NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility is Helping the Electric Power Sector Solve Big Problems

The Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado was launched in 2013 to serve as a research and development facility for the electric power sector. The facility’s goal, then as now, is to help solve the most complex and critical problems of integrating distributed energy resources (DERs) onto the grid, by bringing together top researchers from NREL with industry experts looking for practical solutions to key problems in the field.

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Brittmore Group LLC

Brittmore Group provides EPC's an automated system for ground mount PV power plant construction. Using a ground-mount rack as an elevated delivery track, robotic shuttles deliver large panel assemblies to their mounting positions from load stations at the end of array rows. Entire arrays are populated from a single, centralized material handling location. This efficient system targets lowest total installed cost by reducing materials, earthworks, labor, site logistics, and construction time. With the Brittmore installation system, installers can achieve megawatt-per-day panel installation rates with just a small crew.

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Strategy and Best Practices, Industry Updates

The Role of AI Technology in the Renewable Energy Sector

Article | August 16, 2022

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are two of the most commonly used commercial phrases these days. As a result, companies across sectors are searching for methods to include them in order to optimize and automate their key operations. The energy sector is no exception! Indeed, throughout the years, renewable energy industries (wind, solar, hydro, nuclear) have substantially gained from the potential of machine learning. They were able to reduce their expenses, make better projections, and raise the rate of return on their portfolio. And this tendency is just going to gain momentum. If your company is in the energy industry or utilizes a lot of power, machine learning and AI can help you improve your business performance. But how precisely? Let's get started. Ways in Which AI and Machine Learning are Changing Energy Sector There are a few methods that machine learning and AI can be applied to positively improve the energy industry. Here are a few popular applications currently under development. Predictive Maintenance AI helps match energy output with demand and ensure power grid stability and resilience.In 2003, a low-hanging high-voltage electricity line hit an overgrown tree in Ohio, causing a widespread blackout. There was no power system alarm and no sign of the incident. The electric company didn't notice until three additional power lines failed. This carelessness ultimately brought down the whole grid. The 50 million-person blackout lasted two days. Eleven individuals died, and $6 billion was lost. Predictive maintenance can be implemented using machine learning and IoT Sensors gather operational time series data from electricity lines, equipment, and stations (data accompanied by a timestamp). Machine learning algorithms can then forecast when a component will fail (or n-steps). It can also anticipate machinery's remaining usable life or future breakdown. These algorithms detect machine failure, eliminate blackouts or downtimes, improve maintenance procedures, and reduce maintenance expenses. Grid Management Grid management is a promising AI application in energy. Complex networks distribute electricity to users (also known as the power grid). Generation and demand must always match in the electrical system. Other issues, like blackouts and system breakdowns, can occur. Despite being ancient, pumped hydroelectric storage is the most common way to store energy. It operates by moving water upwards and letting it fall into turbines. Renewable energy makes predicting the grid's power generation challenging. After all, it is affected by a variety of things, like sunlight and wind. Demand Response Large demand shifts can be expensive for nations that depend on renewable energy. As nations migrate to green energy, it's harder to adapt to demand fluctuations. Germany plans to use 80% renewable energy by 2050. Countries such as Germany will encounter two major challenges Demand fluctuations: On some days or times of the year, power consumption soars (on Christmas, for example) Weather volatility: Without wind or clear skies, it might be hard to meet electrical demand. In both circumstances, more stations or fossil fuel-powered facilities must meet demand Solving demand response issues Many nations are partnering with businesses to examine weather forecasts, power demand, etc. Germany's EWeLiNE project forecasts wind and solar energy at a specific moment. This enables the government to use non-renewable energy to meet additional power demand. They utilize enormous historical data sets to train machine learning algorithms, as well as data from wind turbines or solar panels, to properly balance supply and demand. Closing Lines AI increases the potential of humans. Several renewable energy producers are investing in artificial intelligence to boost their businesses.There are numerous uses of artificial intelligence in renewable energy. The fundamental purpose of AI integrated systems is to reduce forecasting issues and incorporate renewable energy into the central energy grid as effectively as possible. AI can also assist renewable energy providers in developing successful plans and policies based on present energy consumption and demand.

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Energy

How viable is Underground Hydrogen Storage?

Article | July 16, 2022

Cleaner energy resources are the dire need of the hour and this is a known fact. While scientists and experts across the planet are striving hard to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, our energy needs have never faced a downfall- thanks to rapid industrialization and urbanization. Although renewable resources like solar, wind, and hydro-electric power are the most popular alternatives, these are seasonal energy sources and the energy production from the same will not be similar all around the year. The fluctuations in production hence cannot always meet the energy demand of the population, and this makes the renewable energy sources not completely reliable. Solar Production v/s Demand of the same in a year What and How H2 is produced? Now, this is where Hydrogen- the first element of the periodic table comes to the spotlight with a solution. Being a gas, hydrogen fuel can very well cater to our energy needs and is produced from techniques including Thermochemical, Solar-Water splitting, electrolytic and biological processes. While the production of this cleaner energy source leaves a carbon footprint of about 830 million tonnes in the form of CO2 annually, the result being a zero-emission fuel is what makes H2’s future bright. Storage of H2 – the million-dollar question: Having almost cleared the need and methods of producing hydrogen fuel, we will be looking at an area that is usually not given much thought about and that is the storage of H2. As already mentioned, for time being let us consider hydrogen as an alternative to renewable resources which is utilized when the energy demand increases drastically. While producing the fuel in the nick of time is obviously undoable, sufficient storage of H2 anticipating the demand is the best choice. Like Natural Gas, Hydrogen is also compressed before storing to achieve lower volume and also because liquid hydrogen demands a 64% higher amount of energy for storage than its compressed gaseous counterpart. Storage tanks v/s Geological landforms: Compressed Hydrogen can be stored in surface storage vessels (like steel composite concrete vessels and in wind turbine towers) or in geological landforms like (salt caverns, depleted O&G reservoirs, and aquifers). Nevertheless, unlike the underground geological landforms which offer huge storage capacity owing to their sheer scale, the storage tanks which can range in size from a small bottle to a huge tank require high amounts of pressure to store an appreciable amount of H2 in it. Since these storage tanks are usually constructed on the surface, the pressure conditions in these tanks need to be artificially stimulated and thereby mount huge upfront costs when compared to their geological storage counterpart. H2 storage prices in Geological Landforms v/s Storage Vessels (in $/kg) The above is a table comparing the prices of Hydrogen storage in Geological landforms and Storage Vessels at different pressure conditions. It is visible from the table that it's about 218 times cheaper to store the same amount of hydrogen in Geological landforms than in storage vessels. Is geological storage truly a better option? Like any other storage option geological storage too has its pros and cons. From the erosion of pipelines to the tedious task of injecting the gas and maintaining it at apt pressure conditions, geological storage has its limitations. However, the important prerequisite is the availability of the suitable landform itself. While most of the Depleted O&G Reservoirs have already met all the requirements for a suitable Underground Hydrogen Storage (UHS) system, the presence of unrecoverable remnant fluids in it makes it both a boon and a bane. This is because the presence of remnant fluids like oil and gas satisfies the cushion gas need for efficient storage of H2 in the reservoir, chances of contamination of H2 by the same is also high. This is the reason why Aquifers too aren’t favorable underground landforms when it comes to hydrogen storage. Salt Caverns- the best UHS System? The problem of Hydrogen contamination in Depleted Oil & Gas reservoirs and aquifers leaves us to the next big suitable subsurface landform- salt caverns. Unlike the other two landforms, the problem of contamination can be prevented in these dome-like structures formed due to the upliftment of salt deposits and it is also found that about 98% of its storage efficiency can be used to store Hydrogen here. The reason behind its relatively expensive nature when compared to its other two counterparts is due to the process of salt removing or leaching that must be done before storing to ensure that the contamination of the gas is unheard of at least here. Suitable Conditions of UHS: As per Stefan Iglauer, the maximum amount of H2 can be stored at a depth of 1100m beneath the Earth’s surface and the capacity gradually decreases up until 3700 m depth beyond which the wettability of the gas increases as it percolates through the rocks and hence cannot be permanently immobilized. Conclusively it is found that suitable landforms formed at 1km depth can store up to 2.0 Mt of H2. Comparing this 2 MT storage capacity of Salt Caverns with the currently available storage tanks which can store about 800 kg of H2 in it, it is visible that geological landforms have a clear upper hand at least when it comes to storage capacity. Future of UHS: With demands for Hydrogen fuel estimated to grow at 5.48 % annually and the need for a suitable storage system of the same at 5.8% annually, the field of Underground Hydrogen Storage systems indeed has a bright scope. Moreover, to meet the large-scale needs of Industries, there is an imminent need to level up the storage capacity of H2 and by exploring suitable geological landforms across the globe, the estimated industrial need of 1200 kT/ year in 2050 can be met.

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Energy, Industry Updates

Why Picking an Established and Credible Solar Installer Matters

Article | July 29, 2022

With the popularity of solar increasing across the country, the number of solar installers has been multiplying. Unfortunately, many fly-by-night companies with minimal installation experience or larger national firms with little market history are trying to capitalize on the industry’s growth. In addition, the sheer volume of installation partners that consumers have to choose from can result in a great deal of buyer confusion. More choices, more issues As the number of solar installers has gone up, so have complaints and issues related to providers and their service. Recently, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry reached terms with Empire Solar Group LLC’s trustees, a national solar installer that went bankrupt earlier this year, leaving 45 homeowners in Minnesota with projects in various levels of incompletion. Unfortunately, they’re not alone, as many other consumers have also fallen into precarious situations after companies using high-pressure sales tactics have been unable to deliver on the work. Michael Allen, CEO of All Energy Solar, says, “He’s angered that companies go out of business and face no fines.” Allen and other established industry leaders have done their best to help out customers caught in the middle of an installer’s bankruptcy issues, but there is only so much they can do. What protections do consumers have? In some cases, states have put into place protections for consumers; for example, in Minnesota, consumers stranded with uncompleted projects can get access to the state’s Contractor Recovery Fund, which receives money from licensing fees to help offset these costs. But that is of little comfort for those trying to determine what partner to choose for their project. The best bet When picking a solar installation partner, your best bet is to avoid those with high-pressure sales tactics, “too-good-to-be-true” pricing, or ones with little to no installation experience. Don’t simply trust the sales rep, do a little of your own research to see what other customers are saying. Looking for a record of successfully completed projects and businesses with state and national certifications can be another way to confirm credibility.

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Solar+Storage

Treasury Wine Estates To Install Thousands Of Solar Panels

Article | June 8, 2022

The company behind famous Australian wine brands including Penfolds and Wolf Blass is embracing solar energy in a big way. ASX-listed Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) is one of the world’s largest wine companies and has an ambition to be the “world’s most admired premium wine company”. A powerful way to win consumer hearts, minds (and wallets) these days is to have a strong focus on sustainability. As part of its sustainability mission, wines in TWE’s portfolio will be produced using 100% renewable electricity by 2024. In a step towards this renewables goal in Australia, approximately 9,500 solar panels will be installed at Barossa Winery and Production Centre in South Australia, and Karadoc Winery in Victoria by the end of this year. Collectively, the solar panels will generate more than 5,500 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to supply the equivalent of 900 homes. Total capacity wasn’t mentioned, but given the annual output, I’d estimate it at around 3.75 MW.

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Spotlight

Brittmore Group LLC

Brittmore Group provides EPC's an automated system for ground mount PV power plant construction. Using a ground-mount rack as an elevated delivery track, robotic shuttles deliver large panel assemblies to their mounting positions from load stations at the end of array rows. Entire arrays are populated from a single, centralized material handling location. This efficient system targets lowest total installed cost by reducing materials, earthworks, labor, site logistics, and construction time. With the Brittmore installation system, installers can achieve megawatt-per-day panel installation rates with just a small crew.

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