In his search for an effective long-term energy storage technology, Rodgers gave vanadium flow batteries a try, leaving him with a number of 4-foot-cube tanks of vanadium redox electrolyte stranded on his ranch. They are available to a good home — make him an offer. Bring a trailer.
Blue Planet Energy Systems is helmed by Tetris entrepreneur Henk Rogers and started as an off-grid project for the founder in Hawaii. Rogers, the CEO, is very clear on where he believes the future of battery chemistries is going.
The company builds LiFePO4 (LFP) battery energy storage systems, which it sells to installers. Rodgers champions the safe and reliable performance of that energy storage chemistry for residential and commercial usage compared to the now-dominant lithium-manganese-cobalt-oxide (NMC) battery formulation.
“NMC is not benign” and has a history of volatility and fiery accidents, said Rodgers. He adds that we don’t need “another nasty chemical” as we try to transition to clean energy. Rodgers says NMC will be more expensive to transport and install, while “LFP will become cheaper.”
Wood Mackenzie has released an analysis predicting that LFP is poised to overtake NMC as the dominant stationary storage chemistry within the decade. At 10% of the stationary storage chemistry market in 2015, LFP batteries will comprise more than 30% of the market in 2030, according to Wood Mackenzie.
One factor driving LFP’s ascendance is the divergence between batteries used for storage and those used for EVs.
Catherine Von Burg CEO of energy storage system builder SimpliPhi, told pv magazine, “There’s a really critical factor that’s having an impact on the industry that may be hard to quantify at this point, or to appreciate. That has to do with the ongoing hazards: fires, explosions, etc., that continue to happen because of NMC, because of cobalt-based lithium ion chemistries.”
“Cobalt is fundamentally toxic and hazardous. It has a very dubious supply chain with child labor, warlord labor and all sorts of other problems.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long been a proponent of removing cobalt from batteries and relying less on nickel. During a recent earnings call, Musk said, “Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way.”
Vanadium electrolyte for sale, cheap
Rogers talked shop about saving the planet, the future of energy storage in Hawaii, geothermal potential on the islands — and how a life-changing experience dictates how he tackles each day in this interview with Tam Hunt.
He said, “Batteries are good for short-term storage, like getting through the night on solar. For long-term storage they are too expensive. Hydrogen is the solution to long-term storage. You make it with excess energy or bio-waste (methane). You can store it in traditional pressurized gas tanks. It’s way safer than any fossil fuel.”
In Rodgers’ search for an effective long-term energy storage technology, he gave vanadium flow batteries from Prudent Energy a try. Prudent Energy was acquired by China’s VRB, leaving Rodgers with a number of 4-foot-cube tanks of vanadium redox electrolyte stranded on his ranch. They are available to a good home — make him an offer. Bring a trailer.
More from Rodgers’: “Switching to renewable energy is not something we should want to accomplish someday. We should put our state and the whole country on a war footing. We should declare a state of emergency. We should declare war on Global Warming/Climate Change. Instead of paying people to do nothing during this pandemic, we should pay them to build Renewable Energy infrastructure. The Big Island should be a slam dunk. Electric vehicles to move people. Hydrogen vehicles to move containers, municipal vehicles and buses. I think we can get there in five years. All we have to do is ‘want to.’”
AI is Helping Forecast the Wind, Manage Wind Farms
By John P. Desmond, AI Trends Editor
Among all its many activities, Google is forecasting the wind.
Google and its DeepMind AI subsidiary have combined weather data with power data from 700 megawatts of wind energy that Google sources in the Central US. Using machine learning, they have been able to better predict the wind, which pays off in the energy market.
“The way a lot of power markets work is you have to schedule your assets a day ahead,” stated Michael Terrell, the head of energy market strategy at Google, in a recent account in Forbes. “And you tend to get compensated higher when you do that than if you sell into the market real-time.”
This is an example of the application of AI to wind energy and the wind energy market, an effort being tried in many regions by a range of players.
“What we’ve been doing is working in partnership with the DeepMind team to use machine learning to take the weather data that’s available publicly, actually forecast what we think the wind production will be the next day, and bid that wind into the day-ahead markets,” Terrell stated during a recent seminar hosted virtually by the Precourt Institute for Energy of Stanford University.
The result has been a 20% increase in revenue for wind farms, Terrell stated. Google has been on a mission to radically reduce its carbon footprint. The company recently achieved a milestone by matching its annual energy use with its annual renewable-energy procurement, Terrell stated.
“Our hope is that this kind of machine learning approach can strengthen the business case for wind power and drive further adoption of carbon-free energy on electric grids worldwide,” stated Sam Witherspoon, a DeepMind program manager, in a blog post. He and software engineer Carl Elkin described how they boosted profits for Google’s wind farms in the Southwest Power Pool, an energy market that stretches across the plains from the Canadian border to north Texas.
European Commitment to Wind Energy Seen in SmartWind Project
European countries have made a big commitment to wind energy, with offshore wind farms being required to supply about 8.5% of all energy in the Netherlands and 40% of current electricity consumption by 2030, according to a recent account in Innovation Origins.
AI is expected to play a big role in this effort, helping to increase energy generation and reduce maintenance costs for wind farms. The related SmartWind project is being undertaken by a consortium of four companies and the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany.
“In SmartWind we can exploit the capabilities of artificial intelligence algorithms to optimize the management of wind farms,” stated Prof. Constantinos Sourkounis of the university’s Institute for Power Systems Technology, head of the German workgroup. The team aims to build an integrated cloud platform to reduce costs and optimize revenue, based on advanced and automated functions for data analysis, fault detection, diagnosis and operation and management recommendations.
The platform will collect data in real time from sensors and control systems, such as condition and maintenance management. Machine learning algorithms and other AI techniques form the backbone of early fault detection and diagnosis.
Turkish wind farm operator Zorlu Enerji, a SmartWind partner, will be able to put results of the research directly into practice. “The remarkable thing about this project is the close relationship between research and direct application. We are able to first test theoretical results in our laboratory, and then in a test wind farm run by our partner Zorlu Enerji,” stated Prof. Sourkounis.
Condition Monitoring Systems Help Manage Remote Wind Turbines
Machine condition monitoring systems (CMSs) are being applied to wind turbines to help ensure maximum availability and production.
“This is what we call Big Data, which includes both machine vibration and process data under all kinds of operating conditions and with all kinds of wind turbine types and components,” stated Mike Hastings, a senior application engineer with Bruel & Kjaer Vibro (B&K Vibro) of Darmstadt, Germany, writing in Wind Systems Mag. Over the past 20 years, the company has installed more than 25,000 data acquisition systems worldwide, with up to 12,000 of them being remotely monitored. As a result, “B&K Vibro has accumulated a vast database of monitoring data that includes fault data on almost every imaginable potential failure mode,” Hastings wrote.
As the worldwide installed capacity of wind turbines increases and plays a bigger role in the energy market, so does the need to ensure maximum availability and production of these turbines. Machine condition monitoring is important in this respect and many of the new turbines delivered today already have a condition monitoring system installed as standard. For offshore wind turbines, all have such a system because of their remoteness for maintenance.
“Big data fits very well into data-driven artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) development and implementation,” Hastings wrote. AI and ML could be implemented for the following condition-monitoring tasks: fault detection optimization, automatic fault identification and prognosis for failure.
For fault detection, descriptors are configured by specialists, and detection of those is done automatically by the SMA. The individual descriptors and their configuration for fault detection have been optimized to a high level of reliability by diagnostics specialists with many years of experience. “One of the inherent benefits of AI is its ability to sift through vast quantities of CMS data to find patterns,” he wrote. Hidden diagnostics can be found in historical data as well.
For fault detection before potential failures, the AI can present the results as a listing of several potential failure modes, each with a probability of certainty. “B&K Vibro has in development neural-network automatic fault diagnostic products in the past, and this remains an area of interest for future refinement,” Hastings wrote.
Biden recommits U.S. to Paris climate accord, blocks Keystone pipeline
One environmental group said the new president’s actions make “the United States once more part of the global climate solution—not the problem.”
In one of his first official acts, President Joe Biden signed executive orders January 20 to rejoin the United States into the Paris climate agreement and block construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
The Oval Office event was Biden’s first major action to tackle global warming as he brings the largest team of climate change experts ever into the White House. During his presidential campaign, Biden had laid out plans to roll back a number of the Trump administration’s environmental and energy policies.
Return to Paris
Former President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement, a nonbinding global accord to address the threat of climate change, in 2017. Trump argued the U.S. commitments were unfair, unnecessary, and costly.
Absent action on the federal level, a coalition of state governors and local leaders worked to support the international deal’s goals.
Following Biden’s executive order, clean energy groups applauded the United States’ planned return to the Paris Agreement and said they’re looking forward to working with the new administration to combat climate change.
Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, commended Biden’s “commitment to move America beyond climate denial on his very first day in office.”
Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said the industry “stands ready to help America meet its commitments in the Paris Agreement.”
President Biden also signed an executive order revoking the existing presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
The cross-border oil pipeline project between Canada and the United States has faced strong opposition from environmental and Indigenous groups for years. Former president Barack Obama rejected the project. In 2017, however, Trump issued a presidential permit to help move the stalled project forward, citing energy independence and job creation.
In a statement, Keystone XL developer TC Energy Corp. called Biden’s plan to scrap the permit “very disappointing.” The Canadian company claimed the decision could lead to thousands of job losses, adding that the firm is assessing its options and suspending the project.
In the lead-up to Biden’s inauguration, TC Energy announced plans to make the Keystone project the “first pipeline to be fully powered by renewable energy.” As part of the initiative, the company said its commitment would spur up to $1.7 billion in investment and create 1.6 GW of renewables.
According to a Reuters report, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently signaled his continued support for the Keystone pipeline, telling reporters, “Our government is making sure that Canada’s views are heard and considered.”
Environmental groups have praised Biden.
Catherine Collentine, associate director of the Sierra Club’s Dirty Fuels Campaign, called the Keystone Xl rejection “a huge and hard-fought victory for our communities, clean water, and climate.”
Mitchell Bernard, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Biden’s “swift and decisive” actions on the pipeline and Paris Agreement make “the United States once more part of the global climate solution—not the problem.”
The White House climate team is led by Gina McCarthy, former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The new climate team includes the following:
- Sonia Aggarwal, a co-founder and the vice president of Energy Innovation, will serve as senior advisor for climate policy and innovation;
- The Coalition for Green Capital’s Jahi Wise will serve as a senior advisor for climate policy and finance in the administration’s Office of Domestic Climate Policy;
- David Hayes, formerly executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center and an adjunct professor at the NYU School of Law, has been tapped as special assistant to the president for climate policy;
- Dr. Cecilia Martinez, co-founder and executive director at the Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy, will serve as senior director for environmental justice;
- Maggie Thomas, political director at the nonprofit Evergreen Action and former policy advisor to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has been appointed chief of staff for the Office of Domestic Climate Policy; and
- Jeff Marootian has been named special assistant to the president for climate and science agency personnel.
Alliant Energy donates community solar for local Habitat for Humanity families
The donation of solar blocks from a 1 MW project will go toward reducing the electric bills for people living in Habitat homes.
The rise of solar energy is good not only for the environment and the economy, but also for communities.
In Wisconsin, Alliant Energy has donated $90,000 in community solar blocks to the Habitat for Humanity of Fond du Lac County. The donation, totaling 240 blocks from the utility’s 1 MW Fond du Lac project, will aid local families.
Katie Karls, executive director of the region’s nonprofit housing group, said the organization plans to use the solar blocks to “reduce the electric bills for people living in our Habitat homes, which will really help out the residents with their monthly budgets and give them more dollars to provide for their families.”
Alliant Energy launched the Fond du Lac community solar project in early December. The company expects to start construction on the project this spring and complete it by year’s end.
The community solar program gives the utility’s Wisconsin customers the chance to share the benefits of solar power without having to install solar panels on their property.
When customers purchase solar blocks, they’ll receive credits on their monthly electric bills. The credits will begin once the facility is in service and last for 20 years.
So far, more than one-fifth of the project’s blocks have been purchased or donated.
According to Alliant Energy, the community solar program is part of the utility’s Clean Energy Vision and helps position the company to achieve its goal to attain net-zero carbon-dioxide emissions by 2050.
Utilities, municipalities, and other parties across the United States are increasingly embracing community solar.
Court strikes down Trump emission policy on his final day in office
Calling the policy “legally flawed,” a federal appeals court struck down the 2019 Affordable Clean Energy Rule. The decision presents the incoming Biden Administration with a clean slate for crafting a replacement policy.
On the final day of Donald Trump’s presidency, a federal appeals court struck down a policy that was set to undo Obama-era emission reduction efforts. The court ruled the 2019 Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE) was “legally flawed.”
ACE replaced President Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce U.S. power sector emissions by 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. Instead, ACE looked to lower power sector emissions by 11 million tons, roughly 0.7% and 1.55%, by 2030.
In addition to a lower overall emission reduction goal, the policy encouraged fossil fuel combustion by calling for changes to coal-fired power plants that included operating them in a more efficient manner and potentially upgrading equipment.
One study found that ACE would cause 28% of model coal plants increase their emissions by 2030 more than a scenario with no policy at all. An EPA regulatory impact assessment found that the additional pollution attributable to ACE could cause between 460 and 1,400 additional deaths per year by 2030.
ACE was originally authored by coal-lobbyist-turned-EPA-Administrator, Andrew Wheeler.
While the removal of ACE marks the first of the Trump-era climate and energy policies to fall, a successor rule might be quickly introduced.
Neither ACE nor Obama’s Clean Power Plan were effectively implemented. ACE was challenged by 23 Attorneys General plus numerous environmental and clean energy groups. The Clean Power Plan never took effect due to a number of state-initiated lawsuits.
It is unlikely that the Biden Administration will look to reinstate the Clean Power Plan. Instead, it will likely call upon the Environmental Protection Agency to draft an updated standard. That responsibility will fall to Michael Regan, currently serving as the secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality of North Carolina, who has been picked by Biden to head EPA.
One core principle of the climate plan that Biden campaigned on includes ensuring that the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050. He also pledged to institute a standard of 100% clean electricity by 2035.
These goals are likely be met with opposition if they make their way into proposed legislation or rulemaking. However, one luxury that the Biden Administration will have that the Obama Administration lacked is greater public and industry support for emission reduction and renewable energy. Since 2015, multiple states as well as investor-owned utilities have established their own standards for emission reduction and clean energy deployment.
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