Tag: "energy storage"

06/25/17

  07:19:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 403 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Utilities, Ranting

Solar Boom Devolves to Power "Glut"

The LA Times today is out with an article titled, “Energy goes to waste as state power glut grows“.  The article describes how as solar power has grown dramatically in the Golden State, it has lead to a problem that has caused the state to actually pay neighboring Arizona to take our surplus energy!  Meanwhile the IOUs are badgering the CPUC to allow them to spend billions on additional natural-gas-fired power plants!  This is crazy town, and points to the need to radically redesign the incentives provided to utilities in the state.  Here’s our take…

Utility-scale pv

Utility-scale PV in Kern County (Image: LA Times)

According to the LA Times report, as recently as 2010, solar accounted for less than 1% of the electricity produced in California.  Fast-forward to last year and solar provided 13.8% of California’s electricity, with 9.6% from utility-scale projects like the one on the right, and an estimated 4.2% from residential and commercial installations.

Surely that is a good thing, as California continues on its path to getting 50% - and ultimately 100% - of its energy from renewables. But we aren’t going to get there paying our neighbors to take our surplus energy.  And it certainly makes no sense for utilities that are already overbuilt, to be spending ratepayer money on even more fossil-fueled generation capacity.

The perverse incentive here is that the IOUs - SCE, PG&E, and SDG&E - earn their money by building stuff, whether that stuff is used or not.  So it would seem that the trick here is to get them to build The Right Stuff, which certainly isn’t another natural gas peaker plant.  Instead, the clear winner here should be storage, particularly storage at utility scale. Bring enough intelligent storage into the mix and goodbye “Duck Curve” and hello a fossil-fuel-free future.

The CPUC should be providing the same rate-making incentive to build vast amounts of storage, even if at a premium price, rather than non-renewable generation capacity.  No renewable facility should ever have its output curtailed (as has happened 31% of the time in the first few months of this year), and no renewable energy should ever be exported to a neighboring state, except when such an export serves the economic interest of California ratepayers.

California is going to get to 100% renewables, we have to, as does the world.  We can and should show the way, but we will need to change the way utilities approach the problem if we are to get there anytime soon.

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12/31/15

  09:01:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 826 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Tax Incentives, Climate Change, Ranting, Energy Storage, Net Metering

Top 5 Reasons Solar Soared in 2015!

There can be no doubt, 2015 was an amazing year for solar.  As we reach the end of the year, here’s our look back on the top five reasons solar soared in 2015!

5. Run on Sun had its Best Year Ever!

Run on Sun Top 500 Solar Contractors

While not the most important reason for solar overall, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that thanks to our wonderful clients, 2015 was our best year by far!  From our largest project ever for our favorite water company, to adding another school to our portfolio, to the many residential projects that we built all across Southern California, 2015 was a great year.

We took great pride in being recognized, for the third year in a row, as being one of the top Solar Contractors in the country by the wonderful folks at Solar Power World, and even more pride in the scores of referrals that we received from our ecstatic clients.

We can’t wait to meet and exceed our success this past year in the New Year ahead!

4. Politicians that Got It!

Political leadership on dealing with Climate Change was finally in evidence this year, and the resultant policies are, inevitably, pro-solar.  Exhibit A was California Governor Jerry Brown pledging to have the state generate 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, a mere fifteen years away!  Said the Governor:

I envision a wide range of initiatives: more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles.

We are on board with that!

But  political leadership extended far beyond the borders of our great state in 2015!  More than 190 countries came together in Paris to agree to the most far-reaching accord ever to address Climate Change, and lots more solar was high on their list of ways to achieve a more sustainable planet.

To be sure, none of these actions were without their political opponents, but it is impossible to deny that 2015 marked a major turning point in the public’s perception of the need to act, and those views were increasingly adopted by the world’s politicians.

3. Smart Energy Storage (Finally) Comes of Age (Almost)!

Ok, we have to give the man his due — Elon Musk’s outlandish PowerWall announcement changed the conversation around smart energy storage (and our blog post debunking his most outrageous claims became our most viewed post of the year!).  Indeed, storage went from being a topic hardly ever mentioned by a potential client, to something that nearly everyone did after Elon did his thing.

Unfortunately, the hype still leads the market, and mature products are still not really available.  But that is changing rapidly, and from our perspective that can’t happen soon enough.

2. Net Metering 2.0 Saves Solar in California — We Hope!

There had been great angst in the solar community about the future of net metering — the means by which solar owners get compensated for excess energy that they put out onto the grid — in California (and elsewhere).  Decisions about net metering in other states that bent over backwards to appease utility demands only ratcheted up the anxiety in California as the state’s Public Utilities Commission deliberated over competing proposals for Net Metering 2.0 - including utility schemes that could have gutted the market for solar.

Fortunately our fears were not realized and the preliminary decision — due to be made final in January — was quite solar friendly.  Once we have a final decision we will report on it in depth, but for now this looks like one of the biggest pro-solar developments of 2015.

1. Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit is Extended!

Losing money if the ITC goes away!The number one, most amazing, and most amazingly unexpected development to boost solar in 2015 is unquestionably the major extension of the 30% federal solar investment tax credit (ITC).

Given that the ITC was previously scheduled to expire at the end of 2016, solar installers, potential clients, utilities, and building departments alike were all bracing for what could have been a hellish second half of next year as all involved scrambled to get systems commissioned before the deadline.

Instead, the full 30% will continue through 2019, 26% in 2020, 22% in 2021, and 10% thereafter.  Moreover, the “placed in service” language — which required a project to be commissioned before the credit could be claimed, thereby leaving installers and clients at the not-so-tender mercies of the local utility — was replaced by the far more manageable, “commenced construction” requirement.

The net benefit of this will be a more orderly market, driven by rational purchasing decisions rather than a panicked stampede to meet an arbitrary deadline at the end of next year.  And beyond that, keeping the ITC in place for many years to come will help to grow solar in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.  The industry, the economy, and the environment were all winners here.

So that’s our wrap on 2015 — truly a great year for solar!  But we are betting that 2016 — with your help, of course — will be even better!  Watch this space!

Happy New Year!

07/23/13

  09:23:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1108 words  
Categories: SCE, Energy Storage, Net Metering

SCE Clarifies Policy on Storage & Net-Metering

Yesterday we received a somewhat cryptic message from SCE titled, Battery-Backed Storage System and Net Energy Metering Eligibility.  The external memo announces SCE’s decision to “add additional features and impose additional conditions for a customer’s participation in Net Energy Metering (NEM) in order for SCE to ensure compliance with the NEM tariff."  Not sure any of SCE’s customers would consider these changes a “feature” but we decided that this should see a broader readership.  Accordingly, we are publishing the memo in its entirety.

Here it is:

 

EXTERNAL MEMORANDUM



To: California Solar Initiative (CSI) and Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) Contractors
From: Southern California Edison, Distributed Generation Customer Solutions
Date: July 22, 2013
Re: Battery-Backed Storage System and Net Energy Metering Eligibility


In recent months, Southern California Edison (SCE) has received interconnection application packages for solar photovoltaic (PV) coupled with a battery storage device. Since inverters have become more sophisticated, multiple DC energy sources, such as PV and battery storage systems, can now be configured behind a single inverter. If the design of a renewable generator is modified so that the battery storage system is integrated into the generator, SCE cannot separately meter the energy from the renewable PV generator and the non-renewable battery. As a result, SCE has to add additional features and impose additional conditions for a customer’s participation in Net Energy Metering (NEM) in order for SCE to ensure compliance with the NEM tariff.

SCE proposes to allow NEM participation for combined systems as outlined in (1) or (2) below:

1.        If the battery storage device can only charge using energy generated from the renewable generator and not from the grid. In this case the battery storage device is considered an enhancement of the renewable generator. Technically speaking, power flow to the battery storage device from the Alternating Current (AC) source of the inverter is not permitted under any conditions. Thus, the inverter permits only power flow from the Direct Current (DC) energy source to the AC energy source of the inverter. This would mean that the battery storage device does not and cannot be configured to have the ability to charge from the grid.  SCE will require the manufacturer to provide a technical write-up on the manner in which this requirement will be accomplished as well as a testing plan to prove this operational method. If this condition is satisfied, SCE will allow the renewable generator to operate under schedule NEM.

2.        If the battery storage device is charged using energy from the grid, then protection and/or control systems must be put in place so that it can never discharge to the grid.  In this case, the battery storage device is considered a non-NEM generator and acts as a non-exporting generator.  Technically speaking, if the inverter permits power flow from the AC side to the DC source where the battery storage device is connected, then power flow from the battery storage device to the grid is not permitted.  In other words, the battery storage device and control systems must be designed to shut down the storage device when the power flow into the facility at the Point of Common Coupling (PCC) deviates from Rule 21 under power option requirements. This method will ensure that the export will only reflect energy flow from the renewable generator, consistent with the concept of the Multiple Tariff Technology in Schedule NEM, Special Condition 5 described below.  If this condition is satisfied, SCE will allow the renewable PV generator to operate under schedule NEM.  

In the past, SCE received applications for renewable generators combined with storage/battery systems in which the generator and the energy storage unit had separate dedicated inverters. The renewable generator and storage/battery were not integrated as one system behind a single inverter. For these types of configurations with separate inverters, SCE treats the renewable generator as an NEM generator if they satisfy all of the NEM eligibility criteria and the storage system as a non-NEM generator.  These configurations are considered Multiple Tariff Generating Facilities (Special Condition 5, Schedule NEM), which allowed SCE to separately meter the output of each unit to deduce electricity from the renewable and non-renewable resources. SCE provided NEM credit only to the renewable portion of the electricity exported under the NEM tariff.  

SCE’s tariff, Schedule NEM, Special Condition 5, requires that if a generating facility configuration includes NEM and non-NEM generators, to be eligible for NEM, the generating facility must interconnect as a Multiple Tariff Generation Facilities under Generation Facilities Interconnection Application (Form 14-732) and Multiple Tariff Interconnection Agreement (Form 14-773).  This special condition provides that, if you (1) install a Net Generation Output Meter (NGOM) on the NEM-eligible generator (such as PV) or (2) install protection and/or control systems such as non-export relays on the battery storage device to prevent the export of energy from the battery to the electric grid, NEM benefits will be provided to energy associated with the NEM-eligible renewable PV generator. If neither of the two options are selected and if the combined export of the generating facilities is determined not to exceed 1 megawatt (MW), the customer can choose to interconnect under the Non-Export Interconnection Agreement (Form 14-731 or 14-742) using the (uncompensated) Export Addendum (Form 14-931) whereby SCE will not give the customer any NEM credit offset or any type of compensation for any generation energy exported to the grid.

Given the necessary technical review needed to evaluate NEM compliance, SCE has determined that pending interconnection applications with a combined PV and battery storage device will need to re-apply for interconnection under the Interconnection Application and one of the applicable Interconnection Agreements shown below:
·        Form 14-732: Generation Facilities Interconnection Application (Required in all cases)
·        Form 14-773: Generating Facility Interconnection Agreement – Multiple Tariff (For projects with an NEM-eligible PV generator)
·        Form 14-731: Non-Export Interconnection Agreement with Form 14-931: Export Addendum (For projects with a PV generator that is ineligible for NEM)

Submit an application package to [email protected] with the appropriate fees and application. For questions regarding the application process, send an email to [email protected] or call 626-302-3688.

SCE wants to emphasize that throughout the industry changes in the design of PV generators and the way battery storage systems are integrated into PV generators, SCE’s position on NEM eligibility has never changed. SCE provides NEM benefits only to customers for energy exported from a renewable resource as outlined in SCE’s tariff and in accordance with California Public Utilities Code Section 2827, et seq.

Southern California Edison
California Solar Initiative

Well that cleared things up.

We aren’t entirely sure what the effect of this policy will be except that it will certainly make the application process more involved and therefore more expensive.

But then, no one really thought that the IOUs were going to make adding smart storage to PV systems easy, did they?

06/29/13

  08:04:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 452 words  
Categories: Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Energy Storage

Energy Storage - Coming to a Utility, and Perhaps a Roof, Near You

If the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has its way, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) around the state will have a mandate to acquire 1,325 MW of storage capacity by 2020 as part of the plan to have one-third of all electricity come from renewable sources, according to a report from Bloomberg.

The CPUC’s proposed ruling would allow IOUs to acquire energy storage as part of the “general rate case” process by which utilities build infrastructure and pass the cost on to their rate payers.

Energy storage can help

Energy storage is widely viewed as a critical piece of adding more renewable sources to the grid, given its ability to smooth out the peaks and valleys that come with renewable sources like solar PV and wind.  Possible storage technologies include lithium-ion batteries and even molten salt to store heat to later run a turbine to produce electricity.  Cost of this exercise? As much as $3 billion, or $2.26/Watt.

The proposed rule making is the result of legislation, AB 2514, by our old friend Nancy Skinner, and it is evident that the CPUC “gets it":

Energy storage has the potential to transform how the California electric system is conceived, designed, and operated. In so doing, energy storage has the potential to offer services needed as California seeks to maximize the value of its generation and transmission investments: optimizing the grid to avoid or defer investments in new fossil fuel-powered plants, integrating renewable power, and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposal allocates portions of the 1,325 total to each IOU with SCE targeted to procure 580 MW of storage, of which 80 MW should be customer side, as opposed to transmission or distribution connected.

A final adoption of storage targets is due in October.

Meanwhile, in a separate but related announcement, SolarCity made some news when it disclosed that it intends to incorporate a storage offering by 2015 that would serve customers without net metering.  In other words, the storage system would be capable of storing any excess energy created by the solar power system and then feeding it back to local loads without ever sending any energy back onto the grid.  If such a system could be deployed in a cost-effective manner, it would eviscerate the utility’s “fairness” argument in opposing the additional penetration of solar.

But can it be cost-effective?  SolarCity is hoping that its partnership with Tesla Motors will enable it to procure battery packs at a low enough cost to succeed in this new arena.

Of course, a successful energy storage system is more than just batteries, and as we head to Intersolar in a little over a week, a great deal of attention there will be devoted to the energy storage realm.  We will be there and will report back after the show.

04/05/13

  09:40:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 337 words  
Categories: Solar News, Energy Storage

Energy Storage Debate Grows

We have been writing a lot lately about energy storage - so much so that we have finally created a blog category just for energy storage - and it seems everywhere we turn, others are writing about it as well.  Today’s example, a long piece over at Renewable Energy World by James Montgomery titled, Energy Storage Series: Why We Need It, And Why We Don’t.  The piece is an interesting read, but perhaps even more thought provoking - or at least farther outside the box, are the comments.

The article quotes from industry sources both in the energy storage business and on the generation side.  The storage folks insist that they have (or will have soon) practical solutions while the generation folks lament that those solutions are simply not cost-effective yet.

Our experience so far comes down on the side of the generation folks - what we have looked at to date is simply not practical for our potential applications, though we keep looking.  For those who are also interested in looking, here are some links to the storage companies cited in the article:

  • Demand Energy - creator of the Joule.System™
  • enerG2 - a producer of carbons for energy storage applications

The Demand Energy product looks intriguing, and we will write more when we learn more.

Meanwhile, the commenters took the discussion in directions not touched on by the article, including the prospect of converting excess renewable production into hydrogen.  (Including an interesting sidebar on Hydrail transportation with the declaration that “Hydrail is to Diesel as Diesel was to Steam.")  We have long been fascinated with the prospect of converting excess solar power to hydrogen gas to feed back via a fuel cell, but again, have dismissed it so far as simply not yet practical (we would love to be shown otherwise!).

Bottom line - energy storage is where its at.  Lots of attention, lots of money and lots of need.  It is definitely a space to watch and sometime soon we will be making it a standard product offering - the sooner the better.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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