Lithium leader S Korea funds 4MWh vanadium trial that targets doubled energy density


Protean/KORID’s V-KOR vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) stack. Image: Protean Energy.

With a view to creating a mass market design for vanadium flow batteries, Australia’s Protean Energy will deploy a 4MWh battery energy storage project in South Korea that will be researched over eight years of operation.

The ASX-listed company is involved both with vanadium resources as well as creating energy storage systems using vanadium pentoxide electrolyte, producing its own stack technology, V-KOR.

V-KOR ‘stacks’ individual vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) cells within a main system stack, unlike most vanadium flow battery designs in which the whole system is one large ‘cell’. Protean claims this lowers manufacturing costs and improves battery performance. The company connected its first project to the grid in Australia in August, a 100kWh system in Western Australia.

Protean, via its’ 50%-owned Korean subsidiary, KORID ENERGY, has been awarded AU$3 Million in funding towards a trial 1MW/4MWh system by the Korean Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP).

KETEP’s various areas of research and development include extensive focus on renewables and advancing energy technologies overall including the Energy Storage System (ESS) Technology Development Program.

The award to Protean is part of a wider AU$9 million project in this area.

The institute selected the provider through a competitive process for the project, which is anticipated to run for 96 months. It is hoped the trial will double the energy density of vanadium electrolyte, in turn reducing the physical footprint of Protean’s V-KOR battery.

South Korea is best known as home to some of the world’s biggest lithium battery suppliers including Samsung SDI, LG Chem and SK Innovation but this project aims to develop a mass production VRFB through lowering costs and improving manufacturing processes for Protean’s 25kW V-KOR stack.

Protean said KORID’s commercialisation strategy will include targeting the market for large-scale commercial and industrial (C&I) projects.

South Korean chemical company Chemtros will manufacture and supply electrolytes, while other partners are:

Electrolyte chemistry – UniPlus

Power conditioning equipment – EKOS

System development – H2

Sungkyunkwan University

Read Long Time Coming, a feature article published across two quarterly editions of PV Tech Power, looking at the tech, the ambitions and strategies of four flow battery makers, here on the site, or download it as a free PDF from ‘Resources’ to keep and carry (subscription details required).

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Energy Storage Technologies vie for Investment and Market Share – “And the Winners Are” …


One of the conveniences that makes fossil fuels hard to phase out is the relative ease of storing them, something that many of the talks at Advanced Energy Materials 2018 aimed to tackle as they laid out some of the advances in alternatives for energy storage.

Max Lu during the inaugural address at AEM 2018

“Energy is the biggest business in the world,” Max Lu, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey, told attendees of Advanced Energy Materials 2018 at Surrey University earlier this month. But as

Lu, who has held numerous positions on senior academic boards and government councils, pointed out, the shear scale of the business means it takes time for one technology to replace another.

“Even if solar power were now cheaper than fossil fuel, it would be another 30 years before it replaced fossil fuel,” said Lu. And for any alternative technology to replace fossil fuels, some means of storing it is crucial.

Batteries beyond lithium ion cells

Lithium ion batteries have become ubiquitous for powering small portable devices.

But as Daniel ShuPing Lau, professor and head at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and director of the University Research Facility in Materials pointed out, lithium is rare and high-cost, prompting the search for alternatives.

He described work on sodium ion batteries, where one of the key challenges has been the MnO2 electrode commonly used, which is prone to acid attack and disproportionation redox reactions.

Lau described work by his group and colleagues to get around the electrode stability issues using environmentally friendly K-birnessite MnO2 (K0.3MnO2) nanosheets, which they can inkjet print on paper as well as steel.

Their sodium ion batteries challenge the state of the art for energy storage devices with a working voltage of 2.5 V, maximum energy and power densities of 587 W h kgcathode−1 and 75 kW kgcathode−1, respectively, and a 99.5% capacity retention for 500 cycles at 1 A g−1.

Metal air batteries are another alternative to lithium-ion batteries, and Tan Wai Kan from Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan described the potential of using a carbon paper decorated with Fe2O3 nanoparticles in a metal air battery.

They increase the surface area of the electrode with a mesh structure to improve the efficiency, while using solid electrolyte KOHZrO2 instead of a liquid helped mitigate against the stability risks of hydrogen evolution for greater reliability and efficiency.

A winning write off for pseudosupercapacitors

Other challenges aside, when it comes to stability, supercapacitors leave most batteries far behind.

Because there is no mass movement, just charge, they tend to stay stable for not just hundreds but hundreds of thousands of cycles

They are already in use in the Shanghai bus system and the emergency doors on some aircraft as Robert Slade emeritus professor of inorganic and materials chemistry at the University of Surrey pointed out.

He described work on “pseudocapacitance”, a term popularised in the 1980s and 1990s to to describe a charge storage process that is by nature faradaic – that is, charge transport through redox processes – but where aspects of the behaviour is capacitive.

MnO2 is well known to impart pseudocapacitance in alkaline solutions but Slade and his colleagues focused on MoO3.

Although MnO3 is a lousy conductor, it accepts protons in acids to form HMoO, and exploiting the additional surface area of nanostructures further helps give access to the pseudocapacitance, so that the team were able to demonstrate a charge-discharge rate of 20 A g-1 for over 10,000 cycles.

This is competitive with MnO2 alkaline systems. “So don’t write off materials that other people have written off, such as MoO3, because a bit of “chemical trickery” can make them useful,” he concluded.

Down but not out for solid oxide fuel cells

But do we gain from the proliferation of so many different alternatives to fossil fuels? According to John Zhu, professor in the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland in Australia, “yes.”

For clean energy we need more than one solution,” was his response when queried on the point after his talk.

In particular he had a number of virtues to espouse with respect to solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), which had been the topic of his own presentation.

Besides the advantage of potential 24-7 operation, SOFCs generate the energy they store. As Zhu pointed out, “With a battery energy the source may still be dirty – so you are just moving the pollution from a high population density area to a low one.”

In contrast, an SOFC plant generates electricity directly from oxidizing a fuel, while at the same time it halves the CO2 emission of a coal-based counterpart, and achieves an efficiency of more than 60%.

If combined with hot water generation more than 80% efficiency is possible, which is double the efficiency of a conventional coal plant. All this is achieved with cheap materials as no noble metals are needed.

Too good to be true? It seemed so at one point as promising corporate ventures plummeted, one example being Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd, which was formed in 1992 by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and a consortium of energy and industrial companies.

After becoming ASX listed in 2004, and opening production facilities in Australia and Germany, it eventually filed voluntary bankruptcy in 2015.

So “Are SOFCs going to die?” asked Zhu.

So long as funding is the lifeline of research apparently not, with the field continuing to attract investment from the US Department of Energy – including $6million for Fuel Cell Energy Inc. Share prices for GE Global Research and Bloom Energy have also doubled in the two months since July 2018, but Zhu highlights challenges that remain.

At €25,000 to install a 2 kW system he suggests that cost is not the issue so much as durability. While an SOFC plant’s lifetime should exceed 10 years, most don’t largely due to the high operating temperatures of 800–1000 °C, which lead to thermal degradation and seal failure. Lower operating temperatures would also allow faster start up and the use of cheaper materials.

The limiting factor for reducing temperatures is the cathode material, as its resistance is too high in cooler conditions. Possible alternative cathode materials do exist and include – 3D heterostructured electrodes La3MiO4 decorated Ba0.5Sr0.3Ce0.8Fe0.3O3 (BSCF with LN shell).

Photocatalysts all wrapped up

Other routes for energy on demand have looked at water splitting and CO2 reduction.

As Lu pointed out in his opening remarks, the success of these approaches hinge on engineering better catalysts, and here Somnath Roy from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, in India, had some progress to report.

“TiO2 is to catalysis what silicon is to microelectronics,” he told attendees of his talk during the graphene energy materials session. However the photocatalytic activity of TiO2 peaks in the UV, and there have been many efforts to shift this closer to the visible as a result.

Building on previous work with composites of graphene and TiO2 he and his colleagues developed a process to produce well separated (to allow reaction space) TiO2 nanotubes wrapped in graphene.

Although they did not notice a wavelength shift in the peak catalytic activity to the visible due to the graphene, the catalysis did improve due to the effect on hole and electron transport.

There was no shortage of ideas at AEM 2018, but as Lu told attendees,

“Ultimately uptake does not depend on the best technology but the best return on investment.”

Speaking to Physics World  he added,

“The route to market for any energy materials will require systematic assessment of the technical advantages, market demand and a number of iterations of property-performance-system optimization, and open innovation and collaboration will be the name of the game for successful translation of materials to product or processes.”

Whatever technologies do eventually stick, time is of the essence. Most estimates place the tipping point for catastrophic global warming at 2050.

Allowing 30 years for the infrastructure overhaul that could allow alternative energies to totally replace fossil fuels leaves little more than a year for those technologies to pitch “the best return on investment”.

Little wonder advanced energy materials research is teaming.

Read More: Learn About:

Tenka Energy, Inc. Building Ultra-Thin Energy Dense SuperCaps and NexGen Nano-Enabled Pouch & Cylindrical Batteries – Energy Storage Made Small and POWERFUL!

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NREL: Envisioning Net-Zero Emission Energy Systems


NREL researchers contribute to a major journal article describing pathways to net-zero emissions for particularly difficult-to-decarbonize economic sectors

As global energy consumption continues to grow—by some projections, more than doubling by 2100—all sectors of the economy will need to find ways to drastically reduce their carbon dioxide emissions if average global temperatures are to be held under international climate targets. Two NREL authors contributed to a recently published article in Science that examined potential barriers and opportunities to decarbonizing certain energy systems that are essential to modern civilization but remain stubbornly reliant on carbon-emitting processes.

Difficult to Decarbonize Energy Sectors Contribute 27% of Carbon Emissions

Many sectors of the economy, such as light-duty transportation, heating, cooling, and lighting, could be straightforward to decarbonize through electrification and use of low- or net-zero-emitting energy sources. However, some energy uses, such as aviation, long-distance transport and shipping, steel and cement production, and a highly reliable electricity supply, will be more difficult to decarbonize. Together, these sectors contribute 27% of global carbon emissions today. With global demand for many of these sectors growing rapidly, solutions are urgently needed, the article’s authors write.

“The timeframes and economic costs of any energy transition are enormous. Most technologies installed today will have a lifetime of perhaps 30 to 50 years and the transition from research to actual deployment can also be quite lengthy,” said Bri-Mathias Hodge, an author on the paper and manager of the Power Systems Design and Studies Group at NREL. “Because of this we need to be able to identify the most pertinent issues that will need to be solved fairly far in the future and get started now, before we find ourselves heavily invested in even more carbon-intensive, long-term infrastructure.”

Diverse Expert Perspectives Informed Study

Discussion of the article’s underlying issues began at an Aspen Global Change Institute meeting in July 2016. “The diversity and depth of expertise at the workshop—and contributing to the paper—were outstanding,” said Doug Arent, the other NREL researcher to contribute to the paper and deputy associate lab director for Scientific Computing and Energy Analysis. “It was great to hear the different perspectives and learn about new areas that are related to our work at NREL, but that I don’t get to hear about every day at NREL,” added Hodge.

Considering demographic trends, institutional barriers, and economic and technological constraints, the group of researchers concluded that future net-zero emission systems will depend critically on integration of now-discrete energy industries. Although a range of existing low or net zero emitting energy technologies exist for these energy services, they may only be able to fully meet future energy demands through cross-sector coordination. Collaboration could speed research and development of new technologies and coordinating operations across sectors could better utilize capital-intensive assets, create broader markets, and streamline regulations.

Research Should Pursue Technologies and Integration to Decarbonize These Sectors

The article’s authors suggest two broad research thrusts: research in technologies and processes that could decarbonize these energy services, and research in systems integration to provide these energy services in a more reliable and cost-effective way.

The Science article concludes by stating, “if we want to achieve a robust, reliable, affordable, net-zero emissions energy system later this century, we must be researching, developing, demonstrating, and deploying those candidate technologies now.”

MIT Study: Adding power choices reduces cost and risk of carbon-free electricity


52377624-renewable-energy-sources-vector-infographics-solar-wind-tidal-hydroelectric-geothermal-power-biofuel

New MIT research shows that, unless steady, continuous carbon-free sources of electricity are included in the mix, costs of decarbonizing the electrical system could be prohibitive and end up derailing attempts to mitigate the most severe effects of global climate change. Image: Chelsea Turner

To curb greenhouse gas emissions, nations, states, and cities should aim for a mix of fuel-saving, flexible, and highly reliable sources.

In major legislation passed at the end of August, California committed to creating a 100 percent carbon-free electricity grid — once again leading other nations, states, and cities in setting aggressive policies for slashing greenhouse gas emissions. Now, a study by MIT researchers provides guidelines for cost-effective and reliable ways to build such a zero-carbon electricity system.

MIT-Energy-Mix-01_0The best way to tackle emissions from electricity, the study finds, is to use the most inclusive mix of low-carbon electricity sources.

Costs have declined rapidly for wind power, solar power, and energy storage batteries in recent years, leading some researchers, politicians, and advocates to suggest that these sources alone can power a carbon-free grid. But the new study finds that across a wide range of scenarios and locations, pairing these sources with steady carbon-free resources that can be counted on to meet demand in all seasons and over long periods — such as nuclear, geothermal, bioenergy, and natural gas with carbon capture — is a less costly and lower-risk route to a carbon-free grid.

The new findings are described in a paper published today in the journal Joule, by MIT doctoral student Nestor Sepulveda, Jesse Jenkins PhD ’18, Fernando de Sisternes PhD ’14, and professor of nuclear science and engineering and Associate Provost Richard Lester.

The need for cost effectiveness

“In this paper, we’re looking for robust strategies to get us to a zero-carbon electricity supply, which is the linchpin in overall efforts to mitigate climate change risk across the economy,” Jenkins says. To achieve that, “we need not only to get to zero emissions in the electricity sector, but we also have to do so at a low enough cost that electricity is an attractive substitute for oil, natural gas, and coal in the transportation, heat, and industrial sectors, where decarbonization is typically even more challenging than in electricity. ”

Sepulveda also emphasizes the importance of cost-effective paths to carbon-free electricity, adding that in today’s world, “we have so many problems, and climate change is a very complex and important one, but not the only one. So every extra dollar we spend addressing climate change is also another dollar we can’t use to tackle other pressing societal problems, such as eliminating poverty or disease.” Thus, it’s important for research not only to identify technically achievable options to decarbonize electricity, but also to find ways to achieve carbon reductions at the most reasonable possible cost.

To evaluate the costs of different strategies for deep decarbonization of electricity generation, the team looked at nearly 1,000 different scenarios involving different assumptions about the availability and cost of low-carbon technologies, geographical variations in the availability of renewable resources, and different policies on their use.

Regarding the policies, the team compared two different approaches. The “restrictive” approach permitted only the use of solar and wind generation plus battery storage, augmented by measures to reduce and shift the timing of demand for electricity, as well as long-distance transmission lines to help smooth out local and regional variations. The  “inclusive” approach used all of those technologies but also permitted the option of using  continual carbon-free sources, such as nuclear power, bioenergy, and natural gas with a system for capturing and storing carbon emissions. Under every case the team studied, the broader mix of sources was found to be more affordable.

The cost savings of the more inclusive approach relative to the more restricted case were substantial. Including continual, or “firm,” low-carbon resources in a zero-carbon resource mix lowered costs anywhere from 10 percent to as much as 62 percent, across the many scenarios analyzed. That’s important to know, the authors stress, because in many cases existing and proposed regulations and economic incentives favor, or even mandate, a more restricted range of energy resources.

“The results of this research challenge what has become conventional wisdom on both sides of the climate change debate,” Lester says. “Contrary to fears that effective climate mitigation efforts will be cripplingly expensive, our work shows that even deep decarbonization of the electric power sector is achievable at relatively modest additional cost. But contrary to beliefs that carbon-free electricity can be generated easily and cheaply with wind, solar energy, and storage batteries alone, our analysis makes clear that the societal cost of achieving deep decarbonization that way will likely be far more expensive than is necessary.”

Light bulb RE images

A new taxonomy for electricity sources

In looking at options for new power generation in different scenarios, the team found that the traditional way of describing different types of power sources in the electrical industry — “baseload,” “load following,” and “peaking” resources — is outdated and no longer useful, given the way new resources are being used.

Rather, they suggest, it’s more appropriate to think of power sources in three new categories: “fuel-saving” resources, which include solar, wind and run-of-the-river (that is, without dams) hydropower; “fast-burst” resources, providing rapid but short-duration responses to fluctuations in electricity demand and supply, including battery storage and technologies and pricing strategies to enhance the responsiveness of demand; and “firm” resources, such as nuclear, hydro with large reservoirs, biogas, and geothermal.

“Because we can’t know with certainty the future cost and availability of many of these resources,” Sepulveda notes, “the cases studied covered a wide range of possibilities, in order to make the overall conclusions of the study robust across that range of uncertainties.”

Range of scenarios

The group used a range of projections, made by agencies such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, as to the expected costs of different power sources over the coming decades, including costs similar to today’s and anticipated cost reductions as new or improved systems are developed and brought online. For each technology, the researchers chose a projected mid-range cost, along with a low-end and high-end cost estimate, and then studied many combinations of these possible future costs.

Under every scenario, cases that were restricted to using fuel-saving and fast-burst technologies had a higher overall cost of electricity than cases using firm low-carbon sources as well, “even with the most optimistic set of assumptions about future cost reductions,” Sepulveda says.

That’s true, Jenkins adds, “even when we assume, for example, that nuclear remains as expensive as it is today, and wind and solar and batteries get much cheaper.”

The authors also found that across all of the wind-solar-batteries-only cases, the cost of electricity rises rapidly as systems move toward zero emissions, but when firm power sources are also available, electricity costs increase much more gradually as emissions decline to zero.

“If we decide to pursue decarbonization primarily with wind, solar, and batteries,” Jenkins says, “we are effectively ‘going all in’ and betting the planet on achieving very low costs for all of these resources,” as well as the ability to build out continental-scale  high-voltage transmission lines and to induce much more flexible electricity demand.

In contrast, “an electricity system that uses firm low-carbon resources together with solar, wind, and storage can achieve zero emissions with only modest increases in cost even under pessimistic assumptions about how cheap these carbon-free resources become or our ability to unlock flexible demand or expand the grid,” says Jenkins. This shows how the addition of firm low-carbon resources “is an effective hedging strategy that reduces both the cost and risk” for fully decarbonizing power systems, he says.

Even though a fully carbon-free electricity supply is years away in most regions, it is important to do this analysis today, Sepulveda says, because decisions made now about power plant construction, research investments, or climate policies have impacts that can last for decades.

“If we don’t start now” in developing and deploying the widest range of carbon-free alternatives, he says, “that could substantially reduce the likelihood of getting to zero emissions.”

David Victor, a professor of international relations at the University of California at San Diego, who was not involved in this study, says, “After decades of ignoring the problem of climate change, finally policymakers are grappling with how they might make deep cuts in emissions. This new paper in Joule shows that deep decarbonization must include a big role for reliable, firm sources of electric power. The study, one of the few rigorous numerical analyses of how the grid might actually operate with low-emission technologies, offers some sobering news for policymakers who think they can decarbonize the economy with wind and solar alone.”

The research received support from the MIT Energy Initiative, the Martin Family Trust, and the Chilean Navy.

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Forbes on Energy: Two Ways Energy Storage Will Be A True Market Disruptor In The U.S. Power Sector


Post written by

Eric Gimon

Eric Gimon is a Senior Fellow for Energy Innovation, and works on the firm’s America’s Power Plan project.

The term “market disruptor” is seemingly thrown around for every new technology with promise, but it will be quite prescient when it comes to energy storage and U.S. power markets.

New U.S. energy storage projects make solar power competitive against existing coal and new natural gas generation, and could soon displace these power market incumbents.  Meanwhile, projects in Australia and Germany show how energy storage can completely reshape power market economics and generate revenue in unexpected ways .

In part one of this series, we discussed the three ways energy storage can tap economic opportunities in U.S. organized power markets. Now in part two of the series, let’s explore how storage will disrupt power markets as more and more capacity comes online.

New projects in Colorado and Nevada embody “market disruption”

True market disruption happens when existing or incumbent technologies can only improve their performance or costs incrementally and industries focus on achieving those incremental improvements, while an entirely new technology enters the market with capabilities incumbents can’t dream of with exponentially falling costs incumbents can’t approach.

As energy storage continues getting cheaper, it will increasingly out-compete other resources and change the mix of resources that run the grid.  Recent contracts for new solar-plus-storage projects signed by Xcel Energy in Colorado and NV Energy in Nevada will allow solar production to extend past sunset and into the evening peak demand period, making it competitive against existing fossil fuel resources and new natural gas.

In fact, energy storage can increasingly replace inefficient (and often dirty) peaker plants and gas plants maintained for reliability.  This trend isn’t limited to utility-scale power plants – behind the meter (i.e., small-scale or residential) energy storage surged in Q2 2018, installing more capacity than front-of-meter storage for the first time.

U.S. energy storage deployment by quarter 2013-2018WOODS MACKENZIE POWER & RENEWABLES

Energy storage’s economic edge will accelerate in the future. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts utility-scale battery system costs will fall from $700 per kilowatt-hour (KWh) in 2016 to less than $300/KWh in 2030, drawing $103 billion in investment, and doubling in market size six times by 2030.

Tesla’s Australian “Big Battery” shows how storage will upend the existing order

But energy storage won’t disrupt power markets simply because of its continued cost declines versus resources it could replace, but also because of its different deployment and dispatch characteristics.  It won’t merely replace peaker plants or substation upgrades, it will modify how other resources operate and are considered. This will require a change in regulations at all scales for the power grid, as well as in power market rules.

Consider the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia, otherwise known as the “Tesla Big Battery.”  This 100 megawatt (MW)/129 megawatt-hour (MWh) project is the largest lithium-ion battery in the world.  Through South Australian government grants and payments, it contributes to grid stability and ancillary services (also known as “FCAS”) while allowing the associated Hornsdale Wind Farm owners to arbitrate energy prices.  A recent report from the Australian Energy Market Operator shows that in Q1 2018, the average arbitrage (price difference between charging and discharging) for this project was AUS $90.56/MWh.

This exemplifies “value staking” where the Hornsdale Power Reserve takes advantage of all three ways storage can earn revenue in organized markets with a hydrid compensation model under its single owner/operator (French company Neoen).  Hornsdale is already impacting FCAS prices in Australia, with prices tumbling 57% in Q1 2018 from Q4 2017.

AEMO frequency control ancillary services markets 2016-2018AUSTRALIAN ENERGY MARKET OPERATOR

Value stacking for reliability contracts plus market-based revenues (or “Storage as a Transmission Asset”) is also actively being debated by California’s CAISO market.

Because energy storage provides countless benefits at both the local and regional level, in ever-more overlapping combinations, it will create contentious debates and innumerable headaches for power market regulators in coming years.   In 2014, observers were treated to a family feud, as Luminant (generation utility) and TXU (retail power provider) argued against battery storage being installed by Oncor (poles-and-wires utility) for competitive reasons.  More recently, Luminant has argued against AEP building energy storage to relieve transmission bottlenecks to remote communities in southwest Texas because they are “tantamount to peak-shaving and will result in the distortion of competitive market signals.” In California, policy makers are struggling with how to adjust rate structures so behind-the-meter storage projects can meet the state’s emissions reduction goals tied to the subsidies they receive.

Meanwhile, batteries are being combined with more than transmission, wind, and solar projects.  In Germany, a recently closed coal-fired power station is being used simultaneously as a grid-tied storage facility and “live replacement parts store” for third-generation electric vehicle battery packs by Mercedes-Benz Energy.  German automotive supplier Bosch and utility EnBW have installed a storage battery at EnBW’s coal-fired Heilbronn plant to supply balancing power market when demand outstrips supply.

Today, inflexible coal plants often receive these type of “uplift” payments when they are committed by power markets to meet demand or for reliability reasons, but can only offer resources in much bigger chunks then economic dispatch would warrant.  This puts billions of dollars at stake the eastern U.S., where power market operator PJM is considering dramatic changes in rules to pay higher prices to these inflexible plants.  What if in the future, these plants might be required to install or sponsor a certain amount of energy storage capacity in order to set marginal power market prices?

Even today, hybrid combinations of storage and other resources are changing the game in subtle but important ways.  Mark Ahlstrom of the Energy Systems Integration Group recently outlined how FERC’s Order 841 allows all kinds of resources to change the way they interact with wholesale power markets, their participation model, in a unforeseen and unpredictable ways.  For example, the end-point of a point-to-point high-voltage DC transmission line could use a storage participation model to bid or offer into power markets.  Some demand response resources are already combining with storage today “to harness the better qualities of each resource, and allow customers to tap a broader range of cost-reduction and revenue-generating capabilities.”

A recent projection from The Brattle Group underscores this point, forecasting that Order 841 could make energy storage projects profitable from 7 GW/20 GWh, with up to 50 GW of energy storage projects “participating in grid-level energy, ancillary service, and capacity markets.”

Power market disruption is the only guarantee

Eventually the hybrid storage model may become a universal template for all resources, creating additional revenue through improved flexibility.  For example, a hybrid storage-natural gas plant could provide power reserves during a cold start – even if a gas plant was not running, reserve power can come from energy storage while the gas turbine fires up.

If fixed start times for some resources, which are constraints that are accepted facts of life today, could be eliminated by hybridizing with storage, then standard market design might start requiring or incentivizing such upgrades to reduce the mathematical complexity and improve the precision of the algorithms that dispatch power plants and set prices today.

As utility-scale batteries continue their relentless cost declines, it’s hard to completely imagine exactly what the future might hold but energy storage is guaranteed to disrupt power markets – meaning this sector warrants close attention from savvy investors.

This graphene battery can recharge itself to provide unlimited clean energy


Scientists are exploring graphene’s ability to ‘ripple’ into the third dimension.

Image: REUTERS/Nick Carey

Graphene is a modern marvel. It is comprised of a single, two-dimensional layer of carbon, yet is 200 times stronger than steel and more conductive than any other material, according to the University of Manchester, where it was first isolated in 2004.

Graphene also has multiple potential uses, including in biomedical applications such as targeted drug delivery, and for improving the lifespan of smartphone batteries.

Now, a team of researchers at the University of Arkansas has found evidence to suggest graphene could also be used to provide an unlimited supply of clean energy.

The team says its research is based on graphene’s ability to “ripple” into the third dimension, similar to waves moving across the surface of the ocean. This motion, the researchers say, can be harvested into energy.

To study the movement of graphene, lead researcher Paul Thibado and his team laid sheets of the material across a copper grid that acted as a scaffold, which allowed the graphene to move freely.

Thibado says graphene could power biomedical devices such as pacemakers.

Image: Russell Cothren

The researchers used a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) to observe the movements, finding that narrowing the focus to study individual ripples drew clearer results.

In analysing the data, Thibado observed both small, random fluctuations, known as Brownian motion, and larger, coordinated movements.

A scanning tunnelling microscope.

Image: University of Arkansas

As the atoms on a sheet of graphene vibrate in response to the ambient temperature, these movements invert their curvature, which creates energy, the researchers say.

Harvesting energy

“This is the key to using the motion of 2D materials as a source of harvestable energy,” Thibado says.

“Unlike atoms in a liquid, which move in random directions, atoms connected in a sheet of graphene move together. This means their energy can be collected using existing nanotechnology.”

The pieces of graphene in Thibado’s laboratory measure about 10 microns across (more than 20,000 could fit on the head of a pin). Each fluctuation exhibited by an individual ripple measures only 10 nanometres by 10 nanometres, and could produce 10 picowatts of power, the researchers say.

As a result, each micro-sized membrane has the potential to produce enough energy to power a wristwatch, and would never wear out or need charging.

Sheet of graphene as seen through Thibado’s STM

Image: University of Arkansas

Thibado has created a device, called the Vibration Energy Harvester, that he claims is capable of turning this harvested energy into electricity, as the below video illustrates.

This self-charging power source also has the potential to convert everyday objects into smart devices, as well as powering more sophisticated biomedical devices such as pacemakers, hearing aids and wearable sensors.

Thibado says: “Self-powering enables smart bio-implants, which would profoundly impact society.”

Have you read?

Graphene could soon make your computer 1000 times faster

Can graphene make the world’s water clean?

Sodium-ion Batteries Could Get Better Thanks to Graphene and Lasers


You hear a lot about the shortcomings of lithium-ion batteries, mostly related to the slow rate of capacity improvements. However, they’re also pretty expensive because of the required lithium for cathodes. Sodium-ion batteries have shown some promise as a vastly cheaper alternative, but the performance hasn’t been comparable. With the aid of lasers and graphene, researchers may have developed a new type of sodium-ion battery that works better and could reduce the cost of battery technology by an order of magnitude.

The research comes from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. Much of the country’s water comes from desalination, so there’s a lot of excess sodium left over. Worldwide, sodium is about 30 times cheaper than lithium, so it would be nice if we could use that as a battery cathode. The issue is that standard graphite anodes don’t hold onto sodium ions as well as they do lithium.

The KAUST team looked at a way to create a material called hard carbon to boost sodium-ion effectiveness. Producing hard carbon usually requires a complex multi-step process that involves heating samples to more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 Celsius). That effectively eliminates the cost advantage of using sodium in batteries. The KAUST team managed to create something like hard carbon with relative ease using graphene and lasers.

It all starts with a piece of copper foil. The team applied a polymer layer composed of urea polymides. Researchers blasted this material with a high-intensity laser to create graphene by a process called carbonization. Regular graphene isn’t enough, though. While the laser fired, nitrogen was added to the reaction chamber. Nitrogen atoms end up integrated into the material, replacing some of the carbon atoms. In the end, the material is about 13 percent nitrogen with the remainder carbon.

Making anodes out of this “3D graphene” material offers several advantages. For one, it’s highly conductive. The larger atomic spacing makes it better for capturing sodium ions in a sodium-ion battery, too. Finally, the copper base can be used as a current collector in the battery, saving additional fabrication steps.

The researchers tested a sodium-ion battery with 3D graphene anodes, finding the system outperformed existing sodium-ion systems.

It’s still not as potent as lithium-ion, but these lower cost cells could become popular for applications where high-performance lithium-ion tech isn’t necessary. Your phone will run on lithium batteries for a bit longer.

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Is Reliable Energy Storage (and Markets) On The Horizon?


Green and renewable energy markets are bringing power to millions with virtually no adverse environmental impacts, but before we can count on renewables for widespread reliability, one critical innovation must arrive: storage.

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PetersenDean Inc. employees install solar panels on the roof of a home in Lafayette, California, U.S., Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

On Tuesday, May 15, 2018. California became the first state in the U.S. to require solar panels on almost all new homes. Most new units built after Jan. 1, 2020, will be required to include solar systems as part of the standards adopted by the California Energy Commission.

While hydroelectric and some other renewable sources can generate power around the clock, solar and wind energy are irregular and not necessarily consistent sources for 24/7 projections.

Storms and darkness disrupt solar farms, while dozens of meteorological phenomena can impact wind farms. Because these sources have natural peaks, they cannot be made to align with consumer power demand without effective storage. Solar and wind may be able to meet demand during the day or a short period, but when energy is high and demand is low, the power generated must either be used or wasted if it cannot be stored in some type of battery.

According to projections from GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association, the energy storage market is expected to grow 17x from 2017 and 2023. This projection accounts for private and commercial deployment of storage capacity, including impacts from government policies like California’s solar panel mandate.

During the same interval, the energy storage market is expected to grow 14x in dollar value.

The exact type of storage deployments in these projections varies. Recent innovations have included advancements in traditional battery technology as well as battery alternatives like liquid air storage.

In New York, one project included a megawatt scaled lithium-ion battery storage system to replace lead acid schemes. The liquid air storage, however, uses excess energy to cool air in pressurized chambers until it is liquid. Rather than storing electrical or chemical energy like a battery, the process stores potential energy.

When demand arises, the liquefied air is allowed to rapidly heat and expand, turning turbines to generate electricity.

Meanwhile, Tesla has added nearly a third of the annual global energy storage deployments since 2015. Leading the charge with low-cost lithium-ion batteries, Telsla and other innovators are bringing global capacity up quickly.

These energy storage devices are versatile, capable of storing energy from any source–fossil fuel or renewable– and in any place–private homes or industrial operations.

With battery costs continuing to decrease and battery alternatives coming into the fore, projections of storage capacity are indeed quite possible. Assuming the electric industry can indeed upgrade its current infrastructure, new grid connections means that energy will be able to be shared more than ever, perhaps even traveling far distances during peak or be stored for non-peak use anywhere on the grid.

When storage costs and capacity align with market incentives, we may just see a renewable energy revolution, one that makes distributed generation mainstream for all consumers.

** Contributed from Forbes Energy

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