GenCell’s secret for hydrogen world domination

GenCell fuel cell technology is being used for San Diego Gas & Electric substation backup power in California. Pic: GenCell Israel.

GenCell fuel cell technology is being used for San Diego Gas & Electric substation backup power in California. Pic: GenCell Israel.

By Jason Deign

GenCell, an Israeli fuel-cell maker, yesterday trumpeted a major win as part of an under-the-radar strategy to get utilities relying more on hydrogen.

The company said San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), the Californian utility, would be installing GenCell G5rx fuel cells for substation backup power.

Bloomberg reported the deal would cover an initial three substations, with 27 more to follow within three years. SDG&E is keen to use fuel cells as a way of extending the backup power capacity at substations.

Backup power is a technical requirement at all utility substations. It is used to keep high-voltage circuit breakers open whenever there is a loss of power on the grid.

Most substations are equipped with lead-acid battery arrays that can supply backup power for up to eight hours. Beyond this, the utility usually has to switch to an alternative power source, such as a diesel genset. 
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The value that led Enel to buy Demand Energy

Demand Energy installations are impressive... but it's the invisible energy storage software controlling them that is the real attraction for Enel. Pic: Demand Energy

Demand Energy installations are impressive… but it’s the invisible energy storage software controlling them that is the real attraction for Enel. Pic: Demand Energy.

By Jason Deign

Enel’s buyout of US project developer Demand Energy last week was largely down to a secret ingredient that has been cooking for several years.

While Washington State-based Demand Energy has a decent portfolio of projects in New York and closed last year with a microgrid deal in Costa Rica, the real lure for Enel is understood to have been its software platform, DEN.OS.

DEN.OS, which stands for ‘Distributed Energy Network Optimization System’, is a cloud-based platform for integrating energy storage and distributed generation that Demand Energy has perfected over the last eight years.

A critical early challenge facing the company was how to adapt its software to work in New York, a market characterised by longer-duration storage applications.

The market was of interest because the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision plan was creating new opportunities for storage to complement distributed generation in reducing demand, shifting load and adding resiliency. 
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HyperSolar moves along lonely path to hydrogen

HyperSolar is working to make it easier to create hydrogen on site at commercial and industrial locations, or even filling stations such as this one. Pic: Toyota.

HyperSolar is working to make it easier to create hydrogen on site at commercial and industrial locations, or even filling stations such as this one. Pic: Toyota.

By Jason Deign

US-listed technology firm HyperSolar is looking to develop a commercial-scale solar-powered hydrogen generation system after unveiling a working prototype last month.

The Santa Barbara, California-based company is hoping to give the hydrogen fuel cell industry a boost by removing one of hydrogen’s biggest problems: having to transport the gas over long distances.

Hydrogen “is expensive enough in the manufacturing process,” said Tim Young, president and CEO. “When you add on trucking it 500 miles in a pressurised truck, it stops making economical sense.”

Being able to manufacture hydrogen on site, using water and sunlight, could eliminate these costs and open up a vast array of potential energy applications, Young told Energy Storage Report.

These include “thousands and thousands of backup power plants” that “would all love to be hydrogen powered” because the fuel can be stored indefinitely until needed, he said. 
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Oil giants pile into energy storage

This five-year chart of Brent crude prices shows the pain oil companies have been experiencing since mid-2014... and why they might be looking to diversify into energy storage.

This five-year chart of Brent crude prices shows the pain oil companies have been experiencing since mid-2014… and why they might be looking to diversify into energy storage (chart: CNBC).

By Jason Deign

The last week has seen two Big Oil firms move into energy storage as continuing low prices for crude force petroleum sector players to diversify.

On Monday the French oil giant Total announced a friendly takeover of Saft Groupe, which specialises in batteries for the transport, industry and defence sectors.

The €950m purchase represents a 38.3% premium on Saft’s share price on the close of business the Friday before the announcement. It is also 41.9% above Saft’s weighted average share price over the previous six months, Total said.

“The acquisition of Saft is part of Total’s ambition to accelerate its development in the fields of renewable energy and electricity, initiated in 2011 with the acquisition of SunPower,” said Patrick Pouyanné, Total’s chairman and CEO.

“It will notably allow us to complement our portfolio with electricity storage solutions, a key component of the future growth of renewable energy.”
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ITM flounders in wake of Arup hydrogen deal

ITM Power share price slides, despite the announcement of a collaboration with Ove Arup & Partners on hydrogen refuelling stations and hydrogen power systems. Photo credit: ITM Power

ITM Power share price slides, despite the announcement of a collaboration with Ove Arup & Partners on hydrogen refuelling stations and hydrogen power systems. Photo: ITM Power

By Jason Deign

A deal with engineering and consultancy giant Ove Arup & Partners last week has not prevented hydrogen systems developer ITM Power from sliding in value.

Arup’s memorandum of understanding should have been an end-of-year fillip for ITM Power, but investors on the UK’s Alternative Investment Market punished the company by driving stock levels to their lowest level all year.

As Energy Storage Report went to press the stock was trading at under GBP£22 a share. The stock fell more than 5% the day after the Arup announcement.

At that point the company, which now has a market capitalisation of £38.5m, had lost almost a quarter of its value since May.

“It currently has negative earnings,” noted FinancialMagazin.com, a Belize-based financial intelligence platform.
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Renewable producers target short-term storage

Independent power producers and energy storage: IPPs are likely to focus on short-term energy storage in markets like California, SunEdison says. Photo: A SunEdison Outdoor Microstation

Independent power producers and energy storage: IPPs are likely to focus on short-term energy storage in markets like California, SunEdison says. Photo: A SunEdison Outdoor Microstation.

By Jason Deign

Independent power producers (IPP) considering the booming California energy storage market will most likely target short-term, power-based applications, Energy Storage Report has learned.

“IPPs will focus on power applications just because of the design of the [storage] target,” said SunEdison’s director of Grid Energy Storage, Faisal El Azzouzi, ahead of his appearance at Energy Storage USA 2015.

SunEdison is evaluating energy storage technologies and applications with a view to possible deployment in California, where a 1.3GW mandate through Assembly Bill 2514 (AB2514) is creating interest in new projects.

However, said El Azzouzi, the structure of the Californian market drives IPPs to focus on short-term storage applications and leave longer-duration tasks, such as energy shifting, to the utilities.
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Checking up on the storage start-up scene

We review the energy storage investment opportunities offered by startups at KIC InnoEnergy Business Booster Barcelona – including Atawey, which has developed a hydrogen fuel cell system targeted at mobile base stations with McPhy Energy.

The energy storage investment opportunities offered at KIC InnoEnergy Business Booster Barcelona included Atawey’s hydrogen fuel cell system, developed with McPhy Energy. Photo credit: Atawey

What companies would you put your money in if you were a clean-tech angel investor looking to back an energy storage start-up? With plenty of young businesses out there crying for cash, it is not like you would be stuck for choice.

But, as Energy Storage Report found out last week at the KIC InnoEnergy Business Booster in Barcelona, selecting a winner is not that easy… because there are so many good ideas to choose from.

The Business Booster was a two-day event where start-ups from a range of energy-related fields set out to woo an audience including nine angel investors and three venture capital firms. Five electricity storage hopefuls took the stage during the event.

Enerstone, of France, opened the storage track with a pitch for an ingenious battery management system that extends lifetimes and cycle rates by adjusting the draw on each cell to lessen the impact of weaker cells.
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Energy storage news: 25.06.14

Redox Power Systems, University of Maryland, Microsoft and Trans-Tech collaborate on solid oxide fuel cells, with funding from ARPA-E.

Redox Power Systems, University of Maryland, Microsoft and Trans-Tech are collaborating on solid oxide fuel cells, with funding from ARPA-E. Photo credit: University of Maryland

A selection of energy storage news from our Twitter feed over the last week.

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