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Round-Up:  Musk, Modi and solar storage, Scotland forms trade group, Harvard team’s flow batter

India's prime minister Narendra Modi visited Tesla in California over the weekend. Image: Tesla.
Musk and Modi talk up solar-plus-storage potential in Silicon Valley visit

25 September 2015: India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, toured the Tesla factory over the weekend, meeting company CEO Elon Musk and posing for a photo opportunity with a Powerwall, Tesla's new battery offering.

The visit to the facility in Fremont, California, in Silicon Valley, took place as part of Modi’s high-profile visit to the US, during which he met with a number of other companies, politicians and dignitaries, including energy secretary Ernest Moniz.

During the tour, Tesla CTO JB Straubel showed the prime minister the inside of a lithium-ion battery and according to an interview with Musk, the parties also discussed the possibilities and potential for solar-plus-storage. As many experts and analysts have noted, the Tesla man said that rural populations in India could benefit from PV and storage, bypassing the need to build costly grid infrastructure and planning energy for community along distributed lines enabled by renewables and batteries.

In other Tesla news, the EV maker, which is preparing to roll out its stationary energy storage solutions for homes, businesses and utilities to various markets from the final quarter of this year, beginning with launches in regions including Australia, has also begun assembling vehicles at its factory in Holland.

The Financial Times reported that “old factory parts” from the main Fremont factory were used to upgrade the factory from being a re-assembly point to making new cars. There was no indication as yet whether batteries or stationary storage units which are expected to be assembled at the forthcoming Gigafactory in Nevada, will also be produced in Europe.

India's Ministry of External Affairs posted a short video of the visit on YouTube:

Scottish trade body in cuts-ravaged UK renewable industry forms energy storage group

25 September 2015: While the UK government appears dead-set on cutting support for renewables and energy efficiency schemes and openly favouring speculation on fracking and nuclear instead, Scotland’s renewable energy trade association has launched an energy storage group.

Scottish Renewables published a white paper, 'Energy storage: the basics', last week, which runs through various technologies, scales and applications for storage, in terms of integrating renewables and adding flexibility to energy networks. This includes hydrogen fuel cells, large-scale heat storage including an overview of suitable sites in abandoned railway tunnels and supercapacitors.

Scotland, which is in the north of Britain, has some powers of government over its own territories although it is under the overall governance of the UK government. Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing called on the UK’s governments to collectively develop a “joint strategy” for energy storage during a visit to domestic heat battery maker Sunamp’s offices in August.

Quinones, the organic molecules in the Harvard flow battery, are abundant in fruit and vegetables including rhubarb. Image: Wikimedia User: Uellue.
Harvard scientists’ quinone flow battery reaches demonstration stages as team publishes findings

24 September 2015: A group of Harvard University scientists working on a cost-effective, rechargeable flow battery based on organic materials, for the integration of renewables, has published its research in the journal Science.

The project was started up to manage the “mismatch problem” between the intermittent supply of solar and wind power generation and demand. Eyeing the scalability and potentially longer duration of energy storage with flow batteries as an advantage over solid-state devices, the team behind the project said that it still remained a “challenge for their large-scale development…to avoid formulations that depend on toxic transition metal ions”.

The team claims its alkaline battery is composed of abundant materials and is non-toxic and non-flammable, making it safe to use in homes and workplaces.

Quinones, small organic molecules found in fruit and vegetables including rhubarb, are dissolved into alkaline solutions and coupled with ferricyanides, to create the battery cells.

Lux Research analyst Cosmin Laslau wrote about the project – and challenges facing the wider flow battery space – in a guest blog post for PV Tech Storage last year. Laslau wrote that many of the costs for flow battery projects are contained in the installation costs, for example, and not associated with the cost of developing the batteries themselves. “Any path forward will require strong partners with energy storage project deployment and management expertise,” for the Harvard team, Laslau wrote.

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