Five Energy Stories For The Fourth Week Of January 2020

Five Energy Stories For The Fourth Week Of January 2020

If the numbers from NextEra are indicative of a broader trend, energy storage is gonna pop!

Leading renewables developer NextEra just released its Q4 numbers, and put up some solid projections for future wind and solar projects.  That wasn’t that unusual, as that was sort of ‘steady-as-she-goes’ material for NextEra, as the company continues to build out its renewables portfolio.  What DID grab my attention was the remarkable trajectory of projected energy storage deployments.  Page 29 of NextEra’s investor deck has projections for energy storage installations: These range from 10 MW last year, to 12 MW in 2020.  A nice solid and respectable increase from a low baseline…  

NextEra on track to lead the energy storage race

And then, BOOM!  2021/22 calls for 591 MW and post-2022 projects an additional 786 MW.  Three projects in 2021/22 exceed 100 MW, and in the out years three projects surpass the 200 MW threshold.  

The 2019 U.S. storage totals are not yet out, but let’s put these numbers in perspective: the total installations from Q4 2018 through Q3 2019 did not exceed 500 MW.  NextEra alone crushes that. If the company’s experience is even remotely mirrored by others such as Fluence, NEC, and GlidePath, we are going to see some astounding progress by the end of next year.

Hydrogen to be the new oil by 2040?

The steady drumbeat for the growing role of hydrogen in our future energy economy continues, with near-term proof-of-concept pilots underpinning longer-term visions of grandeur.  A report out this week in Arabian Business highlighted a pilot project in Dubai, driven by Siemens and the Dubai Energy and Water Authority (DEWA) to create the region’s inaugural solar-powered hydrogen electrolysis plant. Megawatt-scale, the facility is set to run by October of this year, producing and storing H2, and distributing for electrification, transportation, and potential other end-uses. 

A pilot generating enough H2 to give these Mirais 24,000 miles of fuel per day

If utilizing only solar energy, the electrolysis plant will yield 240 kg of H2 daily, sufficient to support 24,000 kilometers of fuel cell car mobility (roughly 100 km per one kg).  Manuel Kuehn, SVP for Siemens Business Development, commented that in 20 years, green hydrogen “could be the new oil.”  We can only hope (and Aramco can only fear…)

Total hedging future bets, and places another chip on the table for electromobility

Hydrocarbon company Total continues to move into the sustainable space (they’ve made other investments in companies such as SunPower, and have financial interests in 3 GW of renewables), this time winning the concession to install 20,000 public EV charging stations in The Netherlands. That’s the largest such European contract to date.  

You want petrol or electrons? Total-ly up to you.

All of the energy for charging will come from renewables, so motorists (can we still call them that?) will enjoy a carbon-free ride.  Total is investigating possibilities of adding new local solar resources to support the network.  The company currently owns 4,500 charging points in The Netherlands, following its acquisition of PitPoint in 2017.  This new contract aligns with the company’s stated goal of operating 150,000 European charging points by 2025. 

BP may finally jump into offshore wind

Another oil major – BP – thinks it may be time to enter the offshore wind fray, highlighting wind as one of the five technologies it feels is ready for rapid expansion.  The other four options BP felt worthy of attention were green hydrogen, solar PV, electric mobility, and cognitive computing.  (What, did somebody just wake up over there?)  They may well have missed the best acquisition opportunities and will have to play catch-up – perhaps overpaying for what’s left on the table – or grow the capabilities organically.  But since the larger part of this multi-trillion-dollar global game still lies ahead of us, there’s time.  

Come on in; the wind’s blowing and the water’s fine!

BP’s announcements are in line with pressure on the industry as a whole: The IEA recently noted that the oil companies will have to bring their formidable resources and capital to the climate game, and risk profitability if they don’t.  Meanwhile, respected analyst DNV GL indicates many hydrocarbon companies will focus on offshore wind as they move to address low-carbon opportunities.  The sector suits their abilities to wield huge amounts of capital in expensive and technically complex projects with long time horizons.  

Solar PV tech just keeps improving

Solar modules have historically improved in conversion efficiencies by about half a percent per year (see my last year on the topic). Based on recent announcements, that trend isn’t going to slow down any time soon.  

More – and increasingly better – panels where these came from

Out of China, solar giant Longi Solar recently announced module efficiency gains of nearly 2% over the past two years, from 20.41% 5o 22.38%.  Lv Jun, Vice President, LONGi Solar noted in a release, “With continuous R&D investments in technologies and processes, new innovations can be rapidly applied to large-scale production…”  The company continues to invest in R&D, to the tune of well over US$175.5 million per annum.  Any would-be start-ups are going to have trouble competing with that kind of R&D firepower.

Meanwhile, established Chinese manufacturer GCL System Integration Technology announced a plan to invest in new technology that will allow it to create larger wafer sizes.  That translates to larger cells and bigger panels – up to 500 watts – with higher conversion efficiencies.

These announcements indicate we can continue to expect increasingly cost-effective modules, translating into lower electricity prices.  That in turn creates more pressure on conventional generation (whose efficiencies are improving only slowly), and more future opportunities for adoption of more batteries (NextEra story) EVs (Total story) lower cost green hydrogen (Siemens story).  It’s starting to all become connected.  Ignore that point at your own future peril. 

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