The Home Battery System. Are we ready for this?

by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Ever since lower priced solar panels have hit the market, it has become obvious that home battery systems are the next logical step for our modern, but still evolving, energy grid.

Installing solar panels on your rooftop has never been easier, as panel prices have fallen in price by 80% over the past two years and installation rebate programs are generous in many jurisdictions. But getting all that free daytime energy from the Sun won’t do you much good unless you can store it for later use.

Having a home battery system allows you to store the energy that your solar panels collect every day.

Without a home battery system, solar power can make economic sense in many locations — but solar with a battery system will rock your world! OK, maybe not rock your world, but it makes a lot of sense if the battery system can be had for a reasonable price.

Without a home battery, you can still sell your excess solar generated electricity to the grid if your utility has a net-metering programme. But much of your profit is eaten up when you buy back some of that electricity after the Sun sets, at a higher price. Yes, every day of the year.

For homeowners, having battery storage means you could save a lot of money over ten or twenty years if a battery system is cost-effective to begin with — and a battery system IS a wonderful thing to have during utility company power outages.

Home Battery Systems can make sense, even without solar panels

If you live in a jurisdiction where you can buy electricity from your utility company at a very low rate during certain hours of the day or night and store that energy with your home battery system for later use, that can work for you — regardless if you have solar panels or not. Peak rates can be $0.38 per kWh in some parts of North America (or higher), while off-peak rates can be $0.08 per kWh (or lower) making the peak rate about five times more expensive in this example, than the off-peak rate.

Prognosticating ten or twenty years out, who’s to say what electricity rates may be? There always seems to be a reason to hike the rates.

JBS News Renewable Energy. Ontario, Canada rates presently run between $0.07 Off-peak, $0.11 Mid-peak and $0.13 On-peak per kWh. All rates are approximate and subject to change. This chart for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: Ontario hydro one.
JBS News Renewable Energy. Current electricity rates in Ontario, Canada, run between $0.07 Off-peak, $0.11 Mid-peak and $0.13 On-peak, per kWh. All rates are approximate and subject to change. This chart for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: Ontario hydro one.

Your home or business can run on the power from your home battery system during high electricity rate periods, and past midnight, your battery system can be scheduled to automatically connect to the grid and recharge itself at the lowest rate.

At present, we are about 10 years away from economically priced home battery systems for the majority of consumers. That’s not to say that you can’t go out and buy one of these systems today, because you can. It’s just that they cost more than the average consumer is willing to spend at this point.

Apart from collecting solar energy for you all day or saving money due to rate fluctuations (or both), home battery systems can protect you from utility company power interruptions, especially for those in rural areas or other areas where power outages are common.

However, for homeowners in rural areas and subject to frequent power service interruptions, having a battery backup can make sense.

Take the case of a dairy farmer who suddenly has no electricity at 7:00am on a cold winter morning; How is he going to milk 2500 cows in one hour, and in the dark, without backup power? Of course, the old standby has always been an expensive-to-fuel diesel generator and the noxious fumes that go along with it.

Or we can look at a veterinary clinic, or other examples where uninterrupted electrical power is important.

With battery backup, electrical power returns within one minute and the vet can proceed with the days operations on her four-footed patients and the farmer can milk his cows without missing a beat.

Emergency service providers, schools, and other important government buildings and businesses could also benefit from such in-situ battery systems.

It’s interesting to note that Tesla is working with Solar City to offer home batteries, using their Electric Vehicle (EV) battery technology. A fascinating development and one that holds tremendous promise.

Recycled Electric Vehicle batteries still have 70% life, after removal

GM wants to use old Chevy Volt batteries and give them a second life as an home battery. GM says that even after ten years of powering your daily commute, an EV battery still has at least 70% of the power it had when it was assembled.

In many cases, when an EV battery has reached the end of its life in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life has been used.

This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications like powering a structure before the battery is recycled. — Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager of battery lifecycle management

Innovations like new and recycled EV batteries will pave the way forward to a viable and affordable distributed energy future and can be a way to get very efficient second use from recycled EV batteries.

EV batteries store a huge amount of power, enough to power a home for two or three days in the case of a service interruption — and in the case of storing energy for everyday use during peak rate periods, would be well within EV battery capabilities.

Stay tuned, because this story is just beginning.

Hitachi Unveils All-in-One Container Energy Storage System

by Zachary Shahan

Hitachi, a large, Tokyo-based global electronics company, has unveiled an energy storage system aimed at complementing solar and wind power developments — “CrystEna” (Crystal+Energy). CrystEna incorporates a wide range of electricity grid technologies from Hitachi.

It isn’t yet ready for the commercial market, however. Plans are to implement a demonstration project in the United States to evaluate its commercial competitiveness.

Hitachi Energy Storage System plugs into the larger grid, local solar or wind farms, or small-scale hydro power and stabilizes and modulates power loads, in addition to storing power in the massive battery.
Hitachi Energy Storage System plugs into the larger grid, local solar or wind farms, or small-scale hydro power and stabilizes and modulates power loads, in addition to storing power in the massive battery.

With several decades of energy storage experience, Hitachi could be a major player in this arena as the industry grows by leaps and bounds. CrystEna incorporates Hitachi Group technologies and expertise from the following fields: electricity generation, transmission and distribution, grid stabilization, batteries, power conditioning systems (PCS), control systems, and more.

The 1 MW lithium-ion battery energy storage system package announced today utilizes Hitachi Chemical’s lithium-ion batteries to raise system performance, such as extended expected battery lifetime, and realize high economic viability.

It was developed with an emphasis on maximizing the benefits to be obtained by customers during long-term use, Hitachi writes.

Initially, Hitachi will conduct field trials in the rapidly growing U.S. ancillary market and plans to accumulate know-how from testing battery capacity optimality and durability as well as the control algorithms written to maximize income from power sales.

This article, All-in-One Container-Type Energy Storage System From Hitachi Unveiled, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary ShahanZachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

Solar Energy Storage System Wins A 2013 German Renewables Award

Solar Energy Storage System Wins A 2013 German Renewables Award | 26/11/13
by Nicholas Brown

A new German energy storage system has received a 2013 German Renewables Award at a ceremony which was held earlier this month in… Germany. The system is called the ASD Sonnenspeicher. It is was created by Automatic Storage Device (ASD).

Electricity lines in Germany. Image Credit: Shutterstock.
Electricity lines in Germany. Image Credit: Shutterstock.

I’m sure that Germans will be pleased to hear that it is manufactured in Germany, which happens to be a country that has made impressive progress where the growth of solar power and energy storage is concerned.

There may be some serious merit behind the award, as the system can switch itself on and off almost instantaneously (12 milliseconds), according to ASD. This is wonderfully dispatchable compared to typical coal power plants, which can take three hours to start. ASD notes that this system can also switch between its lithium-ion batteries and the power grid within 1 millisecond.

Interestingly, the managing director of ASD, Walter Wolfram says that he designed the system because he could not find a suitable energy storage system for his home.

The energy storage system comes in different sizes, such as the Sonnenspeicher 300, which is 4.8 kWh; the Sonnenspeicher  600, which is 8.06 kWh; and the Sonnenspeicher 900 and 1,000 models, which are 13.44 kWh. The systems can, naturally, be used residentially or commercially.

Prof Andreas Reuter, director of Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology, explaining the judges’ decision to award “Innovative Product of the Year” to ASD, said:

The ASD solar storage system sets new standards by storing solar energy much more efficiently. It eases the burden on the grid and uses intelligent power management to maximise on-site consumption.

The system therefore has the potential to significantly help Germany and other countries reach their energy policy goals.

This article, Solar Energy Storage System Wins A 2013 German Renewables Award, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Nicholas Brown has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa

TESLA + top Apple engineer = Game-changer

by John Brian Shannon

I used to write one article per day. But with my editing duties at other publications and posting content to JBS News from authours besides myself, I’m now down to writing once or twice per month. Meaning, I only get to write about the super important stuff nowadays.

So, on that note, let’s cover today’s announcement that Apple’s VP of Mac Engineering, Doug Field, has been hired by TESLA Motors.

Think of the possibilities! When you combine the best under $100,000 car in the world with the full computing power and vision of Apple computer’s top Engineer, the result in a year or two might well be a bona-fide game-changer in this segment of the auto industry.

TESLA has built an almost perfect car with the S model, complete with zero emissions, performance and styling that defines a new class of electric vehicle and (bonus!) an unparalleled pride of ownership experience. Besides more colour and material choices, the ability to improve on the S model is limited. Really, what could you do to improve this car?

TESLA owner, meet a new way of using your car.

If you think about the interface between car and driver, that is one interface. Another interface occurs between the car and the car owner, and yet another interface occurs between the owner/driver, and the utility company.

With the perfect car the only thing to improve on is the role the car performs. It’s a car, right? What other role could it perform? And what has an Apple engineer got to do with any of this?

Let us count the ways that a TESLA Model S could become more than the great looking and great performing near-supercar that it is, with the injection of a visionary Apple engineer into the mix.

TESLA Model S sun dsc_5609_960x640_0
Is it a gorgeous EV car, or a transportable battery pack?

Is it a gorgeous EV car, or a transportable battery pack?

1. Homeowners: At the end of the day, every EV driver plugs their car in to their househod electricity, and we all know that some cars or the charger units have the ability to auto-schedule their charging time to meet the lowest electricity rates of the day (usually late at night and into the early hours of the morning).

Now imagine if TESLA’s newest engineer decided to instruct the car’s charge controller software to automatically have the battery in the TESLA allow uninterrupted power to the home in the event of a household power outage? Of course, once grid power was restored by the utility, the car would resume charging and be ready for next use. Everything is automatic.

If you happen to be one of those TESLA owners you wonder why everyone is talking about the big power outage the night before. “What, the power was out?” Try not to be too smug.

2. Solar powered homeowners: For that growing number of homeowners who choose to mount solar panels on their rooftops, owning a TESLA could afford them the opportunity to store the solar energy collected during the day for later use, courtesy of the TESLA’s battery. That energy could be used by the home throughout the day or night, to minimize the amount of electricity purchased from the grid during the most expensive times of day, while still keeping the car battery charged to a minimum drivable charge (whatever percentage of charge the car owner determines is reasonable). At the software charger interface you might see these words; “Never allow charge to fall below, a) 80%, b) 70%, c) 60%, d) 50% when using battery for household power.”

TESLA fleet owners: The obvious thing for small business owners would be to install solar panels on their business rooftop and leave their TESLA’s plugged-in all day. Again, if the grid fails, the business can still continue normal operations — giving them an advantage over their non-TESLA competitors. Larger businesses might want to replace their entire present car fleets with TESLA cars and direct employees to plug-in upon arrival at the workplace, to allow uninterrupted electricity supply in the event of power outages. Not only that, drivers might want to ‘charge up at work’ for free, with the only downside being that occasionally, the car might be leaving work with only a 70% (no-cost to the driver) charge — or whatever the driver has specified as the available default as some people have a longer commute home, than others.

Modulated Demand: In a small-to-medium sized business, even 100 or 200 plugged-in TESLA’s could offer an advantage that their competitors can’t match. (Zero electricity-related downtime, not to mention a 100% clean energy car fleet for starters). For other small fleets such as towns or government agencies for example, cars are for the most part parked, but available when required. Why not leave them permanently plugged-in, modulating electricity flow throughout the day/night? I call this ‘Modulated Demand’ as the car battery can be used to levelize energy flows and free-up energy consumers to purchase electricity at the cheapest time of day/night, instead of the present (most expensive) method.

3. Supplemental Grid Energy: Taking it a step further. Should a utility company spend $15 billion dollars on a large nuclear power plant to meet rising demand, or should it offer a $1000. coupon to each new TESLA buyer who keeps their car plugged-in to the grid for more than 360 hours per month and who is willing to allow up to 30% (or more) of the energy stored in the battery to be accessed at any time by that utility?

(Let’s say the new TESLA owner gets their coupon after 12 months of 360 hrs. per month availability, consecutive months or not, and whether any battery energy was accessed or not. The coupon pays for the privilege and ability of the utility company to have additional on-tap energy during peak energy consumption hours, or during energy production or transmission interruptions).

Easy enough for an Apple engineer to write that code and have the total hours of grid availability and the amount of any battery power accessed (if any), summarized and uploaded to the utility company, so they can properly credit the TESLA owner on their monthly electric bill via net metering.

This doesn’t even begin to cover what the Apple touch could do for TESLA, the private or fleet owners of these great cars, especially homeowners and businesses with rooftop solar, and the utility companies.

Today, a seemingly small but profound shift occurred in the electrical grid/electric vehicle world. Get ready. Even apart from meshing electrical grids with EV’s, it’s gonna be a game-changer.

Related Articles:

Apple’s VP Of Mac Engineering Joins Tesla Motors (CleanTechnica.com)

Solar Grid Storage and AllCell Technologies team up for grid storage solution

by Zachary Shahan

Local solar power + local energy storage = a sustainable 24 hour Distributed Energy microgrid
Local solar power + local energy storage = a sustainable 24 hour Distributed Energy microgrid — and still allow large grid access, to handle peak load times and enjoy the ability to sell excess solar power back to the large grid at midday, with the installation of a two way “net-metering” electrical meter.

Solar Grid Storage’s PowerFactor™ solar + storage systems aim to bring more stability to the electric grid. It’s a turnkey energy storage solution (+ inverter) aimed at commercial solar power developers. Solar Grid Storage has just selected AllCell Technologies as a preferred supplier of large lithium-ion battery systems for these PowerFactor™ solar + storage systems.

AllCell’s passive thermal management system allows Solar Grid Storage to place both the battery system and inverter into a single ISO container — a significant reduction in complexity, cost, size, and weight compared to other options in the market today. — press release [PDF]

solar grid storage powerfactor
AllCell’s PowerFactor™ storage system.

Here’s more from the press release:

Large-scale batteries, with their ability to instantly either supply or absorb power, provide a powerful tool to ease the job of grid managers.

The Solar Grid Storage PowerFactor™ storage system allows solar developers a simple and cost effective way to integrate storage into projects typically ranging from 100 kilowatts to 10 megawatts.

The PowerFactor™ inverter acts as a standard solar inverter delivering AC power to the building but also can be used during power outages enabling the PV system plus batteries to provide emergency power indefinitely.

AllCell’s battery system, protected by the company’s proprietary thermal management system, offers a safer, longer lasting, and more economical solution than conventional large scale batteries.

Effective thermal management is important in any battery system, but it is especially critical in larger high-power systems.

AllCell’s patented technology utilizes a composite phase change material (PCM) to surround each cell within the battery, absorbing and distributing heat to reduce battery temperature and prevent thermal runaway propagation.

The PCM technology allows the PowerFactor™ system design to maximize safety and cycle life.

Solar Grid Storage PowerFactor™ systems are or will soon be in place at several projects in the PJM region. One such project is the Philadelphia Navy Yard’s Grid Star project, while another is the Konterra commercial micro grid in Laurel, Maryland.

Related Stories:

This article, Solar Grid Storage & AllCell Technologies Team Up For Grid Storage Solution, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

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