Archive for Energy Storage

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.

original source

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”).

Original article

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.

more

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

A123 Goes to Wanxiang in $260M Bankruptcy Auction Bid

Congressman Bill Huizenga, a Michigan Republican, wrote on his Facebook page: “I have serious concerns over the Chinese firm Wanxiang Group Corp attempt to buy A123. I am concerned this transaction poses a threat to U.S. national security, America’s global innovation leadership and job creation.” According to Huizenga, A123′s contracts with the DOE involve power grids, advanced armor, unmanned vehicles and portable power systems.
I could not agree more. New technology that is inherent in our military applications is usually limited from export by what is know as ‘export control’ limitations imposed by the Federal Government. I know because I was an export control officer when I served at Fort Monmouth New Jersey. So limiting the technology developed in this country vital to the defense needs must be protected. I am not enough of an expert in batteries to say that A123 is the most vital battery technology available, but other experts at the Department of Energy supposedly are expert in assessing the technology of A123 as compared to what else is available here. The corporate world works on the rule of the fiduciary who acts at all times for the sole benefit and interest of the one who trusts (investors). Forget loyalty, social benefit, patriotism because all these are not the concern of the corporation who are ruled to serve the best interests of their investors, whomever they may be.

“This may be the closing chapter of A123 Systems as a U.S.-owned firm. According to news reports citing sources with knowledge of the matter, lithium-ion battery maker A123 is now owned by Wanxiang Group, China’s largest maker of auto parts and a major supplier to Ford and General Motors.

Wanxiang’s $260 million bid bested a joint offer from Johnson Controls and NEC for control of most of the assets of A123, including the automotive battery business that Johnson Controls had wanted to purchase, a representative of Lazard Freres, investment banker for A123, told Reuters. Germany’s Siemens was also a bidder, according to news reports.

Wanxiang’s apparent winning bid is sure to raise an outcry in Washington, D.C., however. A123 had received $250 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants and has spent about half of the funding to build its key battery plants in Michigan. The company is also developing battery storage technology for the U.S. military, an area that could raise national security concerns — although according to reports, A123′s government business will be sold separately to U.S.-based Navitas Systems for $2.25 million, which could assuage some concerns on that front.”
entire article

Climate Change and Solar Solutions: A Hurricane Sandy (Ongoing) Experience

Solar plus energy storage would be the answer to challenge freak storms

Raina Russo drives through the ravaged streets of her coastal neighborhood in New York, dodging downed trees and aware of the constant sirens that indicate emergency workers are responding to yet another fire. This is what she calls her “new normal” in her life post-Sandy. Reflecting on her own experience, Russo says she has come to realize our true dependence on power and how it affects our lives.

“You think of power and you think you’ve lost electricity in your home, refrigerator, heater, and so on. But it’s so much more than that. We lost power and cell service dropped; we were up against a gas shortage because the pipelines turn off during the storm and during loss of electricity,” Russo explains. “So you have no power, and all of a sudden you have no communication and no transportation – and you have no means of even operating generators that weren’t flooded because of the gas shortage. Its such a compounded situation, and it’s all about power.”

One part of Russo’s property that seems to have made it through the storm unscathed: her 10.4-kW rooftop solar system. Pending a full system check from Mercury Solar Solutions, her installer, Russo says it looks like her inverters are high enough to have avoided flood damage, and her panels withstood the Hurricane-force winds and remain intact.
Russo lost electricity because her system is tied to the grid; during outages most systems shut down to prevent power from feeding into power lines, which endangers workers that may be out for repairs. This got Russo thinking about storage solutions. She says she hadn’t thought about storage until Sandy, but after speaking to friends and neighbors who own top-of-the-line generators that were flooded and, ultimately, unusable, Russo thinks she should take her existing system to the next level.

“Storage is going to be my first priority in my [home] rebuild process. I need to consult with people on this because I’m not an expert, but why would I invest in a gas generator,” says Russo. “Our panels are on our roof, supposedly they are not damaged, the inverters are high enough that they are not getting damaged either, so if we had storage, that could act as our backup generator.”

The good news: Home solar arrays seemed to withstand Sandy’s furious winds. Sungevity says the company’s installations are designed to hold up to sustained winds of up to 100 miles per hour. Sandy’s gusts hit 90 mph at their peak.

Sunrun, another residential solar company, has about 6,500 customers in the Northeast, and hadn’t received any reports of damage by Wednesday afternoon, according to spokeswoman Susan Wise. John Steeves, a Sungevity customer in Woodstown, N.J., with 39 panels on his roof, says the storm flooded his basement, knocked out power, and toppled massive trees in his neighborhood—but left his solar arrays unscathed. He thinks having the panels above even helped protect the roof of his 47-year-old home. The entire article can be located here

Levy comments: So,if we had added storage to our solar systems for homes and businesses, we would have power. The missing link: the battery. They are expensive, today’s most popular batteries, lead-acid, have limited lives, some need maintenance on a constant basis, and the upcoming lithium batteries being used in autos are very expensive. There are novel chemistries that show promise, but unless you have an Angel investor willing to sink millions into a ‘maybe’ we will not realize an affordable energy store in the next ten years. There are novel chemistries out there who have sought government investments such as SBIRs, SunShot initiatives, but none can demonstrate a pathway to less than $150 per kilowatthour. That is what we need. I am personally aware of the struggles one energy storage company has gone through to find that one Angel investor or government (federal, state) that is willing to risk the money. China has had its ‘Great Leap’ and now the United States needs a similar ‘Great Leap’ in energy storage. The need is there, where are the risk takers?