by Julian Spector
May 11, 2017

The SGIP Easter Bunny dropped off many an egg last week, and California storage types are happily munching away on their hard-earned chocolate.

I’ll hold off on comprehensive analysis until we get the final results next week; several of the award categories went to a lottery after being oversubscribed, and that process is still wrapping up.

From what we know so far, though, a few things jump out.

One, the revamped system succeeded in parceling out funds to a highly distributed field. There are some familiar names at the top -- Advanced Microgrid Solutions, Tesla, Stem and Swell -- but the developer cap ensured no single company stole the show. Meanwhile, long-tail installers that you or I may not have heard of appeared in droves.

Homebuilders and solar companies got in on the action, joining the ranks of more traditional storage specialists.

The opening day saw a major backlog of projects come in for their cut (funds can go to projects completed within the past year). There’s likely to be more backlog to work through, but soon those projects will all have applied and the program can move into a steady state of rolling applications as deals come together.

Grid storage: Nonstarter or needed in New York nuke knockout?

Few topics boil blood in clean energy circles like the battle over keeping or closing old nuclear power plants.

New York’s governor has settled on the latter option for Indian Point on the banks of the Hudson, so ideally the stage is set for a more cool-headed discussion on grid balancing in the absence of this source of energy and capacity.

This week, I dove into a couple of plans for filling the gap, and found the matter to still be contentious.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Riverkeeper, having already claimed victory for the environment in securing the premature closure, have taken up the mantle of proving they can replace the generator with clean assets.

Their plan games out the wind and solar required to meet the state’s 50 percent renewable by 2030 goal, and makes up the difference with gobs of assumed energy efficiency. The authors of the plan admit, though, that no regulatory or policy mechanism currently exists to effect the scale of energy efficiency improvement they model.

For those demanding more detail on how to ensure the power supply of the nation’s largest metropolis, there’s another plan that envisions a greater role for energy storage in shoring up the lost capacity.

Strategen Consulting analyzed the local capacity requirements for the greater New York City region and found that in addition to losing Indian Point, many older gas peakers could soon be phased out due to air quality concerns. They suggest that 450 megawatts of new energy storage, along with renewables and energy efficiency, can maintain capacity when the nuke facility shuts off in 2021.

This basically looks like a bigger run of the Aliso Canyon playbook. Swap in a nuclear plant retirement for the gas leak, add in a few more years of lead time, and the dynamic looks similar. Storage can move quickly to shore up capacity in dense metropolitan areas where conventional power plants don’t fit.

We’ll be on the lookout to see which way New York goes on this, and whether the state can pull off a replacement plan that doesn’t involve a lot of new gas plants.

Florida property tax exemption for renewables includes energy storage

From the swamps of Tallahassee this week emerged a bill to exempt “renewable source devices” from property tax assessment. This sort of measure has played a vital role in the expansion of distributed solar markets around the country, so it’s good news for an industry that has been stymied by unfavorable policy barriers in the Sunshine State.

The bill passed by the legislature adds a new twist in that it explicitly includes energy storage in the policy. Jason Burwen from the Energy Storage Association offers some context:

“Other states that passed property tax exemptions for solar did so in the past before storage was an important concept, and so in those states the applicability of property tax remains for standalone storage and is ambiguous for solar-paired storage,” he noted.

With its hurricanes and thunderstorms, Florida makes for a good household resilience pitch. As the rooftop solar market grows, the opportunities for solar-plus-storage grow too. Property tax exemption alone doesn’t make for the ideal policy foundation, but it’s an important step in the right direction.

Wartsila gets with Greensmith on hybrid battery-power plants

Massive marine and power plant specialist Wartsila just announced a combined engine and storage power plant product, powered by Greensmith’s software.

This company, with billions in revenue and 63 gigawatts of generation installed around the world, has the kind of balance sheet and technical know-how that can take risk out of making deals.

This marks the second big development in thermal generator-plus-storage this year. Last month, Jeff St. John profiled General Electric’s new “hybrid electric gas turbine” units, two of which have begun operations for Southern California Edison.

In this model, the batteries can act as spinning reserve, allowing the plant to respond quickly to grid needs without having to fire up the generator itself. That can reduce wear and tear on the generator and extend its operating life. Wartsila's offering does the same, using new battery technology to make better use of conventional thermal assets.

Mercedes-Benz launches stationary storage in Great Britain

The German auto master followed up on its U.S. market entry earlier this year with a launch in the U.K., as reported by Hybrid Cars (perhaps not the most future-proofed name for a publication).

I’ve been hearing interest in the British market bubbling up from storage vendors, and Mercedes evidently is no exception. The scalable 2.5-kilowatt-hour units, shaped like an elegant silver kitchen trash can, should be able to fit nimbly into compact British flats and country manor homes alike.

A new island microgrid in Greece aims to achieve the self-reliance of the great sea captains of yore. (Image credit: Kenny Murray)

A Greek energy odyssey

Sing to me, muse, of the battery, that can hoard the twists and turns of power from Helios’ fiery orb.

That’s right, a battery-backed microgrid is arriving soon on the Greek island of Tilos, located amid the wine-dark sea once plied by the oars of notable sea captain Odysseus. Just as that wily mariner had to fend for himself on the many islands he visited on the voyage home to Ithaca, 500-person Tilos has had to make do without a connection to the mainland grid.

Going in by summer’s end, the microgrid will leverage 160 kilowatts of PV and an 800-kilowatt wind turbine paired with two 400-kilowatt/1.44-megawatt-hour batteries, PV Magazine reported. The battery system, a first for Greece, will come from Italian company FZSonick, and Younicos supplies the management system.

The project will displace expensive and dirty diesel generation, so count this as another entry in the attractive island market for solar-plus-storage, which we recently learned makes up a muscular 36 percent of Tesla’s deployed storage capacity.

As Lyndon Rive described, these island markets already offer a bounty to the storage sailors willing to land on their shores, before journeying on to a profitable mainland industry.