Susan Wood, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
Steve Heckeroth is a natural for running a novel electric tractor business — which is believed to have environmentally created a line in the “soil” to get generations of farmers to know the dirt on noisy, unhealthy diesel engines.
The 72-year-old businessman, who moved his Solectrac operation from Mendocino County to Santa Rosa near the Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport a few weeks ago, has dedicated his life to finding alternatives to burning fossil fuels.
Through the years, he has dug deep into his imagination and will to reduce humankind’s carbon footprint by coming up with farm equipment that’s designed to heal the Earth and help the land’s stewards — known in industry circles as the ultimate environmentalists — operate more efficiently and with their own health in mind.
Read more at: https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/article/industrynews/sonoma-county-startup-solectrac-builds-electric-tractors-for-vineyard-manag/?ref=moststory
Hannah Beausang, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma Clean Power is partnering with a provider of smart batteries to offer large commercial and industrial businesses the chance to save as much as 50 percent on their monthly energy bills.
The partnership with Millbrae-based Stem, announced Tuesday, will allow as many as 150 large business in Sonoma and Mendocino counties to install software-controlled batteries that provide power during peak demand times when electricity is most costly, account executive Nate Kinsey said.
Sonoma Clean Power, a public electricity provider serving about 220,000 customers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, hopes at least 60 of those large companies will use the battery packs, which recharge at low-demand energy times.
The power company will conduct outreach to these businesses — considered “super users” of energy — to help them understand the potential savings. The process could take up to 13 months from initial contact to installation, Kinsey said.
Businesses pay a monthly service fee for the batteries, which are installed and owned by Stem and connected to the PG&E grid, said Sonoma Clean Power Program Manager Nelson Lomeli. Each customer can expect annual savings between $20,000 and $70,000, he said.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8657113-181/sonoma-clean-energy-partners-with
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
When California’s energy grid gets stressed out during heat waves, energy managers send out so-called flex alerts asking people to conserve energy.
An innovative energy project underway in Santa Rosa aims to take that flexibility to new levels by helping a huge energy user — the city’s water treatment plant — quickly reduce its energy usage while still performing its core mission of cleaning water.
A 125-kilowatt solar array popping up above the parking lot of the Laguna Subregional Water Reclamation plant on Llano Road is the first visible sign of a yearslong effort to turn the plant into a microgrid capable of reducing its use of electricity from the grid.
“Increasing our flexibility to produce energy on-site allows us to adjust our demand on the macro grid, and doing that is worth money,” said Mike Prinz, deputy director of Santa Rosa Water.
Microgrids, as the name implies, are small electric networks that can operate, to varying degrees, independently of the larger electrical grid managed locally by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
The solar panels are not the core of the new system, but will help recharge the batteries that are being installed later this year as part of the project.
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8305925-181/solar-panels-to-help-power
Megan Geuss, ARS TECHNICA
East of LA, a natural gas peaker plant surrounded by fields of cows got a new, futuristic neighbor. Under a maze of transmission lines, a 20MW battery storage facility made of nearly 400 closet-sized batteries sitting on concrete pads now supplies 80MWh to utilities.
The project is an anomaly not just because it’s one of the largest energy storage facilities on the grid in California today, but also because it was built in record time—the project was just announced in September when regulators ordered utility Southern California Edison to invest in utility-scale battery storage, a year after a natural gas well in Aliso Canyon, California, sprang a leak and released 1.6 million pounds of methane into the atmosphere. The leak prompted a shutdown of the natural gas storage facility, one of the largest west of the Mississippi. Regulators were concerned that such a shutdown would cause energy and gas shortages, although that worry has not come to fruition entirely, and SoCal Gas has begun tentatively withdrawing gas again in recent weeks.
The ability to store electricity is something that appeals to state regulators because it also moves toward helping intermittent renewable energy—like wind, which only is produced when wind blows, or solar, which only is produced when the sun shines—become baseload energy. If you can store it after it’s produced, then you can call upon that energy to feed the grid at any moment, even when wind and sun are absent.
The Tesla battery facility is situated on 1.5 acres, and it’s modular in design—two 10 MW collections of 198 industrial-grade Tesla Powerpacks and 24 inverters are connected to two separate circuits at the Mira Loma substation. Unlike its neighboring Mira Loma natural gas peaker plant, which operates to make up for over- or undersupply of energy on the grid, the new battery facility operates only when there’s immediate demand. Southern California Edison’s market operations group submits bids for the energy at the battery plant and the California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO), a nonprofit that oversees the state’s electric system, will award the bid if a customer needs that battery power.
Read more at: A look at the new battery storage facility in California built with Tesla Powerpacks | Ars Technica
Diane Cardwell and Clifford Krauss, THE NEW YORK TIMES
In Southern California in the fall of 2015, a giant natural gas leak not only caused one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation’s history, it also knocked out a critical fuel source for regional power plants.
Energy regulators needed a quick fix.
But rather than sticking with gas, they turned to a technology more closely associated with flashlights: batteries. They freed up the utilities to start installing batteries — and lots of them.
It is a solution that’s audacious and risky. The idea is that the batteries can store electricity during daylight hours (when the state’s many solar panels are flooding the grid with power), then release it as demand peaks (early evening, when people get home). In effect, the rechargeable batteries are like an on-demand power plant, and, in theory, able to replace an actual plant.
Utilities have been studying batteries nationwide. But none have moved ahead with the gusto of those in Southern California.
This idea has far-reaching potential. But the challenge of storing electricity has vexed engineers, researchers, policy makers and entrepreneurs for centuries. Even as countless technologies have raced ahead, batteries haven’t yet fulfilled their promise.
And the most powerful new designs come with their own risks, such as fire or explosion if poorly made or maintained. It’s the same problem that forced Samsung to recall 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in September because of fire risk.
After racing for months, engineers here in California have brought three energy-storage sites close to completion to begin serving the Southern California electric grid within the next month. They are made up of thousands of oversize versions of the lithium-ion batteries now widely used in smartphones, laptop computers and other digital devices.
Read more at: A Big Test for Big Batteries – The New York Times
John Fialka, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
By 2021, electricity use in the west Los Angeles area may be in for a climate change-fighting evolution.
For many years, the tradition has been that on midsummer afternoons, engineers will turn on what they call a “peaker,” a natural gas-burning power plant In Long Beach. It is needed to help the area’s other power plants meet the day’s peak electricity consumption. Thus, as air conditioners max out and people arriving home from work turn on their televisions and other appliances, the juice will be there.
Five years from now, if current plans work out, the “peaker” will be gone, replaced by the world’s largest storage battery, capable of holding and delivering over 100 megawatts of power an hour for four hours. The customary afternoon peak will still be there, but the battery will be able to handle it without the need for more fossil fuels. It will have spent the morning charging up with cheap solar power that might have otherwise been wasted.
Early the next morning, the battery will be ready for a second peak that happens when people want hot water and, again, turn on their appliances. It has spent the night sucking up cheap power, most of it from wind turbines.
The politics for this to happen are now in place because California’s Public Utilities Commission set a target requiring utilities to build their capacity to store energy, to use more renewable energy and to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. The economics are there, too, because the local utility, Southern California Edison Co., picked the designer of the battery, AES Corp., an Arlington, Va., company, against 1,800 other offers to replace the peaker.
It was the first time an energy storage device had won a competition against a conventional power plant.
Read more at: World’s Largest Storage Battery Will Power Los Angeles – Scientific American
Cade Metz, WIRED
Tesla isn’t the only one building batteries for your home. As Elon Musk and company trumpet the Powerwall, so many other outfits, including Samsung and Panasonic and LG Chem, are fashioning similar devices that can store energy for use when the power grid goes down or grid prices rise. So many are saying that, when paired with solar panels, their batteries can further reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, which still provide so much of grid’s power.
All are nice thoughts. But questions abound. Do the economics of these batteries really make sense? Are they worth not only the cost but the hassle of installing them? Are they worth it even if you don’t have solar panels?The ultimate goal here is to create vast networks of home batteries, all fed with solar energy and other kinds of clean power.
Orison, a small startup based in San Diego, wants to show that the people really do want these home batteries. That’s why it’s offering a rather friendly version of the technology via a new Kickstarter campaign. The device is unusually small and light, weighing only about 40 pounds. You can install it on your own, inside the house, simply by plugging into an ordinary electrical socket. And you can get your hands on one if you contribute a mere $1,600 to the Kickstarter campaign.
The device stores only about 2.2 kWh of power—which would, say, run your TV for 5 hours. But you can install additional devices for only $1,100 apiece. And each is designed to blend with a home’s decor. You can choose a device that hangs on the wall or one that stands on the floor, and both models double as an LED light fixture. No, you can’t have one today. But the company says its batteries will ship this summer.
Read more at: The Home Battery You Can Install Yourself Is Coming | WIRED
Richard Martin, MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW
Driven by the explosion of residential solar power, the market for home energy storage—which attracted little interest until earlier this year, when Tesla announced its Powerwall battery—is suddenly looking crowded.
This week at the Solar Power International show, in Anaheim, a company called SimpliPhi Power is unveiling a lightweight battery system for homes and small businesses that offers a longer life span than other lithium-ion batteries and doesn’t require expensive cooling and ventilation systems.
SimpliPhi’s bid comes a few weeks after another energy storage provider, Orison, released its design for a small plug-and-play battery system that, unlike the SimpliPhi and Powerwall options, does not require elaborate installation or permits for a home or small commercial setting.
Orison is not actually selling its products yet; the company plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to take pre-orders and expects to begin selling in early 2016. Its innovations center on the batteries’ controls and communication systems: simply plugged into a wall socket, the battery enables a bidirectional flow of electricity, charging itself when power is flowing and sending power into the home circuits when it is not.
The growing popularity of residential solar panels is increasing interest in batteries that could store electricity from those installations. In the future, such storage systems could benefit homeowners, by giving them more control over how and when they obtain the power they need, while helping utilities by shifting demand to off-peak hours and smoothing out the load on the system.
For the moment, despite Tesla’s splashy entry into the market, such batteries still generally remain too expensive and cumbersome for most consumers. SolarCity, the largest solar provider in the United States, began offering a combined solar and storage system using Powerwall this summer, but it’s available only in newly built homes for now. And earlier this year rival SunEdison acquired Solar Grid Storage, an integrator of solar arrays and energy storage—but it’s not yet clear exactly what that will mean for the market in home energy storage.
Read more at: Home Energy Storage Enters a New Era
Jeremy C. Owens, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
SolarCity, well-known for rooftop solar systems, is expanding to so-called microgrids, larger power systems that can be tapped by communities when the power grid goes down.
The systems, which add generators and software to manage the power to standard solar panels, will include Tesla Motors batteries to store the energy generated. While the owner can tap the solar power for daily use, the main purpose is to maintain electricity in the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane.
“There has been a dramatic increase in severe weather events the last few years — climate-related, almost certainly — and its led to more grid outages,” SolarCity spokesman Jonathan Bass noted, pointing to the storm known as Sandy that hit the Northeast last year as a prominent recent example.
The company is targeting cities that are in the line of fire for such catastrophic events for the new service.
“Traditionally, microgrids have been used in campuses, medical facilities and military bases, and we will pursue some of those opportunities if they become available,” said Daidipya Patwa, who is leading SolarCity’s microgrid efforts, “but our primary target is municipalities, communities and areas with a weak grid or no grid at all.”
Read more via SolarCity launches community microgrids with Tesla batteries – San Jose Mercury News.