If Solar And Wind Are So Cheap, Why Are They Making Electricity So Expensive?


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Over the last year, the media have published story after story after story about the declining price of solar panels and wind turbines.

People who read these stories are understandably left with the impression that the more solar and wind energy we produce, the lower electricity prices will become.

And yet that’s not what’s happening. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Between 2009 and 2017, the price of solar panels per watt declined by 75 percent while the price of wind turbines per watt declined by 50 percent.

And yet — during the same period — the price of electricity in places that deployed significant quantities of renewables increased dramatically.

Electricity prices increased by:

 

 

What gives? If solar panels and wind turbines became so much cheaper, why did the price of electricity rise instead of decline?

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Electricity prices increased by 51 percent in Germany during its expansion of solar and wind energy. EP

One hypothesis might be that while electricity from solar and wind became cheaper, other energy sources like coal, nuclear, and natural gas became more expensive, eliminating any savings, and raising the overall price of electricity.

But, again, that’s not what happened.

The price of natural gas declined by 72 percent in the U.S. between 2009 and 2016 due to the fracking revolution. In Europe, natural gas prices dropped by a little less than half over the same period.

The price of nuclear and coal in those place during the same period was mostly flat.

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Electricity prices increased 24 percent in California during its solar energy build-out from 2011 to 2017. EP

Another hypothesis might be that the closure of nuclear plants resulted in higher energy prices.

Evidence for this hypothesis comes from the fact that nuclear energy leaders Illinois, France, Sweden and South Korea enjoy some of the cheapest electricity in the world.

Since 2010, California closed one nuclear plant (2,140 MW installed capacity) while Germany closed 5 nuclear plants and 4 other reactors at currently-operating plants (10,980 MW in total).

Electricity in Illinois is 42 percent cheaper than electricity in California while electricity in France is 45 percent cheaper than electricity in Germany.

But this hypothesis is undermined by the fact that the price of the main replacement fuels, natural gas and coal, remained low, despite increased demand for those two fuels in California and Germany.

That leaves us with solar and wind as the key suspects behind higher electricity prices. But why would cheaper solar panels and wind turbines make electricity more expensive?

The main reason appears to have been predicted by a young German economist in 2013.

In a paper for Energy Policy, Leon Hirth estimated that the economic value of wind and solar would decline significantly as they become a larger part of electricity supply.

The reason? Their fundamentally unreliable nature. Both solar and wind produce too much energy when societies don’t need it, and not enough when they do.

Solar and wind thus require that natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries or some other form of reliable power be ready at a moment’s notice to start churning out electricity when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining.

And unreliability requires solar- and/or wind-heavy places like Germany, California and Denmark to pay neighboring nations or states to take their solar and wind energy when they are producing too much of it.

Hirth predicted that the economic value of wind on the European grid would decline 40 percent once it becomes 30 percent of electricity while the value of solar would drop by 50 percent when it got to just 15 percent.

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Hirth predicted that the economic value of wind would decline 40% once it reached 30% of electricity, and that the value of solar would drop by 50% when it reached 15% of electricity. EP

In 2017, the share of electricity coming from wind and solar was 53 percent in Denmark, 26 percent in Germany, and 23 percent in California. Denmark and Germany have the first and second most expensive electricity in Europe.

By reporting on the declining costs of solar panels and wind turbines but not on how they increase electricity prices, journalists are — intentionally or unintentionally — misleading policymakers and the public about those two technologies.

The Los Angeles Times last year reported that California’s electricity prices were rising, but failed to connect the price rise to renewables, provoking a sharp rebuttal from UC Berkeley economist James Bushnell.

“The story of how California’s electric system got to its current state is a long and gory one,” Bushnell wrote, but “the dominant policy driver in the electricity sector has unquestionably been a focus on developing renewable sources of electricity generation.”

'He's our power hitter - but only on sunny days.'

 

Part of the problem is that many reporters don’t understand electricity. They think of electricity as a commodity when it is, in fact, a service — like eating at a restaurant.

“The price we pay for the luxury of eating out isn’t just the cost of the ingredients most of which which, like solar panels and wind turbines, have declined for decades.

Rather, the price of services like eating out and electricity reflect the cost not only of a few ingredients but also their preparation and delivery.

This is a problem of bias, not just energy illiteracy. Normally skeptical journalists routinely give renewables a pass.

The reason isn’t because they don’t know how to report critically on energy — they do regularly when it comes to non-renewable energy sources — but rather because they don’t want to.”

That could — and should — change. Reporters have an obligation to report accurately and fairly on all issues they cover, especially ones as important as energy and the environment.

A good start would be for them to investigate why, if solar and wind are so cheap, they are making electricity so expensive.

Article Re-Posted from Forbes Michael Shellenberger, 

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Report: Levelized Cost of Energy for Lithium-Ion Batteries Is Plummeting


Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds the long-term costs of multi-hour energy storage can compete with natural gas and coal in an increasing number of markets today.

The long-term cost of supplying grid electricity from today’s lithium-ion batteries is falling even faster than expected, making them an increasingly cost-competitive alternative to natural-gas-fired power plants across a number of key energy markets. 

That’s the key finding from a Tuesday report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance on the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) — the cost of a technology delivering energy over its lifespan — for a number of key clean energy technologies worldwide.

Read More: Four Charts that Show the Future of Battery Storage

According to its analysis of public and proprietary data from more than 7,000 projects worldwide, this benchmark LCOE for lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 35 percent, to $187 per megawatt-hour, since the first half of 2018. This precipitous decline has outpaced the continuing slide in LCOE for solar PV and onshore and offshore wind power. 

Over the past year, offshore wind saw a 24 percent decline in LCOE to fall below $100 per megawatt-hour, compared to about $220 per megawatt-hour only five years ago.

The benchmark LCOE for onshore wind and solar PV fell by 10 percent and 18 percent, respectively, to reach $50 and $57 per megawatt-hour for projects starting construction in early 2019. 

To be sure, these generation technologies are still far cheaper than batteries in terms of their LCOEs — and that’s not mentioning the fact that they actually make electricity, rather than simply storing it for later use. To convert a battery’s storage capacity into a LCOE figure, the report models a utility-scale battery installation running daily cycles, with charging costs assumed to be at 60 percent of the wholesale base power price for the country in question.  

Even so, the pace of the decline in battery LCOE, particularly for multi-hour storage applications that previous generations of lithium-ion technologies have struggled to provide, is startling, BNEF notes. Since 2012, the benchmark LCOE of lithium-ion batteries configured to supply four hours of grid power — a standard requirement for many grid services — has fallen by 74 percent, as extrapolated from historical data.

In comparison, the LCOE per megawatt-hour for onshore wind, solar PV and offshore wind has fallen by 49 percent, 84 percent and 56 percent, respectively, since 2010.

In fact, the LCOE for multi-hour lithium-ion batteries is falling to the point that “batteries co-located with solar or wind projects are starting to compete, in many markets and without subsidy, with coal- and gas-fired generation for the provision of ‘dispatchable power’ that can be delivered whenever the grid needs it (as opposed to only when the wind is blowing, or the sun is shining),” the report notes. 

These findings match those we’ve been covering from our own analysts at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, as well as from the broader industry. In the past year and a half, several large-scale solar-battery requests for proposals have set record-low prices, including Xcel Energy in Colorado with solar-plus-storage bids as low as $36 per megawatt-hour, compared to $25 per megawatt-hour for standalone solar, and NV Energy reporting even lower bids in its solar and solar-plus-storage RFPs.

These price points equate to about a $6 to $7 per megawatt-hour premium for solar projects that are partially “dispatchable” in the manner of a traditional power plant, compared to standalone solar, Ravi Manghani, WoodMac energy storage research director, reported at Greentech Media’s Energy Storage Summit in December. 

Just this week, clean energy advocacy and research organization Energy Innovation and Vibrant Clean Energy released a report finding that the LCOE of new renewables in the U.S. is lower than that of nearly three-quarters of the U.S. coal fleet — a not completely surprising finding, given the coal power industry’s well-documented challenges in competing with cheap natural gas, and increasingly cheap wind and solar power. 

At the same time, it’s worth noting that the current trends in pricing for lithium-ion batteries, what they actually cost today, has been mixed. While continuing technology improvements and increasing scale of manufacturing have continued to push down prices, these have been somewhat counterbalanced in the past year or so by a bottleneck in available supply, driven by a boom in demand from big projects in the U.S. and South Korea. 

WoodMac discovered that battery rack prices fell by only about 6 percent from 2017 to 2018, rather than the 14 percent range previously predicted, based on these supply shortage challenges.

Article from GreenTech Media

New Technology from U Mass Lowell may hold key to ‘Mainstream’ Fuel Cell EV’s ~ “May be the ‘boost’ that Fuel Cell EV’s Need“


While EVs have come a long way — even Ford is making electric trucks — they’re still a far cry from perfect. One of the biggest complaints is that the batteries need to be plugged in and recharged, and even when they’re charged, they have a limited range. Fuel cell electric vehicles offer an alternative.

Their “battery” — actually a hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell — can be replenished with hydrogen gas. The biggest problem to-date has been that producing hydrogen isn’t an environmentally friendly process. We would also need the infrastructure to refuel with hydrogen. But, new technology from UMass Lowell could remove those barriers.

Researchers there have created a way to produce hydrogen on demand using water, carbon dioxide and cobalt. Theoretically, that would go directly into a fuel cell, where it would mix with oxygen to generate electricity and water. The electricity would then power the EV’s motor, rechargeable battery and headlights.

According to UMass Lowell, the hydrogen produced is 95 percent pure, and vehicles would not need to be refueled at a filling station. Instead, owners would replace canisters of the cobalt metal which would fuel the hydrogen generator.

Because the technology can produce hydrogen at low temperatures and pressures and because excess isn’t stored in the vehicle, it minimizes the risk of fire or explosion. While this isn’t a practical application yet, it could help make FCEVs a viable option.

In a statement from UMass Lowell’s Chemistry Department Chairman Professor David Ryan below said that vehicles would not be refueled at a fueling station.

The system that we have devised would not require the vehicle to be refueled at a hydrogen filling station.

Our technology would use canisters of the cobalt metal as the fuel to operate the hydrogen generator.

The canisters would be swapped out when expended. It’s really too early to tell, but the goal is typically to be able to travel up to 350 to 400 miles for most vehicles before “refueling.”

U of Maryland: Wang Group Develops Highly Reversible 5.3 V Battery ~ 720Wh/kg for 1k cycles ~ With graphite and Li-metal anodes ~ Game Changer?


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Over the last several years, increasing the energy density of batteries has been a top priority in battery technology development, congruent with increasing demands for faster mobile devices and longer-lasting electrIc vehicles.

The energy density of lithium-ion batteries can be enhanced by either increasing the capacity of electrodes, or by enhancing the cell voltage (V).

Extensive research has been devoted to exploring the pairing of various materials in the search for the most efficient cathode/anode mix, but until now, only limited advances have been achieved due to the narrow electrochemical stability window of traditional electrolyte.

Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) led by Chunsheng Wang – a professor with joint appointments in the Departments of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE), and Chemistry & Biochemistry – have developed a highly reversible 5.3 V battery offering a Mn3+-free LiCoMnO4 cathode, and graphite and Li-metal anodes.

A specially designed electrolyte was also created, which is stable to 5.5V for both the LiCoMnO4 cathode and (graphite and Li-metal) anodes. This resulted in a 5.3V Li-metal cell, delivering a high energy density of 720Wh/kg for 1k cycles.

What’s more, this battery chemistry boasts a Coulombic efficiency of >99%, offering new development opportunity for high-voltage and energy Li-ion batteries.

Long Chen – a ChBE post-doctoral research associate – and Xiulin Fan– a ChBE assistant research scientist – served as first authors on the corresponding research paper, published in Chem on February 28, 2019.

“We are pleased to announce that we have created a stable 5.3V battery,” said Long Chen.

“The key is the super electrolytes with an especially wide electrochemical windows of 0 – 5.5V – this is due to the formation of robust interfacial layer on the electrodes.”   

Said Wang, “The high voltage electrolytes enable us to use high voltage cathode and high capacity Si- and potential Li-metal anodes, which will significantly increase the cell energy density.

However, the Coulombic efficiency of >99% for 5.3V LiCoMnO4 still needs improvement to achieve a long cycle life.”

For additional information:

Chen, L., Fa, X., Hu, E., Ji, X., Chen, J., HouS., Deng, T., Li, J., Su, D., Yang, X., Wang, C. “Achieving High Energy Density through Increasing the Output Voltage:

A Highly Reversible 5.3 V Battery.” Chem, 28 February 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chempr.2019.02.003

Published March 6, 2019

Everybody Wants EV Charging Stations ~ Almost Nobody Wants to Build Them – Why?


 

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         A Lonely Stretch of Highway in Wyoming

A driver planning to make the trek from Denver to Salt Lake City can look forward to an eight-hour trip across some of the most beautiful parts of the country, long stretches with nary a town in sight. The fastest route would take her along I-80 through southern Wyoming. For 300 miles between Laramie and Evanston, she would see, according to a rough estimate, no fewer than 40 gas stations where she could fuel up her car. But if she were driving an electric vehicle, she would see just four charging stations where she could recharge her battery.

The same holds true across the country. Gas stations outnumber public charging stations by around seven to one. It’s no wonder people get so nervous about driving an electric car.

EV charge 1 images

Numerous studies have shown that consumers steer clear of EVs because they worry about the lack of charging stations. Studies also show that consumers are more likely to buy an electric car when they see stations around town. While fears about range anxiety are largely unfounded — even the cheapest EVs sport enough range to serve nearly all of a driver’s needs — the paucity of charging stations is a real concern on longer trips, and it is deterring consumers from going all-electric.

To be clear, it’s not just consumers who want to see more chargers. Charging stations are a boon to automakers, who want to sell electric cars, as well as to power utilities, who want to sell more electricity. Some utilities and automakers are investing huge sums into setting up charging stations — including Volkswagen’s commitment to spend $2 billion on EV charging infrastructure as part of their settlement over the diesel emissions scandal. But by and large, automakers and power companies are not putting a lot of money towards charging infrastructure.

“I think the biggest problem with charging stations is there is no one responsible for installing charging stations,” said Nick Sifuentes, executive director at Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “So you see some automakers, like Tesla, installing charging stations. You see charging stations occasionally getting put out as part of a municipal planning process,” he said, “but for the most part, there is no one entity or group that feels responsible for that duty.”

Power utilities have a big interest in EVs. Despite continued economic growth, demand for electricity has stayed flat over the last decade, as businesses slash energy use and consumers switch to more power-thrifty appliances — LED light bulbs, flat-screen TVs, high-efficiency washers and dryers. EVs could drive up the demand for electricity, throwing a lifeline to power utilities. And yet, these companies largely aren’t building charging stations.

“For power utilities, the question is whether they see it as something that’s actually in their bailiwick or not,” Sifuentes said. Policymakers have not directed utilities to build out EV infrastructure, and with so few electric cars on the road, utilities are unlikely to take it upon themselves to start building charging stations.

         The Tesla Model 3

“The problem is that the charging infrastructure doesn’t have a viable business model yet,” said David Greene, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Tennessee. “Although, there are some companies who are working on it really hard.”

Private firms like EvBox and ChargePoint are looking to radically expand the number of available charging stations, but these plans depend on exponential growth in the sale of EVs. ChargePoint is looking to add 2.5 million charging stations to its global network of just 50,000, a goal it said is based on a “conservative view” of future EV sales. EvBox, meanwhile, is aiming for 1 million new charging stations. A spokesperson noted this target is “at least partly dependent on the number of electric vehicles on the road,” though he was similarly bullish on the growth of EVs. Analysts expect EV sales to increasedramatically in the coming years, though major roadblocks stand in the way of future adoption.

Even if EV sales take off and charging stations proliferate, barriers will remain. Making EVs more viable means installing not just more chargers, but more fast chargers that allow drivers to take long journeys. The difference between a fast charger and a slow charger is the difference between a family stopping for coffee while they refuel their car and a family stopping overnight.

A Chargepoint electric vehicle charging station.

 

“It’s 180 miles from Knoxville to Nashville. Supposedly there’s a [direct current] fast charger at a Cracker Barrel in Cookville, which is almost exactly halfway, but it almost never works,” Greene said. “The fact that the range is limited and the recharging time can be quite long if one does not have access to fast charging, that’s another problem.”

There is also the fact that the technology isn’t standardized. Different cars use different plugs. Ford and GM use one kind. Tesla uses another. Fast charging requires a different kind altogether. So, while charging stations dot the country, not every station meets every driver’s needs. Until manufacturers arrive at an industry standard — or policymakers mandate that standard —
“charging stations are going to need to have two or three different types of plugs, and people will need to be able to charge at different speeds because their car might not have a supercharger,” Sifuentes said.

Sifuentes believes that policymakers have a key role to play in building out charging stations. “They have to actually put in place laws and incentives that encourage the development of the necessary infrastructure, and I think that takes place in two ways,” he said. “One, encouraging utilities to do that. But also, I think we can’t ignore the role that public transit plays here.”

Different types of EV plugs.

 

New York City, he said, has pledged to switch to all-electric buses by 2040. “That means they’re going to have to put some serious charging infrastructure in place,” Sifuentes said. “If there’s a charging location that has to be put in because buses need to charge there but that’s available for private use as well, great.”

In addition to building public charging infrastructure, governments can also encourage the development of private charging infrastructure. Policymakers in Iowa and Austin, Texas, for example, are working to lower barriers to setting up charging stations, allowing private firms, as opposed to power utilities, to resell electricity. “I think the other role that policymakers have to play here is they have to actually put in place laws and incentives that encourage the development of the necessary infrastructure,” Sifuentes said.

In Norway, where EVs account for around a third of all new car sales, the government has gone a step further. The government is installing a fast charging station every 30 miles on main roads. EV drivers can get free charging at public stations in addition to free parking and free access to toll roads. Sifuentes said these kinds of policies are needed to spur the growth of EVs and support the installation of EV charging stations.

“We’re absolutely on the tipping point,” Sifeuntes said. “The more that we see EVs rolling out, the more and more it’s going to look like the right move to be putting this infrastructure in place.”

EV Charge 2 Fastned-solar-powered-EV-charger-NL

** Article from EcoWatch

Visualizing the World’s EV Markets – Who is the World’s Undisputed Leader in EV Adoption?


It took five years to sell the first million electric cars. In 2018, it took only six months.

The Tesla Model 3 also passed a significant milestone in 2018, becoming the first electric vehicle (EV) to crack the 100,000 sales mark in a single year. The Nissan LEAF and BAIC EC-Series are both likely to surpass the 100,000 this year as well.

Although the electric vehicle market didn’t grow as fast as some experts initially projected, it appears that EV sales are finally hitting their stride around the world. Below are the countries where electric vehicles are a biggest part of the sales mix.

The EV Capital of the World

Norway, after amassing a fortune through oil and gas extraction, made the conscious decision to create incentives for its citizens to purchase electric vehicles. As a result, the country is the undisputed leader in EV adoption.

In 2018, a one-third of all passenger vehicles were fully electric, and that percentage is only expected to increase in the near future. The Norwegian government has even set the ambitious target of requiring all new cars to be zero-emission by 2025.

That enthusiasm for EVs is spilling over to other countries in the region, which are also seeing a high percentage of EV sales. However, the five countries in which EVs are the most popular – Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, and Finland – only account for 0.5% of the world’s population. For EV adoption to make any real impact on global emissions, drivers in high-growth/high–population countries will need to opt for electric powered vehicles. (Of course power grids will need to get greener as well, but that’s another topic.)

China’s Supercharged Impact

One large economy that is embracing plug-in vehicles is China. 

The country leads the world in electric vehicle sales, with over a million new vehicles hitting the roads in 2018. Last year, more EVs were sold in Shenzhen and Shanghai than any country in the world, with the exception of the United States.

China also leads the world in another important metric – charging stations. Not only does China have the highest volume of chargers, many of them allow drivers to charge up faster.

Electric vehicle charging stations

Accelerating from the Slow Lane

In the United States, electric vehicle sales are rising, but they still tend to be highly concentrated in specific areas. In around half of states, EVs account for fewer than 1% of vehicle sales. On the other hand, California is approaching the 10% mark, a significant milestone for the most populous state.

Nationally, EV sales increasedthroughout 2018, with December registering nearly double the sales volume of the same month in 2017. Part of this surge in sales is driven by the Tesla’s Model 3, which led the market in the last quarter of 2018.

U.S. Electric vehicle sales

North of the border, in Canada, the situation is similar. EV sales are increasing, but not fast enough to meet targets set by the government. Canada aimed to have half a million EVs on the road by 2018, but missed that target by around 400,000 vehicles.

The big question now is whether the recent surge in sales is a temporary trend driven by government subsidies and showmanship of Elon Musk, or whether EVs are now becoming a mainstream option for drivers around the world.

Researchers at Melbourne’s RMIT University Convert CO2 back into Coal in Carbon Breakthrough – (Captured) Carbon produced could also be used as an electrode … Watch Video


 

 

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Australian scientists have unlocked a new and more “efficient” way  to turn carbon dioxide back into solid coal, in a world-first breakthrough that could combat rising greenhouse gas levels.

Researchers at Melbourne’s RMIT University have used liquid metals to convert CO2 from a gas to a solid at room temperature.

The technique has potential to “safely and permanently” remove CO2 from the atmosphere, according to the new study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Carbon technologies have previously tended to focus on compressing CO2 into a liquid form, transporting it to a suitable site and injecting it underground.

The use of underground injections to capture and store carbon is not economically viable and sparks fears of an environmental catastrophe due to possible leaks from the storage site.

However, the new technique transforms CO2 into solid flakes of carbon, similar to coal, which can be stored more easily and securely.

Carbon dioxide is dissolved into a beaker containing an electrolyte liquid, then a small amount of the liquid metal catalyst is added, which is then charged with an electrical current.

The electrical current serves as a catalyst to slowly converts the CO2 into solid flakes of carbon.

Watch how researchers made their discovery

This is a “crucial first step” to developing a more sustainable approach to converting CO2 into a solid, RMIT researcher Dr Torben Daeneke said, noting that more research is required cement the process.

He described the process as “efficient and scalable”.

“While we can’t literally turn back time, turning carbon dioxide back into coal and burying it back in the ground is a bit like rewinding the emissions clock.

“To date, CO2 has only been converted into a solid at extremely high temperatures, making it industrially un-viable,” Dr Daeneke said.

The study’s lead author, Dr Dorna Esrafilzadeh, said the carbon produced could also be used as an electrode.

“A side benefit of the process is that the carbon can hold electrical charge, becoming a supercapacitor, so it could potentially be used as a component in future vehicles,” she said.

“The process also produces synthetic fuel as a by-product, which could also have industrial applications.”

The study was completed in collaboration with researchers from Germany (University of Munster), China (Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics), the US (North Carolina State University) and Australia (UNSW, University of Wollongong, Monash University, QUT).

Learn More About ‘Great Things from Small Things’ ~ Watch A Video on Our Current Project: Nano Enabled Batteries and Super Capacitors

Cleantech ‘Moonshots’ Attract Big-Name Investors


Photo Credit: Makani

 

Makani won Shell’s support for kite-based wind, and Dandelion nabbed $16 million in venture funding

Two cleantech startups from Alphabet’s “moonshot factory” improved their odds of commercialization this week.

Makani, which makes a kite-based wind power generation device, secured a partnership with Shell’s wind development arm to test the technology offshore.

The deal makes Shell a minority shareholder in the startup, although further details of the terms were not disclosed.

Now, Makani will graduate out of X’s Moonshot Factory and live as an independent entity within the Alphabet corporate structure.

Earlier this week, home geothermal heating company Dandelion Energy raised a $16 million Series A led by Google Ventures (now called GV) and Comcast Ventures.

Back in December, X (formerly Google X) spun out another far-out energy startup called Malta, which converts electricity into thermal energy and back again.

That company raised $26 million from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Concord New Energy and Alfa Laval.

This makes for a solid record of successes for X. All three active projects that dealt primarily with energy have graduated from the lab.

Another energy concept, Project Foghorn, would have synthesized carbon-neutral fuel from seawater, but the team discontinued the effortdue to the challenges of achieving cost-competitiveness with gasoline.

Cleantech investment rebound

The preliminary achievements of the three projects are all the more notable because groundbreaking energy hardware has been anathema to venture investment for years, since the big busts of the first cleantech investment boom.

Investors lost big with expensive bets on thin-film solar and biofuels, technologies which largely failed to overcome their mainstream alternatives.

Investor sentiments are changing, however. New strategic funds have emerged to offer a more direct line from energy startups to well-capitalized potential customers or buyers. Other funds have emerged targeting early-stage cleantech investment, including hardware.

Overall venture and private equity investment in cleantech for 2018 was the highest since 2010, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That total grew 127 percent over 2017.

“There’s both a wave of new innovation in this space that warrants investment, and capital largely available now for good ideas,” said Shayle Kann, senior VP of research and strategy at Energy Impact Partners, on a recent episodeof The Interchange. “Rarely, I think, do we see at this point really good ideas with great teams that just can’t find capital to grow.”

Malta found capital despite the uninspiring track record of technological alternatives to dominant lithium-ion batteries for energy storage.

Dandelion’s raise brings the company’s total funding to $23 million to make geothermal an attractive alternative to gas or oil heating in homes. It faces strong incumbents in a market where high costs have historically limited the penetration of geothermal.

“Dandelion Energy expects to use this round of funding to accelerate growth, invest in research and development, and expand its operations across New York state — opening new warehouses and growing its team,” the company said in the announcement.

Homebuilder Lennar joined the round, raising the possibility that it could include Dandelion systems in new-build homes.

Makani to benefit from Shell’s expertise

Of the three X cleantech graduates, Makani’s technology is the furthest from anything on the market. It’s developing a wind generator without the tower, by putting turbines on a drone kite that flies in circles while tethered to the ground. It has been testing a 600-kilowatt prototype in Hawaii.

If it reaches market, this design could drastically lower the cost of wind power and speed up deployment times, by eliminating heavy construction from wind farm development. It also opens up new territory that may be hard to reach with conventional designs.

Shell wants to help commercialize the kites for offshore deployment, where they could anchor to buoys in deep water with much less effort than it takes to secure a traditional floating turbine.

“We’ll be drawing on Shell’s extensive engineering and operational expertise with floating structures to make this transition,” Makani CEO Fort Felker wrote in a blog postWednesday.

The partners plan to test an offshore Makani system at the Marine Energy Test Centre in Norway later this year, and Felker added that he is working on other partnerships to assist commercialization.

Shell has invested heavily in the cleantech space over the last year, most recently acquiring Greenlots to anchor electric mobility operations in North America.

The oil and gas supermajor separately invested in a different floating wind technology Wednesday.

It acquired a 66 percent stake in the €18 million TetraSpar demonstration project, which will mount a 3.6-megawatt turbine 10 kilometers from the coast of Norway in waters 200 meters deep.

 

Original Article from Green Tech Media

Rivian – Electric Adventure Vehicles – For Those of You Who Wanted to See a Little More Why Amazon & GM are Considering Investing (MV $1B – $2B) – Video| Fully Charged


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Automotive startups always need to be viewed with a little caution, but as Jonny Smith (Fully Charged) discovers, Rivian have presented a very convincing launch. A large SUV and pick up truck at the LA motor show. Most impressive. (And probably why, Amazon and GM are considering investing in the EV SUV and Truck Start-Up – See Article Below)

Rivian is developing vehicles and technology to inspire people to get out and explore the world. These are their stories about the things they make, the places they go and the people they meet along the way.

 

Amazon, GM eye investment that would value Rivian at $1 billion to $2 billion, Reuters reports

Rivian SUV II 5bfdb9b644466.image

Rivian Automotive, which plans to build the nation’s first electric pickup trucks along with SUVs in Normal, is in talks about an investment from Amazon and General Motors that would value the company at between $1 billion and $2 billion, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The two companies may receive minority stakes in the Plymouth, Mich.-based startup in a deal that could be concluded and announced this month, Reuters reported, citing sources that asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

The sources noted the talks may fail to reach a deal, Reuters reported. But the Chicago Tribune is reporting “talks are progressing” and a deal could be announced as soon as Friday, citing an unnamed source. 

Amazon, General Motors and Rivian did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters. Normal (Illinois) Mayor Chris Koos and Mike O’Grady, interim CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday night. 

 

Rivian, which plans to hire as many as 1,000 employees to manufacture the “electric adventure” vehicles in the Twin Cities, unveiled a five-passenger pickup truck — the R1T — and the R1S SUV in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The vehicles are due in showrooms in late 2020.

 

“We’re launching Rivian with two vehicles that re-imagine the pickup and SUV segments,” Rivian founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe said in a statement at the time of the vehicles’ unveiling. “I started Rivian to deliver products that the world didn’t already have — to redefine expectations through the application of technology and innovation. Starting with a clean sheet, we have spent years developing the technology to deliver the ideal vehicle for active customers.”

The pickup, starting at $61,500, is expected to travel between 250 and 400 miles on a single charge, depending on the model, and is expected to tow up to 5,000 kilograms, or more than 11,000 pounds. The SUV, starting at around $70,000, can travel up to 400 miles on a single charge, said the company, and has a towing capacity of 3,500 kilograms.

Rivian, which received performance-based incentives from state and local governments, paid $16 million for the former Mitsubishi Motors North America plant on Normal’s west side in 2017.

Town officials said in November that Rivian had already exceeded its benchmarks for a full property tax abatement at the plant for 2018, investing $10 million and employing 35 people. The plant had 60 workers at the time. Rivian had about 600 workers at the time across not only Normal but also facilities near Detroit, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 

The company was required to hire 500 locally and invest $40.5 million by the end of 2021 to receive hundreds of thousands in local tax breaks, plus a $1 million Normal grant, and plans to hire 1,000 locally over a decade to receive about $50 million in state income tax credits. Koos said in November the company may employ 500 when it reaches full production in 2020. “It will never be as populated as the Mitsubishi plant, but it’ll certainly be high production,” said Koos.

 

Mitsubishi employed about 3,000 in Normal at its peak. The plant had 1,200 employees when it ceased production in November 2015.

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Learn More About Rivian Here: Video Presentation

 

 

 

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Amazon, GM in talks to invest in electric pickup truck maker Rivian – Reuters


Amazon.com Inc and General Motors Co are in talks to invest in Rivian Automotive LLC in a deal that would value the U.S. electric pickup truck manufacturer at between $1 billion and $2 billion, people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The deal would give Amazon and GM minority stakes in Rivian, the sources said. It would be a major boost for the Plymouth, Michigan-based startup, which aspires to be the first carmaker to the U.S. consumer market with an electric pickup.

If the negotiations conclude successfully, a deal could be announced as early as this month, the sources said, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential. There is always a chance that deal talks fall through, the sources cautioned.

“We admire Rivian’s contribution to a future of zero emissions and an all-electric future,” GM said in an emailed statement, declining to specifically comment on any talks with Rivian.

Amazon and Rivian declined comment.

The Rivian deal would come as its much larger electric car manufacturing rival, Tesla Inc, struggles to stabilize production and deliver consistent profits as it rolls out its flagship Model 3 sedan.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told investors last August that an electric pickup is “probably my personal favorite for the next product” from the company, though he has spoken only in general about a potential launch, saying that it would happen “right after” Tesla’s Model Y, which the company has targeted to start production in 2020.

‘SKATEBOARD’ PLATFORM

Rivian intends to begin selling its R1T, the pickup it debuted in November, in the fall of 2020. The company was founded in 2009 by CEO R.J. Scaringe. 

Read More: All-Electric Rivian Truck and SUV Debut

Scaringe has described the Rivian vehicle’s platform as a “skateboard” that packages the drive units, battery pack, suspension system, brakes and cooling system all below wheel height to allow for more storage space and greater stability due to a lower center of gravity. 

He has also said the company plans to partner with outside firms to develop advanced self-driving technology, rather than try to do so on its own.

Big automakers, including GM, have not jumped into the market for electric pickups thus far. GM CEO Mary Barra has said it has given a “tiny bit” of thought to developing all-electric pickups.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker is counting on profit from sales of conventional large pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles in North America to fund its electrification push.

GM said last November it was doubling resources allocated to developing electric and self-driving vehicles, as part of a significant restructuring that included ending production at five North American plants.

GM last month announced a strategy to make its luxury Cadillac its lead electric vehicle brand, revealing it would be the first vehicle built on the Detroit automaker’s “BEV3” platform to challenge Tesla. GM has said one of the first fully electric Cadillac models using the new platform would hit the market around 2022.

Amazon has also invested in self-driving car startup Aurora Innovation Inc, in a $530 million funding round announced last week.

The world’s largest online retailer has steadily increased its logistics footprint, building warehouses around the world and inking deals with Mercedes as well as cargo airlines to help with delivery. 

Rivian’s existing financial backers include Saudi auto distributor Abdul Latif Jameel Co (ALJ), Sumitomo Corp of Americas and Standard Chartered Bank. ALJ has agreed to provide almost $500 million in funding, Sumitomo invested an undisclosed amount, and Standard Chartered provided debt financing of $200 million.

(Reporting by Harry Brumpton in New York and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Bill Rigby)

Article provided by Reuters

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