The world of renewables this week

Last week we published just too early for the item about UK Vanadium Flow businesses RedT and Avalon merging via a reverse takeover to create a leading player in the energy storage market. We guess they were thrown together by investors who felt that neither had a global reach, but together they might just about have. New funding is on the way – it hopes as much as £24 million. Technically Avalon has been acquired using redT shares valued at 1.65p a share making it worth $37.5 million. The combined business will have operations in North America, Europe and Asia.

National Grid said it will use artificial intelligence to improve its solar forecasting and accuracy can go up by as much as 33%, but we’re not sure how much of an increase in throughput that yields? It was developed with code from the Alan Turing Institute and funded via Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance. What has been a simplistic combination of capacity and irradiance now looks at historic data and as many as 80 input variables including temperature and more granular irradiance measures.

Figures from Wood MacKenzie have been reverberating around the industry for about a week, suggesting that there will be 114.5 GW of new solar capacity to be added globally in 2019 with upside from the US, UK, Vietnam and India. China installations may have gone down, but equipment output was dramatically higher with solar wafers up 26% to 63 GW, solar cell production up 31% to 51 GW and module manufacturing up by 12% to 47 GW.

Shares of US residential solar company Sunnova ended their first day of trading last week at $11.25, below their initial price of $12 and well south of a range of $16 to $18 it put forward in mid-July. Texas-based Sunnova raised $170 million.

German-Spanish wind turbine maker Siemens Gamesa said this week it had doubled its net income to €88 million in its first nine months, on revenue up 12% to €7,283 million for the nine months, and €2,632 million for the current quarter. It has a backlog of €25 billion in projects, and said its order intake was the highest ever.

BP results for Q2 showed a profit of $2.8 billion, with operating cash flow of $8.2 billion, excluding Gulf of Mexico oil spill payments of $1.4 billion. Oil output was 4% higher than last year, and 4 new upstream projects were begun in the first half of the year and final investment decisions were taken on projects in India, the Gulf of Mexico and Angola. BP claimed it had made progress on renewables too but cited its Brazilian biofuels move with Bunge and said solar group Lightsource BP (43% owned by BP) has made strong progress.

Italian energy group Enel said it will supply up to 3 TWh annually to mining group AngloAmerican  in chat it claims is Chile’s largest ever renewables deal which runs from 2021 to 2031. This will help AngloAmerican reduce its total CO2 emissions in Chile by over 70%.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed this week on Twitter that he plans to ramp production of solar roof tiles to a rate of 1,000 systems a week by the end of the year. Rollout of the solar roof tiles has been hugely disappointing since it was revealed in 2016. The issue is unlikely to be output, but developing installation know-how in the market and the issuing of permits.

PV Magazine reports that US researchers at Rice University say they are working on a process to siphon off heat from solar panels, to use to create more electricity. A paper they have published suggested that the current limits of converting around 30% of the energy that lands on a solar panel, could be extended to 80% eventually using this process. The trick is to convert the heat into narrowband heat using carbon nanotubes which creates a “hyperbolic thermal emitter” and then convert it into light then electricity using the panel. If panels can be made for roughly the same price, they would be 4 times as effective as the average solar panel today.

The Glendale Water & Power in California has received approval for a new proposal whereby it will retrofit the Grayson Power Plant with a 75MW 4 hours battery system plus 50MW of distributed energy resources, mostly solar, and use a demand response program. The plant will retain 93MW of thermal generation from up to five combustion turbines to meet peak demand. The current Grayson plant combustion engines are due to be retired in 2021. Initially it has proposed a gas turbine but was told to think again.

US EV carmaker Tesla has launched a 3MWh ESS ‘Megapack’, promising it can be a rapid winner for even gigawatt class projects. The news came in a blog on the company’s website, saying each pack is assembled with a 1.5MW inverter and up to 3MWh of storage, with AC interface adapted from the commercial Powerpack and claiming a “60% increase in energy density”. The company says it can deploy in under three months on a three-acre footprint – four times faster than a traditional fossil fuel power plant of that size. The Powerpack will be used in the imminent 1,200MWh Moss Landing fossil fuel peaker plant project in California.

UK energy storage firm RedT and aggregator Open Energi have just achieved pre-qualification status to provide fast frequency response for a 300kWh flow machine in Dorset, coupled with a solar installation with a peak generation capacity of 250kW. It is controlled using Open Energi’s Dynamic Demand platform. Vanadium Flow batteries are well suited for grid services because they can handle a large number of daily cycles.

China’s battery giant CATL has a deal to enter Japan on the back of a partnership with Next Energy & Resources which plans to use grid scale batteries in conjunction. Next energy wants to rent CATL batteries out to homes, rather like sonnen in Germany or Autogrid in the US, but in the Japanese domestic market, as it undergoes deregulation.