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Tesla’s Battery Revolution Just Reached Critical Mass

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Tesla Motors Inc. is making a huge bet that millions of small batteries can be strung together to help kick fossil fuels off the grid. The idea is a powerful one—one that’s been used to help justify the company’s $5 billion factory near Reno, Nev.—but batteries have so far only appeared in a handful of true, grid-scale pilot projects.

That changes this week.

Three massive battery storage plants—built by Tesla, AES Corp., and Altagas Ltd.—are all officially going live in southern California at about the same time. Any one of these projects would have been the largest battery storage facility ever built. Combined, they amount to 15 percent of the battery storage installed planet-wide last year.

Ribbons will be cut and executives will take their bows. But this is a revolution that’s just getting started, Tesla Chief Technology Officer J.B. Straubel said in an interview on Friday. “It’s sort of hard to comprehend sometimes the speed all this is going at,” he said. “Our storage is growing as fast as we can humanly scale it.” Read More

Solar and Distributed Energy Resource Data Now Integrates with Utility Management System

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On Wednesday, February 1 during DistribuTECH, operational intelligence provider OSIsoft and distributed energy storage company Sunverge Energy announced that they have entered into a technology alliance that will enable utilities to integrate data from Sunverge’s residential storage systems directly into OSIsoft’s PI System.

The new alliance streamlines data management and ultimately paves the way for a more agile, distributed grid by making it easier for utilities to “see” and utilize the edge-of-the-grid data generated by the Sunverge systems in the context of their overall operations, according to the companies.

Sunverge’s energy storage system combines batteries, power electronics, and multiple energy inputs in a UL-certified appliance controlled by the Sunverge energy management software. Read More

Stanford Engineers Create a Low-cost Battery for Storing Renewable Energy

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A battery made with urea, commonly found in fertilizers and mammal urine, could provide a low-cost way of storing energy produced through solar power or other forms of renewable energy for consumption during off hours.

Developed by Stanford chemistry Professor Hongjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell, the battery is nonflammable and contains electrodes made from abundant aluminum and graphite. Its electrolyte’s main ingredient, urea, is already industrially produced by the ton for plant fertilizers.

“So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance,” said Dai. “Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?” Read More

Turning Sunshine into Liquid Gold

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Tiny metallic-gold particles are being used to convert sunlight into fuel.

The technology is being developed in South Australia to store solar energy as an alternative to battery storage.

Researchers from Flinders University and the University of Adelaide, in collaboration with a number of international institutions, have converted solar energy directly into chemical energy in the form of methane and methanol.

The process uses dynamic nano-clusters, which consist of a specific number of metallic-gold atoms that interact with the molecules in UV light. Read More

Silicon Energy Storage Technology Scales Up for Commercial Production

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One of the most abundant elements on earth is being used to create an energy storage system that can heat homes as well as store electricity.

South Australian company 1414 Degrees has developed technology to store electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon at a cost estimated to be up to 10 times cheaper than lithium batteries.

Silicon is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust after oxygen.

A ton of silicon can store enough energy to power 28 houses for a day.

Its high latent heat capacity and high melting temperature of 1414 C – make it ideal for the storage of large amounts of energy. Read More

Saudi Arabia Turning to Wind and Solar Power

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The nation most identified with its massive oil reserves is turning to wind and solar to generate power at home and help extend the life of its crucial crude franchise.

Starting this year, Saudi Arabia plans to develop almost 10 GW of renewable energy by 2023, starting with windand solar plants in its vast northwestern desert. The effort could replace the equivalent of 80,000 barrels of oil a day now burned for power. Add in natural gas projects set to start later this decade, and the Saudis could quadruple that number, according to Wood MacKenzie Ltd. That could supplant all the crude burned in the kingdom during its winter months.

The effort goes hand-in-hand with a drive by the royal family to broaden the economy following two years of budget deficits tied to low oil prices. More industry, though, means more energy, with the amount of power used at peak times growing by 10 percent in the last year alone. Read More