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Steel in the Water: Offshore Wind Is Finally Coming to America

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It’s been 15 years since Cape Wind — the project meant to be America’s first offshore wind farm — was first proposed. For years, the 130-turbine, 450-megawatt project was held up as the start of an entirely new industry in the U.S. But fierce legal opposition and project financing problems eventually brought it down.

The offshore wind industry is now virtually all in Europe. In 2001, Europe had a few hundred megawatts of offshore wind projects. Today, it has nearly 13,000 megawatts of capacity — and developers are on track to make offshore wind the cheapest form of new electricity. In fact, new projects are now beating 2020 price estimates.   

When will America finally capture a piece of this budding industry?

This week’s guest is well equipped to answer that question. Alicia Barton is the former director of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the former chief of operations at SunEdison’s global utility group, and is now the co-chair of the cleantech practice at the global law firm Foley Hoag. She joins us to talk about the regulatory and business activity underway on America’s East Coast.



Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - March 21, 2017 at 6:00 am

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Australia’s Grid Problems Put the International Spotlight on Storage—and Elon Musk

A promise by Tesla to solve an ongoing Australian energy crisis with battery storage has prompted calls for similar plans worldwide. 

Twitter users from nations including Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey clamored for battery mega-projects after Tesla pledged to build a 100 megawatt-hour-plus plant in Australia within 100 days of signing a contract — or let the Australians have it for free.

One of the more notable Twitter requests came from Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. “Ukraine is eager to become a test site for innovation,” he said. “Let’s talk it over in details [sic].”

The outpouring of enthusiasm for energy storage came after Lyndon Rive, the head of Tesla’s energy division (and former CEO of SolarCity), promised to solve Australia’s energy problems following blackouts in South Australia. 

Rive said Tesla would be able to install between 100 and 300 megawatt-hours of batteries, enough to meet 15 percent of total energy demand in South Australia, within 100 days, thanks to increased production capacity at Tesla’s Gigafactory in the U.S. 

Rive made the pledge at the launch of Tesla’s Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 battery systems in Newport, Melbourne.

It was reported by the Australian Financial Review and prompted Australian software tycoon Mike Cannon-Brookes to send Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, a tweet asking if the offer was a serious one.

“Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free,” Musk responded. “That serious enough for you?”

Cannon-Brookes asked for a week “to try sort out politics & funding [sic],” but within a day Musk had already spoken on the phone with South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill. A telephone conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull came two days later.

Speaking via Twitter, Turnbull thanked Musk for “a great in depth discussion today about energy storage and it’s role in delivering affordable & reliable electricity [sic].”

Weatherill, meanwhile, promised to spend AUD $500 million (USD $386 million) on Australia’s largest battery storage and gas-fired plant, with 100 megawatts of storage. 

It remains unclear whether Tesla will build the project, which has a budget of AUD $150 million (USD $116 million). Musk said his batteries would cost $250 per kilowatt-hour of installed capacity “at the pack level” for systems of 100 megawatt-hours or more. 

Musk did not clarify whether the pricing was in U.S. or Australian dollars. Either way, the exchange focused attention on the use of energy storage to solve a problem that has become a rancorous political issue in Australia. 

In recent months, South Australia has been racked by frequent blackouts that Turnbull originally blamed on the state’s high dependence on renewable energy, and particularly wind power.

It subsequently emerged that the Prime Minister and other officials from his party had issued misleading statements about the true cause of the first major blackout, which the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said was not a fault of the generation mix. 

The first blackout, in September of last year, prompted calls for an increase in energy storage. But in October, a senior figure from Australian utility ActewAGL Distribution told GTM that battery storage was “many years away” from being able to deal with the problem. 

Giw Zanganeh, managing director of the Lugano, Switzerland-based compressed air energy storage technology developer ALACAES, raised doubts over the financial viability of battery storage at the scale needed to solve Australia’s grid problems. 

“Consider that the $250 per kilowatt-hour that Musk offers is only the battery pack,” he said. “The complete system is a factor of two to three times more expensive, depending on the power-capacity ratio, and the whole capacity is never exploited, to increase lifetime.”

In any event, Australian lawmakers need to find a solution to the country’s grid challenges soon because AEMO has warned of further difficulties ahead.

“A projected decline in gas production could result in a shortfall of gas-powered electricity generation impacting New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia from the summer of 2018-19,” said the operator in a statement this month. 

Tesla’s case for using batteries to help South Australia is strengthened by the company’s 80-megawatt-hour storage system installed in California last year. The system was designed to replace capacity lost from the Aliso Canyon natural gas store — and it only took only 88 days to build and commission.

Whether or not Australia signs a deal with Tesla, the publicity is already enough to get other countries thinking seriously about large-scale battery storage.   

Despite the financials, said Zanganeh: “I think Musk’s initiative is a great marketing move and that we will see many more such projects in the future.” 


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Energy Jobs: Bring California Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Federal Scientists and Climate Experts

Last week, California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker gave out fliers in front of the Washington, D.C. offices of the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy. The fliers pointed to a webpage listing openings at California’s PUC, Air Resources Board and Energy Commission.

Picker said, “On climate action, there’s a dark cloud hanging over Washington right now. If climate scientists and experts want the opportunity to continue doing important work for the good of our planet, my message is simple: Come West; California is hiring.”

President Trump intends to nominate Scott Gottlieb, a partner at venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, to lead the Food and Drug Administration, according to Reuters. Trump intends to nominate Kevin McIntyre, a lawyer at Jones Day in Washington, D.C. to be chair of FERC, according to Bloomberg.  

Gary Clark, the IT CTO at Juniper Networks, joined Tesla earlier this year as its CIO, according to Clark’s LinkedIn profile.

How is the Telsa-SolarCity PV-integrated roofing project going? Well, the company has a growing number job of openings, 36 listed here, for roofers.      

Bruce Sohn, former president of First Solar, joined CIGS solar startup Siva Power as CEO after joining as vice chairman late last year. Under Sohn, First Solar was the first firm to build PV modules at below $1.00 per watt and the first to ship more than 1 gigawatt of PV modules annually. Sohn is on the board of Phononic Devices and 1366 Technologies and, until recently, was president of QuantumScape.  

Travis Bradford, president of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development and director of the Energy and Environment graduate program at Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs, is now the new chairman of Watt Fuel Cell Corp, a developer of a solid oxide fuel cell that runs on propane, natural gas and diesel. According to the company, the entire fuel cell tube is manufactured using an automated printing process.

Vivint Solar, a residential solar provider, promoted Colt Reid to VP of sales operations. 

SMA promoted Charles Ellis to VP of distributed sales. Andrew Mears, most recently with SunPower, and with SMA America from 2009 to 2013, is now VP of strategic sales. SMA “will be launching a massive hiring effort” in key U.S. regions such as California and the Northeast.

Brian Asparro is now CCO at behind-the-meter energy storage firm Demand Energy. Asparro “supported Demand Energy with financing expertise and guidance through the acquisition of the company by Enel Green Power North America.” Previously, Brian served as CFO at Green Charge Networks.   

Gregg Sayre, on New York’s Public Service Commission since July 2012, will replace Audrey Zibelman as interim chair to oversee NY REV, according to Microgrid Knowledge. The REV program is building a policy framework for a distributed grid in New York state. Zibelman is moving on to lead the Australian Energy Market Operator.

Lidija Sekaric, previously a director, deputy director, and group manager with the DOE’s SunShot Initiative, joined Siemens as the director or strategy and marketing for distributed energy systems.    


Enertech Search Partners, an executive search firm with a dedicated cleantech practice, is the sponsor of the GTM jobs column.

Among its many active searches, Enertech is looking for a VP of Sales — Distributed Energy.

The client provides software and business solutions to design, connect, and operate energy storage and microgrid systems. Their suite of products creates an ecosystem where project developers, OEMs, financiers, and project operators can deploy advanced energy projects using a seamless hardware-agnostic software platform.

Currently they are seeking a VP of Sales who has superior communication and management experience, is comfortable selling and partnering with big integrators (SW) and is a strategic tactical player/coach.


J.W. Postal, former COO of Clean Energy Collective is now CEO of Nikola, a new solar/storage startup.

Lightsource Renewable Energy, a European solar energy developer, named James Brooks as chief strategy officer, and as a member of the board. Most recently, Brooks was the co-head of energy investments in the merchant banking division of Goldman Sachs within EMEA.

Sense named Marshall Chapin as chief strategy officer. Chapin joins Sense from EnerNOC, where he served as VP of sales, responsible for utility sales, strategic alliances, and sales operations. Sense is a “platform that interprets the power usage and activity of devices in the home.” 

From the previous jobs column:

Gates, Bezos, Khosla, Bloomberg, Branson, Doerr, Plattner and the other billionaire investors in the $1 billion Breakthrough Energy Coalition have hired folks with actual energy backgrounds.

David Danielson is now managing director for science and Eric Toone is executive managing director and science lead — the first employees on the Breakthrough Energy Ventures science team. Danielson was most recently a Precourt Energy Scholar at Stanford. Before that, he served as the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. He was the first program director hired by the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which focuses on high-risk clean energy technologies. Toone was most recently the leader of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative at Duke University. In 2009, he was a founding member of ARPA-E, where he led the electrofuels program.

On the relatively rare topic of investors focused on energy and sustainability:

  • Dick Kramlich, co-founder of New Enterprise Associates, founded Green Bay Ventures, a $130 million early-stage fund, with partner Anthony Schiller. The fund looks at artificial intelligence applications in energy, transportation, manufacturing and logistics, according to a TechCrunch source.
  • Abe Yokell, a partner at RockPort Capital, along with Joshua Posamentier are listed as co-founders and managing partners at Congruent Ventures — “Investing in Early Stage Sustainable Technology” according to the website.  The firm has filed for two funds, a $50 million seed and Series A fund, and a $40 million follow-on fund.  According to the firm, they are fully subscribed on their follow-on fund and will hold a second close for the early stage fund in Q2. They expect to make their first investments in the coming months.


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Federal and State Governments Take a Swipe at the Electric Vehicle Market [GTM Squared]


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Sunverge Tests New Software Control Platform on ‘World’s Largest’ Virtual Power Plant

Australian utility AGL Energy held a press event last week to publicize what the company claims will soon become the largest behind-the-meter battery installation in the world.

The installation is relatively small at the moment — only residential 60 batteries have been installed to date, out of 150 to be deployed by the end of this quarter. But by next year, AGL plans to have 1,000 of them running as a virtual power plant (VPP) to keep lights on during power outages, and provide a variety of grid services that will help accelerate Australia’s shift to renewable energy. 

AGL’s AUD $20 million (USD $15 million) VPP project is also a big win for California startup Sunverge. Not only is it providing all of the solar-battery control systems installed by the utility so far, it’s also been tapped to provide the software control platform that will eventually extend to all 1,000 units — and, potentially, to energy resources beyond batteries. 

“Sunverge in partnership with AGL will be providing the orchestration capability. This is a joint internet-of-things effort for the full fleet of batteries, managing their deployment to demonstrate the services required to realize a number of different value streams — for the customer, for the transmission and distribution networks, and for AGL as a retailer,” Andy Vesey, the utility’s CEO, said in an email last week. 

The utility, which is also an investor in Sunverge, has already begun demonstrating VPP functions, such as aggregated peak demand management and frequency control, and expects to publish a report on that progress in May, he said. At the same time, the first installed units have already helped customers ride through some of the blackouts that have struck Southern Australia in recent months, he said. 

For Sunverge, which announced last month that it’s branching out from controlling its own hardware to providing its control platform as a software-as-a-service product, it’s an important testing case. While the startup has about 1,000 of its own battery systems deployed worldwide, it never planned to go head-to-head with giant Asian battery manufacturers, or upstart hardware competitors, such as Tesla, CEO Ken Munson said. 

Instead, “it was always our intent that we would learn from a fleet of assets, and that would inform how we build a more robust platform,” Munson said in an interview last week. “At some point we knew we would have the ability to abstract that software over other hardware,” and work with “other best-of-class batteries and inverter technologies, further enabling the industry to increase the rate of adoption of renewables onto the grid.” 

AGL hasn’t yet picked which different battery manufacturers it will be working with for its entire 1,000-unit VPP deployment. So far, Sunverge is working on integrating its software platform with various different technologies, and is “in discussions with three or four different battery technologies,” including LG Chem and Sony, “and three or four different energy storage providers coming to market,” Munson said. 

“We can integrate at two different layers,” he noted. The first involves a good deal of precise work with battery and inverter systems before deployment, and can “offer nearly all the same ancillary services and behind the meter services that we can do on our own software stack. But we also see that the market doesn’t always want the many robust feature sets,” and Sunverge offers a lower-cost option for customers that would prefer to enable a simpler set of grid controls, he said. 

Australia has been an important early market for behind-the-meter batteries, with well-known brands such as Tesla and Sonnen competing against companies like China’s Narada Power and Australia’s Redflow. GTM Research predicts that Australia’s energy storage market could grow 37-fold between 2015 and 2020, reaching an annual installation rate of 244 megawatts. The vast majority of this growth is happening behind the meter, predominantly as add-ons to existing residential solar systems. 

Sunverge is already a key partner in a 300-battery VPP project with New York utility Con Edison, which held the title of “world’s largest” before AGL’s was announced. Sunverge is also working with utility Xcel Energy, Panasonic, Younicos and other partners on a $10.3 million microgrid development under construction near Denver’s airport. “Xcel is keen to test our software,” Munson said, “from experimental rate design, all the way through backup power.”

Sunverge expects to announce two more partners for its software-as-a-service platform in the next four to six weeks, he added. 


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Westinghouse announces executive management changes

The newly created NPB will deliver on the promise of the AP1000 plant projects and the services provided by the WECTEC product line


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Ohio lawmakers again seek to cut renewable energy mandates

The bill has more than 50 co-sponsors, including all of the Republican leadership


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Kansas court clears way for new coal-fired power plant

The state Supreme Court upheld a 2014 decision by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to give Sunflower Electric Power Corp. the go-ahead for its project


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It's Time to be Inspired

It isn’t unusual for me to have trouble deciding what to write in this monthly letter.



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Research for Drought-Resistant Crops Gets Boost

By Umberto Bacchi, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Scientists’ efforts to develop new crops able to resist climate change, droughts and other shocks have been boosted by the United States joining an international seeds treaty, a research group said.

The United States this week became the single largest party to a U.N. agreement under which countries allow researchers from other member states free access to their crop gene banks – collections of varieties of seeds, plants and roots.

A farmer throws seeds to plant on a rice paddy field in Ngoc Nu village, south of Hanoi January 22, 2015.
Credit: REUTERS/Kham

By joining, the United States adds more than 570,000 types of maize, wheat, potatoes and other crops to the 1.5 million varieties available under the treaty’s sharing system managed by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“The quality and size of gene bank contributions by the United States will further the progress of scientific research,” CGIAR, a global agricultural research organisation, said in a statement.

As farmers worldwide experience more frequent drought and erratic rainfall linked to global warming, scientists are racing  to find crops capable of tolerating increasingly high temperatures, water shortages and dry conditions.

Access to a large pool of seeds is vital for researchers to choose the best varieties to cross and create new strains resistant to pests, disease and drought, while also improving yields to help feed a growing population, according to FAO. 

“Biodiversity can help us face the impacts of climate change,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva in a statement marking the U.S. accession to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.    

If a plant bred with seeds shared under the multilateral system is commercialised, part of the profits must be paid into a trust fund benefiting farmers in the developing world.

“Bringing the U.S. collection within (the treaty) opens up the possibility of further commercialisation,” said the treaty’s secretary, Kent Nnadozie.

The United States ratified the treaty in December, before President Donald Trump was inaugurated, but officially became one of its 143 members on Monday, the FAO said.

Reporting by Umberto Bacchi, editing by Ros Russell


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - March 20, 2017 at 6:02 am

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