Published on June 12th, 2020 | by Steve Hanley
June 12th, 2020 by Steve Hanley
Broad Reach Power, a US-based independent power producer, has only been in business about a year but is already involved in more than $100 million worth of renewable energy projects. Steve Vavrik, managing partner and CEO of the company, tells Energy Storage News it plans to build 15 small scale battery storage projects in Texas this year and two larger systems in 2021.
The first systems will all be 9.95 MW/9,95 MWh systems. That’s because such small systems are exempt from many of the interconnection rules put in place by ERCOT, the grid operator for the Lone Star state. It manages electricity on the Texas Interconnection for 25 million customers, representing 90% of the electric load in Texas. “We are eager to get these projects operating and chose this path,” Vavrik says. “One-hour duration systems were the best choice economically.”
The smaller systems will provide energy stabilization services, such as mitigating the impact of price spikes and dips that expose generators, utilities, and retail electric providers “to uncertainty in the supply-demand matching that occurs every minute on the power grid. Our storage systems can offer ways to mitigate that risk through short and long term contracts, either physical or financial.”
A ‘Texas-scale’ opportunity
Texas is becoming a US manufacturing hub, with companies like Tesla exploring the possibility of building new factories there. Industrial and manufacturing companies need an electrical grid that is “cheap, clean and reliable,” Vavrik says. The more all three of those factors can be improved, the more manufacturing and industry will be attracted to Texas. Which is where the larger 100 MW/100 MWh storage batteries planned for next year come into play.
“The need for reliability services in Texas is Texas-scale! While we chose the smaller sites for speed-to-market, we are also developing the larger projects,” Vavrik adds. Those larger batteries are expected to go into service in the summer of 2021. With battery system costs rapidly decreasing and system performance increasing, Vavrik says Broad Reach Power sees its developments this year and next as “the start of a virtuous cycle.”
“More storage allows more low-cost wind and solar to enter the grid, which will improve the emissions and lower the power costs overall. Then cheaper and better storage systems can be added, which will allow further additions of cheaper generation technology.”
Texas is becoming a renewable energy center in the US. It has been a leader in wind power for years, especially in West Texas where winds are consistently strong, but solar power is rapidly catching up. Broad Reach Power seems to have positioned itself to be right in the sweet spot of a rapidly expanding market.
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Data Gumbo Chief Talks Saudi Aramco Backing and Latest $4M Round
The oil and gas sector was on the brink of collapse this year amid a devastating decline in commodity prices in the wake of weakened demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oil prices have recovered somewhat, but the industry is still having to reinvent itself in some ways to keep businesses running. Fortunately, energy is one of the sectors that blockchain technology has already begun to disrupt.
Houston-based blockchain startup Data Gumbo just secured $4 million in a Series B funding round that attracted some high-profile backers in the oil space. Saudi Arabian state oil company Saudi Aramco through its Dhahran-based venture subsidiary Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures LLC was a repeat investor in the round. So was Equinor Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Stavanger, Norway-based Equinor. L37 is a new backer.
Data Gumbo CEO and Founder Andrew Bruce told BeInCrypto,
“The total amount is $4M with this first close of our series B, with the round still open. We wanted to move forward to support our strong sales pipeline and demand.”
To date, the Houston-based company has attracted nearly $15 million to its coffers. Bruce spent some time with BeInCrypto to discuss the role of the company’s blockchain, GumboNet, in the oil and gas sector and what it was like to gain the backing of oil giant Saudi Aramco.
Q&A With Data Gumbo Chief Andrew Bruce
BIC: Congratulations on the latest Series B round! Can you tell me what it was like to raise capital in the current global economic climate?
Andrew Bruce: “The current economic environment presented some challenges during our raise earlier this year, with the oil price crash and the global economy shuttered due to COVID-19. We have a strong relationship with both Equinor and Saudi Aramco, as they funded our Series A in 2019. The repeat investments from Equinor and Saudi Aramco show strong, sustained support in Data Gumbo’s offerings, particularly for what industrial smart contracts can do to help companies weather the current climate, as did the new investor, L37.”
BIC: Do you consider the backing of the Saudi Arabian state oil company a stamp of approval for what you are doing?
Andrew Bruce: “The credibility that came with the backing of Equinor and Saudi Aramco was huge. Their support made it acceptable to utilize smart contracts and they provided an additional layer of credibility as customers. With L37 joining as new investors from the California investment community, this further bolsters our story as we expand.”
BIC: Tell me about Data Gumbo’s role in the oil & gas industry. What type of smart contracts are used on the Data Gumbo blockchain?
Andrew Bruce: “Our typical clients are large E&P companies, and their associated supply chain and logistics parties. They use our network to automate the execution of commercial terms that exist within their infrastructure.
“Performance contracts of all kinds; provenance and capital projects are huge EPC spend. Data Gumbo automates commercial transactions by using field operating data pulled into smart contracts, essentially coded natural language contracts that contain pre-agreed terms. The visibility, accuracy and speed of smart contracts alleviate friction to eliminate inefficiencies and cut costs.”
BIC: Is there any interoperability with other blockchains? Will there be an opportunity for financing?
Andrew Bruce: “We have agreements to provide interoperability with other blockchains. At the moment, I’m not sure that this will provide financing. However, it does provide a trusted source of preapproved invoices which can be leveraged with banks.”
BIC: How did Data Gumbo build its blockchain, GumboNet?
Andrew Bruce: “We built our first prototypes on FinTech blockchains but then ran into limitations. We need private blockchains, able to store massive amounts of data “on-chain,” and we needed to be able to create corporate nodes with user roles and tight integrations including associated security with an IoT platform. We did not work with any other blockchain companies to build our network.”
Oil Sector Ripe for Transformation
BIC: How did the collapse in oil prices affect your business?
Andrew Bruce: “The pressure has ultimately been good for us. Data Gumbo can reduce the OPEX of existing oil & gas assets, and at the same time provide real-time visibility into the financial health of companies. This means no more accruals based upon estimates.”
BIC: What is fueling the demand for blockchain technology from the oil and gas sector?
Andrew Bruce: “Energy is stuck operating with legacy processes that rely on manual workflows and paper invoices. The sector is ripe for digital transformation as a way to bring about efficiencies and data-driven insights to make smarter business decisions. Blockchain and smart contracts are an elegant way to bridge and synchronize the disparate accounting and field data systems of the oil industry, accelerating and monetizing the digital transformation.”
Windmills No More: GE Debuts Monster Of A New 13 Megawatt Wind Turbine
In another twist of the knife, GE Senior VP Russell Stokes explained that GE is “focused on power generation businesses that have attractive economics and a growth trajectory.”
Squeezing 13 Megawatts From A 12-Megawatt Wind Turbine
GE plans to wind down its ongoing obligations, including contracts with existing coal power plants, so it will be some time before the company completely disentangles itself from coal power.
In the meantime, the company is determined to power itself to the top of the wind turbine hill.
While experimenting with some interesting variations like cladding for wind turbine towers, integrated energy storage, and nacelle “noses,” GE was also forging ahead with powerful new turbine technology. In 2018 the company introduced its 12-megawatt Haliade-X wind turbine, featuring monster sized, 107-meter turbine blades.
The new wind turbine blades began rolling off the assembly line in 2019 and the Haliade-X platform is still undergoing final certification from DNV-GL. It looks like GE is not letting any grass growing under its feet, because it already has a 13-megawatt version in the works.
Yesterday GE announced that it will send a total of 190 of the new wind turbines off to the first two phases of the Dogger Bank offshore wind farm, which will be the largest wind farm in the world when fully built out.
For those of you keeping score at home, Dogger Bank still needs a final sign-off from the developers SSE Renewables and Equinor, but it looks like that process will be completed before the end of the year.
Dogger Bank will be constructed in three parts and is expected to generate 6 terawatts annually from each part when completed in 2026.
More Wind Turbines For The US
The switcheroo from coal power to wind power is a big one for GE. Bigger still would be the company’s exit from the new gas power plant market.
That side of the business is still going strong, though red flags have been going up of late. Across the pond, the firm SS&A Power Development is already ratcheting down the life expectancy of new gas power plants in anticipation of competition from renewables and energy storage after 2030.
Here in the US, cheap natural (aka fossil) gas was the main force driving coal out of the power generation market after the shale gas boom took off during the Bush administration. In recent years, though, the falling cost of both renewable energy and energy storage has begun to edge both coal and gas aside.
GE has had a hand in that trend, having produced the wind turbines installed at Rhode Island’s Block Island wind farm, which is the nation’s first — and to date, only — offshore wind farm.
Those turbines weighed in at only 6 megawatts, and GE has upped the US offshore wind ante with new turbines for Ørsted’s planned Ocean Wind wind farm, off the coast of New Jersey.
Last year those 107-meter blades for the 12 megawatt Haliade-X began undergoing stress tests with an assist from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s wind turbine testing facility.
GE is also sending the 12-megwatt turbines to Ørsted’s Skipjack Wind Farm off the Maryland coast. That’s an interesting bit of news because the wind farm was originally planned for 8-megawatt turbines. The switch to bigger turbines will enable Ørsted to reduce the number of turbines in the project. All else being equal, that will lead to lower construction costs.
On that score, it is also interesting to note that GE will contribute more to Dogger Banks than the 13-megawatt wind turbine. The company also announced a new partnership with the UK’s ORE Catapult wind R&D center with the aim of cutting costs, partly by reducing the amount of time needed for humans to spend at the offshore site, and increasing the use of robotics and remote operations. The new strategy is also expected to save on energy costs.
More Wind Turbine Jobs For The US
All of this translates into more clean power jobs for the US, putting the wind-rich Atlantic coast states in the catbird seat while sprinkling additional jobs in wind turbine manufacturing across the rest of the country.
Just yesterday the American Wind Energy Association ran the numbers and reported that “developing 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind could deliver up to $25 billion per year in new economic activity and support up to 83,000 new, well-paying jobs by 2030” in the US.
That looks pretty good compared to the dwindling number of coal jobs in the US. Last month Forbes observed that overall coal employment has declined by about 500 jobs since Trump took office, landing at a total of 45,400 as of last July.
The COVID-19 crisis can shoulder part of the blame in 2020, but the long term decline shows no sign of stopping. Last month the Lexington Herald Leader took stock of the situation in Kentucky and noted that the state’s pre-Trump loss of coal jobs has rippled well into the Commander-in-Chief’s time in office
“Coal employment averaged 3,813 in Eastern Kentucky in the period when Trump told miners to get ready to go back to work,” the Leader reported. “In the same period this year, from April 1 through June 30, the industry employed an average of just 2,256 people in the region.”
“Statewide, coal jobs in the second quarter of 2020 averaged 3,760, down from 6,517 in the same period in 2016,” the Leader continued.
If landlocked Kentucky is to grow more wind jobs to replace coal, it is starting with one hand tied behind its back. Aside from political factors, the landlocked state is not in position to take full advantage of the offshore wind market, and it is located in a region of the US where onshore wind resources are less than optional.
Nevertheless, according to AWEA’s latest rundown, the state does have 11 manufacturers that produce components for the US wind industry.
In addition, as electric utilities decarbonize the state could see its solar jobs numbers tick up as well, so stay tuned for more in that.
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Photo: Haliade-X wind turbine courtesy of GE.
Shanghai Electric Showcases Smart Energy Solution at China International Industrial Expo on World’s Clean Up Day
Shanghai Electric presented exhibitions on Smart City, Smart Energy, Intelligent Manufacturing and Intelligent Transportation at the expo
SHANGHAI, Sept. 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Shanghai Electric gave a strong impression at the 22nd China International Industrial Expo (the “Shanghai Industrial Fair”), which took place during September 15-19 at the Shanghai National Convention and Exhibition Center. The company presented exhibitions on Smart City, Smart Energy, Intelligent Manufacturing, and Intelligent Transportation in line with the Fair’s theme of “Intelligence, Interconnection – New Development of Enabling Industry.”
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