Ukrenergo Review starts a new year of 2019 from the news related to the hottest energy issues. In particular, we will talk about energy storage technologies. The relevance of these issues is evidenced by the size of investments and the amount of efforts that businesses and academics make to solve them. In addition, you can find out about the previous year’s RES developments in the United States and Australia.
1. Australia invested more than USD 20 billion in RES in 2018.
In 2018, total investments in renewable energy projects in Australia exceeded USD 20 billion, while the total installed capacity of new projects reached 14.6 GW. According to CleanTechnica, which refers to the Clean Energy Council of Australia, the cost of wind and solar projects implemented in the country in 2018 amounted to USD 6 billion.
In addition, in 2018, 2 million roofs in Australia were equipped with solar power plants with a total capacity of about 1.5 GW.
The source also writes that the trebling of the domestic gas price and doubling of domestic thermal coal prices in recent years has made it clear that thermal electricity generation is becoming the expensive source of generation, particularly when renewable energy costs have dropped by two thirds to just AUD 40-50/MWh in the last 3-4 years.
The Australian Energy Regulator’s report estimates that 2018/19 will see a record 3.8 GW of distributed and utility scale renewables investment, with 2019/20 likely to see the second highest rate of new capacity installed at 2.75 GW.
In 2019, the country will launch large-scale construction of batteries, with South Australia and Victoria stimulating their early acquisition to create the production and logistics chain needed for rapid cost savings and the introduction of smart grids.
WWF polling conducted in 2018 showed that 9 out of 10 Australians agreed that Australia should generate 87% of energy from RES (solar and wind power). More than two-thirds of the population believe Australia should become a global leader in tackling climate change (71%).
2. China approves its first power storage pilot of USD 174 million.
China approved its first pilot energy storage project. Its goal is to maximise the efficiency of using RES and improve network stability. This is reported by Bloomberg with reference to the Gansu Provincial Development and Reform Commission.
The energy storage system will be located in the Gansu Province in the northwest of China. The investments will amount to USD 174 million. The system will be able to store 720 MWh of electricity within four hours. Its completion is expected in 2019.
Today, the total RES generation capacity in China increased to 706 GW. At the same time, due to lower investment provision, as of the end of September 2018, the capacity of wind and solar power plants fell by 7.7% and 2.9% respectively.
The further development of the Gansu project will depend on the network demand, as well as the dynamics of changes in market conditions. Upon completion of the construction, the new project will become the largest energy storage virtual power plant in China.
3. Perovskite solar panels can achieve an efficiency of up to 37%.
The British company Oxford PV is working on the development of perovskite (liquid mineral – calcium titanate) solar cells with an efficiency of up to 37%, while the current solar panels’ efficiency remains at the level of about 30%. As reported by TechCrunch, the company received USD 3 million from the UK government for the implementation of the project.
CleanTechnica notes that the first solar panels could convert only about 2% of sunlight. Two years ago, Alta Devices developed sunscreens from gallium arsenide with an efficiency ratio of 29.1%. Now, these solar cells are tested by NASA in space.
Japanese researchers first invented the technology of perovskite batteries in 2009. They use hybrid lead or tin halide based material as an active layer for collecting solar energy.
The main advantage of perovskite solar cells is that they can be applied to virtually any surface.
Instead of heavy and bulky installations, you can use perovskite to cover the surfaces of buildings, vehicles and sidewalks to increase the possibility of accumulating sunlight for conversion into electricity.
In the United States, Swift Solar has recently received USD 7 million from investors for the development of such technologies.
These thin crystalline layers are produced by mixing two inexpensive readily available salts to produce ink that can be applied to the surface in various ways. However, they also have disadvantages, namely a shorter lifetime compared with conventional solar panels and, as a rule, quickly deteriorate in any environment outside the laboratory.
4. Bill Gates to invest USD 26 million in an experiment on energy storage.
The Malta start-up received USD 26 million for the construction of an experimental RES energy storage system, supported by the Breakthrough Energy Ventures founded by Bill Gates. This was reported by Qz.com.
Nowadays, lithium-ion batteries are the most widely used systems for energy storage. However, they are expensive and able to store accumulated energy for several hours only. Based on the work of Nobel laureate Robert Laughlin, the Malta start-up offers to use excess electricity from solar panels and wind turbines to operate a powerful heat pump.
“It’s essentially a refrigerator on steroids,” says Adrienne Little, the start-up’s technical lead. It extracts heat from a chamber full of antifreeze-like chemicals, lowering the temperature to 70 °C below zero. That heat is dumped in another chamber where salt is heated to as high as 565 °C. These insulated chambers hold the energy until it is needed. That is when a heat engine – like a steam turbine inside a power plant – is used to convert the heat and the cold back to usable electricity.
The Malta pilot system model has a capacity of 10 MW and can provide power for up to 10 hours.
According to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance report, the electricity stored on lithium-ion batteries costs an average of USD 176 per kWh, while the electricity stored by the Malta system costs USD 12.7 per kWh. This is due to the fact that Malta mainly uses ready-made ingredients to create “batteries”, such as heat pumps, insulating tanks, salt and antifreeze chemicals.
Researchers believe that if the world wants to retain strong volumes of renewable energy, its cost should be about USD 10 per kWh. This is approximately the cost of electricity produced by HPP and HPSPP. However, the use of hydropower depends on geography, requiring access to mountains and large rivers.
The pilot project will cover the area of 2,500 square meters – about a half of a soccer field. An increase in the facility’s capacity will not require a respective increase in the land area. For example, a facility with a capacity of 100 MW will require only 15 thousand square meters. That is, 10 times of energy storage for six times the area.
The low cost of electricity and a small area are the main advantages of the Malta start-up.
5. The United States on the cusp of an unprecedented solar boom.
The total volume of applications for the construction of large-scale solar projects and connection to the grid on the territory of six system operators (CAISO, NYISO, ISO-NE, MI SO, PJM, ERCOT) in the United States reached 139 GW. It is about five times what we currently have across the country. The area in question covers the Midwest, California and Texas. This is reported by PV-magazine.
The publication notes there is a reason to believe that in the next five years, solar power in the United States will grow at a significant pace. This is partly due to the reduction in the investment tax credit starting from the end of 2019 to the end of 2023, as well as the decline in prices for photovoltaic systems, which makes solar power the cheapest kind of electricity generation from RES in much of the United States.
According to the Wood Mackenzie, as of the end of the third quarter of 2018, the United States had only 34 GW of large-scale solar projects.
Nevertheless, more than 15 GW of solar projects in the networks of six system operators already have accession agreements or entered into the phase of engineering and procurement. The largest part of them is in California and Texas (4 GW).
The monthly Energy Infrastructure Update of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) provides an estimate of the future capacity, and the latest report shows an increase in solar power by 63 GW by the end of 2021.
A quarterly report by Stephanie Tsao and Ellen Meyers of S&P Global Market Intelligence, mainly engaged in the analysis of financial information, estimates that the U.S. utility scale solar project pipeline through 2022 will expand to 33.9 GW.