This Week in Green Tech: Economic Stimulus, Energy Storage, Data Centers, and NABCEP Training
Tom Lombardo posted on April 15, 2020 |
We take a look at a job-creating renewable energy stimulus plan, energy storage projects, and more.

In the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) developed an economic stimulus plan to put the United States to work by building up its infrastructure. Workers constructed roads, bridges, hydroelectric dams, and national parks, spawning an economic recovery that led to the greatest era of prosperity that the nation had ever seen.

New York State’s Renewable Energy Goals. (Image courtesy of
New York State’s Renewable Energy Goals. (Image courtesy of

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is taking a page from FDR’s playbook by accelerating the state's efforts to switch to renewable energy. The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, part of New York State’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan, streamlines the permitting process that often impedes large-scale green energy projects. In addition, the plan ensures that new power generation sites will be strategically located for easy access to existing infrastructure and that funding will be provided to increase grid capabilities. State officials designed the plan to encourage private investment in renewable energy and to create jobs. The stimulus package ties into New York State’s goal of achieving 70 percent renewable energy by 2030, including three gigawatts* of deployable energy storage.

Energy Storage

Speaking of energy storage, German utility RWE has partnered with operators of data centers—massive warehouses of computer servers—to use on-site uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) as grid-level energy storage units. A UPS is a battery-backup unit used for mission-critical applications, allowing devices to run during a power failure. Since outages are rare, a typical UPS sits idle most of the time. Realizing that peaker plants—power plants that generate additional energy during peak demand hours—also run rarely, RWE engineers decided that those idle UPSs could be put to use as distributed “peaker plants.” RWE and Riello UPS jointly developed the Master+ UPS, a battery backup unit that’s capable of charging from the grid or putting power onto the grid, depending on needs.

RWE leases energy storage from the data centers, monitors all Master+ sites 24/7, and controls the UPSs remotely. The data centers benefit from added revenue and monitoring, while RWE avoids the capital expense of building peaker plants or grid-level battery units.

Master+ UPS doubles as grid-level energy storage. (Image courtesy of Riello UPS.)
Master+ UPS doubles as grid-level energy storage. (Image courtesy of Riello UPS.)

Energy Storage News recently released A developers’ eye view on North America, a report outlining several energy storage projects taking place in North America. Among these are the Eland Solar & Storage Centre, a 400 MW solar farm with 1200 MWh of on-site storage; KCE NY 1, a 20 MW battery storage project in upstate New York; and Convergent’s partnership with Shell New Energies to build a pair of 21 MWh/10MW behind-the-meter storage centers

Eland Solar & Storage Center near Los Angeles. (Image courtesy of 8minute Solar Energy.)
Eland Solar & Storage Center near Los Angeles. (Image courtesy of 8minute Solar Energy.)

EV Batteries

On the research side, scientists from Samsung recently published a paper in Nature Energy demonstrating an all-solid-state lithium-ion battery with an energy density of 900 Wh/l—more than 33 percent higher than today’s Li-ion batteries, which could lead to electric vehicles with ranges of 500 miles (800 km). The researchers were able to overcome the dendrite problem that currently plagues solid electrolyte Li-ion batteries by using a silver-carbon composite for the anode material. Dendrites, crystals that form on the anodes of batteries as they recharge, can cause batteries to short-circuit, sometimes resulting in fires or explosions. Samsung researchers claim that their anode formula allowed the batteries to recharge more than 1,000 times with minimal dendrite growth. All-solid-state batteries should start appearing in commercial EVs within the next five years.  

Green Energy Training

Social distancing and shelter-at-home policies have left some people with a lot of time on their hands. Many are taking advantage of online training for personal enjoyment or career advancement. HeatSpring is offering a free self-paced online course called Solar Building Codes, Fire Codes, EVs, Rapid Shutdown and Energy Storage Systems, one of several courses that lead to certification by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

It’s often said that a crisis is an opportunity in disguise. Whether it’s COVID-19, climate change or economic woes, it’s good to know that leaders, scientists and engineers are rising to the occasion and developing innovative solutions.

* MW and GW are units of power, not energy storage capacity. Many of the projects listed above did not disclose their actual capacities, but in most cases, the intent is to be able to deliver emergency power for up to four hours, so it’s safe to estimate that 3 GW of storage is around 12 GWh of capacity.

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