‘100% renewable is 100% doable’ for California, storage industry insider says

By Andy Colthorpe for Energy Storage

‘100% renewable is 100% doable’ for California, storage industry insider says

Edison International’s J Andrew Murphy and NPYA’s Gil Quinones onstage at the opening address session.

The goal of reaching 100% renewable electricity in California is “100% doable”, the chief commercial officer of zinc bromine flow battery maker Primus Power told Energy-Storage.news at Solar Power International/Energy Storage International.

The opening address and a handful of sessions took place Monday at Anaheim Convention Center, California. While the two shows are national and international, it is expected there will be a great deal of attention paid to the state’s SB100 bill, signed into law recently by Governor Jerry Brown which demands all retail electricity by 2045 comes from renewable sources.

The role of energy storage in that is expected to be a big part of that. Jorg Heinemann, CCO of Primus Power and just a few years ago in charge of utility-scale solar projects at SunPower. A resident of Northern California, Heinemann said he is “thrilled” that his home state is gunning for such an ambitious and forward-thinking target.

However, as a residential solar PV owner, Heinemann said he had few incentives to install a battery at home, since California still has net metering policies in place, rewarding solar generation with high retail rates of buyback from the grid.

“California is a net metering state so financially it’s almost stupid to put a battery in. I can spin the meter backwards and get retail rates. In Germany [where the feed-in tariff has closed], they have to consume it, store it or lose it. 100% renewables for California is 100% doable, but there are some policy questions and things lower down that need to be solved.”

The Primus Power CCO claimed business for his company’s systems, larger scale, long duration flow batteries – among the flow systems from four providers recently profiled in this feature article – has been brisk. As with Hugh McDermott, VP for sales of ESS Inc, another of those companies profiled and who we also spoke to outside SPI on Monday, Heinemann said orders and enquiries have been building up in quantity and scale.

McDermott said ESS, which makes patented iron electrolyte flow batteries, said watching utilities across America go from procuring storage systems using lithium batteries at a maximum of two hours’ storage duration in the past to procuring two, four and then six hour lithium-ion systems this year has been a huge step-change. According to McDermott, ESS has seen this shift coming, but not for two more years, claiming serious enquiries have been made for batteries that are over 100MW and therefore 400MWh at four hours’ duration.

Similarly, Heinemann of Primus Power said inbound sales enquiries, i.e. enquiries from customers that proactively seek out Primus, add up to US$1.2 billion in “pure battery sales”, with the company’s business model squarely focused on equipment supply.

In the meantime, the long duration shift appears to be on, Heinemann said, Primus needs to focus on the projects already under development, of which it has around 10, adding up to 6MW worldwide.

“Our primary focus is to get those done,” he said.


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