Solar Plus Storage Gaining Favor With Merchant Electric Generators & Utilities

Florida Power & Light stakes its claim for the world’s largest ...

Phil Dzikiy - Mar. 29th 2019      ET

Florida Power & Light has joined the race to build the world’s largest solar battery storage system, announcing plans for its massive Manatee Energy Storage Center.

The utility plans to build a 409 MW/900 MWh battery, to be powered by an existing FPL solar plant in Manatee County, Florida. It will begin serving customers in 2021.

FPL says the battery system will be able to power 329,000 homes for two hours. For comparison, FPL notes the battery system is equivalent to 100 million iPhone batteries, or 300 million AA batteries. The system will be used in periods of high demand.

The Manatee Energy Storage Center will accelerate the retirement of two natural gas units at a nearby power plant. FPL says the project will save customers more than $100 million while eliminating more than 1 million tons of carbon emissions, though no cost estimates for the project were disclosed.

FPL has already announced a goal to install 30 million solar panels by 2030, and the utility recently announced plans to build four new solar plants this year. FPL president and CEO Eric Silagy said,

“This is a monumental milestone in realizing the full benefits of solar power and yet another example of how FPL is working hard to position Florida as the global gold standard for clean energy. Even as we aggressively execute on our plan to install 30 million solar panels by 2030, we never lose sight of finding innovative ways to bring our customers the benefits of solar energy, even when the sun’s not shining.”

Batteries Get Big

The Manatee Energy Storage Center’s battery system is projected to have four times the capacity of the world’s largest battery system currently in operation, so FPL is billing it as the “world’s largest solar-powered battery.” But it will have competition.

There are already plans to build a 495 MW battery storage system in Texas, as Bloomberg reported last month. That system would be paired with an equivalent 495 MW solar farm in Borden County, Texas. It’s also due to come online in 2021.

That project is to be developed by a unit of San Francisco-based Intersect Power LLC called IP Juno, but at this time, little information seems to exist beyond initial reports.

Hawaiian Electric also just announced plans for six solar + storage projects that will total nearly 1 GWh of storage. None of the six projects on their own will be as large as the planned projects in Florida or Texas, but it still illustrates how battery storage size is increasing rapidly. At this rate, it seems certain that by the time FPL or IP Juno complete their projects, a larger project will be announced, if not already under construction.

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L.A. could replace traditional power plants with home solar, experts say  April 5, 2019  By Dennis Romero

Los Angeles could produce the nation's largest "virtual power plant" by linking homes equipped with solar panels and batteries, solar industry says.

Renewable energy experts and a new report from the solar industry say Los Angeles could generate a larger portion of its electricity with wider use of residential solar panels backed up by battery storage.

The concept of a "virtual power plant" that could replace one of three natural gas plants being phased out by the city has already been deployed successfully in Orange County and Waltham, Vermont. But Los Angeles, where officials want to rely entirely on renewable energy by 2050, would be the largest U.S. city to go virtual.

The report from San Francisco-based residential solar company Sunrun amounts to a sales pitch to the city to expand the number of solar residences to at least 75,000, which would be enough to collectively replace the power production of one gas-powered plant and save $60 million.

"What we can do is if we can put a battery with each one of those solar systems, we can link them with software and when the utility needs that power, it can be dispatched from 75,000 homes," said Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich. "They can replace the energy of one of those gas-power plants and be more cost effective."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in February that three of the city's gas-powered generating stations would be phased out by 2029. "This is the beginning of the end of natural gas in Los Angeles," he said at the time.

Asked if the city was open to the kind of virtual power proposed in Sunrun's report, Garcetti said in a statement, "We have an obligation to end dependence on fossil fuels, embrace the technologies of tomorrow, and prioritize renewable energy."

Experts say the virtual power plant is a feasible solution for Los Angeles, especially with the cost and capacity of batteries. Infrastructure, including two-way power lines, is already there.

As utilities like San Diego Gas & Electric employ "time of use" rates that charge more for prime-time juice, solar panels paired with battery storage could be more attractive for ratepayers, said solar expert Bill Powers of Powers Engineering in San Diego.

"Utilities have shifted to that peak, high-dollar window, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., which is being done to make solar less economically attractive to people," he said. "Solar is not putting out a lot of power at that time."

"But they did that as batteries were becoming cost effective," Powers said. "What they did to stymie solar became a driver for people to get batteries."

Beth Ferguson, director of Sol Design Lab at the University of California, Davis, and adviser to a startup that plans to use recycled vehicle batteries in homes, says the increasing accessibility of battery storage means "you can reap the benefits from solar at night."

Investor-owned SDG&E, which serves California's second-largest city and has 1.25 million residential customers compared to L.A.'s 1.34 million, said that renewable energy is "intermittent" because of weather conditions.

Yet nearly 45 percent of SDG&E's energy comes from renewable sources, said spokeswoman Helen Gao in an email. The Sunrun report credited San Diego with beating Los Angeles when it comes to residential solar, with more than 1 in 10 homes equipped to tap the sun compared to less than 3 in 100.

To create one virtual power plant in Los Angeles would be to "reach the same level of solar penetration San Diego already has," said Sunrun's Jurich.

Investor-owned utility Southern California Edison claims to have launched the first such system in the nation last year. In March, the virtual power plant's operator, AMS, announced it had delivered a record 2 gigawatt hours of energy.

The system feeds off solar and storage based at 21 office buildings owned by the Irvine Company, a major Southern California landlord and developer.

Despite that success, Powers says publicly owned utilities like L.A.'s Department of Water and Power might be more amenable to virtual power plants because there are no shareholders demanding ever-increasing profits.

Sunrun recently announced it will deliver home solar and batteries to ISO New England, the nonprofit that manages power flow for Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and most of Maine. The deal would power about 5,000 homes.

In Vermont, Green Mountain Power has offered Tesla's Powerwall home batteries to as many as 2,000 customers for $15 a month. It allows them to store solar power or sell it back to the shareholder-owned utility to create a virtual power plant.

In December, the utility announced that 90 percent of its energy supply is now "carbon free."

Of course, Los Angeles would be a grand prize for those wishing to ween the nation off fossil fuel electricity.

"This opportunity in L.A. would be the biggest virtual power plant that we know of," Jurich said.

30% Fuel Savings When Flying UTC’s Hybrid-Electric Regional Planes (Soon)

April 5th, 2019 by Nicolas Zart

Imagine if airlines could save 30 percent on fuel if they switched to electric mobility? A hybrid-electric aircraft is one way to get there. United Technologies Corp. (UTC) wants us to use such airplanes based on hybrid electric turboprops for future regional. The company is testing and opening the electric urban air mobility (UAM) market as we speak.

By now, there is enough to convince even the most skeptical people that electric vertical take-off & landing (eVTOL) aircraft are coming relatively soon. This UTC release is another piece of evidence. Currently tested and soon to be seen buzzing over our heads in major cities (within a few years in some places), these eVTOL aircraft will take us from point A to Z in the air, bypassing road traffic.

Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney have converted a Bombardier Dash 8 project 804 into a hybrid-electric powerplant mounted on one side to fly a proof of concept. The aircraft will be used to show its technical viability, to prove that its hybrid propulsion system not only works but is economically viable. The obvious benefits are the massive fuel savings and maintenance. Why call it project 804? It was named for the straight-line distance (804 miles) between a Collins facility in Illinois and a Pratt & Whitney facility in Quebec. Simple, no?

Technically, the 2-megawatt hybrid-electric engine should be enough to shoulder 30 to 50 passengers between 200 and 250 nautical miles on hour-long trips. That segment is always highly focused, efficient, and segmented, so cutting fuel costs by 30% is nothing to sneer.

The beauty of an aircraft is that it needs its 2 MW peak power at takeoff but then only needs half for regular cruising operations. Batteries, thus, just need to push out large amounts of power for a short while before hitting a more manageable cruising output. And the better the energy density of batteries get, the sooner we will have battery-operated regional aircraft.

In this case, efficiency means sacrificing some range. For the time being, the Dash 8 will see its range drop by around 40% down to 600 miles for that efficiency luxury. In order to explain the logic behind the design, Jason Chua, executive director of advanced projects at UTC, was quoted saying:

“Given that 99 percent of the missions that these aircraft flies are under 500 miles and the drafting fuel savings you can get, this seems like a pretty reasonable trade-off.”

No matter how you look at it, the electrification of aviation is happening in a different way than it did for the automotive industry. You can’t just slap on an electric motor at every turbofan and call it a day. You can electrify what was once heavy ancillary systems, such as pneumatics, and with the use of additive manufacturing, 3D printing, and carbon fiber, you can have a fine platform moving close to electric power for significant flight. Currently, tackling the propulsion platform directly with a hybrid system, the door is opening to electricity.


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