NAATBatt Blog

NAATBatt Intersolar Workshop to Examine Safety and Policy Questions About Solar-Storage Technology

May 22nd, 2015 by

This coming July, NAATBatt International will team up again with Intersolar North America to produce two workshops on issues important to the storage industry:  inside-the-meter battery safety and policy drivers for the solar-storage market.  Intersolar North America, which this year will include a special ees track on storage, will run from July 13-16, 2015.  The NAATBatt International workshops will be held on Tuesday, July 14 at the Mascone Center in downtown San Francisco.

Intersolar North America has long been of great interest to NAATBatt.  Intersolar North America is the most attended solar energy conference in North America with more than 27,000 trade visitors expected to attend this year.  As solar developers and installers become increasingly interested in storage technology, Intersolar North America is the ideal place to educate potential customers about the benefits of adding storage to solar systems.  Intersolar North America attendees are very different than those companies that regularly attend energy storage trade shows.  Intersolar North America attendees are not yet necessarily sold on energy storage technology.  But they are very anxious to learn about it.  This is a great opportunity for companies in the storage space to shape expectations and pick up new business.

The first NAATBatt workshop on the morning of July 14 will focus on safety issues concerning behind-the-meter battery systems.  These issues will be critical in shaping the emerging market for residential and commercial battery systems.  Lost a bit in the publicity surrounding Elon Musk’s announcement of Tesla’s new home battery system is that fact that it and other battery systems involve installing a potentially dangerous, high voltage device in a home or commercial property where it may come into contact with the public.  This is very different issue than installing a storage system in a utility substation or on a transmission line.

The behind-the-meter safety workshop will start by examining the size of the potential market for behind-the-meter ees systems and where those systems are likely to be deployed.  Attendees will hear from UL about the product certification process that behind-the-meter battery systems must go through and from a panel of experts about the evolving regulatory landscape that system installers will need to navigate as they deploy these systems in homes and commercial properties nationwide.  Finally, we will hear from a panel of installers and storage developers, who will talk about how they deal with safety issues in the field and what they are telling their customers.

The second NAATBatt workshop on the afternoon of July 14 will focus on policy drivers for the solar-storage market.  What should state and federal governments that wish to promote the storage of solar PV-generated electricity be doing to most effectively commercialize that technology?  Different states have taken widely different approaches and more than 32 energy bills are now pending in Congress.  What works and what doesn’t work?  This interactive workshop will explore that question.

The policy workshop will start with overviews of incentive programs for solar-storage technology at the state and federal levels.  A representative of the Electricity Storage Association will talk about current initiatives and proposals that may impact solar-storage at the federal level.  Todd Olinsky-Paul of the Clean Energy States Alliance will speak about various approaches to solar-storage being taken by different states.  And Alex Morris of the California Energy Storage Alliance will talk specifically about solar-storage initiatives in California.

The policy workshop will continue with a panel discussion among developers and installers throughout the United States talking about what they would like to see governments doing to remove barriers in the solar-storage marketplace.  The workshop will end with participants breaking into topic-focused discussion groups in order to narrow and identify proposals and positions that solar-storage advocates can act on over the coming year.

I hope you will join us on July 14 for what should be a great program providing a deep dive into issues that will be fundamental to the commercialization and deployment of solar-storage systems throughout the United States.

XALT Energy to Host Next Members Site Visit Meeting

May 15th, 2015 by

NAATBatt International is pleased to announce that XALT Energy will host the next in our series of Members’ Site Visit Meetings at its headquarters in Midland, Michigan on Thursday, July 30, 2015.  Click here for more details about the meeting.

XALT Energy emerged from the former Dow Kokam and is today one of the leading manufacturers of large format lithium-ion batteries in the United States.  Dow Kokam was the recipient of one of the ARRA battery manufacturing grants in 2009.  Its fully-automated manufacturing facility was one of the first of its type in North America: designed and built from the ground up to ensure safe, efficient manufacturing to the highest standards of quality control. XALT Energy’s high-end robotic stacking and vision systems, supported by class 1,000 and class 10,000 clean rooms, enhance quality, reliability and consistency.

XALT Energy manufactures lithium-ion battery systems for maritime, commercial transportation, grid and stationary energy storage, industrial motive and automotive transportation applications.  It is one of only a few companies in the United States that manufacturers large format lithium-ion battery cells.

Attendees will have the opportunity to tour XALT Energy’s manufacturing plant and hear from company officials about XALT Energy’s history, capabilities and plans for the future.  This is a great opportunity for interested NAATBatt members to see what goes on in a lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant and to assess how their own businesses can better serve and participate in the lithium-ion battery supply chain.  Thanks to the leadership of XALT Energy for making this great opportunity available to our members!

The program at XALT Energy continues NAATBatt International’s efforts to help its members gain better strategic intelligence about, and to grow better business networks in, the advanced battery industry.  Please note that the XALT Energy meeting will be open to NAATBatt International members only.  A networking dinner at The Creek Grill in Midland will follow the visit to XALT.

I hope that all NAATBatt members can join us in Midland next July.  These Member Site Visit Meetings are both fun and highly informative.  We will soon be announcing another such program at a member’s facility in the Pacific Northwest later in the year.

For those reading this column whose companies have not yet joined NAATBatt International, now would be a great time to do so.  Please contact Rayna Handelman for information about membership.

NAATBatt 2016 Annual Meeting Details Announced

May 8th, 2015 by

I am pleased to announce that the 2016 NAATBatt Annual Meeting & Conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells in Indian Wells, CA on February 29-March 3, 2016.  The Hyatt Regency is a four star resort in one of the most attractive communities in the Palm Springs, CA area.  You will not want to miss this program.

The 2016 Annual Meeting will build on the great success of the 2015 Annual Meeting recently concluded in Phoenix, Arizona. Like the 2015 Meeting, the 2016 Meeting will include a summit on emerging battery technologies, giving industry participants a first look at new technology coming on to the market.  The Meeting will also include talks about emerging trends in the advanced battery business and presentations about emerging applications for battery technology that will create new opportunities for advanced battery manufacturers.

The 2016 Annual Meeting will also mark a new direction in NAATBatt’s approach to industry meetings.  NAATBatt has decided that it has no interest in running just another one of many large trade shows in the battery industry.  NAATBatt cannot compete, and has no desire to compete, with the professional conference companies that, directly or indirectly, run major trade shows such as The Battery Show, AABC, ESNA or ESA.  The industry does not need NAATBatt to produce another trade show.

What the industry does need is a meeting each year where the real decision makers in the industry get together, talk about emerging trends, get a good look at interesting business opportunities for electrochemical energy storage technology, and build high quality personal relationships in the industry that will be the basis for business growth in the year ahead.  That is what the NAATBatt Annual Meeting will be, because that is the kind of meeting that the industry needs.

Consistent with this new approach to its annual meeting, NAATBatt has decided to limit registration for the 2016 Annual Meeting to 300 persons. Employees of NAATBatt member firms will be given priority.  But our goal is to limit attendee numbers and increase quality of the attendee experience.  This will not be another trade show.  But those who attend will get real value, as that is NAATBatt’s mission in the industry.

Also, don’t forget the Advanced Battery Golf & Tennis Tournament, which will be held on Monday, February 29, at the Indian Wells Golf Resort next door to the Hyatt Regency.  The Indian Wells Golf Resort, which recently underwent an $80 million renovation, is one of the top golf venues in the United States, playing host, among other things, to the PGA TOUR’s Skins Game.  The Advanced Battery Tournament will, like the 2016 Annual Meeting, aim to help our members build new and better business relationships in the industry in a setting which, in late February in the California desert, should be close to perfect.

Please mark your calendars and plan to join us.  If you are a NAATBatt member, please consider volunteering for the 2016 Meeting Planning Committee, which will start its work in a few weeks’ time.  I look forward to seeing you next winter in Indian Wells.

New NAATBatt Website Will Feature Member Conference Presentations

April 30th, 2015 by

Over the next months, NAATBatt will be rolling out a new and improved website.  We intend this website to be a valuable resource for our members and for the general public looking for information about advanced battery and ultracapacitor technology and related products.

One of the features we will be introducing on the web site is the republication of presentations made by our members at industry conferences around the world.  This new feature serves two purposes:

  1. Conference presentations by our members are an excellent source of information for the general public (and for the industry) about developments in advanced battery technology and about new products and services in the industry. The availability of these presentations on the NAATBatt website will help make the site a “go to” resource for anyone looking for information about advanced batteries and related products and services.
  1. Our members spend a huge amount of time and effort preparing presentations for industry conferences. But once made, those presentations are often quickly forgotten.  This is an unfortunate and highly inefficient waste of time and intellectual capital.  Your conference presentations are important and valuable.  NAATBatt’s republication of your conference presentations will help you get more value from them.

NAATBatt International will generally not review or edit the member presentations it republishes.  There is no peer review procedure for what will go up on our Web site.  The only rules for republication are that (a) the presentation must have been given in the past at an established, third party industry conference (minor redactions, edits and updates are acceptable), (b) the author must be an employee of a NAATBatt International member firm, and (c) a Request for Publication, including certain certifications about copyright and accuracy, must be completed by the author and submitted together with the proposed presentation.  NAATBatt will promptly remove any presentation from our website at any time upon the request of the author or his or her employer.

I would urge NAATBatt members to use this new resource, as it will be good for our members, good for the public, and good for NAATBatt.  I hope that NAATBatt members will send us as many of their conference presentations as possible.

Presentations should be submitted, and will be published, in .pdf format.  The Request for Publication form (e-mail me if you need a copy) must be submitted in Word.

 

I look forward to receiving many submissions from NAATBatt members and hope and expect that our members  will find this to be a valuable service.  Please let others in your organization know about it and encourage them to take full advantage.

Deepwater Horizon and the Frontiers of Advanced Battery Technology

April 24th, 2015 by

Five years ago the BP Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico suffered a major blow out. Eleven workers died in the accident and 11 others were injured. Oil and gas gushed out for months from the broken pipe at the floor of the sea. Over 600 miles of the coastline was affected.  Fishery and tourism, two major industries of the region, suffered enormous losses.  The impact on the environment was catastrophic.

The actual quantity of the spill was difficult to ascertain initially, and estimates ranged from 10,000 to 100,000 barrels per day. After the fact, it was determined that the maximum rate of spill was about 62,000 barrels a day and over the three-month period up to 4.9 million barrels of oil poured out. Even though this figure is questioned as it is important to the litigation and fines that BP has to pay. BP’s total liability for the disaster is still uncertain.  But it has already reserved $42 billion to pay fines, compensate victims and clean up the mess.

So what does the Deepwater Horizon disaster have to do with battery technology?  Last June, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting in Houston organized by DNV-GL focused on applications for energy storage systems in the offshore oil and gas market.  DNV-GL has since established an industry initiative called Joint Industry Program (JIP) for Hybrid Power in the Offshore Domain to pursue further work in this area (contact Davion Hill for more information or to participate, at davion.m.hill@dnvgl.com). One of the more interesting discussions at the meeting was about the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the hope of the oil industry that battery or ultracapacitor technologies might help it prevent or mitigate similar incidents in the future.

According to one of the participants at the DNV-GL meeting, one of the most serious problems BP faced in the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon blow out was that the explosion severed power to all monitoring devices located on the ocean floor.  One of the reasons why the amount of leakage is still uncertain is because the monitoring devices that should have been able to measure that leakage, and which might have helped to mitigate it early on, all relied on power tethered from the surface. The oil industry is therefore extremely interested in energy storage systems that can supply reliable back-up power for monitoring devices located on the sea floor.  Given that BP’s liability for not having such a technology in place is $42 billion and counting, price is not much of an object in identifying a solution.

Of course, there is a reason why the BP monitoring devices did not have back-up battery power systems five years ago.   The ocean floor 5,000 feet beneath the surface is an extremely hostile environment.  Low temperatures and high pressures will challenge traditional battery systems to deliver the long-term reliable power that the oil industry needs and demands.  As drilling platforms move into every deeper waters, this challenge only grows.  But battery companies and technology developers that can address these challenges will find a ready market for their solutions and their innovations.

Much of the focus on advanced batteries seems to center on electrified vehicles and stationary energy storage on the grid. But it is important to remember that some of the most important new markets for advanced battery technology may be located in improbable places—such as 5,000 feet under water.

Can Home Energy Storage be “Cool”?

April 17th, 2015 by

There were more rumblings this week from Tesla Motors about a pending announcement of a launch of a home energy storage product.  The rumblings continue to generate counter-rumblings from skeptics, who point out, perhaps not without some justification, that even in light of the falling cost of lithium-ion batteries (recently pegged at about 14 percent per year since 2007 by Nature Climate Change), it still does not make economic sense for homeowners to put a battery in their home.

But are the skeptics really looking at the right metric?  The answer to that question turns on what exactly the homeowner wants his or her home battery to do.

If a home battery is nothing more than a power back-up system, to protect a homeowner from unreliable grid-based electricity, then the critics may have a valid point.  For the large majority of homeowners, there are more economic forms of back-up power than a battery.

But it is unlikely that Tesla is planning to sell homeowners something that is nothing more than an overpriced back-up power system.  Tesla’s vision, I suspect, is a battery that is the very heart of the future wired home.  And that home, like all things that are wired (and wireless), will have a coolness factor that brings satisfaction to its owner and value in the marketplace.

Tesla Motors has mastered the sale of coolness better than anyone in the auto business.  Experts persuasively argue that the battery and electric drive train in the Model S are inferior to many of its competitors and that EV’s in general make no economic sense.  But that is not what Tesla is selling.  Tesla is selling cool.  And while cool is not immune from economic considerations, it is not entirely governed by them either.

It is ballsy in the extreme for Elon Musk to believe that he can make the highly technical and largely invisible electrical system in a house seem cool.  But who eight years ago would have believed that stringing 7,000 camera batteries together and putting them in a car would one day be viewed as the apex of automotive technology by many wealthy consumers?

One of the possible mistakes the market has made in analyzing the electrification of automobiles and homes is relying too much on the metric of price in consumer choice.  It is clear at this point that something else is going on.  There are important, intangible considerations other than price that are driving consumer adoption of new electronic technologies.  Whether those considerations will drive consumers to buy home batteries is still very much an open question.  But if Elon Musk is betting that it will, that is a bet to watch carefully.

NAATBatt to Pursue Pre-Competitive Research

April 10th, 2015 by

NAATBatt International President Davion Hill and I recently had a long talk about what we can do to make NAATBatt more relevant and more valuable to its members.  One of the ideas we discussed was the possibility of having NAATBatt organize and administer a pre-competitive research fund for the benefit of its members.  The concept is that interested members would make a capital contribution to the fund in exchange for a seat on its steering committee.  NAATBatt would seek to match the member contributions with federal and state grant moneys.  Davion and I are very confident that a neutral, industry-led research fund working on pre-competitive issues important to the advanced battery industry would be virtual magnet for government support.

There is, of course, plenty of precedent for industry organizations organizing research funds and doing pretty much exactly what Davion and I envision.  USABC, EPRI and ALABC all sponsor member-funded, pre-competitive research programs and in many cases successfully leverage those funds with government grants.  NAATBatt would do well to learn from the experience of these other industry programs.  It must also avoid duplicating their efforts.

There are many areas where NAATBatt members share pre-competitive business interests that are not already the subject of other organizations’ research efforts.  Three such areas, which seem to cry out for attention, are the safe transportation of advanced batteries, the safe containment and fire-suppression of advanced batteries once installed in stationary ESS system, and the cost-effective recycling of advanced batteries at the end of their useful lives.  The non-resolution of each of these issues imposes a uniform cost on all companies operating in the advanced battery business.  A uniform effort to address these issues is fully warranted.

NAATBatt International plans to host a general meeting later this year of companies that might be interested in participating in a fund and shaping its structure and direction.  This will be a great opportunity to make meaningful progress on some of the issues that promise to limit the upside potential of the entire industry.  Please keep an eye out for future announcements and give serious consideration to participating.

Net Metering vs. Self-Generation for Solar PV

April 3rd, 2015 by

Earlier this week, NAATBatt member Tucson Electric Power (TEP) announced a change in its net metering program, whereby TEP will compensate new solar PV customers for net metered electricity at the same rate that TEP pays for power from large solar arrays, rather than at the higher retail electricity rate. It is expected that the typical customer with rooftop solar will see their bills increase by about $22 per month as a consequence of this change.

The move by TEP to reduce the benefits of net metering to customers with rooftop solar underscores a longstanding tension between grid operators and solar PV advocates. Net metering—the ability of solar PV owners to sell to the grid PV-generated electricity they cannot use—has long served as an important and effective subsidy for PV technology. Historically, solar advocates have loudly protested reductions in net metering benefits, seeing them as an attack on the technology of distributed solar PV itself.

My sense in reading about TEP’s action this week, and the somewhat muted criticism of it, is that the world of net metering in changing. That change has a lot to do with storage. The falling cost of solar PV means that the need to subsidize solar PV deployment is falling as well. But more importantly, the falling cost of solar PV combined with the falling cost of electricity storage means that it is becoming increasingly economic for solar PV owners to self-generate, i.e., to save the electricity they cannot immediately use and use it themselves at another time.

After years of pushing hard for net metering programs, the solar industry is slowly waking to the realization that customers who perceive a benefit to maximizing their self-generation (i.e., by using storage) will buy more solar panels than those customers who do not. The benefit of self-generation to storage suppliers is obvious.

The real issue begged by net metering is the non-dispatchability of solar power. There simply is a cost to not being able to control when electric energy is generated. Customers that self-generate bear this cost themselves, either by spilling excess electric power or investing in a storage system. Customers that net-meter simply offload this cost onto the grid.

The answer to the question of which alternative is more fair and socially beneficial is inherently subjective. But from a business standpoint it is important to remember that grid operators who must bear the cost of solar non-dispatchability (because they are obligated to net meter) have many ways to defray that cost, including, but by no means limited to, storage. By contrast, solar PV customers that self-generate have no way to defray the cost of non-disptachability other than to store their excess electricity generation. This is something worth thinking about as the storage industry’s position on net-metering evolves.

New Executive Order May Open An Important Market for Energy Storage

March 27th, 2015 by

On March 19, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order aimed at maintaining Federal leadership in sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reductions. The new Executive Order creates significant new purchasing requirements for Federal agencies. These new requirements are something that NAATBatt has long advocated.

While other organizations have devoted significant resources to advocating legislative initiatives in support of energy storage and electric transportation, NAATBatt has long maintained that the most important thing the federal government can do to promote new, market-ready energy storage technologies is simply to use its own spending power to create a market for them. The ability of the federal government to create markets for energy products is particularly powerful. The federal government is the largest user of energy in the United States economy — encompassing 360,000 buildings, 650,000 fleet vehicles and $445 billion in annual spending on goods and services.

Some of the requirements of the new Executive Order that will impact the market for advanced batteries and energy storage systems are:

• Reducing agency building energy intensity by 2.5 percent, including by participating in demand management programs (regrettably this objective is still expressed in terms of reducing total aggregated energy intensity rather than terms of reducing demand peaks).
• Ensuring that renewable and alternative energy accounts for not less than 25% of total electric energy and thermal energy consumed in federal agency buildings by 2025.
• Ensuring that renewable and alternative energy accounts for not less than 30% of the total amount of electric energy consumed in federal agency buildings by 2025.
• Implementing other alternative energy approaches (presumably including storage) that advance the goal of reducing scope 1 and 2 and scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms by the end of fiscal year 2025 relative to a fiscal year 2008 baseline. (Note: Although installing fuel cell energy systems at Federal facilities is specifically identified as an approved action, installing battery storage is not).
• For agencies that operate a fleet of at least 20 motor vehicles, planning for agency fleet composition such that by December 31, 2025, zero emission vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles account for 50 percent of all new agency passenger vehicles.
• Planning for appropriate charging or refueling infrastructure or other power storage technologies for zero emission vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles and opportunities for ancillary services to support vehicle-to-grid technology.
• Ensuring, beginning in fiscal year 2020 and thereafter that all new construction of Federal buildings greater than 5,000 gross square feet is designed to achieve energy net-zero.

Although significant work needs to be done by the advanced battery industry in order to ensure that the concept of energy efficiency contained in the Executive Order reflects an appropriate time component (i.e., a grid connected Federal facility that uses 1 MW of electricity each hour of a day is far more environmentally friendly than a grid connected Federal facility that uses 23 MW of electricity in a day, but all between 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.) and more certainly includes energy storage, the new Executive Order should provide a robust new federal market for advanced batteries and energy storage systems. This new federal market will allow those technologies to mature and move more rapidly into the private sector market.

Updated NAATBatt Web Site to Debut Soon

March 21st, 2015 by

NAATBatt International will soon launch a new website containing a number of new features for the benefit of our members and for members of the public interested in advanced battery technology.  Although the new site is still a work in progress, I would like to alert you to some of the interesting new features that we will soon launch.

One of the noteworthy new features will be the member’s presentations section of the Web site.  As almost anyone involved in the advanced battery industry can attest, attending conferences to see what is new in the industry and to talk about what is new at one’s company is a major time commitment Our members spend hours preparing 20-30 minute conference presentations only to have them disappear from public and industry attention within minutes of stepping away from the podium.

No more.  The presentations made by our member firms are valuable source of information about the industry as a whole, as well as about individual participant in it.  The new NAATBatt International web site will offer a place for the employees of any member firm to republish presentations given during the year at major industry conferences.  And it will provide member of the public looking for information about the industry and individual products a chance to see the latest thinking and product offerings by industry participants.

Also featured on the NAATBatt web site will be content from major energy storage publications.  The NAATBatt Web site will allow visitors to peruse samples of the best content from numerous industry publications.  Visitors will be able to compare and contrast the quality and coverage of industry news from multiple publications and to make subscription and advertising decisions based on a side-by-side survey of competing content.

The members only section of the NAATBatt web site will also be improved.  NAATBatt members will continue to enjoy quarterly summaries of ABC PatentEdge™, a survey of new patent filings around the world in advanced battery and supercapacitor technologies compiled by IP Checkups in cooperation with NAATBatt International.  NAATBatt members will also enjoy free access to all content from NAATBatt Annual Meetings, workshops and webinars.  Missed the show?  No problem.  With your NAATBatt membership, you will always have free access to the materials.

Watch out for the rollout of the new Web site within the next few weeks.  You won’t be disappointed.