Apple To Use Tesla Batteries At Solar Plant

Apple has recently announced that it is planning a large battery installation project at its solar farm in Northern California.

The solar farm is called The California Flats Solar Project. It’s located in southeastern Monterey County. Built by a subsidiary of First Solar, this solar power plant boasts an impressive size of 280 Megawatts and was completed in 2019. The power generated by this farm is purchased by both Apple and Pacific Gas and Electric.

California Flats Solar Project. Courtesy – Apple

While it has not yet been publicly announced that Apple is purchasing battery systems from Tesla for this project, this information leak comes from documents sent to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors. More specifically, Tesla is selling their “Megapack” battery system. This is their utility size energy storage system. According to the documents, there will be 85 Megapacks supplied offering a total of 240 Megawatts of storage capabilities.

Tesla Megapack: Courtesy – Tesla

“The challenge with clean energy — solar and wind — is that it’s by definition intermittent,” – Apple VP Lisa Jackson said “If we can do it, and we can show that it works for us, it takes away the concerns about intermittency and it helps the grid in terms of stabilization. It’s something that can be imitated or built upon by other companies.”

It has been estimated that monetary value of this battery storage project is more than $50 million. That’s certainly significant business that Apple is giving Tesla despite their ongoing talent acquisition rivalry. It’s also a sign that Tesla is still the leader in the energy storage industry, and probably will be for some time to come.

This is certainly a smart and important project for Apple. The company knows that not only is battery storage a vital part of the transition to sustainable energy, but it also just makes good business sense. They’ve done the math and have seen the savings they will realize over the long term. Also, like Apple VP Mrs. Jackson mentioned, this is good PR for the company and shows the company taking the lead on actions that other companies can now more confidently take.

2020 Will Be A Record Year For Solar

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) is predicting a stellar year for solar power in 2020.

A total of 24 Gigawatts of solar is expected to come online by the end of the year, according to the US Department of Energy’s EIA. This is impressively 60 percent more than 2016’s record year (15 GW). While the majority of this new solar capacity is at the utility scale (17.4 GW), 6.6 GW of small scale solar is nothing to scoff at!

It’s also worth noting that a significant amount of wind power will be installed by the end of the year as well. The EIA is predicting about 18 GW.

US Energy Information Administration

This momentum is expected to carry over to next year with an estimated 26 GW of new solar capacity for 2021.

The renewable energy tax credit has certainly had significant effects on the solar industry. More specifically, it helped nudge the industry to that record year in 2016 and also conversely we saw a slow down after that year as many had already utilized the credit. The credit is 26 percent this year and gets lowered to 22 percent next year, which is the last year for the credit to be utilized at the residential level. This will certainly help keep the residential solar industry strong, especially next year as homeowners look to take advantage of the credit before it disappears.

Unsurprisingly, this impressive upcoming renewable energy boom coincides with a decline in new fossil fuel expansion. Wind and solar power continue to lessen our need and reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

Just as important as an increase in the capacity of renewable energy is, the further use of energy storage is vital as well. The good news is that energy storage applications are expected to be deployed at all scales in significant volumes in the coming years.

While some may see the tax credit as being central to the rise in solar power usage, its actually a smaller part of the big picture. The big picture is that the cost of solar is, and has been for some years, very favorable compared with conventional energy. Costs have continued to fall, albeit more slowly, as they begin to level off. Further decreases in the cost of energy storage will have many homeowners, businesses, and power companies fully embracing solar plus storage solutions in the coming years!

It’s exciting times for fans of renewable energy!

Plans Announced For Large Battery Project In New York

New York City has just announced plans to replace 2 natural gas plants in Queens with lithium ion battery storage.

In another PV Magazine inspired post, we will take another look at the importance of energy storage in our completely renewable energy future.

The Ravenswood Energy Storage Project will be a 316 MW facility capable of 2,528 MWh of power output. This is enough electricity to provide 250,000 homes with power for 8 continuous hours. The same company that currently owns the existing 16 gas peaker plants is the same one developing this project. This is further proof of the now financially viable energy storage market. The project will be completed in three phases, with the first one coming online in 2021.

New York State Public Service Commission
New York State Public Service Commission

“When complete, this facility will displace energy produced from fossil fuel plants during peak periods, resulting in cleaner air and reduced carbon” – New York State Public Commission Chair – John B. Rhodes. Governor Cuomo is also in full support of the Ravenswood project as a part of his pledge to bring more jobs and clean energy to the state of New York. In fact, the governor’s plans are to have the state’s electricity sector become emission free by 2040. This timeline is faster than any other state.

While this energy storage system will be fed electricity from all sources both green and fossil fuel, the overall net effect is a positive one simply because it is replacing natural gas plants. Carbon emissions will be lower in general. Of course, the state’s goal is to move towards more clean energy production over time, which include 6 gigawatts of distributed solar power by 2025. This is just one part of the Governor’s Green New Deal for the state of New York.

The owners of the Ravenswood energy site have obviously crunched the numbers here. Battery storage represents a more attractive long term investment compared to natural gas. Eventually this transition would become a necessity as fossil fuels are inherently limited. Another bonus for the company is that it is in alignment with New York’s goals of transitioning to a clean energy society. It’s a win-win across the board. This and other large scale battery projects will soon be fed nothing but clean, renewable energy as well.

We can all look forward to many more energy storage projects like this one arriving real soon!

The Big Future Of Small Grids

The potential, and the need for, microgrids cannot be overstated.

This can be seen as a follow-post to one written earlier this year in January, 2019. In that post, based on a article, it was mentioned that utility PG&E was planning a future power outage to help prevent another catastrophic fire from devastating Northern California.

Well, as of this post, approximately 800,000 customers of PG&E had their power cutoff for multiple days. It’s an understatement to say that this has been an inconvenience for people. To think that the utility may have to do this again in the future is seen as unacceptable by many, of course.

What’s the solution to this problem?

That’s right, microgrids! It’s time that we wrest the power back from the country’s massive monopolistic utility corporations!

Courtesy –

How feasible is a future full of microgrids? Very. This will truly be a win-win situation for all, even for corporate interests. Things will be much more equitable at the same time. Let’s list some of the primary advantages of a more decentralized power setup…

  • Cost Effectiveness: Microgrids will be less expensive through the use of onsite electricity generation. The lack of miles of power lines and grid maintenance will save millions of dollars.
  • Safety and Security: A decentralized grid will obviously prevent situations like the current emergency that is still affecting many thousands of people in Northern California. People will have energy security by not having to rely on a centralized utility.
  • Democratization: More and more homeowners will decide to become their own power companies. Rooftop solar paired with home energy storage systems will offer the ability for people to be largely self-sufficient.
  • A Climate Solution: These microgrids will primarily be solar powered, further supporting our need for a massive reduction in our carbon footprint.
  • Resilience: Many catastrophic problems are avoided by simply not having all of our energy “eggs in one basket.” Whether it’s cyber attacks or Mother Nature attacking, these and other risks will be spread out and not affecting all at once.

All of these great benefits are due to the inherent nature of solar power.

But solar couldn’t possibly provide for all of our electricity needs, right?

Again, to address the solar nay-sayers, a recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory (a part of the U.S. Department of Energy) report shows that the current rooftops in the state of California can actually provide for 71 percent of the state’s electricity needs. That figure just takes into account currently built rooftops. The bottom line is that there’s plenty of space for the solar that we need.

The missing key to this puzzle, energy storage, is about to come online in a big way. The ability for lithium ion and other battery technologies to provide energy while the sun isn’t shining is being proven right now. There’s already utility scale Tesla battery systems being put to use. The raw materials needed to massively scale up battery production are available. Pricing is about to be aligned as well.

It will take time. This will require, without a doubt, a massive undertaking. However, this microgrid future is extremely likely. The advantages are difficult to ignore. The ability to save money and provide for a more resilient energy future will guarantee their development.

We are about to take our first steps toward our Microgrid Future!

The Future Is Electric!

A future based solely on renewable energy is not far off.

We can and will transition to a society that no longer utilizes the burning of fossil fuels. The electrification of our infrastructure, transportation, and energy needs is currently underway.

Case in point is a story out of Berkeley, California. Berkeley is the first major city in the U.S. to ban the use of natural gas in new construction. There are now more than 50 other cities in California with plans to do the same.

Natural gas was seen as a “bridge fuel” to help us transition away from dirtier fossil fuels. In fact, the recent fracking boom has killed off much of the need for the use of coal fire power plants. Now forward thinking cities are realizing that they can completely supplant the need for natural gas with sources of renewable energy.

The truth about natural gas is that it’s not as clean and safe as many think. The total lifetime emissions from natural gas come from various sources including; drilling, fracking, leaks, and burning throughout from start to end use. There’s also considerable health dangers including asthma, lung cancer, bronchitis, and heart disease caused by both burned and unburned gas emissions.

Electrification of our homes and office buildings will also make our communities more resilient when recovering from disasters. In fact, getting natural gas lines repaired takes about 30 times longer after a large earthquake. In addition to natural disasters, gas lines have been known to explode on their own due to their inherently dangerous nature.

To make it even more clear that this change is both needed and certain, is the fact that it is now cheaper to go all electric with new infrastructure. That’s right, in addition to health and safety advantages, it now makes economic sense to avoid natural gas implementation in new buildings. This is made possible by recent increases in efficiency in HVAC systems, water heating, clothes drying, and high efficient induction cooking.

The challenge that we now face is to make this transition to a clean energy society as quickly as possible. Many older buildings must be retrofitted to this new future in which everything is electrified. While we are phasing out coal and natural gas, we will need massive amounts of new wind and solar power capacity combined with energy storage. At the same time, every major vehicle manufacturer must finally start producing electric automobiles en masse. This has already started with Tesla showing the “writing on the wall” by significantly cutting into other car companies’ sales and market share.

This transition away from fossil fuels has further benefits still. Significant numbers of local jobs will be created throughout this transition. These include enery efficiency, wind, solar, energy storage, and all related project management jobs connected to the implementation of this new energy infrastructure.

Also, as I’ve recently blogged about, power companies will save massive amounts of money by investing in distributed energy systems and taking on more residential solar. This will allow them to avoid costly further investments in large power plants, grid maintenance, and transmission costs. Microgrids are both cheaper and more resilient. Power companies will be able to both save money and provide for a more sustainable future at the same time.

Hopefully the life of natural gas as a bridge fuel will be as short lived as possible. The world is ready for electric everything; homes, commercial buildings, and transportation.

Report Shows Strong Solar Growth Trend

In a recent Department of Energy report, new wind and solar power capacity additions dwarf most fossil fuels types.

This post is basically part two of the most recent one detailing future solar power growth predictions in the U.S. The basic idea here is that solar has been, and is completely expected to, stay on a growth trend that massively outpaces all fossil fuels.

Case in point is this recent report released by the Department of Energy that shows wind and solar power growing at a pace much faster than fossil fuels. In fact, it shows that wind and solar accounted for more than 500 gigawatts of new energy capacity for 2018. Of course, the natural gas boom is still prevalent, but due to the inherently non-renewable nature of that source of power, it can be expected that it will eventually follow a downward trajectory.

U.S. Department of Energy

Another interesting thing definitely worth mentioning about this graph is the quite noticeable portion of energy storage. An increasing amount of energy storage is being incorporated in renewable energy projects. Battery storage is an undeniably important part of current and future wind and solar installations.

This post is, yet again, inspired by a recent one by PV Magazine USA. According to their research, projected solar growth shows a possible 222 gigawatts of solar and 64 gigawatts of energy storage through to 2023. Of course, it is quite possible that not every single gigawatt of these figures will be installed and it is also quite possible that the numbers will be even larger.

The primary point of this follow up post to the last was to add a few more numbers to the story. There’s plenty of statistical evidence to prove the solar industry’s ascension as a part of the total energy mix in the coming years. It may be easy to doubt any one person’s predictions, but hard data from reputable sources like the Department of Energy are difficult to refute.

The big picture here is that solar power will become a major source of energy much sooner than later!

Jay Inslee Calls For 1,100 GW Of Solar Energy By 2035

Democratic Governor of Washington State and Presidential Candidate, Jay Inslee, has proposed that 1,100 gigawatts of solar energy capacity be installed by 2035.

Of the many democratic candidates, Inslee is, by far, the most vocal proponent of a quick transition to a clean energy society for the United States. It’s his primary platform. He is calling for 100 percent “clean, renewable, and zero-emission” energy by 2035. This is his energy version of Kennedy’s “moonshot” program. “A massive, full scale mobilization of the federal government that will spur major innovation and deployment of clean energy.” This will also include “good paying jobs for workers, and support for vulnerable communities.”

Jay Inslee

In order for Inslee’s goal to be met by 2035, solar would need to be installed at a compound annual growth rate of 19 percent. This growth rate is actually less than what an independent Japanese/German/U.S research consortium (GA-SERI) has determined. Of course, additional solar capacity would be needed after 2035 to meet the needs of an increasing amount of electric vehicles and new infrastructure that will need to be zero-emission.

In addition to more clean energy deployment, the governor also realizes that there are other pieces of the puzzle that must be supported. Energy storage, smart grids, and transmission are topics that must be dealt with as well. He mentioned that “through expedited planning, broad cost allocation, and negotiated siting”, the long distance interstate transmission of clean energy can be accomplished. The Governor also mentioned an idea that has already passed in California, that all new homes should automatically include solar.

It’s quite refreshing to hear a Presidential candidate put such a strong focus on renewable energy as a part of his campaign. This is the kind of leadership that is needed, and will continue to be needed many years into the future.

It’s worth noting that, from a political standpoint, promoting clean energy is no longer a radical idea. This is mainly due to the fact that it is now the cheapest option available. Voters like hearing that they will be saving money.

The one idea that may have been overemphasized was the need for investments in transmission and distribution. One of the great things about solar power is that it is easily distributed. In other words, the energy can be used where it is produced. A good deal of solar can be installed in the cities that require it. The remainder of the required solar can, in many cases, be installed nearby the cities that need it. This can limit the required transmission lines. This energy does not need to be transmitted across multiple states, like conventional energy.

Hopefully, more politicians will feel comfortable showing support for solar power and other sources of clean, renewable energy. After all, it’s a safe bet now.

Hawaii Adds More Solar Power Storage

The state of Hawaii is taking yet another step towards meeting its goal of utilizing 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

This post is courtesy of a recent utility dive article.

Energy storage will become an increasingly important and vital part of avoiding any use of fossil fuels for power consumption. As a step in this direction, the state has announced the addition of 1.4 gigawatts of solar power storage by 2022.

Tesla solar plus storage site in Hawaii

This energy storage system will help cover the loss of power that two fossil fuel plants currently provide. One of them is a coal plant in Oahu. The other is an oil-fired plant in Maui. This will total 220 megawatts of power that will need replacing.

What is especially notable about Hawaii is the fact that, in 2015, the state became the first in the union to proclaim that it has plans to get all of its energy from renewable sources.

Currently, Hawaii is at 27 percent of its Renewable Portfolio Standards eventual goal of 100 percent clean energy. The next part of the total goal is to achieve 30 percent by 2020.

The second part of the plan by the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) is to eventually add 295 gigawatts of renewable energy generation. The state is open to a variety of options to meet this goal. This includes solar, wind, solar plus storage, standalone storage, and grid services.

Peter Rosegg, HECO spokesman, has mentioned that “….we are confident in exceeding the 2020 milestone of 30 percent and far exceeding the 2030 milestone of 40 percent. This reflects our Power Supply Improvement Plan, which envisions, if all goes well, the meeting of the RPS mandate of 100 percent earlier than 2045. For the utility, the challenge is keeping the grid stable and reliable.”

Hawaii is providing a great example of what can be done in terms of the transition to sources of renewable energy. Now that prices of clean energy are quite attractive, we’ll see the transition begin to happen much more quickly, However, as Rosegg pointed out, there will be challenges concerning grid stability and reliability. It’s good to know that utilities in Hawaii and on the mainland will find ways to rise to this challenge and help take us to a much better world, powered by renewable energy.

The First Solar Plus Wind Plus Storage Project

NextEra Energy Resources and Portland General Electric (PGE) have recently announced that they are developing a renewable energy project that incorporates solar, wind, and energy storage. It includes 300 MW of wind, 50 MW of solar, and 30 MW/120 MWh of energy storage. The final completion date is planned for 2021.

The location of the project is in Morrow County (a bit more than 100 miles east of Portland) at the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility.

Image: U.S. Department of Energy

Originally, the project was going to be primarily wind-based with a total of 500 MW in capacity. 100 MW of the 300 MW of wind capacity will be owned by PGE. The rest of the project will be owned by a subsidiary of NextEra and the energy produced will be sold to PGE under 30 year power purchase agreements.

Details on the energy storage include 41 total sites. Each site will have containers that measure 12 feet wide, 36 feet long, and 10 feet tall. In the containers will be modules of small lithium ion batteries that measure approximately 1 inch by 3 inches.

This groundbreaking project is certainly great news for the renewable energy industry as a whole! While it may not make sense to incorporate all three ideas in every location, this will surely not be the last time we see a solar+wind+storage project.

Yet Another Solar Plus Storage Story

Much has been written on this site concerning the significant near term potential for solar plus storage applications.

This post goes beyond the hypothetical as we look into the contract that the leading U.S. solar panel installer has recently won to implement a major solar plus energy storage project.

According to a recent PV magazine article, SunRun won a bid to construct a 20 MW solar plus storage system for ISO New England’s 2022-2023 Forward Capacity Market. The system will be required to offer that 20 MW of power to the grid 24 hours a day for one year. It will be paid $3.80/kW/month or $76,000/month or $912,000 for the year.

Called Brightbox, Sunrun’s energy storage system is a battery product made by South Korea’s LG Chem RESU company. Their residential systems come in three different sizes – 3.3 kWh, 6.5 kWh, and 9.8 kWh. SunRun is planning on doing about 5,000 installs to meet their requirements.

SunRun’s system will only cover one-tenth of one percent of the total market, as the total capacity that qualified for the auction was 43 GW.

As important as it is for a project like this to prove its effectiveness, the legal environment must also be favorable moving forward. There’s positive signs of this as there has been recent legislative victories concerning energy storage in both Massachusetts and California.

There’s reason for optimism here for at least two reasons. First off, the forces that promote and support a free market system in the U.S. should prevail in the end, allowing for other energy producers to compete with established utilities. Secondly, distributed solar plus storage developments will lessen the need of major utilities to construct new power plants thereby saving them considerable capital expenditures.

This energy storage story will be followed up by many more as we are merely witnessing the infancy of this new arrival to the marketplace. Prices for batteries will continue to fall, grid integration will improve, and new legislation will pave the way for considerably more energy storage capacity.