March 17, 2016 – Volume 18 Issue 1: Sustainability Snapshots

In This Issue

Flanigan’s Eco-Logic

The State of Solar: 2015 – 2016

NEM 2.0 California Style

Lithium-ion and Hybrid-Electric Buildings

Energy Storage & Frequency Control

“Exascale” Wind Turbines

Norway’s Billion-Dollar Bicycle Plan

Jay Baldwin Joins EcoMotion

EcoMotion Hiring in California

Flanigan’s Eco-Logic: Sustainability Snapshots

In “the fishbowl” at the Cambridge Innovation Center we are, an unusually visible conference room wedged between the busy registration tables and the even busier free-bar at the Venture Cafe. Every Thursday, members of the CIC and their guests convene at the Venture Café to network, inspire, commiserate, and find synergies.

Facilitated by EcoMotion, each month the Sustainability Collaborative meets at the Venture Café and despite the background sounds of a large and lightly lubricated group of networkers, focuses astutely on topics of note. This evening it was all about “Food Rescue.”

We hear from a most enthusiastic worker from “Food for Free,” a Cambridge-based non-profit. Ross Richmond’s niche is new and bold, building on the reuse of outdated super-market food stock. Food rescue, he explains, now includes prepared foods. Food for Free rescues excess prepared food from Whole Foods “hot-bars” and Harvard University Dining Halls. Later I learn about “Ugly Fruits,” another food rescue operation that sees, collects, and distributes the nutritional value of blemished fruits and vegetables. These groups are protected from liability – absent gross negligence — from the Good Samaritan Act of 1996.

Participating sources bag unused, warm food, and then freeze it. The frozen bags are picked up by Food for Free, taken to an infrequently used church kitchen in Harvard Square, where each frozen item is pulverized and then sorted into three-parts, frozen dinners made up of protein, vegetable, and starch. Unlike soup kitchens that serve up a single meal for each participant, Food for Free recipients pick up food for multiple meals.

…The setting is the University of California at Riverside. I tuck my Prius under one of the massive solar ports to moderate a panel on Community Solar. Our panel includes Southern California Edison’s new Community Solar program manager, a rep from First Solar, another from SolarCity, and an environmental justice advocate whose stories about toxins running through her neighborhoods are unbelievable and memorable… her kids playing in gutters and creating froth beards with unknown hazardous substances.

We delve into community solar, a means for power users without rooftops to buy green power. The first community solar project was in Ellensberg, Washington in 2008. Now there are 25 states with community solar projects on-line. There are a total of 91 projects community solar projects and 102 cumulative megawatts installed through early 2016. Four states — California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota — are expected to install the majority of community solar over the next two years.

Mandated three years ago in SB 43, California’s utilities are about to launch community solar programs. Edison’s program has two facets: The first part – the Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program (known as “the Green Rate”) — allows ratepayers to opt in to solar and to pay a premium for 100% GreenE certified green power. The second part – known as the Enhanced Community Renewables Program — will be administered by select vendors that win bids for projects ranging from 500 kW to 3 MW. When selected in the coming months, these third party providers will recruit and aggregate program participants in long-term power purchase contracts, and then manage community solar participants and their shares.

…Off to Downey and The Gas Company’s Energy Resource Center. Seth Jacobsen and I are speaking on behalf of our school district client, Garden Grove Unified School District, on our Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Pilot program. Briefings prior to our case study make clear that ZNE still suffers from definition. Must renewables that provide the balance of power be site-based or can they be source-based? The latter allows for utility RPS standards, green pricing programs, community solar.

Most basically, a ZNE building produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. These buildings achieve ZNE first through high levels of energy efficiency, and then through the addition of onsite renewable power generation. Whatever the definition, ZNE is alive and growing greatly. The New Buildings Institute maintains a database on ZNE buildings. Currently there are 225 buildings listed, representing 4/5th of the states in the country. Not Surprisingly, California is leading the market.

…Terry and I stand on the Gold Line platform at Lincoln Heights. This is my idea of a Sunday outing. As the train approaches we see the reality… this train is jam-packed full of rail enthusiasts. We are not the only ones riding the new rails, celebrating the 11.5-mile Gold Line extension. Free ridership of the line means the masses are out! Darn. We squeeze in; it’s very uncomfortable. At each station stop more people press in. I’m privately thinking Uber and escape!

From Pasadena east, we’re riding the new rails. At Sierra Madre the line is in the median of the 210 Freeway. Then it vaults the freeway, following the roadbed of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railway. There are celebrations at every new station… speeches, food, and music. This $810 million line is an accomplishment of major proportion, complete with a 27-acre maintenance facility in Monrovia that houses 84 “vehicles.”

Funded by the $40 billion Measure R, Metro is on a roll. Currently, three new rail lines are under construction. Yes, it will be possible to get to Santa Monica by train in June of this year! And soon Los Angeles voters will be asked to dig into their pockets again, to support an additional $120 billion bond initiative informally known as Measure R2. It will add more rational transit infrastructure, including “active transportation” amenities (biking and walking) and infrastructure to support efficient cargo handling at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the region’s greatest source of emissions.

Quote of the Week on the Loading Order:

“Remember to eat your conservation vegetables before your solar dessert!”

The State of Solar: 2015 – 2016

In terms of solar, 2015 ended with a bang. Now the solar future is brighter than ever thanks to low-cost panels and the extension of the 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC). According to PV Pulse, the global blended average price for a “Tier-1 Chinese-produced multi-crystalline PV module” fell 10% year-over-year and reached 57 cents/watt in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Retained at the last minute by the Internal Revenue Service, the ITC remains at its current 30% level through 2018, for a full three years. Its value then falls in increments until it reaches 10% in 2022 where it settles. At the same time, the wind industry scored as well with the extension of its 2.3 cent per kWh Production Tax Credit (PTC). As part of the deal, the U.S. lifted the ban on crude oil exports. Now, instead of falling off a cliff, solar (and wind) are set to boom.

Source: GTM U.S. Solar Market Insight

Let’s focus on a remarkable trajectory. Cumulative, domestic solar PV installations surpassed 25 GW by the end of the year, up from just 2 GW at the end of 2010. The U.S. installed 7,260 MW of solar PV in 2015, the largest annual total ever and 16% above 2014 according to research conducted by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.

According to the Energy Information Administration’s 2015 U.S. Electricity Generation Report, U.S. wind and solar electricity generation grew by 20,659 MWh in 2015 compared to 2014. At the same time, fossil fuel electricity generation dropped by 18,041 MWh. Similarly, 69% of new electricity generation capacity in 2015 came from renewables, while 80% of retired electricity generation capacity was coal. For the first time ever, solar beat out natural gas capacity additions, with solar supplying 29.4% of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the U.S. in 2015.

Looking forward, GTM forecasts 16 GW of new PV installations in 2016, up 119% over 2015, more than doubling the record-breaking 7.3 GW installed in 2015. While utility-scale installations are expected to represent 74% of the installations for the year, the residential and commercial markets are also expected to experience strong growth in 2016. The U.S. is on the verge of its millionth solar installation

NEM 2.0 California Style

Solar advocates rally at the California State Capital

Nearly concurrent with the Internal Revenue Service ITC determination, the California Public Utilities Commission bucked a national trend. By early 2016, 43 states have net energy metering policies… a provision that has launched distributed generation in America, and that now is under attack. Utilities want to pay less than the full retail rate for solar and other distributed resources.

But instead of lessening the value that customers get from Net Energy Metering, CPUC President Michael Picker decided to essentially hold the course. NEM is working in California. Rather than gut a successful program, why not maintain success and work in concert to achieve Governor Jerry Brown’s bold proclamation of 13 GW of localized generation by 2020?

Let’s back up. You have a solar system, and you’re at work so very little power is being used at home. The solar system is thus over-generating. Fortunately, thanks to NEM, “the meter runs backwards!” (This is literally true for aging, analog meters, and conceptually correct for all digital transactions.) You export the surplus to the grid. And for this power, you currently get the full retail value. In other words, you reap the same price that you would have had to pay to buy power from the grid.

For years, critics have called NEM a subsidy. Solar owners – generally an economically elite bunch – benefit financially while still relying on the grid to furnish power at night, during cloudy days, and heaven forbid, if their solar system goes down. Solar system owners liberally use and rely on the grid, without paying for it.

Utilities and ratepayer advocates have argued that this subsidy is not sustainable. Instead, utilities ought to pay only for the generation portion of the power, about half its retail value. Another way of looking at this is that utilities want to pay a wholesale price for your power. But how that changes system economics! In fact, if utilities prevailed and were only to pay the generation portion of power costs, it would double payback periods for solar system owners. Without robust NEM policies, solar is not viable. When the NEM laws were repealed in Nevada, solar companies there were forced to fold their tents, leaving the state.

In 2015, EcoMotion warned its Southern California solar clients of three threats: First was the drop-off of the ITC. Second was the risk of losing NEM as we know it. Only the third threat is still valid: Option R – a solar friendly rate structure that alleviates peak demand charges – is still slated to expire as it reaches its limited capacity cap….

The Lithium-ion and Hybrid-Electric Building Revolution

The following is an excerpt from EcoMotion’s recent white paper on advanced energy storage, specifically focusing on Lithium-ion and the Hybrid-Electric Building Revolution:

Tesla batteries being lowered into place

Sun shining and there’s a buzz in the air. We gather at 20 Pacifica in Irvine. This office complex is spit polished, a Sim-City reality. You could have a picnic in the parking garage. I know the place for two reasons: EcoMotion put on an Option R Solar Forum there, and there’s a choice café called Specialties that my bud Tyler likes. This office complex is one of many Irvine company buildings, formulaic and successful.

I turn my cognitive set. Is this right? In this modern, unassuming spot, a building movement is born? This is the site of the first hybrid-electric building.

We park in the garage and are directed down a path to the battery bank site. It will be screened off later, but now is prominent. A crane has been lifting white shimmering battery banks onto a newly poured concrete pad. Ultimately this impressive bank of some 16 Tesla batteries will be connected to a 250 kW inverter. The system can hold a 1,500 kWh charge, thus it can deliver 250 kW of capacity for up to six hours… matching Southern California Edison’s six-hour summer peak demand period. And since they are lithium-ion batteries, they can do so day in and day out for many years to come.  The deal is for ten years, all third-party financed and with a performance guarantee.

The ceremony kicks off “the hybrid-electric building” revolution. There’s a short ceremony… speeches. Susan Kennedy, the founder and CEO of Advanced Microgrid Solutions, is front and center. She’s the architect of this plan and welcomes the 60+ in attendance. The Irvine Company is lauded for its forward thinking. Lots of photos taken, later staged. The media is here. Next are reps from a financing firm (that finances firms like Google and Tesla, and now AMS), SCE, and the Irvine Company. These three firms are what Susan called “rock stars.”

The Irvine Company project involves 24 office buildings, reducing peak demand by an average of 25%, and 10 MW of dispatch-able capacity for Southern California Edison when called.  AMS partnered with SunEdison to finance and construct the projects. The system being installed as we watch, is doing double duty – serving the grid when called upon, and flattening each building’s load profile concurrently. The batteries will be largely recharged at night – using low-cost off-peak power – and then discharged during peak periods to simultaneously lighten the load on the grid and power bill.

Energy storage is all the rage in the electric utility world, in the spotlight with LEDs. Storage has come of age… touted as “advanced energy storage.” That’s a bold claim. Today’s “advanced technologies” for storage may remind us of beta-maxes in time. But don’t let me dampen the enthusiasm: Storage is now sexy in the power world!

In fact, 2015 was a banner year for storage. GTM Research projected that annual storage capacity addition in the United States was 192 MW, triple last year’s total. The report went on to site the PJM market as “dominating the market” with storage for frequency regulation, with utility-scale developments in Vermont and Georgia. Note that in the third quarter of 2015, 46 MW out of a total of 53 MW installed, were for utility-scale storage systems. (This report focuses primarily on “behind the meter,” consumer-hosted systems.)

This paper is all about the new, storage vernacular and how storage interacts with utility demand. It’s about predictive analysis; predicting peaks, learning algorithms, dynamic, fast-responding resources, intelligent storage; distributed storage (DS), and smart grid controllers. It’s about GreenStations, PowerPacks, and PowerWalls. We’ll link mobile and stationary energy storage solutions. It’s about “storage as a service,” and demand charge reduction strategies on steroids.

To download the entire White Paper, click here.

Energy Storage Systems and Frequency Control

Kokam’s 24 MW Lithium NMC system

Korea is not only building the largest high-rise west of Chicago in downtown Los Angeles, a few blocks from our office, but is now showcasing the value of lithium batteries to provide frequency control for power grids. With 95 megawatts of its energy storage capacity now deployed by utilities in Korea, USA, Canada, Germany, and Australia, Kokam brings significant experience to this market.

Kokam recently announced that it has successfully deployed two Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) Oxide battery storage systems for frequency regulation in South Korea. The system is made up of a 24 megawatt / 9 megawatt hour system, and a 16 MW / 6 MWh system. The 24 MW system is the largest capacity Lithium NMC energy storage system used for frequency regulation in the world.

Operational since January 2016, the two new systems, along with a Kokam 16 MW / 5 MWh Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) system deployed in August 2015, provide the Korea Electric Power Corporation  (KEPCO) with 56 MW of energy storage capacity for frequency regulation. They are part of the world’s largest energy storage frequency regulation project; KEPCO is scheduled to deploy 500 MW of battery-based energy storage by 2017.

In addition to improving grid reliability, the Kokam storage systems will enable KEPCO to improve its operation efficiency by reducing its need for spinning power generation reserves. This will allow KEPCO to shift energy generation to lower cost, more efficient power plants and decrease “wear and tear” on all its power plants. The three Kokam storage systems will save ~$39 million each year in fuel costs, plus commensurate greenhouse gas emissions reductions. These fuel savings are five times larger than the storage systems’ purchase price over their lifetimes.

The new storage systems use Kokam’s Ultra High Power NMC battery technology. Designed for high power energy storage applications, their higher density enables 2.4 MWh of energy storage to be in installed in a 40-foot container, compared to 1 – 1.5 MWh for standard NMC batteries. They also feature high power cycle life, better charge and discharge rates, and improved heat dissipation.

Exascale Wind Turbines

Todd Griffith shows a cross-section of a 50-meter blade

Wind enthusiasts are pushing for ever-larger turbines. Research is being led at Sandia National Laboratory. Consider this, to support the size blades being considered, wind turbine towers may have to be as tall at the Empire States Building!

Gigantic is an apt word to describe them. “Exascale” is another. These huge turbines are slated to have 650-foot blades, more than two football fields in length. When stood on end, each blade would rise 100 feet above the Washington Monument. And each turbine will generate 50 MW, more than 10 times the output of the largest currently available turbines.

Their proponents claim that the new machines will be designed to harness the fiercest of winds on Earth, “to channel the power of hurricanes.” To do so they will include “bio-inspired elements” such as segmented trunks that bend in high breezes like a palm tree, and segmented morphing rotors that are able to shut down blades through a folding mechanism.

Norway’s Billion-Dollar Bicycle Plan

Bike commuters in Oslo

Norway is proposing to invest a staggering sum of money to upgrade its bicycle-commuting infrastructure. As part of a plan announced last week, the country will invest $923 million to create 10 broad, two-lane, cross-country bicycle highways in and around Norway’s nine largest cities.

The impetus for the initiative is to slash Norway’s transportation emissions by 50%.  According to CityLab, the new bikeways will link the nine cities to the outer suburbs, extending the protected bicycle network outward from urban cores through the commuter belt and into the countryside beyond.

But the plan faces some stern opposition. For starters, Norway is cold most of the year and it has lots of hills. (The latter may result in a surge in electric bicycle sales.) Given the cold climate and dark of winter, perhaps Norway will need to adopt a “pay to pedal” program like the one proposed for Milan. There, in what is known as “the pollution capital of Europe,” where this winter there was a three-day ban on the use of cars, part of a $35,000,000 mobility fund may be used to pay workers to commute by bicycle. This was first tried in France in 2014; workers were paid $0.25/km for pedaling and leaving their cars at home.

The Norwegian government hopes to convince 20% of all commuters to bike to work. That would result in Norway having no increase in the number of cars between now and 2030. The payoff for Norway will be lower carbon emissions leading to higher life expectancy and better health for its citizens.

Jay Baldwin Joins EcoMotion

EcoMotion is pleased to announce that Jay Baldwin has joined our team as Business Development Director. A colleague of EcoMotion’s Campus Services for five years, Jay and his wife have recently moved to Los Angeles from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Jay’s professional accomplishments are many: He founded and directed City Gardens for 18 years – one of the nation’s first interior landscaping companies – until it was sold to Rentokil in 1991. He has been President of Wind River Capital Partners for 22 years, an investment and financial consulting practice.

Jay was instrumental in helping to form GreenerU, a firm focused on retrofitting college campuses for energy efficiency, including the engineering of district heating systems. Currently he serves on several boards of directors including Renew Energy Partners and is a senior advisor to IRN, an innovative recycling and repurposing network for major institutions. For EcoMotion, Jay is focused on developing corporate capabilities and delivering high-quality consulting services to campus clients across the country

EcoMotion Hiring in California

Currently EcoMotion is serving six California school districts that constitute over 120 campuses. EcoMotion provides comprehensive energy consulting and sustainability services to help these schools save energy and water and money, while cutting their carbon footprint and educating students. We specialize in leveraging bond monies and State Prop 39 funds to engage students, to evaluate and install photovoltaics and lithium-ion storage systems, to secure funds to invest in drought-tolerant landscaping, and to demonstrate zero net energy.

EcoMotion is seeking a project manager to support our firm’s work with Proposition 39, and the coordination of energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy systems on California school campuses. The successful applicant must be a team player, have an engineering or science-based background, must be eager to know every aspect of Prop 39, keen on advancing sustainability on campuses, adept at energy savings and cost-benefit calculations, and proficient in Microsoft Excel.