Storage put to test in Orange County pilot

The Southern California Edison Preferred Resources Pilot in Orange County is pitting distributed renewable energy and energy storage against the solar duck curve. Photo credit: SCE

The Southern California Edison Preferred Resources Pilot in Orange County is pitting distributed renewable energy and energy storage against the solar duck curve. Photo credit: SCE

By Jason Deign

Batteries look set to face a major challenge in a pilot where energy delivery is needed when it makes more commercial sense to store it.

The business model for storage will be tested to the full in the Southern California Edison (SCE) Preferred Resources Pilot (PRP) because load peaks are expected to coincide with maximum solar output periods.

This means energy in the pilot area of central Orange County, California, will be at its cheapest precisely when it would usually be best to store power rather than discharge it.

The unusual set of circumstances is likely to occur because the area has heavy daytime peak loads with little local generation capacity following the closure of the 2.2GW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

As a result, energy needs to be brought in from outside the area, straining the transmission network served by two SCE substations, Johanna and Santiago, and increasing flows with neighbouring San Diego Gas & Electric’s grid.
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One battery to rule them all?

After the Tesla Powerwall launch, there is reason to think lithium-ion batteries could become the overwhelming technology of choice for battery storage. Photo: Tesla Gigafactory

After the Tesla Powerwall launch, there is reason to think lithium-ion batteries could become the overwhelming technology of choice for battery storage. Photo: possible Tesla Gigafactory design.

By Jason Deign

The Tesla Powerwall launch three weeks ago focused attention on energy storage but may also have been a nail in the coffin for non-lithium-ion (Li-ion) technologies.

In drastically reducing prices, Tesla removed one of the remaining barriers to adoption of Li-ion as the standard for battery storage.

Currently other technologies are vying for supremacy on the basis of cost, safety, performance and bankability.

However, the launch of a residential battery system for USD$3,500 helped lay to rest the idea that Li-ion is automatically more expensive than other chemistries.

Even Tesla’s grid-scale Li-ion offering, the Powerpack, looks competitive with the most cost-effective battery technologies out there.
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NEC has big plans for energy storage

After buying A123 Energy Solutions, Takashi Ohara of NEC talks to Energy Storage Report about his company's plans for grid-scale, grid-edge and domestic battery energy storage in the USA, Europe, Asia and in developing economies, such as Africa and India.

After buying A123 Energy Solutions, Takashi Ohara of NEC talks to us about NEC’s plans for battery energy storage in the USA, Europe, Asia and developing economies like Africa and India.

When NEC announced it was going to pay USD$100m for A123 Energy Solutions, it was clear that the lithium-nanophosphate battery manufacturer was well and truly back after bankruptcy and a spell of developing its business under the ownership of Wanxiang. As well as cementing the future of A123 after a few tumultuous years, NEC’s purchase represents a huge investment in the future of energy storage. The giant Japanese multinational already uses batteries from AESC, its joint venture with Nissan. Similar to the units used in the Nissan Leaf, these battery storage systems have been used by NEC for both utility-scale storage – a 2MW system has recently been commissioned in Italy by Enel Distribuzione – and in the residential storage market in Japan. The company has also been using batteries from third-party suppliers in a trial with Acea in Rome.

The company’s interest in energy storage was made clear by Hideki Niwaya, vice president of NEC’s smart energy business unit, who told the Wall Street Journal that NEC expects global sales of energy storage systems to utilities to grow from less than $2bn in 2015 to about $6bn by 2020.

Takashi Ohara, executive specialist in the smart energy business unit at NEC, took some time out to talk to us in more depth about NEC’s plans in North America, Europe, Asia and developing economies for grid-scale, grid-edge and domestic energy storage.

Energy Storage Report: What are NEC’s plans for A123 batteries? Are prices likely to go down?
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Energy storage news: 26.03.14

In the wake of new lithium-ion battery storage subsidies in Japan, NEC has bought A123's grid energy storage unit. Photo credit: A123 Systems

In the wake of new the lithium-ion battery storage subsidies in Japan, NEC has bought A123’s grid energy storage unit. Photo credit: A123 Systems

The top energy storage news headlines from our Twitter feed this week.

  • OutBack Power Technologies has unveiled new, chemistry-agnostic inverters that improve the cost effectiveness of solar energy storage.

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Japan’s big investment in energy storage

Less than a year ago, and a couple of months after the tsunami-fuelled nuclear crisis that engulfed the country, the Japanese government announced a three-year programme of subsidies for renewables-related technologies. Of this, reports The Lithium Review, around 20 billion Yen, or roughly USD$212 million or UK£140 million is being spent on stationary lithium-ion battery energy storage.

One of the key subsidies is to cover one-third of the cost of domestic systems and fuel adoption of energy storage at a household level. This is in addition to the attractive feed-in tariff (FIT) offered to home owners who want to sell any excess energy – from renewable sources like solar – to the grid.

Companies were not slow in taking the bait.

Panasonic currently offers systems that range from 4kW residential units, to full megawatt-scale power plants used to stabilise energy produced from solar and wind farms.

Kyocera has gone into partnership with Nichicon to produce a new domestic energy storage system, using Samsung’s SDI lithium cells. The two companies are hoping for first year sales of 10,000 units.

NEC, Orix and Epco Corp. have set their sights much higher. Their joint venture is aiming for 30,000-50,000 Japanese homes to adopt its residential energy storage system in the first year of sales, with 100,000 more homes every year after that.

Toshiba has also got involved – and is offering the 6.6kW eneGoon battery back up system, which integrates the company’s own SCiB cells.

If all this sounds familiar, that’s not surprising. Despite uncertainty over the future of its proposals, Germany has voiced a similar compromise to domestic subsidies and FITs.

And as in Germany, the commitment to energy storage makes a lot of sense. For example, Japan has a burgeoning domestic solar market. Not only that, but both Toshiba and Kandenko have announced investments in large solar plants only this week.

Wanxiang scoops up A123

Chinese auto giant Wanxiang has beaten US Johnson Controls, Japan’s NEC and German concern Siemens AG to scoop practically all of A123 Systems’ assets in what has become a controversial and politically charged contest.

According to A123’s press release, Wanxiang would acquire A123’s automotive, grid and commercial business assets, including all technology, products, customer contracts and US facilities in Michigan, Massachusetts and Missouri; its cathode powder manufacturing operations in China; and its equity interest in its joint venture with Shanghai Automotive.

Excluded from the asset purchase agreement with Wanxiang, which is worth USD$ 260 million, is A123’s government business, including all US military contracts, which would be acquired for $2.25 million by Navitas Systems.

Wanxiang had always said that it would forego these and it is hard to imagine that the sale to a large corporation in a competitor nation would have been politically feasible had they been included. Another bone of contention has been the many millions of US tax dollars that had been pumped into the ailing company over the years.

Politicians and commentators have been making plenty of hay over US-funded technology “heading east”. This could be a deciding factor when the sale is be approved (or blocked) by Delaware Bankruptcy Court at a hearing scheduled for today. Another is the fact that Wanxiang already generates about $1 billion of  revenue in the US.