This week’s news saw a big dose of energy storage, along with a Lady Gaga-backed energy efficiency device (really). Plus, Big Oil brings its offshore expertise to advanced energy and more in this week’s news.
Hawaii has long been an advanced energy leader, and this week’s headlines reinforce that leadership. The state has been a hotbed for advanced energy technologies like solar and storage for some time now, but as these projects go online, it’s clear how big of a deal it all is. This week, The Verge wrote that Tesla’s Kauai solar and storage farm is open for business. The project, developed with the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), is 13 a MW solar farm with 52 MWh of storage. The project uses Powerpack 2 batteries built at Tesla’s newly opened Gigafactory in Nevada. It also marks the first solar-plus-storage project for Tesla since merging with SolarCity late last year. Plus, check out the video the marketing team created for the project. They sure know how to sell people on the future of energy.
The Tesla project, however, isn’t the only instance of Hawaii embracing battery storage. Heck, it’s not even the only instance announced this year in Kauai! In January, AEE member AES and the KUIC announced a plan to build a solar-plus-storage peaker plant. The project will combine 28 MW of solar capacity with 20 MW of storage capacity.
On the island of Oahu, AEE member Stem has installed a 1 MW storage virtual power project. Instead of connecting a bank of batteries to a solar farm, Stem has worked with Hawaii Electric Co. (HECO) to install “behind the meter” battery storage. That 1 MW of storage is spread across 29 customer sites, most of them family-operated and kama‘aina (or “long-time in Hawai‘i”) commercial firms, small businesses, and institutions. The Stem technology allows customers to reduce energy costs and integrate their own renewable energy systems, combining data from HECO and forecasting with Stem’s predictive software. Drawing on stored power during instances of spiking energy use, the Stem systems help reduce customer costs.
Customers include Watanabe Floral, Higa Meat Market, Kuroda Auto Body, Menehune Water, American Land Company, Bello’s Millwork, Commercial Sheetmetal Co., Hawaiian Mission Academy, University of Hawai‘i, Cades Schutte Building, Pearl City Shopping Center, and the Honolulu Museum of Art. (I agree with Julian Specter, writing about the Stem project for Greentech Media: “If only I were a battery, I could hang out in Hawaii right now.”)
“These customer-sited solutions strengthen Hawaiian Electric’s renewable planning as we build toward our commitment to a 100% clean energy future,” Dora Nakafuji, HECO’s director of renewable energy planning, said in a statement. “This shows we can scale behind-the-meter energy storage to create a more stable and efficient grid as we provide customers with higher levels of renewable energy to reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Meanwhile, heavy hitters are investing in advanced energy technologies, from oil companies to computing giant (and AEE member) Microsoft to pop icon Lady Gaga.
Jess Shankleman, writing for Bloomberg Markets, reported this week that major oil companies, including giants such as Shell, Statoil, and Eni SpA are beginning to enter the offshore wind market, bringing their expertise in anchoring massive machines on the seabed. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the oil rig industry intersect with offshore wind: the Block Island project was built using steel provided from a company that usually supplies oil rigs, and potential offshore projects off the coast of California are looking to the oil industry for better data on how to use the Pacific coast’s plunging seabed. But this does mark the first time that the companies have gotten directly invested in building offshore wind turbines.
As Shankleman notes, in an era when the amount of crude oil extracted from the North Sea has been steadily falling, the winds that have been menacing generations of roughnecks on the oil platforms “have become a boon for a new era of workers.”
“It is certainly an area of interest for us because there are obvious synergies with the traditional oil and gas business,” said Luca Cosentino, the vice president of energy solution at the Italian oil producer Eni, which is working with AEE member General Electric on renewables. “As the oil and gas industry we know, we cannot get stuck where we are and wait for someone else to take this leap.”
Speaking of leaps, this week CNBC reported on Buddy Ohm, a device that measures the consumption of electricity, gas, water, and steam, as well as solar generation in buildings and public infrastructure. The device is made by the company Buddy Platform, which is backed both by Microsoft and Lady Gaga. The device is marketed as one of the essential components in the Internet of Things and something that will help building operators and tenants control energy costs. Buddy Ohm is targeted at small to medium enterprises, using “IoT to democratize data.”
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