April 11th, 2014 by James Greenberger
April 5th, 2014 by James Greenberger
As previously announced in this newsletter, several months ago InterSolar North America, the largest solar energy trade show in North America, reached out to NAATBatt for assistance in developing program content relating to energy storage technology for the InterSolar North America show on July 7-10, 2014, at the Mascone Center in San Francisco. InterSolar North America had 26,000+ attendees last year and expects the 2014 show to be even larger. InterSolar’s reaching out to NAATBatt indicates that the solar industry’s interest in storage technology is reaching a fever pitch.
That interest is well-founded. Although storage will in time perform many functions on the grid and will involve a wide variety of storage technologies, the function likely to generate the biggest market opportunity for storage technology the soonest is addressing grid stability issues and power pricing issues arising out of the surging deployment of distributed solar PV systems.
As I wrote a couple weeks ago, the growth of distributed generation (largely PV solar) is largely self-perpetuating: The effect of the first group of traditional electric utility customers leaving the grid to self-generate is to raise the cost of centralized electricity for those utility customers still on the grid. That rising cost (combined with the falling price of solar PV panels) will in turn drive additional customers off the grid. This vicious cycle of distributed generation was described by David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, at the ARPA-E Summit last February. Energy storage is an essential component of off-grid, distributed PV systems.
Elon Musk also seems to have recognized this vicious cycle and is betting heavily on it. Properly understood, the proposed Tesla Gigafactory is less a bet on the future of the electric vehicle market than on the future of the market for distributed, solar PV systems and the demand for lithium-ion batteries that those systems will generate.
With the importance of storage technology clearly in mind, InterSolar has invited the following NAATBatt members to make presentations during the InterSolar North America general session on Monday, July 7: Michael Starke (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Charlie Vartanian (UniEnergy Technologies), Bob Galyen (ATL), Monica Minarcin (ATC New Technologies), John Merrit (Ideal Power), Mark Willingham (Manz USA), Tom Melling (1Energy Systems), Dan Cox (UL), Dan Cass (GCube Insurance) and Dan Nordloh (ZBB Energy). Information about the general session and the InterSolar North America 2014 show can be found at: http://www.intersolar.us
In addition to the general session on July 7, NAATBatt member firms will produce a special workshop on storage for PV developers and integrators on July 10. The details of this workshop were worked out earlier this week by the NAATBatt InterSolar committee. The NAATBatt Storage Workshop will be titled “Using Storage to Juice the Value of Solar PV” and will run for three hours beginning at 9:00 a.m. PDT. It will consist of four panel discussions entitled, respectively: “Using Storage with Residential & Commercial Customer PV Systems – Net Metering and Other Issues,” “Integrating Utility-Owned Solar PV with the Grid: How Storage Can Create Value,” “Enhancing the Value of IPP-Owned and Behind the Meter PV Systems with Storage,” and “Microgrids: A Major Market Opportunity for PV and Storage.” Thanks to Charlie Vartanian (UniEnergy Technologies), Tom Melling (1Energy Systems), Dave Lucero (EaglePicher), and Troy Miller (S&C Electric) for agreeing to moderate these panels and to Nick Hennan (Digatron), who will be acting as chair and general ringmaster of the workshop.
I am excited about this program and proud of the NAATBatt committee that pulled it together in a very short time. The distributed solar PV market is a major growth opportunity for the energy storage industry and the growth of solar PV will positively impact the bottom line of everyone involved in the energy storage supply chain. With the InterSolar North America storage program, NAATBatt puts itself on the map as an association clearly focused on what is likely to be the most exciting market opportunity in our industry. Don’t forget to mark your calendar (and make your hotel reservations soon—hotel space really does go quickly as this is the largest trade show each year in San Francisco): July 7-10, 2014 in San Francisco.
March 28th, 2014 by James Greenberger
NAATBatt’s standing committee on Harmonization of Standards held a meeting last Friday to set the objectives of the committee for 2014. The Harmonization of Standards Committee was formed in order to address a growing concern among NAATBatt members that with multiple standards initiatives ongoing around the world dealing with multiple battery applications, little was being done to coordinate these efforts and to ensure that standards set in one application or one country do not impair the use of battery systems in other countries or in other applications
The Committee started the meeting by attempting to identify the standards setting initiatives that are already underway for battery and energy storage systems. Two committee members, DNV GL and UL LLC, reported that they were already engaged in internal projects to identify ongoing standards setting projects related to batteries.
Both DNV GL and UL shared with the Committee the preliminary results of their surveys of standards setting initiatives. The DNV GL and UL surveys, as well as comments from other committee members, indicate that there are multiple standard setting initiatives underway all around the world. Each of those standards setting activities tends to focus on one or more specific applications of energy storage, on one or more aspect of system operation, and on one or more level of the storage system.
The committee initially identified the following applications in which stand setting is actively underway: telecom, automotive, photovoltaic, grid/utility, and UPS. Specific system attributes include: performance, operation and safety. System levels that are the subject of standards setting include chemistry, cell, system and communications.
Given the wide range of standards setting underway, the committee concluded that NAATBatt could contribute little by engaging directly in the standards setting process itself. The committee concluded instead that the most valuable thing that NAATBatt can do for the industry is to try to make sense of the extraordinarily complex and crowded field of standards setting in electrochemical energy storage systems and to present those standards to industry in a way that companies, banks and insurers can understand and use.
As it so happens the current hot application in information technology—networked data—ideally lends itself to achieving the committee’s objectives. Rather than simply publishing a summary of standards pertaining to energy storage systems (which would be outdated within months), the committee’s idea is to create a participatory network, which will allow the individuals and entities working on standards to contribute their latest work and information to a common network. That network is, for the moment, being called “WikiBatt”. Members of NAATBatt, all employees of companies actively working in the advanced battery industry, will act as the editors of WikiBatt and will edit and categorize the contributions to it in order to make them a convenient and informative database for everyone in the industry.
I look forward to the participation of all NAATBatt member firms in making WikiBatt a reality. Creating uniform standards for the safety, performance and operation of energy storage systems is critical to growing the market for advanced electrochemical energy storage systems. But just as critical as creating the standards is communicating what those standards are and coordinating among the various standards setting bodies in order to prevent duplication and conflict. This is the role that NAATBatt’s Harmonization of Standards Committee and its WikiBatt platform will undertake.
March 21st, 2014 by James Greenberger
According to industry analysts, world-wide installation of photovoltaic systems has hit a record high with 31.1 GW as of 2013. IHS Research predicts the global sales for PV systems, with energy storage, to rise to almost US$ 30 billion by 2017. If IHS Research is correct, servicing the needs of photovoltaic installations may become the largest single application for electrochemical energy storage technology within the next few years.
With this prospect in mind, NAATBatt has signed a partnership agreement with InterSolar North America 2014, the largest solar energy conference in North America, with a view to educating developers of photovoltaic energy projects, from residential all the way to utility scale installations, about how electricity storage can be used to turbocharge economic return.
A committee of NAATBatt firms has been advising InterSolar as to the contents of the energy storage portion of the InterSolar North America 2014 program. NAATBatt members ZBB Energy, UET Technologies, ATL, Ideal Power, Manz USA, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1Energy Systems, UL and GCube are already confirmed as presenters during the general portion of InterSolar’s program on July 7-9, 2014, with members EaglePicher Technologies, ATC New Technologies and S&C Electric expected soon to confirm presentations during the program.
The privilege of presenting at InterSolar North America 2014 is no small matter. Attendance at the conference is expected to be about 27,000. This dwarfs the largest energy storage events ever held in North America by multiples of 10’s.
In addition to assisting with the general InterSolar North America conference, NAATBatt has been invited to produce a half-day workshop on energy storage on the last day of the InterSolar North America program, Thursday, July 10. Over the next few weeks, NAATBatt will be developing this program. The exact focus of the workshop has yet to be determined, though one possible topic may be the resistance of California utilities to deploying storage on residential systems and possible solutions that can address utility concerns (i.e., safety of line workers and accurately identifying renewably generated electricity). I welcome input from NAATBatt member firms that believe they may have something to contribute to this program.
NAATBatt’s partnership with InterSolar marks a new threshold in NAATBatt’s development: NAATBatt is now the “go to” resource in the private sector for information and educational programing about the benefits of energy storage for industries, such as PV solar, that are looking to use electrochemical energy storage technology to enhance their own financial returns. This is a great opportunity for the advanced battery/ultracapacitor community. I would urge you, our members, to take full advantage of it.
March 14th, 2014 by James Greenberger
NAATBatt will work with companies active in ultracapacitor technology to reestablish and revitalize the work of Kilofarad International, a trade group focused on ultracapacitor technology. Founded in 2002, Kilofarad International led efforts to provide education about ultracapacitors, to develop industry standards and specifications for users and manufacturers, and to establish regulations for infrastructure, transportation and recycling. Kilofarad International operated as a division of the Electronic Components Association before becoming inactive a few years ago.
This is an important time for the ultracapacitor community to restart Kilofarad International’s work. Ultracapacitor technology, much like advanced battery technology, has made steady progress over the past several years and is likely to become a mainstream technology in automotive and grid-connected energy storage applications sooner than many appreciate.
Kilofarad International played an important role in promoting United Nations model regulations for the shipping and handling of ultracapacitors. The new Kilofarad International committee of NAATBatt will continue this work and continue Kilofarad International’s other past efforts to support ultracapacitor technology.
Chad Hall of Ioxus and Michael Everett of Maxwell Technologies will serve as the co-chairs of the Kilofarad International committee. NAATBatt firms interested in ultracapacitor technology, or just interested in keeping close tabs on it, are strongly encouraged to join the committee. The committee’s organizational telephone conference call will take place early next month.
Contact Chad Hall, Michael Everett or me for more information.
March 7th, 2014 by James Greenberger
NY-BEST’s excellent “Capture the Energy” conference concluded this week in Troy, New York. The program addressed a number of topics. But several speakers suggesting that large scale stationary electricity storage (ESS) is nearing the “tipping point”, in terms of becoming a commercially viable tool on the grid, generated the most excitement.
Optimistic predictions about the near term prospects of ESS commercial viability were, however, tempered by a number of concerns. One of the biggest was that, given a lack of standards for ESS equipment and systems, widespread near term deployment of ESS systems could result in a sort of Wild West situation, where some systems of questionable quality are deployed on the grid. If those systems fail or have serious safety incidents, the blowback could adversely impact the industry.
The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity is already working on a roadmap for ESS safety. Sandia National Laboratory hosted an initial working group meeting three weeks ago, the conclusions of which were shared at the NY-BEST conference. It appears, based on remarks made by several speakers, and some informal discussions during the breaks, that there is growing sentiment favoring some sort of certification program for ESS equipment and systems. Under such a program, ESS equipment and systems would be subject to third party testing and certification, similar to what is done today by UL and CSA for consumer products.
Although an ESS certification program would have a number of benefits for the ESS industry, a proposed program is likely to face skepticism from some ESS manufacturers. Many manufacturers believe that their systems already adhere to quality standards well in excess of the standards that would be certified. Those same manufacturers are likely to view certification as an unnecessary expense imposed on businesses already struggling to survive in the ESS space.
In fact, a certification program for ESS equipment and systems would benefit the ESS industry in the long run. But for that idea to get traction in the short run, the manufacturers being asked to participate must see some more immediate benefit to themselves.
One benefit that might attract participation by manufacturers is if certification of ESS equipment and systems could somehow be part of a larger scheme to make the projects in which ESS systems are deployed financeable. Today, it is virtually impossible to finance large scale ESS projects because lenders are unwilling to accept technology risk on still novel ESS technology. But this could potentially change if that technology risk could be off-loaded on to a third party. ESS certification might provide a mechanism that will permit, or at least encourage, that off-loading of risk.
Here is how it might work: A lender would underwrite an ESS project based on its pro forma financial performance, but would require a guaranty that the technological performance of the project will perform as anticipated over a certain period of time. That guaranty would be provided by a state or local economic development authority, probably one having jurisdiction over the community in which the ESS equipment supplier is located, such as New York State’s new Green Bank initiative. The development authority would purchase excess liability insurance on its guaranty from a third party private insurer. Both the development authority and the insurer will rely upon (and perhaps share in revenues with) the third party certifier.
There are a number of other ways that certification could be used in order to make ESS projects financeable. But the bottom line is that to make an ESS certification program work, and to garner the support necessary to give that program traction in the ESS industry, the prospect of certification much be dealt with as part of a larger problem. That problem is the financiability of ESS projects and the financial community, the government and private insurers, as well as certification providers, must all be at the table when it is discussed.
February 28th, 2014 by James Greenberger
The NAATBatt Board of Directors met this week to outline NAATBatt’s strategic objectives for 2014. The Board identified five areas of strategic focus for the coming year and authorized the formation of committees to address each of them. Interested employees of NAATBatt member firms are invited to participate in one of more of the following committees created by the Board:
- Education Committee. The Board decided that in 2014 NAATBatt will organize educational programming to help build knowledge and familiarity with electrochemical energy storage technology among potential customers, regulators and the general public. The Committee will organize webinars and workshops as appropriate to fulfill its educational mission. Ralph Brodd (Broddarp), John Butkowski (Beckett) and John Warner (Magna) will co-chair this committee.
- International Membership Development Committee. The advanced battery business is not limited by national boundaries. U.S. companies want to sell abroad. Non-U.S. based companies want to sell in the U.S. NAATBatt wants to be a resource to all. The International Membership Development Committee will be charged with promoting the internationalization of NAATBatt’s mission and encouraging the participation of non-U.S. based companies in NAATBatt. Carlos Helou (Tronox), Zak Kuznar (Duke) and Len Peters (Kentucky) will head this effort.
- Harmonization of Standards Committee. NAATBatt is not itself a standards setting body. But our Board is increasingly concerned that the standard setting bodies for specific battery applications (e.g., automotive, grid systems, etc.) are not communicating with each other. As batteries designed for one application are increasingly deployed as solutions in other applications, the need for consistency among standards is becoming increasingly apparent and urgent. Dan Cass (GCube), Dirk Spiers (ATC), and Pablo Valencia (General Motors) will lead a NAATBatt effort to help harmonize evolving standards.
- Ultracapacitor/KiloFarad International Committee. For several years, KiloFarad International acted as an advocate of ultracapacitor technology and performed valuable work on ultracapacitor standards and regulation. Through this new committee, NAATBatt will pick up where KiloFarad International left off. This will be NAATBatt’s first technology specific committee. Michael Everett (Maxwell) and Chad Hall (Ioxus) are expected to lead it.
- 2015 Annual Meeting Committee. Planning for the 2015 NAATBatt Annual Meeting is now underway. The 2015 meeting will build on the success, and revisit some of the very popular content, of the 2014 annual meeting recently concluded in San Diego. Steve Vechy (EnerSys) will be leading a committee of members interested in planning the 2015 program.
I would encourage all NAATBatt members to serve on one of these committees. Committee service is a great way to help move the entire industry forward and an even better way to get to know your fellow members and get full value out of your NAATBatt membership. NAATBatt members should keep an eye out for the committee sign-up invitation, which you will receive soon by e-mail.
February 22nd, 2014 by James Greenberger
I had the pleasure this past week of attending the ARPA-E Summit in Washington, D.C. The ARPA-E Summit is always for me one of the most interesting programs on the industry calendar. Although the Summit focuses primarily on highlighting new energy technologies, much of its program is devoted to discussing the future of energy and the future of the economy more generally. These discussions are often more interesting than the individual new technologies themselves.
This year was no exception. Several speakers and panelists talked about the future of microgrids, distributed generation and distributed storage. Although there was plenty of good news about progress in those technologies and the market opportunities relating to them, the good news was tempered, as usual, by many bemoaning the high price of those new technologies and the need for utilities to move slowly in adopting them.
A new insight for me in thinking about these problems, however, came from David Crane, President and CEO of NRG Energy. Mr. Crane reminded the audience that for all the problems with new energy technologies, the challenges faced by traditional electricity providers may be even worse. Electricity demand in the United States is likely to fall, as electricity consumption becomes increasingly efficient. Mr. Crain opined that this trend will likely accelerate as energy efficiency becomes a function of automation rather than a function of choice. Customers are no longer going to be customers, in the traditional sense. Customers will increasingly be looking to compete with traditional utilities, rather than to just be served by them, with the most lucrative of those customers often being the first to reduce consumption or go off-grid entirely. The traditional electricity business, complained Mr. Crane, is a lousy business.
Schadenfreude is no virtue, but it does have its moments. Mr. Crane reminds us that in thinking about the financial challenges of microgrids, distributed generation systems and distributed energy storage, it is important to remember the question: “Compared to what?”
Mr. Crane noted that one of the consequences of the challenges facing the traditional electricity business is that financing large grid scale projects will become more difficult, as the entities that have in the past owned or used those projects become less creditworthy. This probably means that the cost of traditional, centralized electricity will be going up over time. At the same time, the cost of microgrids, distributed generation and the energy storage devices upon which they depend will almost certainly be going down.
The economic challenges we face in deploying energy storage on the grid are real. But they do not exist in a vacuum. It may well be that because of changes that are happening in the wider electricity business, many new energy technologies, including distributed energy storage, may become economically attractive a lot sooner than many may think.
February 14th, 2014 by James Greenberger
Although EV and PHEV sales in the United States continue at a pace that is better than disappointing, the budding enthusiasm for electric drive of a few years ago seems to be fading. Serious concerns about the cost effectiveness of using EV’s and PHEV’s to reduce petroleum consumption and the efficacy of using EV’s and PHEV’s to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (considering the source of the electricity they use) have steadily undermined enthusiasm for electric drive among those who view it largely as an environmental proposition.
The one bright spot in the EV industry, Tesla Motors, has taken a different approach to promoting EV’s. In listening to conversations at dinner parties, I am struck by the reason that relatively well-off suburbanites want to buy a Model S: They want to buy one because it is cool. What makes it cool is that it is a high tech vehicle with a lot of high tech amenities. The fact that the Model S is an electric vehicle is part of what makes the vehicle high tech. But the fact that the Model S is an electric vehicle is not itself the selling point. I suspect that few of the suburban housewives I hear talking rhapsodically about the Model S would ever buy an EV just to own an EV.
It may be that Elon Musk has duplicated Steve Jobs’ feat of turning an item of technology into an item of fashion. But more likely Elon has simply rediscovered why people buy a car: because they develop an emotional attachment to it.
There is a lesson in Tesla’s success that the rest of the electric drive industry would benefit by learning: Selling EV’s and PHEV’s may be less about selling environmental benefits than about selling a sexy and exciting new technology.
If sexy and high tech is the way it needs to go, the EV industry needs to get serious about building that image. Fortunately, it has a lot to work with. EV’s really do have a lot more torque than comparably powered ICE’s and their lower center of gravity makes for better handling and a better driving experience. The fact that EV’s are also cleaner and quieter is a bonus, though perhaps not the principal point.
Promoting the new, sexy, high tech nature of electric drive is something the EV industry needs to get behind. The new FIA Formula E Championship racing series therefore bears consideration. The Formula E championship features single-seater cars powered exclusively by electric energy. Commencing in September 2014 through to June 2015, the championship will compete on the streets of 10 of the world’s leading cities, including Beijing, Los Angeles and London.
Motor races, particularly those that take place on city streets (think Monaco Grand Prix), are expensive, high risk events. But they are also high visibility events that convey an image of sex, power and high technology. In the case of Formula E, it might also take on a nationalistic element (i.e., can an American-made battery (after receiving billions of dollars of federal government support) outperform one made in China, Japan or Korea?).
The future of electric drive may lie in playing to its inherent performance advantages over internal combustion engines and its emotional appeal as an exciting new technology. If so, companies other than Tesla need to step up and start driving that message home with consumers.
February 7th, 2014 by James Greenberger
NAATBatt provides a number of benefits for our member firms. But none is more valuable than the ability to network in the industry and to grow a member firm’s visibility. NAATBatt has developed a unique program to help members do this. The program is called the Members Site Visit meeting, and attendance at such meetings is a key benefit of NAATBatt membership.
Members Site Visit meetings offer the opportunity for one of our members agrees to open its facilities to all other NAATBatt member firms. The meetings generally include a presentation by the hosting firm about its history, business and capabilities followed by a tour of its manufacturing facilities (carefully redacted to protect confidential information). Following the meeting, members adjourn to a special, members only reception and dinner at a restaurant of local note. Most of the business and relationship building takes place over dinner and cocktails. These programs are free to NAATBatt members; their cost is included in regular membership dues. There is no program anywhere that is more effective in promoting networking, business development, and the growth of a U.S. advanced battery community than a NAATBatt Members Site Visit Meeting.
I am pleased to announce that the next NAATBatt Members Site Visit Meeting will be hosted by EnerDel in Indianapolis, Indiana on Wednesday, May 21. The meeting will be held in conjunction with the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s annual meeting on May 19-21 (see: http://www.edta2014.com/). NAATBatt members will have the opportunity to attend the EDTA show and, following its conclusion, go to EnerDel for a deep dive into advanced battery technology and industry networking.
EnerDel will be a fascinating tour. Tracing its roots to Delphi and GM’s EV1 program in the 1990’s, EnerDel was the winner of a major DOE FOA-26 award in 2009 but subsequently ran into trouble when the EV expectation bubble burst in the early part of this decade. After a sojourn in the bankruptcy courts, EnerDel and its affiliates have emerged with new financing and a focus on grid-connected and industrial batteries (as well as some heavy transportation applications). EnerDel’s batteries are providing power back-up at the Sochi Olympics. As the market for grid-connected storage grows in the United States, it is likely that EnerDel will become a major player in that market as well. The meeting and tour at EnerDel is a great opportunity for NAATBatt members to see EnerDel’s capabilities and better to understand its needs as well as those of every other major battery manufacturer.
More information about the meeting at EnerDel on May 21 will be distributed shortly. But I would highly encourage members to mark their calendars for this event. The meeting will be an opportunity to visit EnerDel, catch the EDTA show and see the Indy 500 (which will be held the weekend following the EnerDel meeting) all in the same trip. Don’t miss this one.
For the past several months a committee of NAATBatt member firms has been working with a group of electric utilities, EPRI, Sandia National Laboratory and DNV GL on a project to ascertain industry’s view as to how U.S. Department of Energy financial support could be most effective in moving distributed energy storage technology into widespread commercial application.
The project interviewed 39 commercial entities involved in electricity storage, including 18 electric utilities that have deployed or studied the deployment of DES systems. The interviews sought to determine the issues that utilities are attempting to address by using electricity storage, the applications of storage that are being used to address those issues, and the barriers and disincentives to deploying storage that utilities are facing. The interviews asked respondents to rank the various applications of electricity storage by value in order to determine which applications of distributed storage customers view as being the most beneficial.
The initial results of the project report, which will be published in later this month, will likely suggest that future, government-funded demonstration projects have a different focus than those in the past. There is a growing consensus that the technical feasibility of storage systems has largely been proven. What is still left to be demonstrated, however, is the ability of distributed energy storage systems to bundle and effectively administer a sufficient number of services such that the aggregate value of those services justifies the significant costs of deploying such systems on the grid. Demonstrating the economic efficacy of distributed energy storage, the report will likely conclude, should be the principal focus of DOE storage programs going forward.
In the view of many project participants the key to demonstrating the economic efficacy of storage is developing and demonstrating communications and controls systems that can effectively manage and maximize the value of multiple grid services provided by a single (or group of networked) storage systems. Although several existing projects use such systems to bundle and administer multiple storage services, there appears to be a general consensus that much more development and demonstration of communications and controls systems is needed.
At the last meeting of the project advisory committee, held in San Diego on January 24, the participants agreed to extend the term of the DES project in order to allow participants more time to suggest specific demonstration projects focused on communications and controls systems for inclusion in the project report. It is anticipated that the report will recommend some of these specific demonstration projects for funding by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Project recommendations are due by February 10 with a final conference call among participants to discuss recommended projects on February 14. NAATBatt expects to release the final report of the DES Demonstration Project advisory committee later this month.