Category Archives: Vehicle

Invests in Renewables of Rockefeller

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the foundation divesting from the fossil-fuel industry it helped create, took its first direct stake in a renewable energy company in a move meant to bolster the fight against climate change.

The New York City-based fund, founded in 1940 with the profits of Standard Oil Co., provided $10 million to Mainstream Renewable Power Ltd. to expand renewable energy in Africa. The investment was part of a $117.5 million funding round announced last month that included International Finance Corp. and other backers. The investment will help finance as much as $1.9 billion for green energy on the continent.

Utility Dive: Headed for the Exits, Nevada PUC Commissioner David Noble Lifts Lid on Net Metering Fight

At the end of last year, the epicenter of solar net metering battles shifted to Nevada, where regulators reduced incentives and imposed new fees for rooftop solar owners in the state.

The Dec. 22 decision, upheld by regulators in later votes, set off a firestorm of criticism at the Nevada Public Utilities Commission. Solar owners protested the regulatory body, saying the lower rates violated contracts they had previously signed with installers, and a group filed a lawsuit against the PUC.

Morning Consult: ConocoPhillips Posts $1.1 Billion Loss for Second Quarter

ConocoPhillips on Thursday reported a $1.1 billion net loss for the second quarter of 2016.

Oil production was also down to 1,546 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day (MBOED) this quarter, marking a 49 MBOED decrease from last year’s levels. ConocoPhillips pointed to normal field decline, dispositions, planned downtime and the effects of California’s wildfires as a reason for the production cuts. However, cuts were offset by major projects and development programs. Improved well performance also help to combat negative factors.

Business Wire: Genovation’s GXE Breaks All-Electric Land Speed Record, Reaches 205.6 mph

Genovation today announced that it has made history by breaking the land speed record for a street-legal all-electric vehicle with the Genovation Extreme Electric car (GXE). The GXE reached the record-breaking speed of 205.6 mph during supervised tests with Johnny Bohmer Racing at Space Florida’s Shuttle Landing Facility in Kennedy Space Center, FL. The record was certified by the International Mile Racing Association (IMRA). The previous record, which also was held by Genovation, stood at 186.8 mph.

The GXE is a Z06 Corvette that has been re-engineered by Genovation to be a performance-driven all-electric vehicle.

Chicago Tribune: RedWave Raises $5.5 Million to Turn Heat Into Electricity

RedWave Energy, a local startup developing technology that harvests heat energy, closed a $5.5 million round of funding this week that will help bring it closer to a prototype.

RedWave is working to save the lower-temperature heat put off during manufacturing processes — like those at glass factories or electric power generation plants — and convert that heat into electricity and get it back on the grid, said CEO and co-founder Jim Nelson. […]  RedWave’s technology uses tiny antennas — millions per square inch — formed and tuned to pick up the wavelengths from the heat waste, Nelson said. The electrons then flow off the antennas and are turned into electricity that can be placed back on the grid.

The Embodied Energy in Tesla’s Gigafactory

Much has been made of the use of solar power at what is to become the largest factory in the world, the Tesla Gigafactory near Reno, Nevada, which will produce battery packs for cars and other applications. The “end-to-end” vision of using renewable energy sources to generate electricity for product manufacture and use is compelling, and one that has been forcefully made by Elon Musk. At an estimated cost of $5 billion (including $1.3 billion in tax incentives) and with factory floor-space intended to grow to some 1.2 million square meters by 2020, on 4 square kilometers of land, it is a monumental project.

Look beyond the hype, however, and there are major environmental questions that need to be answered, as the rhetoric and reality of green production are very different.

Fortune: Tesla Is Speeding Up Construction at Its Gigafactory

Tesla is working hard to finish construction on its Gigafactory by early 2017, slashing years off of its original timeline.

The company announced the launch of its Model 3 sedan in March, and Tesla wants the Gigafactory to be ready early enough to keep up with the high demand for the vehicle,The Wall Street Journal reports. The base price for the sedan is $35,000, approximately half that of the Model S.

The factory is being built on 3,000 acres of Nevada land, and construction began about two years ago.

Midwest Energy News: ‘Value of Solar’ Gains Another Foothold in Minnesota

Minnesota became the first state in the nation Thursday to adopt a “value of solar” approach for determining how community solar customers will be paid for the power the projects produce.

The state’s Public Utilities Commission agreed to use the value of solar methodology — currently voluntary for utilities — as part of a ruling on changes proposed to the state’s community solar garden program.

Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, is managing one of the largest community garden programs in the country. The value of solar approach includes external factors such as avoided transmission investments, the favorable health and environmental impact of clean energy and the ability to help the electric grid meet large demand on sunny days when extra power is often needed.

PRI: This Republican Says His Party’s Denial of Climate Science is ‘Courting Disaster’ With Voters

A “hoax.” A “con job.” “Bull—-.” These are among the phrases Donald Trump has used in recent years to express his contempt for the science of climate change.

But former Republican representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina says his party and its new leader are wrong on the science, the politics and the economics of climate change.

“We’re courting disaster,” Inglis says of his party. “We’re basically pulling defeat down upon us by taking on this retro affect that says that climate change isn’t real… [It’s] out of step with where the science is and where the smart money is. […] The smart money is already moving to act on climate.”

Crain’s Cleveland Business: FirstEnergy to Shut Down or Sell Several Coal-Fired Units in Ohio

Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. announced on Friday, July 22 that it will shut down or sell some of the operations at two of its coal-fired generation plants in Ohio.

The company said it will either sell or deactivate its 136-megawatt Bay Shore Unit 1 in Oregon, Ohio, and retire four units of its W.H. Sammis Plant in Stratton, Ohio.

The Sammis units are among seven the company operates at the Sammis plant, and the four units represent 720 megawatts of generation capacity, or about 4% of all the electricity FirstEnergy produces. The remaining three units at Sammis will continue to provide 1,490 megawatts of baseload power generation, the company said.

Elon Musk’s New Master Plan

“While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options,” Musk wrote, almost as an afterthought. “Don’t tell anyone.”

The gist of his “Master Plan, Part Deux”: Save the planet. He just didn’t mention how.

Musk stated that “we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse,” and then went on to list four primary ways that Tesla plans to promote sustainability:

  • Create “stunning” and seamlessly integrated solar-plus-battery-storage products.
  • Expand Tesla’s electric-vehicle product line to address all major segments — this includes the Model 3, a future compact SUV, and a new kind of pickup truck, as well as a heavy-duty truck and high-passenger-density urban transport.
  • Develop a self-driving capability that is 10 times safer than the U.S. vehicle average “via massive fleet learning.” And as the technology matures, Tesla vehicles will have the necessary equipment “to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability, meaning that any given system in the car could break and your car will still drive itself safely.”
  • Self-driving Tesla vehicles will be enabled for car-sharing so they can make money for their owners when the owners aren’t using them.

The plan shows that Musk is thinking beyond how to improve on individual products, to how he can disrupt entire systems. He’s thinking about how he can revolutionize the way people consume energy.

In what could be a testament to Tesla’s shift beyond the automotive sector, the company’s website URL changed this week from www.teslamotors.com to simply www.tesla.com.

“With the Master Plan, Part Deux, Elon Musk has shown us a glimpse of what the future of solar plus EVs plus storage could look like,” said Ravi Manghani, energy storage analyst at GTM Research. “It will involve customer turning into a ‘prosumer,’ not just of energy by deploying distributed solar-plus-storage, but also a prosumer of transportation services. It shows the path that Tesla is daring to take as a technology vendor, a service provider and eventually also as a platform provider.”

The path is daring — but the plan is also kind of obvious. And Musk offered very little detail.

Solar + storage

It comes as no surprise that offering an integrated solar-plus-storage package is at the top of Musk’s to-do list in light of Tesla’s recent announcement that it wants to acquire SolarCity. Wall Street has been critical of the acquisition deal, but Musk believes major Tesla investors will back it.

There are legitimate concerns about the acquisition. Analysts believe the proposed $3 billion deal could put financial strain on both companies and add pressure for them to raise more capital. Some analysts also believe the overlap between the two companies is limited, view the deal as a SolarCity bailout, and worry the purchase could be a distraction as Tesla battles its own production hurdles.

But, from a consumer perspective, the strategy makes sense. The idea is to build and scale “a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product. […] One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app.” Musk also wrote that the fact Tesla and SolarCity are separate companies at all today, given their shared overarching goal of advancing sustainable energy, “is largely an accident of history.”

Musk tweeted a follow up that said, “Both should have been done under the same corporate umbrella from the beginning.”

Commercial Autonomous Car

In the race to develop driverless cars, several automakers and technology companies are already testing vehicles that pilot themselves on public roads. And others have outlined plans to expand their development fleets over the next few years.

But few have gone so far as to give a definitive date for the commercial debut of these cars of the future.

Now Ford Motor has done just that.

At a news conference on Tuesday at the company’s research center in Palo Alto, Calif., Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, said the company planned to mass produce driverless cars and have them in commercial operation in a ride-hailing service by 2021.

Eliminating $4 billion of petroleum subsidies in the U.S. would have only a minor affect on oil production and demand and boost the country’s influence in advocating global climate change action, according to a report for the Council on Foreign Relations.

Withdrawing oil-drilling subsidies could cut domestic production by 5 percent by 2030, which could increase international oil prices by just 1 percent, Gilbert Metcalf, a professor of economics at Tufts University, said in the report. Local natural-gas prices could rise as much as 10 percent, while both production and consumption would probably fall as much as 4 percent, according to the report.

The Guardian: Why Aren’t Ships Using Wind Power to Cut Their Climate Footprint?

Shipping brings us 90% of everything we buy and consume, yet most of us remain blind to both its role in our lives and its contribution to global climate emissions: currently around 3%. The industry has no targets for reducing emissions; the climate talks in Paris last year were skillfully negotiated with warnings that a cap on emissions for shipping would be a cap on global trade and growth.

On current projections, the sector could be contributing upwards of 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Although the U.N. agency that regulates shipping puts out glowing press releases, its only two policies so far are achieving little. There is an agreement for ships to record and report data on fuel consumption, but not until 2018 at the earliest, and rules to ensure new ships being built are more efficient.

Forbes: Is Offshore Wind Finally Ready to Serve U.S. Power Needs?

Deepwater Wind is attaching blades this week to the last of five massive, 6 MWe peak capacity wind turbines that make up the 30 MWe Block Island Wind Farm. That is one of the final steps in the process of installing and commissioning the facility.

By the end of 2016, the developer expects that the project will enter commercial operation and begin providing the first electricity from offshore wind turbines to the U.S. electricity grid. It is a development with far-reaching implications and several lessons available to be learned.

Mainstream Adoption

According to market tracker EV Volumes, 180,500 electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) were sold in the first four months of this year, a 42 percent increase over 2015 levels.

Those sales figures were lower than the second half of 2015, but EV Volumes noted demand for EVs and PHEVs spiked in November and December last year as certain incentives came to an end in China, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The 2016 Global EV Outlook from the International Energy Agency (IEA) also said last year was a pivotal one for EV and PHEV sales. “The year 2015 saw the global threshold of 1 million electric cars on the road exceeded, closing at 1.26 million,” said the organization.

“This is a symbolic achievement highlighting significant efforts deployed jointly by governments and industry over the past 10 years. In 2014, only about half of today’s electric car stock existed. In 2005, electric cars were still measured in hundreds.”

Just as significantly, another report by the IEA noted that electric vehicles were the only class of carbon-reduction technology making enough progress to meet global goals to keep global warming below the level of 2º Celsius.

Nevertheless, there is still concern over whether the uptake of EVs and PHEVs is growing quickly enough to meet targets set by global policy organizations.

The Clean Energy Ministerial’s Electric Vehicles Initiative, for example, is looking to have 20 million EVs, PHEVs and fuel-cell vehicles on the road by 2020.

The Paris Declaration on Electro-Mobility and Climate Change, meanwhile, has a target of 100 million EVs (plus 400 million electric two- and three-wheelers) worldwide by 2030.

And to give climate change a 50 percent chance of staying within the 2º Celsius margin, the IEA thinks even greater levels of non-polluting transport will be needed. It says 150 million EVs are needed by 2030.

“Meeting these targets implies substantial market growth to develop further the current 1.26 million electric car stock, as well as the swift deployment of electric two-wheelers and buses beyond the Chinese market,” said the IEA in its Global EV Outlook 2016.

Elsewhere, the World Energy Council has said EVs will need to make up 16 percent of the total auto market by 2020 in order to achieve fuel economy improvement targets of approximately 30 percent set by China, the European Union and the U.S.

This level, up from around 1 percent of the auto market currently, will need 7.6 million EVs to be sold across the three territories by 2020.

China has the biggest shortfall, at 5.3 million, which means 22 percent of projected passenger car sales in the country will need to be electric. The country already has the world’s largest and fastest-growing EV market, with 34,000 new vehicles hitting the streets in July alone.

This was a 154 percent increase on the same month last year, according to EV Obsession, and more units than were sold in Canada, Europe and the U.S. together.

 Promoting EVs makes sense in pollution-heavy, petroleum-light China, but there are concerns that the current boom in sales is being propped up by government subsidies that cannot go on forever.

The Concept Of Electric Car

unduhan-15The future of luxury cars isn’t all about flashy vehicles that drive themselves — at least that’s what Mercedes and Maybach want the super-rich to believe.

The Daimler-owned company unveiled a new electric-car concept, the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6, on Aug. 19. The “6” actually represents how many meters long this car is, just shy of 20 feet — which is a pretty standard size for speedboats, if not sports cars. Mercedes showed off the concept in a bright shade of red, but if it repainted the Vision in black, it probably would not look out of place in a mid-1990s Batman feature.

CNBC: After Solar Impulse Flight, Solar Power Getting Its Day in the Sun

By helping to propel an airplane around the world recently, solar power took what some would consider a quantum leap into the future — one that includes less use of fossil fuels.

The flight of Solar Impulse 2, which this week completed a 25,000-mile journey across Europe, Asia and North America, captured the public’s imagination and raised a tantalizing question that has long been the source of mere speculation. If the sun can play a role in aerial circumnavigation, can it live up to its billing as a large-scale energy source?

The answer, according to some, appears to be yes.

PV-Tech: Mixed Views Over Australian Energy Strategy Plans

The Council of Australian Governments Energy Council has met to discuss Australia’s energy future, prompting mixed reactions from the industry.

The Energy Network’s Association welcomed the council’s decision to expedite the assessment of a new interconnector between New South Wales and South Australia, which could strengthen the energy system.

The last month saw the country embroiled in a fierce debate of South Australia’s electricity price hikes, with many blaming renewables and others citing an interconnector being down for maintenance and gas prices as the key factors.

InsideClimate News: The Steel Magnate Helping Trump Assail Pollution Regulations

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been trying to appeal to voters in the Rust Belt by claiming that environmental regulations and one-sided trade deals are the primary culprits in the decline of U.S. manufacturing jobs. And he has chosen an economic adviser who’s been preaching that narrative for years, even as his business was booming.

As the chief executive of America’s biggest steelmaker for 13 years, Dan DiMicco repeatedly went to battle against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. His company, Nucor, fought the EPA in court over its moves to curb greenhouse gases, and it was assessed one of the EPA’s largest penalties ever against a steel company for clean air violations. Nucor also funded climate change denial efforts. DiMicco has argued that U.S. efforts to control carbon emissions would further strengthen China’s unfair hand in winning business — and jobs.

Back Channel: Self-Driving Cars Will Improve Our Cities — If They Don’t Ruin Them

It took 50 years to transition from the horse to the car. Surely few could have imagined the impact the car would have as it tore through cities, countries, and economies worldwide. Today, average Americans spend almost two of their eight hours at work paying off their car, which they need to get to that job. Last year in the U.S., more than 38,000 people died and 4.4 million were seriously injured due to motorized transport. Farther afield, in Singapore, 12 percent of the island nation’s scarce land is devoted to car infrastructure. In Delhi, 2.2 million children have irreversible lung damage because of poor air quality.

Incredibly, we might actually get a chance at a do-over — of our cities, our fossil-fuel dependence, and the social contract with labor — thanks to the impending advent of autonomous cars. Yes, their arrival is inevitable, but how they will impact us is yet to be determined.

Regulators for Years

Senior executives at Volkswagen AG, including its former chief executive, covered up evidence that the German automaker had cheated on U.S. diesel emissions tests for years, three U.S. states charged on Tuesday in civil lawsuits against the company.

New York, Massachusetts and Maryland filed separate, nearly identical lawsuits in state courts, accusing the world’s No. 2 automaker of violating their environmental laws. The lawsuits, which could lead to state fines of hundreds of millions of dollars or more, complicate VW’s efforts to move past the “Dieselgate” scandal that has hurt its business and reputation, and already cost it billions of dollars.

Automotive News: Audi Plans Electric Car Push to Put Heat on Tesla

Audi will aim for electric cars to account for a quarter of its sales by 2025 as part of a strategic overhaul following the emissions scandal at parent Volkswagen Group, company sources said, in a move that could step up the challenge to Tesla Motors.

Audi, which has been slow to embrace battery-powered vehicles, will now invest about a third of its research and development budget into electric cars, digital services, and autonomous driving, two company sources told Reuters.

ClimateWire: Republican Platform Rejects Paris Climate Agreement

The platform approved by a voice vote yesterday evening doesn’t explicitly question the science behind climate change. But it calls for reduced funding for renewable energy and international adaptation programs, and it seeks an end to the global agreement reached in Paris late last year to cut greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

The 66-page document also rejects the idea of an economy-wide carbon price, drawing a sharp contrast with drafts of the Democratic platform, which endorses that policy.

“We oppose any carbon tax,” the GOP platform says. “It would increase energy prices across the board, hitting hardest at the families who are already struggling to pay their bills in the Democrats’ no-growth economy.”

Ecogeneration: LG Chem Expands Residential Storage Series

Korean industrial giant LG Chem has expanded its range of lithium-ion residential batteries in the Australian market with new low-voltage and high-voltage variants.

The new Resu low-voltage (48-volt) models can generate between 3.3 kWh and 9.8 kWh and between 7 kWh and 9.8 kWh in the high-voltage (400-volt) variation.

The high-voltage models provide a variety of inverters to convert solar DC into AC. The move into high-voltage systems is driven by the trend of developing new inverters in high-voltage areas across LG Chem’s partners, the company said.

Autonomy Is Coming Sooner Than Anyone Expects

So, despite missing its Q2 earnings and other targets, as related in a letter released late last week (misses that might have toppled a lesser stock), Tesla’s stock price barely wavered, and in fact seems to have risen upon the bad news. Some analysts have suggested that Tesla stock now trades solely on the success (or failure) of the Model 3. Tesla claims to “have completed the design phase of Model 3 and released Model 3 for tooling, production planning and validation.”

Here are the quarterly details.

  • Tesla had a larger-than-expected second-quarter loss of $1.06 per share — while the Street looked for a net loss of 59 cents a share
  • Non-GAAP sales were $1.56 billion, up from last year’s Q2 revenue of $1.2 billion, but below analyst expectations of $1.63 billion
  • Automotive gross margin expanded, but missed consensus estimates
  • Tesla delivered 14,402 cars (9,764 units of Model S and 4,638 units of Model X) in Q2 and looks to “support 50,000 deliveries” during the second half of 2016
  • According to the letter, “We ended up with $3.25 billion on the balance sheet at the end of the quarter. […] On December 31, 2015, we had $1.2 billion. We raised $1.7 billion in our secondary offering and we collected on our Model 3 reservations.”

Stuff Tesla CEO Elon Musk says

One, make that two, priorities: “So, the focus really is on Model 3, followed by full autonomy — well, it’s our two priorities.”

Ballistic stationary storage: Musk said there are heavy engineering and production constraints, adding, “We’ve got some next-generation technology and we’re going to split off that production line. So it’s going to be heavily concentrated in Q4 and probably even [more] heavily in November and December. But I think it’s going to be really exciting when people see it. So, that’s why I expect kind of exponential growth from there. I think it’s really going to go ballistic.”

He added, “What I’m highly confident of is that the next generation of stationary storage is head and shoulders above anything else that I’ve even heard announced as future plans from other companies.”

Things that are hard: Production, according to Musk:

  • “We’ve just got to scale up production, and production is a hard thing. It’s [really] hard, particularly when it’s new technology. If it’s some standard technology that’s been made for a long time, it’s fine. If it’s cutting-edge technology, it’s really hard to scale up production, because you’ve got to design the machine that makes the machine, not just the machine itself.”
  • “Basically, we were in production hell for the first six months of this year. Man, it was hell. And then we just managed to sort of climb out of hell partway through June. And now the production line is humming and our suppliers mostly have their shit together. There’s a few that don’t — one I’m going to be visiting on Saturday personally to figure out what the hell’s going on there. But we’ll solve it. But the thing that’s crazy-hard about cars is that there’s several thousand unique items, and you move as fast as the slowest item in the whole car.”

Things that are nutty: “It’s important to bear in mind…as a manufacturing company, our percentage growth, I think it’s unprecedented in the modern era. It’s really nutty. I mean, in 2010, we were making 600 cars a year and Lotus was doing the body and chassis. Five years later, we were making 50,000. And it was a much more sophisticated car with Model X, and we were doing the whole car without any partner.”

“So it’s just real important to parse things out and to understand what the real health of the business is. Right now, I mean in a nutshell, we’re shipping $10 billion a year of product on an annualized basis at somewhere around 23 percent to 25 percent gross margin.”

New models: “I think there’s going be some pretty exciting unveils for the Tesla Semi and Tesla Minibus (or bus) — we don’t have a name for it yet.”

Alien dreadnought: “The Model 3 — the internal name for designing the machine makes the machine is…’the alien dreadnought.’ At the point at which the factory looks like an alien dreadnought, then you know you’ve won. It’s like, what the hell is that? So we’ve got alien dreadnought version 0.5, [which] will be Model 3. It will take us another year to get to version 1 and probably a major version every two years thereafter. By version 3, it won’t look like anything else. It might look like a giant chip pick-and-place machine or a super-high-speed bottling or canning plant, and you really can’t have people in the production line itself. Otherwise, you automatically drop to people speed. There’s still a lot of people at the factory, but what they’re doing is maintaining the machines, upgrading them, dealing with anomalies. But in the production process itself, there essentially would be no people. With version 1, not version 0.5. But I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, Tesla’s going to have a factory without people.’ It’s going be a huge number of people, but they will be maintaining machines and upgrading the machines and dealing with anomalies. And the output per person will be extraordinarily high.”

New Regenerative Energy Technology

In the race to develop driverless cars, several automakers and technology companies are already testing vehicles that pilot themselves on public roads. And others have outlined plans to expand their development fleets over the next few years.

But few have gone so far as to give a definitive date for the commercial debut of these cars of the future.

Now Ford Motor has done just that.

At a news conference on Tuesday at the company’s research center in Palo Alto, Calif., Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, said the company planned to mass produce driverless cars and have them in commercial operation in a ride-hailing service by 2021.

Eliminating $4 billion of petroleum subsidies in the U.S. would have only a minor affect on oil production and demand and boost the country’s influence in advocating global climate change action, according to a report for the Council on Foreign Relations.

Withdrawing oil-drilling subsidies could cut domestic production by 5 percent by 2030, which could increase international oil prices by just 1 percent, Gilbert Metcalf, a professor of economics at Tufts University, said in the report. Local natural-gas prices could rise as much as 10 percent, while both production and consumption would probably fall as much as 4 percent, according to the report.

The Guardian: Why Aren’t Ships Using Wind Power to Cut Their Climate Footprint?

Shipping brings us 90% of everything we buy and consume, yet most of us remain blind to both its role in our lives and its contribution to global climate emissions: currently around 3%. The industry has no targets for reducing emissions; the climate talks in Paris last year were skillfully negotiated with warnings that a cap on emissions for shipping would be a cap on global trade and growth.

On current projections, the sector could be contributing upwards of 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Although the U.N. agency that regulates shipping puts out glowing press releases, its only two policies so far are achieving little. There is an agreement for ships to record and report data on fuel consumption, but not until 2018 at the earliest, and rules to ensure new ships being built are more efficient.

Energy Storage Would Be Needed

A new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory attempts to quantify the answer. The authors model several scenarios in which the California grid generates 50 percent of its power from solar by 2030. To do so will require some pretty major changes, including more flexible baseload generation, as well as more deployment of electric vehicles, exports to other states and demand response.

Those can only go so far, though. To meet the 50 percent photovoltaic threshold economically will require energy storage. The state already has 3,100 megawatts of pumped storage, with 1,325 megawatts of additional storage set to be deployed by 2020, per the state mandate. Under the most optimistic flexible grid scenario and with PV prices falling rapidly to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, California will need another 15 gigawatts of storage by 2030.

That’s more than 11 times the amount mandated currently in California, and 66 times the total megawatts deployed in the U.S. last year. And any delays in the price declines of solar, or the rollout of EVs, or the flexibility of conventional power plants, will raise the bar on the amount of storage required.

That sounds daunting, admitted NREL Principal Energy Analyst Paul Denholm, who co-authored the research with Robert Margolis.

But the challenge becomes more attainable if you frame it as getting storage to a price point where it can take the place of peaker plants, the most expensive form of thermal generation. California had 22 gigawatts of fossil-fueled peakers as of 2014, including 14 gigawatts that were older than 25 years and will eventually need to retire.

“The way to think about it is not necessarily to compare it to existing storage, but compare it to existing peaking capacity, because ultimately that’s what storage is going to have to be replacing,” Denholm said.

Whereas peakers only operate for the tiny fraction of the year when demand surges, longer-duration energy storage can fulfill that role and perform other services the rest of the year. Top candidates for those other services are avoiding new distribution and transmission costs and reducing costs from thermal plant starts and stops, by charging from those plants when low demand would otherwise require them to turn off, Denholm said.

Why this target?

The study’s benchmark of 50 percent PV by 2030 doesn’t come from California’s existing policy, which calls for all types of renewables to add up to 50 percent of generation by that year.

The choice of target for this study came out of the unexpected success of solar manufacturers relative to the Department of Energy’s SunShot goal, which called for reducing solar prices to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2020. That goal now seems readily attainable, Denholm said, which led him to wonder what further price reductions could mean for PV penetration into the grid. Five cents per kilowatt-hour is “totally doable” for California by 2030, he added.

It’s worth noting, then, that this study isn’t optimizing all possible low-carbon grid options and concluding that 50 percent solar is the best way to go; it’s just saying that if California wants really high PV penetration, here’s how much storage it will need to achieve that.