Research Predicts Wind and Solar Could Green the Sahara

Installing large-scale wind and solar projects in the Sahara could increase rainfall and help the desert bloom, according to research released this month. The U.S.-led study used a climate model to show how renewable infrastructure could change local weather patterns in deserts.

<a href="" >The research</a> showed large-scale solar and wind installations could lead to an increase in local temperature and a more than twofold uplift in rainfall, particularly in the Sahel region south of the Sahara.

The increase in rainfall would be due to different factors depending on the type of renewable generation involved, the model found. Wind farms were found to increase precipitation by increasing surface friction, which helps carry moist air upward and hot air back to the earth.&nbsp;

This would lead to increased rainfall, which would get plants growing. The plants would reduce the surface reflectivity, or albedo, of the desert, which in turn would <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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How Your Battery Will Sell Energy to Your Neighbor’s Car

Wisconsin-based storage developer EnSync Energy Systems is working on a system that could allow your residential battery to sell energy to your neighbor&rsquo;s electric vehicle.

The device-to-device transaction system is designed to operate behind the meter, using DC links, and could be up and running within a year, according to Jim Koeppe, product manager for EnSync&rsquo;s distributed energy resources Flex Internet of Energy platform.&nbsp;

The first iteration of the system, called DER Flex, will monitor exchanges on DC meters and send the data to a cloud computing center where payments will be calculated and settled.&nbsp;

However, said Koeppe: &ldquo;As we move forward, we intend to not only use a centralized model in the cloud, but to push that down to the device level, where, then, units can be aware and potentially transact with other units.&rdquo;

The platform would enable energy devices to communicate privately with each other <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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Con Ed Acquires 981 Megawatts From Sempra’s Renewables Business

Sempra will unload 981 megawatts of renewable energy and battery storage projects to a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, in a deal announced Thursday.&nbsp;

The acquisition includes 379 megawatts of projects that Sempra Renewables and Consolidated Edison Development jointly own, plus 602 megawatts of Sempra-only assets. Con Ed&rsquo;s getting it all &mdash; solar, solar-plus-storage projects and one wind facility &mdash; for just over $1.5 billion plus $576 million in non-recourse debt.&nbsp;

The move doesn&rsquo;t come as a complete surprise, according to Wood Mackenzie Power &amp; Renewables Director of Solar Research Cory Honeyman. Through the summer, &ldquo;activist investors&rdquo; had pressured Sempra to sell off its clean energy assets. Honeyman said Con Ed, as a joint owner on over one-third of the projects, seems a &ldquo;natural fit&rdquo; to take on the portfolio.&nbsp;

At the same time, though, Con Ed faces a great deal of competition in a widening renewables <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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French Environment Minister Shakeup Dampens Renewable Energy Prospects

Observers are expecting France to stay true to nuclear power at the expense of renewables following a change in environment minister this month.

Fran&ccedil;ois de Rugy, a former Ecologist Party member, took up the post of Minister of Ecological and Solidary Transition at the beginning of September after the surprise resignation of his predecessor, Nicolas Hulot.&nbsp;

Despite de Rugy&rsquo;s green credentials, the minister&rsquo;s appointment was seen as a setback for plans to cut nuclear&rsquo;s portion of the French energy pie in favor of renewables.

&ldquo;Nuclear is once again back as the solution to decarbonize France,&rdquo; Yamina Saheb, a senior energy policy analyst at OpenExp, a Paris-based sustainability network, told GTM. &ldquo;At this stage, it&rsquo;s unclear what will be the future of renewables.&rdquo;

One of de Rugy&rsquo;s first moves following his appointment was to announce a review of France&rsquo;s energy mix. The review is due to be published at <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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6 Charts Showing the Renewables Threat to Natural Gas

The scale of the threat facing gas-based electricity generation from renewables and energy storage was outlined this week at the Global Power &amp; Energy Exhibition in Barcelona, Spain.

Rory McCarthy, senior storage analyst for Wood Mackenzie Power &amp; Renewables, illustrated for attendees how the business case for using renewables in place of natural gas is becoming more compelling following declines in solar and wind costs.

That business case is also improving as a result of massive increases in battery storage, where the U.S. leads the world in terms of operational and planned capacity.

Today, storage capacity amounts to around 6 gigawatt-hours worldwide, but Wood Mackenzie predicts a more than tenfold increase, to at least 65 gigawatt-hours, by 2022. The U.S. will continue to lead this build-out, thanks to its more mature market.

<img alt="" src="" style="max-width: 100%" />

&ldquo;The U.S. market is probably five years ahead of everybody else,&rdquo; said McCarthy. &ldquo;They did <div class="post-limited-image"><img alt="" src="" style="max-width: 100%" /></div>
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One Year After Maria, Puerto Rico’s Energy Future Still in Limbo

This weekend, as the anniversary of Hurricane Maria approached, over 30,000 Puerto Ricans were once again&nbsp;left temporarily in the dark by an electrical <a href="">fault</a>.

The outage reminded residents of the crippling outages that lasted for months &mdash; outages that are one storm away from recurring. Thursday marks one year since Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico. Since then, Puerto Ricans have coped with months of power outages, suffered through federal inaction and mourned thousands of&nbsp;deaths.&nbsp;

Much of the recovery is only beginning.&nbsp;

In the second year of the crisis, questions linger about the structure of the electricity system, and frustrations persist about local versus federal control over decisions. While policymakers try to find answers, private interests have moved on their own schedule &mdash; covering the island in solar and storage systems.&nbsp;

&ldquo;The poles that were bad were fixed, and the cables were repaired. But the system needs <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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Mega Financing Rounds Affirm China Is the Center of the Electric Vehicle World

There are hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles on the roads across the U.S. and the European Union, and endless news of American EV maker Tesla&#39;s latest moves. But the truth is that China is the center of the battery and electric transportation universe. This is borne out by the sheer volume of capital being&nbsp;deployed in the largest EV market in the world, a market that saw 579,000 electric passenger cars sold last year.

With the caveat that battery and EV claims require some healthy skepticism, here are a few recent billion-dollar EV financial events in China.

Farasis gets $1 billion in financing?

With a claim of more than 3,000 employees and a manufacturing base in China, lithium-ion battery builder Farasis Energy claims that it has secured more than <a href="" >$1 billion in a "C round"</a> of financing from undisclosed investors to open a large-scale European battery&nbsp;production facility. There were <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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Proterra Keeps the Money Coming With $155 Million Raise, Daimler Partnership

U.S. electric bus maker Proterra continued its money-raising streak with a $155 million round announced Wednesday in Germany.

Automotive giant Daimler co-led the round with Tao Capital Partners, Nicholas Pritzker&rsquo;s family investment office, which had invested previously. G2VP participated as well.

New capital will help Proterra&rsquo;s quest to <a href="">electrify the entire bus sector</a>, but this deal comes with a business opportunity: Proterra and Daimler &ldquo;have entered into an agreement to explore the electrification of select Daimler heavy-duty vehicles,&rdquo; the companies said in a <a href="" >statement</a>.

They have selected Daimler&rsquo;s North American school bus subsidiary, Thomas Built Buses, as the first point of collaboration with Proterra&rsquo;s proprietary battery and drivetrain technology.

The trick to wooing conventional bus customers over to electric buses is achieving a competitive price and proving that the batteries can handle the duties required of the bus. Proterra stated that school buses offer &ldquo;an excellent use case <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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ARPA-E Funds Research on Energy Storage That Can Last for Days

Long-duration energy storage&nbsp;&mdash; batteries or other technologies that can store energy for at least four hours of continuous operation, or possibly even longer&nbsp;&mdash; accounts for a minority of the grid-scale energy storage deployed today.&nbsp;

There are many reasons for this, including the cheapness and relative reliability of lithium-ion batteries for short-duration applications. As well as the, shall we say, less than stellar record of long-duration battery startups that have gone bankrupt or failed to deliver on their promises.&nbsp;

Over the past year and a half, we&rsquo;ve seen <a href="">Aquion run out of cash</a>&nbsp;for its saltwater batteries,&nbsp;<a href="">Alevo&nbsp;close down</a>&nbsp;its mystery long-duration lithium-ion play,&nbsp;<a href="">LightSail&nbsp;fold its compressed air</a>&nbsp;storage business, and&nbsp;<a href="">ViZn Energy&nbsp;lay off all but two staff</a>&nbsp;as it seeks new funding for its flow battery.&nbsp;

But with the growth of intermittent wind and solar power on the grid, and states like Hawaii and California pushing ahead <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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California’s Top Utility Regulator on the Quest for Deep Decarbonization

&ldquo;Decarbonization&rdquo; was the catchword of last week&rsquo;s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

Stakeholders from all over the world made new commitments to combatting climate change. But the spotlight was really on California, where Governor Jerry Brown signed an historic bill into law &mdash; requiring the state to power its electric grid with 100 percent carbon-free resources by 2045.

That&rsquo;s not all. Brown kicked off the week with a bang by also signing an executive order committing the California to complete carbon neutrality by 2045.

So the&nbsp;<em>Political Climate</em>&nbsp;team sat down with a man who knows a thing or two about decarbonization in the Golden State: Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission.

The CPUC is responsible for regulating the state&rsquo;s electricity sector, and will oversee many aspects of California&rsquo;s transition to a low-carbon economy. Managing that transition will be the state&rsquo;s greatest challenge, according to <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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Financial Turmoil Puts Argentine Projects in Danger

Rampant inflation has put Argentina&rsquo;s nascent renewable energy market in mortal danger, an analyst has warned. &ldquo;Banks will be affected by the currency run, which will likely make long-term financing virtually impossible,&rdquo; said Maria Jos&eacute; Chea, a solar analyst with IHS Markit.

This month, Argentina&rsquo;s central bank posted the highest interest rate in the world, 60 percent, in a bid to stem free-falling devaluation of the peso. The currency has dropped more than 50 percent in value against the dollar so far this year.&nbsp;

"A failing economy isn&#39;t good at all for renewables, particularly the new regulatory framework that&#39;s in place in the country," said Manan Parikh, an analyst with Wood Mackenzie Power &amp; Renewables.

The rapid fall in the peso&rsquo;s value threatens to overwhelm safeguards built into Argentina&rsquo;s renewable energy program, RenovAr, specifically to deal with macroeconomic risks when it was created in 2015 to support a target <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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Experts Discuss the Biggest Barriers Holding Back Building Electrification

Even the stunning views of the Sandia Mountains couldn&rsquo;t distract the experts gathered at Rocky Mountain Institute&rsquo;s recent <a href="">e-Lab Summit</a> from maintaining focus on the task at hand: untangling some of the knottiest challenges facing the electricity industry.

Each year, RMI assembles a diverse group of practitioners and thought leaders for three days of small group discussions on a handful of topics of pressing interest to electricity sector stakeholders. In all, more than 100 experts participated in this year&rsquo;s summit, which was convened at a resort north of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Greentech Media was invited by RMI to report on the summit* and observed the multi-day small group session, or &ldquo;pod,&rdquo; devoted to building electrification.

Other pods addressed comprehensive regulatory reform; integrated planning; transforming rural electric supply; low- and moderate-income customers and regulatory proceedings; distributed energy resources in wholesale markets; and delivery and compensation for resilience.

More than a dozen <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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Breaking: USTR Issues Solar Trade Case Exclusions

The U.S. Trade Representative on Tuesday filed a long-awaited document in the Federal Register detailing exclusions for Section 201 <a href="">solar trade case tariffs</a>. The exclusions will be officially published on Wednesday.

The exclusions encompass cells and modules with a variety of specific characteristics including back contact solar cells, frameless solar panels that are not blue or black, and off-grid 45-watt or less of a certain length. SunPower said its&nbsp;interdigitated back contact solar cells and modules are excluded.&nbsp;

SunPower said the exclusion lets the company &ldquo;turn the page.&rdquo; According to the company, &ldquo;for the past several months&rdquo; it&rsquo;s been paying $1.5 to $2 million per week in tariffs while it waits for news on a possible exclusion.

Jade Jones, a senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power &amp; Renewables, said the administration&#39;s exclusions look tailored to SunPower.&nbsp;

"It looks like it was written for SunPower," said <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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Signs of Fuel Cell Scaling: Ballard Power Inks $163M Investment From Weichai Power

In late August, Canadian fuel cell manufacturer Ballard Power Systems announced a <a href="" >strategic collaboration</a> with Weichai Power, the large Chinese engine, auto parts and logistics conglomerate.

Weichai agreed to purchase a 19.9 percent stake in proton-exchange membrane fuel cell pioneer Ballard for $163 million, representing a 15 percent premium to the latter&rsquo;s stock price, a $90 million technology transfer program for Ballard&rsquo;s next-generation fuel cell stack and power modules, a joint venture to pursue China&rsquo;s fuel cell EV market, and to supply at least 2,000 fuel cell modules for commercial vehicles by 2021.

The collaboration diversifies Ballard&rsquo;s China options, and its existing China partner Broad-Ocean agreed to purchase $20 million in shares to maintain its 9.9 percent ownership level, further bolstering the company&rsquo;s treasury. By fuel cell sector standards, Ballard is doing well &mdash; its cumulative adjusted EBITDA over the past seven quarters is positive &mdash; and the <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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ElectrIQ Launches Smart Home Connected Battery System for $8,999

Home automation has now entered the energy storage market at multiple price points.

Bay area startup ElectrIQ (pronounced &ldquo;electric&rdquo;) unveiled a new battery system this week that links up to home automation and energy management devices. The PowerPod has a starting price of $8,999, inclusive of batteries and inverter.

That puts it in striking distance of the low-priced Powerwall from Tesla and the Resu from LG Chem, once inverters and auxiliary equipment get factored in.

Earlier this month, the U.S. branch of the German battery company sonnen moved into premium home automation markets with the <a href="">new ecoLinx product</a>. For a starting price of $26,000, that device boasts a longer battery life than the earlier eco model, faster response to blackouts and integration with leading high-end home automation platforms.

The appeal of clean backup power <a href="">swayed many an early adopter</a>, even though batteries cost more than the typical generator <div class="post-limited-image"><img src="" border="0"></div>
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