Advanced Energy Perspectives

NEWS: Blockchains and Drivetrains; Offshore Wind + Storage: More Tastes that Taste Great Together

Posted by Lexie Briggs

Aug 4, 2017 1:46:42 PM

    

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The news this week was full of advanced vehicles, blockchain, and a little of both at the same time! Plus, America’s burgeoning offshore wind market could get a little back-up from some Tesla batteries. That’s right, it’s offshore wind + storage, all in this week’s advanced energy news round up.

First up is the energy blockchain startup space, which, as detailed in a piece from Greentech Media, is suddenly very popular. As we’ve described before, blockchain technology, a key element of all cryptocurrencies, is already changing the way some consumers get and pay for their electricity. Consumers are sourcing electricity from their neighbors’ distributed energy resources through peer-to-peer sharing that circumnavigates the traditional utility business model. Several companies, including AEE member Siemens, are already building out partnerships and projects focused on blockchain, but the time is ripe for startups as well.

Conjoule, a German startup, announced Japanese utility giant Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) would be funding €3 million of the company’s Series A round. Although a utility funding a peer-to-peer system might be counterintuitive, Tepco doesn’t see it that way. 

“We aim to develop the use cases and the platforms using blockchain technology in the electricity and energy sector with this participation,” Maki Murayama, a spokesperson for Tepco, told GTM.

Other blockchain startups include LO3, the company working with Siemens, MyBit, and WePower, but the companies’ spokespeople assured Jason Deign of Greentech Media that each had a slightly different use case. Deign writes, “What seems to be emerging is a web of different energy blockchains with very specific applications.” 

In the world of EVs, meanwhile, the first of Tesla’s much-anticipated Model 3s shipped to customers. Hailed by Tom Randall at Bloomberg as the better-than-expected electric car for “the everyday roadtripper,” the Model 3 is an electric vehicle with a base price of $35,000 before incentives. Randall reports that the car is “nimble, comfortable, and has tight steering that’ll keep you grinning.” 

But, as Katie Fehrenbacher writes for Greentech Media, the starting price point can soon get a little more expensive. Do you want your Model 3 in something other than black? That’ll be $1,000, thanks. (As Henry Ford wrote in his 1922 autobiography, the Model T had a similar policy. You see, it came in any color… so long as it was black.) The version with more than 300 miles per charge to the battery will set you back another $9,000.

“The reality is that many Model 3 customers will be paying much more than $35,000 for their cars,” Fahrenbacher writes, before adding, “(which, for the enthusiastic early adopters, is still probably acceptable).”

Not everyone is so excited about the wait. On Wednesday’s quarterly earnings call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk reported that about 63,000 customers had cancelled their orders for the Model 3. But Musk doesn’t find that worrying, nor cause to, say, beef up marketing: “It’s like if you’re a restaurant and you’re serving hamburgers and there’s like an hour-and-a-half wait for hamburgers,” he said. “Do you really want to encourage more people to order more hamburgers?” It helps, too, that the company still has 455,000 orders, and has been averaging nearly 2,000 new reservations per day since the Model 3s began to roll off the lot. The company’s share price is surging. 

“This is the best I’ve ever felt about Tesla,” Musk said on the call

Meanwhile, another major car company, BMW, announced that it is planning to offer an electric version for every model series. Next up is the fully-electric MINI, with the BMW i8 Roadster following soon after. Within the next eight years, BMW Group expects EVs to represent between 15% and 25% of sales overall. 

OK, so we’ve covered blockchains and electric drive trains, now how about the two together?

Greentech Media reports this week on a company that is testing a pairing of blockchain technology with peer-to-peer EV charging. Think Airbnb but for EVs, or maybe charging-as-a-service. The charger company eMotorWerks normally sells the JuiceBox EV charging hardware, but on Tuesday launched beta testing for a peer-to-peer EV charging system. Basically, most EV chargers are under-used, sitting idle at peoples’ houses for most of the day. If neighbors could charge up using each other’s systems, and pay a fair price set by the owner of the charger, it would mean more consistent use for chargers, and could well cover the typical annual cost of charging the station owner’s EV.

As Julian Spector points out, “Those who can afford both a house in Mountain View and a Tesla Model S might not be willing to go out of their way to chase a few spare bucks here and there.” But maybe a Bolt or Model 3 owner?

One last story of advanced energy technologies that work well together: We’ve written plenty about solar + storage, and we recently covered wind power + small nuclear reactors. This week we’ve got offshore wind + storage: Bloomberg reports that Deepwater Wind is proposing a partnership with Tesla to include batteries in an offshore wind project off the coast of Massachusetts. The batteries could store excess wind energy generated at night and deploy it to the grid when demand is highest.

Massachusetts is expected to make the bids public soon. Will the dream of wind turbines off the coast of Massachusetts finally become a reality, bolstered by even more advanced energy technology? We’ll give a cautious Magic 8-ball answer: Outlook Good, but Ask Again Later.

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