Thursday, June 13, 2019

The World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm Just Came Online

Illustration for article titled The World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm Just Came Online
By: Brian Kahn

The UK is quickly becoming the epicenter of the offshore wind industry. Point in case: On Monday, the first part of the world’s largest and furthest offshore wind farm came online.

The first workers were shuttled 75 miles off the east coast from Grimsby, UK, to the Hornsea One wind farm, which is partially operational. When it comes fully online next year, it will be capable of generating enough electricity to power a million homes. Right now, it’s “only” capable of powering up to 287,000 homes. But the opening of the farm coupled with plans to construct a twin behemoth nearby shows that offshore wind is growing in leaps and bounds.
The massive wind farm currently has 50 of its 174 turbines spinning. When completed, the project will have a generating capacity of 1.2 gigawatts, more than double the capacity of the current largest offshore wind installation (which is also in the UK). Because of its distance from shore, the team responsible for operating them will spend four weeks at sea before returning to port where another team will head on out and take their place.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

U.S. Energy Storage Market Breaks Record for Megawatts Deployed in a Single Quarter, Growing 232% Year-Over-Year

BOSTON Mass. and WASHINGTON D.C. (June 4, 2019) The United States non-residential storage market had its strongest quarter ever in Q1 2019, according to the new U.S. Energy Storage Monitor from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the U.S. Energy Storage Association (ESA). Q1 2019 was also the second strongest quarter on record for the U.S. residential storage segment.
Overall, Q1 2019 was the largest ever single quarter for U.S. energy storage deployments in megawatt terms, an increase of 232 percent year-over-year. The quarter was the second largest ever in megawatt-hour terms. The U.S. saw 148.8 megawatts of energy storage deployed in Q1 2019, breaking the previous megawatt record set in Q4 2018 by six percent.
“These first quarter numbers indicate that 2019 will be a banner year for energy storage in the United States,” said ESA CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman. “It’s become clear that states are already unlocking the potential of storage by passing legislation and creating regulatory frameworks to encourage energy storage deployment. The industry is responding by developing storage projects and creating jobs in their states.” 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Energy Storage Faculty Consortium Project - Germany Day 12 The Smarter E Europe 2019 Day 2

Today was the second day of the SmarterE Europe conference and the last of our international faculty program.  We began the day attending morning conference sessions on the topics of solar energy, energy storage, electric mobility, and smart grids.  An additional track was also added to the morning events highlighting the energy-water nexus. 

In the afternoon, our attention was commanded by the amazing exhibition, that featured over 4000 exhibitors, filling 11 different halls, and a large outdoor area dedicated to electric vehicle test drives.  Our delegation was provided with a guided tour through the exhibits, facilitated by Hans Christoph Neidlein, our personal translator and guide, who moderated our meetings with featured energy storage companies, Varta, Senec, BYD, TesVolt, Intilion, and Eaton.  We were impressed with the sheer number of companies working in this area, and the variety of innovative energy storage products that we saw, ranging from the residential to the utility and transmission grid scale.  Of the companies that we spoke with during the afternoon, only a third of them had a current presence in North America.  However, all of the companies indicated their desire to enter this marketplace, and many had plans to introduce products certified to meet U.S. standards in the upcoming year.

Our day was capped off by a reception with the organizers of the SmarterE conference and a discussion with the founder of the event Markus Elsässer. Markus shared with us some background on the SmarterE conference, and how over the past 30 years it has grown from a small gathering of manufacturers and contractors to become the largest event of any kind in the energy industry.  Markus observed that just a couple weeks before our arrival, on April 22, Germany set a new record with renewable energy providing 77% of the nation’s electricity over a 24 hour period; and, for a portion of the middle of the day during peak sunlight, all of the country’s electricity was provided by renewable energy.  Markus then engaged us in a forward looking discussion about what the next 30 years might hold, now that renewable energy is the cheapest source of new electricity.  It seems clear that renewable energy has established its position as the dominant player in the German energy market, and other countries are likely to soon follow suit.  Markus concluded our visit with an invitation to attend the 2020 Smarter E conference, which will feature a special track added to specifically target educators and students. 

We finished our evening with a group dinner at Hans im Glück, a sustainable burger restaurant that provided a unique setting for our group to debrief and reflect on our experiences abroad.  Despite the somewhat frenetic pace of the past two weeks, there was still a palpable energy among the group.  Participants were eager to relate ideas that they had to share the new information on renewable energy and energy storage with others.  It will be rewarding to see how each of us integrates this knowledge into our instruction back home in the U.S..  After an extended dinner that many of us wished did not have to end, we returned to the hotel and exchanged a round of goodbyes, as we hustled off to our rooms to pack for our early morning departures and prepare for the journey home.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Energy Storage Faculty Consortium Project - Germany Day 12 The Smarter E Europe 2019 Day 1

Today our delegation attended the opening of the Intersolar/SmarterE Europe 2019 conference and exhibition.  Intersolar began in the 1990s and was held in Freiburg, Germany for many years until 2007, when it became so large that it moved to Munich.  It is now the world’s largest renewable energy trade fair with international exhibitions in Europe, North America, South America and Asia.  With the growth of the industry, Intersolar’s influence and reach has grown to incorporate several related technologies. Under the new brand SmarterE Europe, this year’s event combines four parallel conferences and exhibits including Intersolar, Electrical Energy Storage, Power2Drive, and EM Power.

The conference was opened with an address by director Florian Wessendorf who shared some record breaking data from the past year.  In 2018, global investment in renewable energy totaled $332 Billion USD, and this was the fifth year in a row that investment exceeded $300B USD.  2018 was also the first year that solar capacity additions exceeded 100GW.  At the same time the electric vehicle market surged with over 5.6 million electric vehicle’s now on the road.  And, as the renewable energy and transportation sectors continue to intersect, the energy storage market is now expected to grow 13-fold in the next five years.

Dr. Wessendorf’s presentation was followed by a plenary panel moderated by Wallburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe.  The panel discussed the goal of transitioning to a future where all of the world’s energy will be provided by renewable energy.  This has also been a theme in the recent German student climate advocacy campaign “Fridays for the Future”, that advocates for “Renewable Energy 24-7 by 2050”.  The panel explored the three major sectors of energy consumption:  Heating & Cooling, Transportation, and Electrical Power.  Of those, the electrical sector is the easiest to transition to renewable energy and that transformation is already well underway.  Panelists were asked to predict when they thought we might reach 100% renewable electricity.  Predictions ranged from 2037 to 2050, with the average of the panel being 2040. 

Transformation of the heating and cooling sector is somewhat more difficult due to the abundance of existing buildings with poor insulation and building envelopes.  On the other hand, for new construction it is actually an easily achievable goal to reach 100% renewable energy by starting with the implementation of German Passive Haus standards to dramatically shrink the building’s energy footprint, and then providing the heating and cooling needs using electricity generated from renewable sources. What is necessary are updates to policies, codes, and regulations to encourage the construction of Passiv Haus, Net-Zero, and Plus Energy buildings. 

The most difficult sector to transition to renewable energy is the transportation sector, and all of the panelists indicated that the key component to realize this goal is energy storage.  Given Germany’s strong industrial presence in the automotive industry, it was not surprising that this topic generated some of the most spirited discussion and numerous questions from the audience.  The panel addressed many of the renewable energy and energy storage technological innovations that are poised to revolutionize the transportation sector in the next decade. 

The opening presentations provided a promising glimpse of the world’s energy future.  We were impressed by the Germans’ determination to address the elimination of fossil fuels through both technological advancement and policy innovation, and we are eager to learn more throughout the next two days of the conference and the exposition.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Energy Storage Faculty Consortium Project - Germany Day 11 Village of Wildpoldsreid and Sonnen GmbH

Today we made our way to the energy village of Wildpoldsreid, where we met with the Deputy Mayor, Gunter Mogetel. Wildpoldsried has a population of approximately 2,600 and is considered a European champion for energy as it produces more than 550% of energy than the village consumes. This village is supported entirely by renewable energy souses that is made-up of bio-fuels, hydro, wind, PV, and by using local resources.They are able to manage this all by using a smart grid and battery system and sell back the unused energy to the local utility. While visiting Wildpoldsreid they provided us with an overview of the Sonnen Battery company, our next stop and a local company in the town.
CREATE’s PI, Dr. Ken Walz, had previously talked to Sonnen representatives in the U.S. and it was with great anticipation that the CREATE group visited the headquarters of Sonnen in Wildpolssreid. Sonnen has grown to be a global leader in battery storage in a short nine years since its founding in 2010. It produces home energy storage systems for private residences and small businesses. Its batteries are based on lithium ion technology and can last up to 40 years. The visit started with a meeting to discuss Sonnen’s history and future directions. We learned through discussions that Sonnen has already installed over 40,000 storage batteries worldwide and is expanding throughout Europe, in the U.S. and in Australia. One interesting feature is that Sonnen is the operator of the world’s largest virtual battery. Called the Sonnen Community, the system is decentralized, clean, and networked. The company sees this as an area of future growth. The company also has an innovative program called the Sonnen Ambassadors. These Sonnen Ambassadors have Sonnen battery systems installed in their houses and they allow Sonnen sales people to recommend them as visit sites so that potential customers can view the systems in place and in use. Not only did our group of teachers get a thorough discussion of Sonnen and its products but the enthusiastic staff showed the group the battery systems at each stage of the production process, from assembly, quality control and performance testing. Many of our group felt this site visit was the highlight of the entire learning exchange on energy storage and hope that the recent acquisition of Sonnen by Shell does not slow their momentum or enthusiasm. We are all very grateful for all the time that Sonnen personnel took to answer our questions.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Energy Storage Faculty Consortium Project - Germany Day 9 Vauban, Heliotrop & the Solar Settlement

The CREATE international faculty consortium educators had another full day here in Freiburg, Germany. Following the local custom of eschewing vehicles in favor of public transportation, we traveled by tram to the Freiburg neighborhood known as Vauban. Vauban was created on the site of a former German then French Army housing area as a sustainable living community. It was named after the French engineer Sebastian Vauban. In an effort to understand the concepts of sustainable living used in Vauban we were met by a series of local experts, the first being Meinhard Hansen, a passive house architect who has built some of the projects in Vauban. Mr. Hansen walked us through the neighborhood while explaining the use of passive house architecture and building to create a building that does not need much heating or cooling. Some of these principles were: good insulation including 30 cm thick walls, deep balconies, triple insulated windows, and mechanical ventilation of shading. The second expert who hosted our exploration of Vauban was eRich Lutz, a landscape architect who has been very involved in the creation of Vauban’s green spaces. The commitment to developing green spaces within Vauban began at the earliest design and building stage of its development with a commitment to keep as many of the native trees in place, even resulting in the movement of site plans to other areas to not disturb the existing trees. The result is a rich green fabric surrounding the neighborhood from shade trees to walking paths, multiple children and community areas, and several pilot community gardens. The neighborhood is intentionally pedestrian and bike friendly and disincentivizes owning a car with its 18,000 euro fee per household. Vauban is created to contribute to maximize community interaction. Community involvement is high has been very successful in attracting many young families. It has become a sought after relocation site for young educated professionals from all over Europe.

After lunch at the popular Vauban restaurant Suden, our group was met by our afternoon host, Dr. Tobias Bube, Director of Marketing and International Relations for the Rolf Disch Solar Architecture Office. Dr. Bube was able to show our group two different housing models featuring the innovative use of solar that had been pioneered by his firm. The first was a unique single family home called the Heliotrop. The Heliotrop was the first plus-energy house in the world and produces three times more energy than it uses. It moves in small increments to track the path of the sun in order to use as much of the daily sunlight as possible. The second Rolf Disch project that we viewed was the Solar Settlement. This is a development consisting of a commercial building and over 50 terrace houses all of which make extensive use of solar and energy efficiency. It was the first housing community in the world in which all the homes produce a positive energy balance and which is emissions-free and CO2 neutral. Built between 2000 and 2005 in the Vauban quarter of Freiburg the design of the Solar Settlement was recognized internationally as an innovative concept and the community has continually received delegations from around the world to study (and possibly replicate) the concepts in other countries. We ended the day at the Rolf Disch Architecture firm office which also had a number of innovative design features. The Solar Settlement has proven to be another very popular living concept and has enjoyed full occupancy since its opening. More information about the Rolf Disch Plus Energy concept and solar architecture can be found at

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Energy Storage Faculty Consortium Project - Germany Day 8 Fraunhofer ISE & Technical City Hall

After lunch at the Badenova cafeteria comprised of giant portions of lasagna or spaghetti, we visited the battery performance testing laboratory of the Fraunhofer Institute. At the request of manufacturers or on their own initiative, the testing lab conducts rigorous testing of many types of batteries, inverters and battery systems to evaluate their efficiency, quality and durability.

Finally, we concluded our day with a visit to the new town hall of Freiburg. Prior to the completion of this building last year, Freiburg’s services were scattered among 16 different buildings. This building was designed to be a net producer of energy on an annual basis. The heating, cooling and lighting systems are not only highly efficient but also linked together in a highly sophisticated and intelligent building automation system. Further, the building employs geothermal, solar thermal, and photovoltaic systems to produce energy. Photovoltaic modules located vertically around much of the exterior of the building are an eye-catching element of the design.

Energy Storage Faculty Consortium Project - Germany Day 8 Reterra Biodigester & Bandenova Utility

Today our CREATE team visited Reterra, the biodigester company responsible for collecting the organic waste from Freiburg’s residences. The resulting methane is mixed with landfill gas and burned to provide both heat and electricity. The liquid and solid remains are provided to farmers and home gardeners as fertilizer. Remarkably, with such a wide collection of organic waste, the operators say that the supply to the biodigester is stable for the nourishment of the methane producing bacteria. To deal with the problem of contamination of the organic waste, Reterra has developed an innovative system of manipulating the material prior to its insertion in the digester in order to remove items like plastic bags: Reterra operators use a joystick to maneuver a claw to manipulate the organic material.

We crossed the street to the headquarters of Badenova, a local utility. Badenova explained two of their pilot projects with battery storage. Project INVADE is funded by the European Union and has sites located in five different countries. Freiburg’s portion consists of a vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) installed at the end of a long feeder line that has a several large photovoltaic systems connected. The combination of these items makes maintaining the voltage and avoiding energy supply congestion difficult. The VRFB has the capacity for 20,000 + cycles and fits the characteristics of the location. Initial tests seem positive for both voltage regulation and peak shaving, potentially enabling the distribution grid to continue to operate without upgrades and enabling the prosumer owners of PV systems to supply electricity to the grid without interruption. A representative of Storion Energy, the company responsible for creating this battery, provided a brief description of the operation of this type of battery and its advantages.

The second pilot involves connecting 10 residential customers with various energy storage systems together and controlling the operation of their energy storage systems based on the needs of the distribution grid. While the project shows the implementation of such a “network” is technically feasible, the regulations in Germany do not currently allow for this kind of operation. Badenova has proposed to the Federal grid agency to change the regulations, allowing for this type of innovative connection and control.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Energy Storage Faculty Consortium Project - Germany Day 7 Solar Information Center, Bugginger Strasse, & Dinner with Professor Eduard Heindl

After lunch we made our way to the Freiburg Solar Information Center.  This building was a real estate development project intended to create a business incubator space for companies specializing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.   Roughly 40 companies occupy this space, with businesses offering products and services to support the German energy transition, and to share this technology with the rest of the world.  One of the larger tenants included a research unit of the Fraunhofer Institute (which provided some foreshadowing for one of tomorrow’s site visits). The Solar Info Center building is LEED platinum certified, and features a geothermal system, building integrated photovoltaics, solar thermal energy and a natural cooling and ventilation system. 

We also visited the Bugginger Strasse 50 affordable housing development.  This building was initially constructed in the post-war years, with a very inefficient energy consumption footprint of nearly 70 kWh/square meter.  The city community development agency undertook an effort to retrofit the building and improve it to German Passive Haus standards of < 15 kWh/square meter.  This included a total overhaul of the building envelope.  Former balconies were enclosed and converted into conditioned space as part of the apartment interior.  Twenty cm of ridged foam insulation was added to the exterior, which was also upgraded with new triple glazed windows. The building was connected to a new district heat system powered with a natural gas combined heat and power installation run by the local energy provider, Badenova.  We finished our visit with a tour of the building’s rooftop mechanical room, which included a massive air-to-air heat exchange ventilation system.  The room impressed us all with its spot free cleanliness.  And thanks to the daylighting panels in the roof, this was also an aesthetically pleasing and brilliantly illuminated mechanical room, unlike any that we had ever seen.

We concluded a long day with dinner and conversation with Professor Eduard Heindl of Furtwangen University of Applied Sciences.  Dr. Heindl shared with us information on his patented system for gravitational energy storage, and the efforts of his startup company to implement a field demonstration of a solar + storage system in the middle east.  We also talked about his early work in the renewable energy sector, and his creation of the SolarServer website which became the largest such internet portal in Germany, during the .com technology boom of the 1990s.

Energy Storage Faculty Consortium Project - Germany Day 7 Freiburg Public Transportation (VAG) & Lunch with the Lord Mayor

We began our day by visiting the Freiburg Verkhers AG public transportation agency.  We learned about the variety of sustainable transportation initiatives taken by Freiburg, including the creation of new bus and streetcar tram routes, and the promotion of a car-free pedestrian and bike friendly city center.  One amazing statistic is that the city averages one public transportation trip (by either bus or street car tram), per person, per day.  Our group helped add to that total by boarding the tram and heading out towards one of the terminal ends of the tram system.  Here we disembarked to see one of the city’s newest energy storage innovations.  Verkhers AG installed a flywheel energy storage system to recover energy from the tram cars during braking events.  This energy is then released back to the tram to boost acceleration when leaving the tram stop.  The flywheel measured 1 meter in diameter with a weight of 1.9 tons, and spun at a rate of 3500 rotations per minute.  The generator operates at a voltage of 750V dc and a maximum current of 1500 amps, giving the system a nameplate power rating of 1 MW.   The system saves about 250,000 kWh of electricity per year, preventing 145 tons of CO2 emissions. 

Next on the agenda was a luncheon visit with Freiburg’s Lord Mayor Martin Horn.  Mayor Horn was elected in 2018, and at age 33 became the youngest mayor of what is often considered to be one of Germany’s youngest cities (due in part to the large number of students who reside in Freiburg thanks to the University located here).  The mayor shared with us his vision for sustainable development in Freiburg, and indicated that his election was attributable in part to youthful voters in the municipality, and their strong commitment to renewable energy and environmental protection.  The mayor is hoping to bring a delegation of Germans to the United States later this summer to visit Freiburg’s sister city of Madison, Wisconsin.  We hope to have him visit Madison College to see our new rooftop solar photovoltaic system which is the largest in the state.