Ioxus targets auto sector with new appointment

Pic: Nissan is one of the manufacturers currently incorporating ultracapacitors into its vehicles.

Nissan: one of the manufacturers currently incorporating ultracapacitors into its vehicles. Photo credit: Animam.

The ultracapacitor company Ioxus last week reinforced its automotive sector focus by naming ex-General Motors (GM) executive Don Runkle the chairman of the board.

Runkle’s experience includes having been GM’s top engineering executive as vice president of the company’s North American Engineering Center.

He was previously chief engineer of Chevrolet, chief engineer of powertrain and racing at the Buick Division, director of advanced vehicle engineering and vice president of GM’s advanced engineering staff.

Latterly Runkle worked as chief technology officer at the UK parts manufacturer Delphi Automotive, where he was also leader for the DaimlerChrysler and commercial vehicle customer teams.

“Ioxus has been on my radar for some time,” said Runkle in a press release.

“They clearly have the strongest technology in the ultracap space, with higher energy and power densities, higher temperature capability, more innovative module designs and both cylindrical and pouch-cell experience.”

Growing market expectations

The appointment comes amid growing market expectations for ultracapacitor (or ‘supercapacitor’) technologies in the automotive sector.

According to analyst estimates, the ultracapacitor market as a whole is due to hit USD$20.2bn by 2018, largely due to the technology’s use in electrical smart meters.

However, companies such as Ioxus see the automotive industry as potentially having the greatest market potential for their products.

“Historically transportation has been the big push,” said Chad Hall, Ioxus co-founder and senior vice president of sales and marketing, in an interview with Energy Storage Report last month.

“About six manufacturers use ultracapacitors for different things.”

Incorporating ultracapacitors into models

Peugeot, Mazda, Lamborghini, Honda, Nissan and Toyota have all started incorporating ultracapacitors into certain models, particularly for stop-start and breaking power harvest applications.

The technology is still far from established in the automotive sector, however. Even Elon Musk, who famously gave capacitors the thumbs-up in 2011, is still sticking to batteries for his Tesla models for now.

One of the problems facing Ioxus and other ultracapacitor manufacturers, such as Maxwell Technologies and Sunvault Energy, is a lack of familiarity the technology.

“Most customers do not understand how to use capacitors,” Hall said. “There is a very low ultracapacitor literacy rate. There’s also extensive partnerships with battery companies that have been there for years.”

This perhaps explains why car manufacturers have been slow to adopt ultracapacitors even though advocates say it could vastly improve performance if used alongside batteries or fuel cells in low-carbon emissions vehicles.

Much-hyped developments

That ‘alongside’ is important, though. Despite much-hyped developments in ultracapacitor technology, Hall does not suggest ultracapacitors should be used in place of batteries or fuel cells.

“To use capacitors properly, in most cases it’s hybridised energy storage, letting capacitors handle power and batteries do the energy,” he said.

Ultracapacitors and batteries work well together because they have complementary characteristics. Ultracapacitors can store and discharge large amounts of power very quickly and efficiently, with almost no degradation.

Batteries, on the other hand, can store much more energy over longer periods of time.

That makes ultracaps more suited to providing shorter, stronger bursts of energy, for example during acceleration, and batteries better at delivering slower, sustained discharges.

Fewer battery replacements

The net result is electric vehicles that combine batteries and ultracapacitors should be able to travel further, more efficiently, with fewer battery replacements.

And there is some evidence that if ultracapacitors are combined with fuel cells the benefits may be even greater. Nevertheless, Hall said: “The full value proposition requires crossing silos.

“You have to have someone who understands they are looking at a full-system efficiency rather than just a big energy bank.”

At Ioxus, they will no doubt be hoping the new chairman is that someone.

As the company’s CEO, Mark McGough, said: “Don brings more than three decades of executive-level automotive experience in a career filled with innovation and successes, and this makes him an exceptional fit for our vision.”

US energy storage gets serious this summer

The commercial value of grid-scale energy storage looks set to undergo its strongest test to date in the USA this summer.

California’s grid is expected to strain as the impact of midday solar power production and afternoon air conditioning rises to highest-ever levels, with only energy storage promising to curtail the system operator’s infamous ‘duck curve’ in net load.

Meanwhile New York State is rushing to deploy energy storage before the shutdown of the last nuclear reactor at the Indian Point Energy Center at the end of this year. It too will be looking to use energy storage to cope with air-con loads over the summer.

Against this backdrop, utilities will be gathering at Energy Storage USA 2015 in San Diego to review progress on early pilots in California and elsewhere.

One of the star speakers at the event will be Rosalie Roth of Southern California Edison (SCE), who will talk about how the company has assessed the viability and cost-effectiveness of different technologies during its procurement process.

A 250MW commitment

SCE has a 250MW storage commitment under the California Public Utilities Commission’s Assembly Bill 2514 (AB 2514), which makes it one of the world’s top purchasers of energy-storing systems.

Roth, who will be presenting alongside Burbank Water & Power’s power resources manager Lincoln Bleveans, is due to review how the AB 2514 procurement framework has worked in practice and the steps being taken to streamline the process in the future.

Another SCE expert, senior engineer Paul Delaney, is set to discuss the types of technology and applications end users are investigating and the financial and performance benefits of storage technologies at the transmission and distribution levels.

Also comparing energy storage cost and performance data will be Jacob McKee, head of PV engineering at the German energy giant E.ON, and Hank Price, chief technology officer at Abengoa.

Abengoa’s presence at the event is significant because the company works with molten salt thermal storage.

This currently accounts for the biggest slice of US energy storage capacity outside of pumped hydro applications, with 541MW in existing and planned projects, according to Energy Storage Update’s US Energy Storage Technology Outlook report.

The battery market

Representing the battery market, meanwhile, will be speakers from NEC Energy Solutions and S&C Electric Company.

Last but not least, for companies looking for state support in energy storage commercialisation there will be a keynote address from Peter Davidson, executive director of the Loan Programs Office at the US Department of Energy.

He will speak of how the Loan Programs Office is supporting the commercial deployment of energy storage technologies and the funding options available to accelerate the commercialisation process.

“Energy storage is taking off in the US, but for many companies in the technology ecosystem it is still a struggle to get in front of customers with a compelling product,” said Jack Ahearne, Energy Storage Update’s head of strategy and development.

Energy Storage USA 2015 will come at a critical time when energy storage deployments are beginning to gather momentum and utilities are building on the experience of their early pilots. Companies missing out on this event could risk missing out on critical knowledge at a crucial juncture in the development of the US market.”

Sharp eyes $100m US commercial opportunity

SmartStorage, the Sharp energy storage system, is being targeted at commercial and industrial customers as Sharp see no value in the utility and residential energy storage markets for now.

SmartStorage, the Sharp energy storage system, is being targeted at the commercial market as Sharp see no value in utility and residential energy storage in the US for now. Photo credit: Miyuki Meinaka

Sharp is aiming to make around USD$100m from the commercial energy storage market in the next couple of years, according to a senior US executive.

Sharp’s Energy Systems and Services Group general manager and founder, Carl Mansfield, told Energy Storage Report the company already has a pipeline of up to 400 customer sites under review.

Last week the electronics giant unveiled a 30kW installation with Baker Electric, one of its US energy storage channel partners.

Sharp, which launched its SmartStorage product line last year, is also eyeing expansion of its US-based energy storage products into Japan, Mansfield said. “We are in the process of adapting this product for the Japanese market,” he confirmed.

He said Sharp believes there is “a pretty big opportunity for commercial demand response based on batteries.”
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Is Demand Energy onto something in New York?

Glenwood will use Demand Energy EnerSys battery systems for energy storage in New York apartment buildings and take part in Con Edison and NYSERDA’s Indian Point Demand Management Program. Photo credit: Demand Energy Networks

Glenwood will use Demand Energy EnerSys battery systems for energy storage in New York apartment buildings and take part in Con Edison and NYSERDA’s Indian Point Demand Management Program. Photo: Demand Energy Networks

Demand Energy’s recent announcement of 1MW of battery systems in Manhattan residential high-rises could herald the advent of a significant new niche for energy storage.

Earlier this month the Washington State, US-based storage system developer confirmed its customer Glenwood was including behind-the-meter battery systems in buildings across its portfolio of properties, starting with 10 systems immediately.

The move comes as New York utility Consolidated Edison (or ‘Con Ed’) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) set about introducing measures to cope with the possible closure of a nuclear power plant.

The Indian Point Energy Center delivers up to 15% of Con Ed’s 13.2GW peak power but is currently reaching the end of its original life span. One reactor has already shut down.

The plant operator, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, is applying for licence extensions for two remaining reactors. The licence for the second unit expired in 2013. The licence for the third expires at the end of this year.

The demand side of the problem

Faced with a mismatch between falling generation and continued increases in New York’s energy consumption, Con Ed and NYSERDA have put together a package of measures that attack the demand side of the problem.
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Grid-scale storage: steady growth, not boom and bust

There is a growing market for grid-scale energy storage projects, such as the 200MW of Alevo battery technology that will soon be used for US grid frequency regulation.

In a growing market for grid-scale energy storage projects, 200MW of Alevo battery technology will soon be used for US grid frequency regulation. Photo credit: Alevo Group

Fears over energy storage hype resulting in a boom-and-bust cycle appear unfounded on the basis of grid-scale deployments so far, a top analyst has confirmed.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance associate Logan Goldie-Scot, who will be speaking at the Energy Storage World Forum next month, told Energy Storage Report: “We see continued steady progress instead of a huge leap in 2015.

“We certainly think the market is growing. But I don’t think we’re at a point where we’re going to see a huge leap in capacity on the ground, just because we already have visibility of much of 2015.”

The prediction is a welcome one for a sector that has long been considered prone to hype, with reports frequently citing an upcoming boom. And in fact, said Goldie-Scot: “There has been quite a lot of progress since last year.

“Especially in North America, we’re now seeing projects getting commissioned and working their way through the development process.”
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Could microgrids save lives on remote islands?

Island energy storage: could islanded microgrid systems have helped in the Vanuatu cyclone Pam disaster?

Island energy storage: could islanded microgrid systems have helped in the Vanuatu cyclone Pam disaster? Photo credit: UNICEF Pacific

Upcoming debate on energy storage in microgrids was given a sense of urgency over the weekend as Cyclone Pam tore across Vanuatu in the Pacific.

As the devastated island nation issued a plea for international help, one of the questions facing the government and aid workers was how to restore power… and whether current fossil-fuelled generation sources should be replaced by renewable energy.

Like many island nations, Vanuatu has traditionally got most of its power from imported fossil fuels.

In 2010, for example, the nation’s main utility, the GDF Suez subsidiary Union Electrique du Vanuatu Limited (UNELCO), generated 68.7GWh of power using 14.3 megalitres of imported diesel along with 251 kilolitres of biofuel from coconut oil.

This reliance on imported fuel was already creating problems for the country before this weekend’s catastrophe. “The Government has been concerned for a number of years over the high cost of electricity,” noted the International Renewable Energy Agency.
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