens have the same demands as our neighbors in Georgia. TVA board serves the people in the valley, why not listen to their demands for cleaner energy?

Postscript: Americans for Prosperity, which like the Tea Party have been nurtured and sponsored by the Koch brothers oil billionaires, is dismissing the Georgia faction as an aberration, or even more damming, as a “green Tea Party.” It has sought to turn the issue of rights on its head by arguing that rooftop solar will “infringe upon the territorial rights to the distribution grids” of the network operators.

Robots Install Solar Panels Reduce Installation Costs

Automation Needed for Large Solar Farms


Companies such as PV Kraftwerker and Gehrlicher in Germany are developing mobile robots that can automatically install ground-mounted solar panels day and night, in all sorts of weather. PV Kraftwerker’s robot is designed to assemble power-plant-grade solar panels, which are four times the size of the ones you’d see on a home.

The main idea is to save money on labor, which accounts for a growing fraction of the cost of solar power as panels get cheaper. According to PV Kraftwerker, a construction firm specializing in solar parks, installations that used to require 35 workers can now be done with just three workers in an eighth the time.

For a 14-megawatt solar plant, the company estimates, it might cost about $2 million to install the panels manually. Using the robot could cut that cost by nearly half. The company says that the robot, which lists for $900,000, could pay for itself in less than a year of steady use.

PV Kraftwerker built its robot from off-the-shelf Japanese components. The machinery consists of a robotic arm mounted on an all-terrain vehicle with tanklike tracks. Suction cups grip the glass face of the solar panels and the arm swings them into place, guided by cameras that give the robot a three-dimensional view of the scene. See a video on an interview with PV Kraftwerker

So far, the PV Kraftwerker robot can only do one thing: lay panels on a metal frame that humans have already installed. Two people walking along beside the robot screw the panels to the frame and make electrical connections.

Yet robotic installation may become more common as other components get adapted to automation. PV Kraftwerker and other companies are also developing robots that, guided by GPS, can pound poles into the ground and then mount panels on them, eliminating the need for workers to install frames. Newer solar modules can be snapped or glued into position instead of being screwed in. Special plugs could even allow robots to make the electrical connections (see “New Solar Panel Designs Make Installation Cheaper”).

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comment: The ‘sweet spot’ for solar PV today is large solar farms. Farms in the multi-megawatt size constructed on large ground based sites. Combined with pumped storage these power generators would be a dispatchable power source at a competitive cost with other non-polluting electric power generation. Automation is the key to reducing the overall cost. Robotic technology could really shrink the installation cost to a fraction of what it presently costs using existing installation methods.

Retail Electric Business Predicted to Loose Market Share

The Edison Electric Institute has issued a report predicting that there will be a change in the market share for retail electric business if the present trend towards distributed renewable energy continues at it’s rapidly changing mix of standard electric power production and the increasing percentage of renewable energy sources, particularly solar PV continues to evolve. The report dated January 2013 entitled “Disruptive Challenges: Financial Implications and Strategic Responses to a Changing Retail Electric Business” was authored by Peter Kind of Energy Infrastructure Advocates. The key premise is that the increasing inclusion of solar PV will reduce market share for the electric power industry which will lead to higher risk for investors. The result of a higher risk will be increased cost for borrowing money for the power industry. The report sites two similar industries that were drastically changed by market forces and regulatory changes: the airlines and the telephone (AT&T) industry. The report concludes that near term actions are to “institute a monthly customer service charge”, develop a tariff structure to reflect the cost of service and value provided to DER (solar PV) customers and to “analyze revision of net metering programs in all states so that self-generated DER (solar PV) sales to utilities are treated as supply-side purchases at a market-derived price.”

It is my suggestion that the industry adapt itself to incorporate solar PV in such a way as to improve its retail electric business position. My advice to the industry: constructively adapt renewables into your energy mix: it is not a curse but a blessing.

The full report is available on the web at: http://www.eei.org/ourissues/finance/Documents/disruptivechallenges.pdf

Volkswagen Unveils Solar Park Near Chattanooga, Tennessee Automobile Assembly Plant

German automaker Volkswagen on Wednesday flipped the on switch for a new solar park at its Tennessee assembly plant. The 33-acre installation next to the Chattanooga plant has a capacity to produce more than 13 gigawatt hours of electricity per year. That’s the equivalent of the amount of energy used by 1,200 area homes each year, according to Volkswagen.

“We are proud to power up the biggest solar park of any car manufacturer in North America today,” Frank Fischer, the chairman and CEO of VW’s Chattanooga operations, plant said in a release.

The new solar park will meet about 12.5 percent of the plant’s electricity needs during full production, and will power all of its operations during off-peak periods. Volkswagen will consume all of the electricity produced by the park, unlike a more common arrangement where electricity is sold back to utilities.

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Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island – RFP Announced For Renewable Energy Project

The Carbon War Room (CWR), Homer Energy, and Reznick Think Energy, LLC (RTE) launched a request for proposals (RFP) today on behalf of Virgin Limited Edition for the provision of renewable energy and energy services on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, home of Sir Richard Branson.

The Request for Proposal has two phases of bids:

Phase 1: Engineering and design solutions for a 750 kW of solar PV in an open field, 8 kW of PV on the Great House, and Solar Carports.

Phase 2: Indicative bids sought for a wind turbine, significant load controls and batteries, and an overall energy supply and management contract.

Virgin Limited Edition will purchase all services and products from one party or multiple products and services from a variety of parties, and the selected bidders will have the ability to take advantage of significant marketing opportunities throughout the project’s lifecycle and beyond. All respondents will be able to access the entire RFP or sections of the RFP after signing a Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA) and paying an administration fee.

Interested parties should use the following link to learn more about the RFP: http://reznickthinkenergy.com/news-events