So, what exactly is involved in calculating solar panels cost in Valley Center? When thinking about solar power very few people know the way the cost of solar panel systems is actually measured. Or even, for that matter, do we automatically grasp the connection relating to the cost of solar power and the value of solar power. We all know that gasoline prices are in dollars per gallon. We likewise are all aware of approximately how far we’ll be able to drive after spending 40 bucks for a tank of gas. In contrast to a tank of gas, the value of which can be consumed pretty much instantly, solar panels deliver their value across a period of time.
Valley Center 3 Undervalued Solar Leaders
Caption: Kokam 24-megawatt Energy Storage System (NYSE:ESS), used by South Korea's largest utility, Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO): world's largest Lithium NMC ESS for frequency regulation
Sometimes technology creeps up on you before you realize what is happening. Then something happens to get your attention and you realize that things are changing fast. And so it is with batteries, the missing link in replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.
Here I cover two areas of battery technology that are transforming power management at scale. The first comes out of left field as a solution to frequency regulation in power plants. The second relates to management of excess energy generated by solar and wind, followed by dispatch of that energy when needed. At its most extreme this role may involve near complete charge and discharge once, or even twice, in a single day, every day.
Grid reliability, increased efficiency and frequency regulation
Late last month Kokam (XKRX:040480) a veteran Lithium ion South Korean battery manufacturer, announced the deployment of 3 high performance Lithium ion battery systems to provide 56MW of specialized batteries for frequency regulation in large power plants in South Korea. The batteries are: two Kokam Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) battery systems with capacities of 24 MW/9 MWh and 16MW/6MWh, and a 16MW/5MWh Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) battery system. The LTO system was implemented first. While LTO technology is robust, with less dependence on temperature control, it is more expensive than NMC batteries and the specifications from the utilities often require temperature control (hence housing in containers which are cooled or heated). I suspect that NMC will become the preferred technology for frequency regulation.
The 24MW NMC battery system is the largest used in the world for frequency regulation. These batteries provide the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) (NYSE:KEP) with ~10% of the frequency regulation needed to allow its entire system to run largely with batteries. KEPCO plans to install ~500MW of rapid response batteries by 2017 to effectively wean South Korea off the need for fossil fuel to provide this reserve power need for frequency regulation. Several battery manufacturers are involved in this project (Kokam, LG Chem (OTC:LGCLF), Samsung (OTC:SSNLF). It isn't clear how much KEPCO has already installed but it may be as much as 230MW of batteries for frequency regulation.
South Korea is special in that it has a single power authority, KEPCO, which is largely responsible for managing the nation's power capacity. So it is possible for one organization to setup a national program to manage 65 GW of power capacity. This capacity is mostly coal powered (~47GW) but with substantial nuclear and hydro capacity (~18GW). There is a very small contribution of wind and solar renewable energy in South Korea.
Currently ~5% of the coal needed to run a coal fired plant is dedicated to frequency regulation, so having batteries take over this role is a substantial saving in coal used. More importantly the South Korean plans (within 2 years!) indicate one of the first examples of batteries assuming a central role in an aspect of power generation that has been seen as a fossil fuel role.
Clearly Kokam doesn't see South Korea as the only market for this role and they have pilot facilities (2-5MW) being reviewed in both Germany and the US. Kokam has the capacity to deliver 100's of MW of the NMC frequency regulation batteries at short notice.
There is a lot of interest in fast response Lithium batteries and a substantial system (2MW) was recently announced in the UK using Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSYY) Lithium Titanate batteries in association with energy company E.ON (OTCPK:E.ON) and it's wholly owned subsidiary Uniper at the Willenhall substation. E.ON also has a 10MW/2.5MWh battery system under development with Tucson Electric Power in Arizona. E.ON is shortlisted for a 250MW tender for frequency response storage in the UK and Kokam is involved in tendering, so Korea's implementation is being watched in Europe too.
Interestingly lithium technology is being used to replace lead acid batteries by Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) in a 35MW facility. There are also major frequency regulation projects in Canada (e.g. 12MW system in Ontario's Independent Electrical System Operator).
These Lithium NMC and LTO batteries are also useful for peak load management improving power quality and reliability in solar and wind applications, and also for spinning reserve applications.
Energy management for renewable energy
This is a big one, as you need a way to store and then access the intermittent power from solar PV and wind. Unlike the frequency regulation application described above, which needs fast, but short term response and high power delivery, energy arbitrage for solar and wind smoothing requires slower and longer term charge/discharge (up to over a number of hours).
A frequency regulation application has a high life cycle (10,000, compared with 4000-8000 with arbitrage), high power (i.e higher than arbitrage), but lower energy density than arbitrage. Because frequency regulation is a special rapid application it is more costly than an arbitrage battery.
The actual needs for energy management at scale are more varied than frequency regulation and so the actual configurations for batteries for this purpose are still evolving. It might be that the critical requirement is ramp rate control, or charge/discharge over hours may be more critical. Battery manufacturers are focusing in on their preferred configurations. For example Kokam has a High Energy NMC battery for energy management at scale.
For the technically minded here are a couple of links to give a sense of the kinds of lithium battery technology and how the different formulations behave. A good summary is here, and for those who want a deeper dive into lithium battery chemistry, here is a pretty up to date article.
Energy management applications for renewable power generation
Pumped hydro has a significant role in energy storage and this is well established with 140GW of pumped hydro already implemented. This large scale storage allows long term (even seasonal) energy storage.
There are surely many old mines, with tailing dams at the top and down below an open cut mine, that can be flooded. GW levels of power can be addressed in such schemes, but the capital costs are not small and they attract controversy because of their size. Two pumped hydro projects in California, Eagle Mountain and Iowa Hill, have been on this path for a long time, but capital and approvals are elusive.
This is happening at several levels. The easy one involves home solar PV systems linking with a home battery. Because it is a small cost (relatively) and the market is big (1.5 million homes in Australia have solar PV), just about all of the battery providers are interested. Here numbers matter as many small systems add up to a lot of power managed and it is managed locally (at the individual house level).
The harder thing is larger scale energy management, and detractors of Lithium batteries point to frequency regulation to indicate why Lithium batteries are inappropriate for energy arbitrage. However, Lithium battery chemistry configured for frequency regulation is not the only chemistry or configuration for lithium batteries, as Tesla is doing fine with its electric cars that have a range of several hundred miles and hence can discharge over many hours.
It seems that a 40ft container housing a 2-2.5MWh system is the scale for a number of utility energy management systems, but systems as large as 100MWh give a sense of the scale being implemented. Obviously a 100MWh plant would involve 40 x 2.5MWh 40ft containers.
Utilities adopting lithium battery energy management applications
There are now many multiple MW systems being installed for this kind of application. Kokam gives details of 12 of its systems installed in the US, South Korea and Australia that have more than 1MW power capacity. In 2015 Kokam alone installed 85MW of battery storage systems and 75MW of that capacity was larger than 1MW.
Substantial lithium batteries are also being adopted (along with solar PV) in remote and mining communities to partially substitute for diesel-powered systems. For example a remote indigenous community in Northern Australia is installing a 2MWh lithium battery storage system to store solar PV and take over grid forming functions from a diesel system. This will allow switchoff of the diesel system during the day as well as storing solar PV produced power.
Lithium batteries as part of a renewable energy project
Clearly renewable energy projects are considering including arbitrage, as there are various management functions that batteries do well, and holding the power generated to be delivered at a time when the value of the energy is greater may make sense. An early example of this kind of arbitrage involves Statoil (NYSE:STO) which recently announced a pilot 1MWh Lithium battery (technology not given) storage system to complement its Hywind Scottish floating 30MW wind farm.
Image : Statoil Hywind turbine
However, there are other battery technologies for deep charge/discharge on a daily basis. While at an earlier stage of development, flow batteries seem well suited to this task. It is a race to see if flow batteries will get a place at the table or whether lithium batteries now have sufficient momentum to dominate the battery arbitrage space.
Update on flow batteries
Six months ago I wrote an article on three flow battery companies (Redflow (ASX:RFX), Imergy Power Systems and ViZn Energy which had partnered with substantial manufacturing companies (Flextronics (NASDAQ:FLEX), Foxconn (OTC:FXCOF) (TWSE:2354) and JBL Circuit (NYSE:JBL) respectively for manufacture of their flow batteries.
While it is too soon to see a lot of progress, there have been developments in each of the partnerships.
Redflow/Flextronics ZnBr flow batteries :
The last 6 months have seen substantial progress with Flextronics now assuming 100% of manufacturing from Redflow. Flextronics now controls all aspects of manufacturing of the RedFlow batteries, with production ramp up in April 2016.
In 2015 in partnership with FLEX, manufacturing costs have been decreased by 15%, the lifecycle/longevity has been improved and cycle cost/kWh over battery lifetime decreased by 50%. Redflow will soon deliver an on-grid demonstration 0.1MW/0.48MWh flow battery system to Ergon Energy.
In addition to exploring remote markets around the world, Redflow is entering the Australian home battery market with a smaller offering. The Redflow share price has doubled since the start of 2016.
Imergy Power Systems/Foxconn :
It is too early to know how the Imergy projects in India, China and Africa are proceeding, although the status of the Sun Edison (NYSE:SUNE) purchase of up to 1000 of Imergy's vanadium flow batteries for implementing in India could be problematic given the disaster that has recently befallen SUNE and news that it is not supporting its activities in India. The rumor is that Adani (IN:ADANIT) may be interested in SUNE's Indian projects.
Recently (end of February 2016) SUNE announced agreement with Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator (Ontario IESO) to supply an Imergy 5MW/20MWh system in 2017; this was to be SUNE's first large scale grid-connected energy storage project and it will need to be restructured with SUNE in difficulty. Imergy and Foxconn will need to think creatively about diversifying the route to market for their flow batteries.
ViZn Energy/JBL Circuit : ViZn reported 20% improved capacity and reduced life cycle degradation, which is important for frequency regulation applications.
At the end of the day there will be winners and losers and here sits the dilemma for investors. Is it still too soon to know which technology to back and which companies to invest in? Given the intense interest in frequency regulation I suspect that this market, will be satisfied soon by companies like Kokam and LG Chem who have done the hard yards on understanding Lithium battery chemistry. I suspect that for management of renewable energy it will end up a combination of pumped hydro, Lithium and flow battery technologies, with the latter becoming increasingly important.
What is abundantly clear is that all investors need to look carefully at their fossil fuel portfolios, as the complacency that the switch to renewable energy (with storage) is going to take a long time seems misguided in 2016.
This story about battery storage starting to do heavy lifting has implications in two areas of large scale energy supply: frequency regulation and management of renewable energy. It will help resolve issues of intermittency of renewable energy. The impact will be felt not only on adoption of renewable energy (and hence solar and wind companies) but also on fossil fuel power generation. Investors in fossil fuels should think carefully about where this is heading.
Disclosure: I am/we are long ASX:RFX.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Editor's Note: This article covers one or more stocks trading at less than $1 per share and/or with less than a $100 million market cap. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.
Best Science Fair Project Websites for Kids
Science Fair Projects for Kids and High School Students
These 12 sites have hundreds of science fair projects, experiments, and advice to help you create the best science fair project you can. They suggest easy projects for kids and more challenging award-winning science fair projects for high school students. I've used many of them with my daughter and students.
Some of the sites provide ideas. Some give you step-by-step instructions for conducting experiments. Some provide kids advice on creating projects for science fairs. And some have forums where kids can get help when they're stuck. Many of these websites have videos to illustrate their experiments.
Note: Some of these sites have forums, which require registration with an email address. Children under age 13 need parent approval to register and submit questions to these forums.
#1 Science Buddies
Strength: Detailed science projects and advice for kids
I most often recommend Science Buddies to students and parents starting work on a science fair project. This is an award-winning site was created by the Kenneth Lafferty Hess Family Charitable Foundation, and has a wealth of resources.
First is the Project Ideas section where you can browse a list of projects by area of study. Or try the Topic Selection Wizard. You answer a series of questions about your science interests and grade level, then you get a list of projects best suited to your situation.
The projects are very detailed. Each includes the background, questions to consider, a list of required supplies and equipment, and step-by-step instructions for the experimental procedure.
The next helpful resource is an extensive Science Fair Project Guide. Here you'll learn more about how to use the scientific method to build your project, how to write your report, and how to display your work. There is also advice on safety procedures, selecting supplies, and techniques.
Finally, you can go to the Ask an Expert Forum if you need more assistance. Look to see if another student has asked a similar question that answers yours. If you've been unable to resolve your problem with the help of a teacher or parent, this group of volunteer scientists will do their best to help you.
The Science Buddies site is easy to navigate. And and the extent of their resources is incomparable.
#2 Cool Science Projects
Strength: Tips for creating award-winning science fair projects
The folks at Cool-Science-Projects.com will walk you through all the steps of creating a science project. You'll find advice and resources for simpler projects for a homework assignment, as well as advice on creating show-stopper competition projects.
There are lots of ideas here by grade level. A few of the ideas have step-by-step instructions for carrying them out. The site's biggest strength is the section it devotes to advice on creating a winning science fair project.
#3 Steve Spangler's Science Experiments
Strength: Entertaining videos of experiments to spark you own project ideas
Steve Spangler's Science Experiments is a particularly useful website for science teachers and homeschool parents. Steve is a teacher's teacher who is televised weekly in Denver and who has appeared on nationally televised shows, demonstrating experiments and explaining the science behind them. He also conducts teacher training seminars throughout the country.
On this site, you can access his collection of science experiments, recipes and projects. His library of projects is accompanied by videos of how to use materials and equipment to conduct experiments. He also has an online store of supplies and equipment.
Steve's delight in science experiments is entertaining, and he'll get you and your kids excited about their experiments too!
#4 Reeko's Mad Scientist Lab
Strength: Advice for creating a successful science fair project
Reeko is passionate about science. His passion is contagious at Reeko's Mad Scientist Lab. Reeko takes a humorous and engaging approach to getting kids interested in science.
Reeko's focus is science experiments. He does not provide guidance for school science projects. But his experiments are a breeding ground for science project ideas.
This award-winning site has games, puzzles and quizzes. And there is a new forum where you can ask a question if you're having problems with your experiment or science in general.
Videos of experiments with accompanying variation ideas for home experiments
DragonflyTV delves into experiments conducted by kids. The folks at PBS Kids Go! offer up plenty of videos of kids conducting experiments.
Then they provide ideas of variations your children can pick from for their own experiments. Or kids can give the Super Science Spinner a whirl until they find an idea they like. DragonflyTV also offers their 12 steps to science fair success.
#6 The Science Club
Strength: Detailed instructions, videos and illustrations of projects
Science Fair Ideas Exchange provides dozens of ideas for projects and experiments. If you need more than written explanations and illustrations, look here. The site is hosted by Bill Beaty of The Science Club.
Many projects are accompanied by a video that shows the key steps in creating your experiment or device. Projects are categorized as simple, medium and advanced.
Some of the video-taped experiments are hazardous, and should be supervised by an adult or conducted only by science teachers.
The Make It Solar Science Fair Information provides detailed information on carrying out a project using the scientific method and steps illustrated here. For teachers who have a website, Make It Solar provides the code to put the illustration at the right into your site with a link to its science fair info.
You'll also find planning guides, research tips, illustrations of display layouts. The site's focus is solar energy, so they furnish details on how to create several solar energy science projects.
#8 MadSci Network
Strength: Answers to your science experiment and project questions
Created by MadSci Network & Third Sector New England, MadSci Network is a great place to get answers to your science questions. Their extensive questions and answers archive can help you as you build your project.
The MadSci Library provides links to other resources by topic area. Look for answers to common science fair questions at the MadSci FAQ page.
If you can't find an answer in their archives of past questions, submit your own question.
Strength: Kids' comments on how the experiments worked for them
ZOOMsci from by PBS Kids & WGBH has dozens of science activities for children in grades K-8. The emphasis is on having fun with science experiments, as opposed to a rigorous scientific method.
Pick an activity, carry it out, then record your observations and comments on the ZOOMsci site. Personally identifiable information is not collected here.
#10 Scientific Methods at pppst.com
Strength: Lessons to help kids learn the scientific method
Teachers and homeschool parents can make use of the resources for elementary and middle school students at Scientific Methods at pppst.com. There are presentations to use when teaching the scientific method, as well as printable materials.
For kids, there are links numerous resources to help them learn and remember the steps contained in the scientific method.
One of Mr. Donn's greatest strengths is that his material is readable at the upper elementary age level. So adults don't have to do a lot of interpretation.
#11 Hands-on Activities
Strength: Detailed instructions for experiments
At Exploratorium's Hands-on Activities page, you'll find lots of ideas for experiments and science projects. Activities are grouped by topic such as food, living things, or sports science.
Each activity provides a list of needed materials and step-by-step instructions. Illustrations and photos accompany the instructions. A few even have videos.
Note that some of the activities are not true "activities" but rather information on how something, like cycling, works.
If you are making a model of the solar system to scale, you have to take a look at the Build a Solar System activity. There is a scale calculator that uses the diameter of the sun you plan to create to calculate the dimensions for all of the planets and orbit radius of each planet.
#12 Step-by-Step Science Fair Success
Strength: Advice for teachers and schools on organizing a successful science fair
Step-by-Step Science Fair Success is a guide for teachers and schools to use in planning a science fair. Lily Ning, a middle school teacher, discusses:
- Preplanning, sending out letters, and rules for group projects
- Creating guidelines, submission categories, and scientific methodology to be used
- Student tasks in proposing, planning, carrying out, and displaying project results
- Assessment using a rubric and grading sheets for the notebook, paper, and display
- Judging rubric
Directory of Science Project Websites
There are more than 30 science fair project and experiment websites listed in LearningReviews Directory of Science Project Websites. Some of the sites have simple experiments for kids to carry out at home. Others have more sophisticated projects for high school students and science fairs. Kids, parents and teachers write reviews about the sites they like best.
Other Science categories on the site help you to learn more about chemistry, astronomy, biology, etc., as you prepare for your science project.
Get Ready for Your Science Fair with Janice VanCleave
Janice VanCleave is a teacher, scientist and author of award-winning science books for kids. This virtual field trip is hosted on Meet Me at the Corner.org, where you can find more science fair project ideas.