California ROUNDUP: Thule’s thermal, Flow battery for fire station, CALSSA’s 10-point plan

Extreme heat and wildfires contributed to a difficult year for California's energy sector, to say the least. Image: California Bureau of Land Management.

20 November 2020: Ice Bear returns to help out the grid in Orange County

Thermal energy storage units designed to replace traditional air conditioning technology were used on the California grid to reduce peak demand during the hot summer.

Thule Energy Storage makes the Ice Bear energy storage solution, acquired from another maker, Ice Energy, which went out of business in 2019. Thule said in a press release that 5MW of critical system capacity were supplied to the electrical grid in California’s Orange County during August this year from 340 Ice Bear units.

During the 14 and 15 August, when energy shortage issues in California went critical, Thule said its systems eliminated more than four hours of energy used for cooling across nearly 80 sites, without compromising comfort for occupants at times when AC would be exacting heavy loads on the grid.

With this proven technology we are supporting a sustainable transition to a clean energy future while alleviating the impacts of extreme heat events. Our units are the only cooling technology on the market that can provide these benefits to low- and medium-rise buildings, keeping residents cool during the day while also reducing their energy bills,” Thule Energy Storage chief operating officer Evan Berger said.

Berger added that the solution is “perfectly scalable anywhere that you have air conditioning” and that the Orange County deployments are a demonstration of what thermal storage can do “on a grid-wide basis”.

Energy-Storage.news heard more about the Ice Bear technology and the role it could play in solving California’s big energy dilemmas when it was manufactured by the technology’s previous owner Ice Energy, in this 2018 article.     

19 November 2020: Flow battery powers critical backup needs for fire station 

A 0.5MWh solar-charged flow battery system will be used to provide a minimum 10 hours of continuous backup power to a fire station in wildfire-hit Southern California.

The vanadium flow battery supplied by Anglo-American manufacturer Invinity Energy Systems is combined with 50kW of onsite solar generation for the fire station, which is at Soboba Indian Reservation near the city of San Jacinto.

Non-profit solar installer GRID Alternatives has developed the project. The California Energy Commission (CEC) has funded US$624,000 of the total US$1.7 million cost. The Commission has done so with a view to the project serving as a demonstration of the role long-duration storage assets like flow batteries - which decouple energy and power and can scale up duration and capacity of storage simply by having larger electrolyte tanks - can serve in critical infrastructure applications.

The Soboba tribal community lives in an area deemed to be at “Extreme” threat of wildfires by the regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said. Multiple outages have been experienced by the community due to wildfires in the past two years and the fire station also serves as an incident command centre and emergency shelter, as well as a distribution hub for food, equipment and other supplies.

The project is among four that Invinity was awarded funding for by the CEC in order to stimulate long-duration and non-lithium battery technologies, and is the first to have its details announced. Invinity was formed by the recent merger of North American flow battery company Avalon Battery and UK flow battery company redT. 

18 November 2020: Step-by-step support for solar and storage by state leaders would have economic as well as environmental benefits, CALSSA says

California Solar & Storage Association has created a 10-point plan which it said could created thousands of jobs, support the addition of nearly 16 million MWh of solar generation to the state’s energy mix and reduce energy costs by US$4billion each year.

The trade group has just published a report supporting economic recovery and the creation of jobs in the state through energy storage and solar investments. Dealing with installations at the residential to commercial level, CALSSA said the local industry is supporting California’s move to clean energy while helping keep the lights on.

A commitment to expanding distributed solar energy and battery storage in California is a no-regrets investment that offers a lasting legacy,” CALSSA executive director Bernadette Del Chiaro said.

“The benefits of solar and energy storage technologies are shared throughout the state in terms of local jobs, community savings, and economic opportunities.”

The 10-point plan, calling on state leaders, is as follows and the full report, ‘Shovel ready for recovery: A blueprint for jobs and economic recovery through local solar and storage investments’, can be viewed here.

  1. Launch one million solar-charged batteries initiative 
  2. Launch resilient schools initiative
  3. Protect and expand net energy metering policies
  4. Cut red tape through automated permitting and virtual inspections
  5. Allow customer batteries to help during grid emergencies
  6. Unleash power of existing ratepayer storage & equity programmes 
  7. Remove utility barriers for connecting solar & storage systems 
  8. Increase efforts to reduce natural gas usage in buildings through solar hot water technologies 
  9. Expand and extend the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC)
  10. Protect clean energy investments from unnecessary local taxes 

“As California looks for ways to bounce back economically from the Covid-19 pandemic, solar energy can boost jobs, lower customers' utility bills, and help make the grid more resilient to wildfires and other extreme weather events. The fuel from the sun is free and clean, so the upfront costs means more jobs and less pollution,” Ethan Elkind, director of the Climate Program at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at University of California, Berkeley, said.

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