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Crazy Floating All-In-One Renewable Energy Gizmo Has Everybody Suddenly Talking

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When the German company SINN Power first introduced its floating hybrid renewable energy platform last year, the news caused barely a ripple. Now suddenly everyone is talking about the company’s so-named Ocean Hybrid Platform, including us. We’re calling it the Swiss Army Knife of clean power because it combines wind, solar, and wave energy all in one delicate-looking package. However, looks can be deceiving, and perhaps this spring chicken is no shrinking violet after all.

Renewable Energy, Saltwater Edition

The new hubub over SINN Power’s floating clean power contraption was probably sparked by an article posted on the company’s website earlier this week.

In the article, SINN Power notes that the idea of floating solar arrays on freshwater bodies has taken off like a rocket in recent years, but is not so easily transferred to the ocean environment, which can be somewhat more hostile.

“While freshwater floating PV is being installed in more than 40 countries worldwide, seawater floating PV is a new market. In contrast to freshwater floating PV, providers of seawater floating PV are confronted with harsh environments, where the widely known conventional systems will fail.”

Still, the oceangoing solar array is a tantalizing prize compared to the potential offered by freshwater resources.

For example, hydropower reservoirs represent one low-hanging, freshwater fruit targeted by floating solar developers. SINN takes note of  a study by the US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, indicating that the global potential of floating solar in that scenario is 7.6 terrawatts. That sounds impressive but the potential for offshore solar development in the seven seas is even more impressive.

A global estimate is yet to be forthcoming, but SINN points out that the offshore solar potential for The Netherlands alone is 45 gigawatts.

What’s Wrong With Floating Solar Panels?

Good question! Nothing is wrong with floating solar panels on water. In fact, when the scenario involves reservoirs and other freshwater infrastructure, solar panels can help conserve water by reducing evaporation.

When designed in concert with aquatic life, solar panels can also provide for shaded areas that improve biodiversity.

However, as SINN points out, the technology used on freshwater bodies does not require hardening against waves and other stormy conditions typical of ocean environments or, for that matter, large lakes.

“As the possibility of extreme weather events rises, these systems are in danger of failing. Depending on the extent of damage, consequences will range from loss of revenue up to a complete loss of investment. Therefore, current freshwater solutions face restrictions in deployments at sea, partly even in protected coastal areas and big lakes,” SINN emphasizes.

The solution SINN offers is a flexible design that can accommodate wave heights of up to 12 meters and winds speeds of 27 meters per second. SINN also claims that the skeleton of the structure can take on wind speeds of up to 60 meters per second.

That’s not exactly hurricane strength, but it does open up the potential to plumb offshore waters in bays and other sheltered areas for renewable energy. It’s also possible that SINN’s offshore platform could be shuttered or towed to safety when extreme weather threatens, considering that it provides for small and medium-sized deployment as well as large-scale arrays.

As for use cases, SINN is casting a wide net.

“Potential use cases for project developers include the complementation of offshore wind parks to increase baseload capacity, providing RE to aquacultures, the hydrogen production, or simply producing electricity for coastal areas, remote islands and many more,” says Dr. Philipp Sinn, the company’s CEO.

More Offshore Renewable For The Sparkling Green Economy Of The Future

If SINN Power wants to compete in the big leagues, the company has its work cut for it. The European Union has already glommed on to the idea of combining several types of renewable energy generation in one offshore array, through its EU-SCORES clean power initiative. Ireland’s Western Star offshore wind energy project is also looking to hook up with wave energy.

The idea is to get a green power twofer (or threefer, in SINN’s case), to help reduce the overall impact of offshore renewable energy development on the marine environment. Combining more than one type of renewable energy technology in one platform will also help create new efficiencies for onshoring the electricity.

US developers are eyballing the idea of co-locating offshore wind farms with floating solar panels, too, so stay tuned for more on that.

In the meantime, SINN Power has been testing out its clean power hybrid platform in the Greek port of Heraklion since 2015, with a sharp focus on the wave energy converters.

As those of you familiar with the wave energy field may appreciate, the wave conversion devices are probably the trickiest part of the venture. It appears that SINN has been deploying off-the-shelf wind turbines at the test site, and a similar approach for the solar panels may also be in the works. In contrast, SINN is relying on its own patented technology for the wave energy converters.

More Offshore Renewable Energy For The US

Even without the added benefit of solar and/or wave energy, the offshore wind market is set to take off by leaps and bounds now that the US has busted out of its logjam.

In the latest development on that score, yesterday the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved the proposed South Fork Wind project off the coast of Rhode Island.

Compared to Dogger Bank and other massive offshore wind  turbine arrays overseas, South Fork clocks is a relatively modest project clocking in at 130 megawatts. However, the approval is highly significant because it represents the second proposal in the pipeline under BOEM’s new streamlined process for offshore wind approvals.

Rhode Island is among the tiniest of US states, but it already lays claim to getting the nation’s first offshore wind array up and running. That would be the 30-megawatt Block Island offshore wind array, which predated BOEM’s new process and somehow managed to slip under the radar of renewable energy opponents.

Now, under BOEM’s new process, the 130-megawatt South Fork project follows the Vineyard Wind project in Massachusetts, which will come in at 800 megawatts.

That’s the tip of the iceberg. In all, the Biden-Harris administration anticipates that a total of 19 gigawatts in offshore wind will gain approval by 2025.

Though it’s not clear from the BOEM press release, that figure probably refers to 16 projects in the Atlantic coast pipeline. The Pacific coast and the Gulf of Mexico are next in line, along with the Gulf of Maine and offshore areas in Hawaii.

All of that activity translates into thousands of new wind turbines, including floating wind turbines suitable for deeper waters. No word yet on whether or not solar panels and wave energy converters will be part of the mix, but the prospects for more offshore renewable energy mashups are already looking good.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Image: Rendering of hybrid offshore renewable energy platform courtesy of SINN Power.


 

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Tesla’s Policy Lead Testifies at PUCT Open Meeting As Tesla Focuses on Supporting the Texas Grid

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Tesla’s US Energy Markets Policy Lead, Arushi Sharma Frank, was recently asked to testify at a Public Utility Commission of Texas Open Meeting. A photo of Frank wearing an LFDECARB tee shirt popped up on Twitter. The tee shirt itself is a message focused on decarbonization by the group Bros for Decarbonization. You can learn more about the group here.

Frank confirmed that it was an impromptu request to testify. She also shared exactly what she talked about.

The document Frank shared was a filing receipt for supplemental comments from Tesla signed by Frank. There’s also a video of her testimony which you can watch here. In the document, Tesla said that it appreciated the opportunity to share its comments regarding PUCT’s discussions that were held on June 16, 2022 — the open meeting regarding Tesla’s proposal OBDRR041 as well as its prior work demonstrating how virtual power plants (VPPs) work.

I recently published an article about Tesla’s VPP workshop, which was related to OBDRR041. Tesla also said that it appreciated the Commission’s comments related to its Distributed Energy Resource (DER) pilot projects. Tesla especially supported the conversation between Commission representatives and the staff at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), as well as with the market participants. The conversation covered the real implementation of the system through a pilot as opposed to a task force approach. The latter, Frank noted, could unnecessarily create delays in implementing a grid service solution for DERs.

Looking At The Document & Tesla’s Statements

The Commission’s decision to encourage ERCOT to get stakeholders together and develop a pilot project allowing the market solution of exports from VPPs to be tested is also something Tesla expressed its appreciation for. This allowed for addressing issues raised by utilities and other market participants that have concerns about the potential impacts of site-exporting DERs on distribution facilities. It also allowed for a discussion of the net impact and benefits to the transmission grid.

Tesla also clarified and provided information as a response to a few discussion topics and questions that were raised at the open meeting. These topics included the OBDRR041 status, the ERCOT Pilot Proposal, and a question posed to Tesla by Chairman Lake at the open meeting.

OBDRR041 status

Tesla noted that since the OBDRR041 is currently tabled at the ERCOT Technical Advisory Committee, it would not seek a vote until there was further development of issues and positions from ERCOT and the potential members of the committee.

“At this time, Tesla believes that OBDRR041 may remain tabled at the Technical Advisory Committee pending consideration of the feasibility of a Virtual Power Plant pilot as the Commission proposed at the Open Meeting.”

ERCOT Pilot Proposal

Tesla expressed its views on the formal ERCOT Pilot Proposal that was introduced at the Open Meeting. Tesla noted that for a formal ERCOT pilot approach to be a feasible alternative to OBDRR041, a pilot should :

Have ERCOT’s support and the market’s acceptance and approval from ERCOT’s governing board.
Be amenable to commercialization in that sufficient participants could be aggregated across sufficient distribution service areas (more than one, but in capped quantities, in each service area as described in a proposed pilot framework).
Adequately capture data addressing clearly identified distribution utility concerns, in parallel to or as part of the pilot’s scope.
Have provisions to ensure market services compensation commensurate with grid services provided by pilot participants
Have an identified “start date” and “end date” which are technically feasible for involved parties.

In addition to that last point, Tesla added that the following are requirements in Section 25.361 (k) regarding pilot development and approval:

“ERCOT may conduct a pilot project upon approval of the scope and purposes of the pilot project by the governing board of ERCOT. Proposals for approval of pilot projects shall be made to the governing board only by ERCOT staff, after consultation with affected market participants and commission staff designated by the executive director.

“The ERCOT governing board shall ensure that there is an opportunity for adequate stakeholder review and comment on any proposed pilot project.”

Tesla noted that pilot  project proposals approved by the ERCOT governing board should include the following:

The scope and purposes of the pilot project;
The designation of temporary exceptions from ERCOT rules that ERCOT expects to authorize as part of the pilot project;
Criteria and reporting mechanisms to determine whether and when ERCOT should propose changes to ERCOT rules based on the results of a pilot project.
An estimate of costs ERCOT will incur attributable to the pilot project.
An estimated date of completion of the pilot project.

Tesla’s Response To Chairman Lake

Tesla expressed its appreciation for Chairman Lake, who stated that “nothing teaches like experience, so the sooner you get something in the field, the more you learn faster.”

Tesla also responded to a question posed by the chairman and said that it’s concerned that it will not be able to scope a pilot program in a Non-Opt-in-Entity (NOIE) area. Currently, Texas homeowners are unable to participate in VPPs due to the law. Tesla said:

“Primarily, this approach may not be economically rational as it could mean a substantial resource investment in a pilot that is not scalable to a commercial retail offer where Tesla could continue to directly serve those customers and grow the program’s strength and viability.

“The customers in a pilot should be able to continue to benefit from the value for their systems beyond the end-date of the pilot, in a commercially viable solution – but with a NOIE-only pilot, Tesla would have no control, legally or otherwise, over the continued participation of such customers once the pilot closes, even if a viable market participation framework is implemented following that pilot’ s conclusion.

“Any formal program participation of those customers would be solely at the option of the NOIE serving those customers. More simply, the purpose of a pilot is to study a solution that can be scaled following adoption of market rules based on pilot learnings. To build a program off the learnings of a pilot, the customer base involved in the pilot should be able to continue service under that formalized program, so that parties involved are not running the risk of raising a wholly new set of unstudied issues in a new distribution system type that was not part of the pilot.”

Frank also shared a link to over 60 pages of data from Tesla. Deep dive coming soon.

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Coalition Calls for EU Hydrogen Quota for Shipping

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Energy providers, shipping companies and NGOs call on the EU to introduce a minimum quota of 6% sustainable and scalable hydrogen fuels by 2030

A broad coalition of energy providers, shipping companies and NGOs — including Siemens Energy, Viking Cruises, Green Power Denmark and Brussels-based organisations Hydrogen Europe and Transport & Environment (T&E) — has called on the EU to introduce a minimum quota of 6% sustainable and scalable hydrogen fuels by 2030.

Last year the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, proposed a shipping fuel law (FuelEU Maritime Regulation) aimed at increasing the uptake of alternative marine fuels. Unfortunately, the law fails to guarantee the competitiveness of sustainable and scalable e-fuels, and risks promoting cheaper, unsustainable fuels. The coalition therefore calls on the European Parliament and EU Council to improve the proposal by including a dedicated e-fuels sub quota in the proposed regulation.

Delphine Gozillon, sustainable shipping officer at T&E, said:

“An ambitious shipping fuels law will be key to set the shipping sector on course for full decarbonisation. Sustainable e-fuels are currently too expensive compared to other alternatives such as fossil LNG and biofuels, holding back investments in production facilities, refuelling infrastructure in ports and zero-emission ships. However, with a bit of a push e-fuels produced from renewable hydrogen can be scalable. That’s why we need a quota to get the ball rolling and encourage companies to start investing in clean shipping fuels. Shipping does not need to be a dirty industry forever.”

A list of all the coalition’s demands can be found here.

Download the letter.

Courtesy of Transport & Environment.

Featured image courtesy of Maersk.

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Diving Into Tesla’s 60+ Pages of PUCT Filings (Mostly Data)

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Tesla has over 60 pages of Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) filings that have recently been shared publicly, and we’re about to dive into them. Grab some water and a coffee and let’s go.

Tesla and its team, including its US Energy Markets Policy Lead, Arushi Sharma Frank, have been working hard to help Texan Powerwall customers be able to take part in virtual power plant (VPP) pilot programs. In May, Tesla held a VPP workshop for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Frank was one of the key leaders hosting the meeting.

Recently, Frank was asked to testify at an open meeting of the PUCT, and there she shared Tesla’s comments and statements addressing questions and other concerns relating to VPPs.

Frank tweeted a thank you to the PUCT for the opportunity of allowing Tesla to provide comments. In addition, she followed up with two more tweets, with one mentioning her favorite part of the filings — Tesla describing a phenomenon called “clumping.” Clumping is a reference to capturing the full value of distributed energy renewables capacity in an aggregate load resource (ALR).

63 Pages Of Data For PUCT

In total, there were 63 pages. I’m only going to go over some of the data briefly. I think it’s important to highlight Tesla’s hard work because if Texas allows its residents who own Powerwall batteries systems to participate in VPPs, this opens the door for other states in the Deep South to at least consider clean energy solutions for various problems, especially grid-related. Texas is well known for its grid instability, and if it allows Tesla Powerwall customers to take part in VPPs, this could mean saving lives during disasters.

Included in the filings were comments from Tesla, a request from Tesla that the Commission direct ERCOT to prioritize several actions such as allowing ALRs (Aggregated Load Resources) to provide injection capacity from individual sites in a framework by December 2022, an informal narrative of Tesla’s VPP demonstration in ERCOT, and 47 slide pages detailing the ERCOT/Tesla ancillary service demonstration.

I think the most important part for us outsiders observing here is the 47 slides, because they highlighted a lot of data that shows just how the Texas grid will benefit from VPPs. The 47 slides showed several key meetings between Tesla and ERCOT about the demo program.

Key Meeting Between Tesla & ERCOT Shows Tesla Has Been Working Hard Trying To Convince Texas To Allow VPPs

In March, there were four meetings in which Tesla defined clumping, Frank’s favorite part, as well as two telemetry signal approaches. Following that were weekly meetings around the demo results with the last demo result being April 15, 2022. On April 9, Tesla and ERCOT revisited clumping and the two telemetry signals approach.

This tells me and anyone paying close attention that Tesla has been quietly working with ERCOT to help the Texas grid for quite some time. This, I think, is a good thing, especially for Texas.

Tesla Seeks To Register The First ALR In ERCOT

According to the documents, Tesla wants to register the first ALR in ERCOT and participate in services that are currently unavailable. These services include non-spin and sCED load reduction dispatch. Tesla wants to do this with the full value of grid services that injecting devices can provide in an ALR.

Tesla said that it will lead efforts to modify the utility’s ALR Policy Other Binding Document to make it fit with practical operational, registration, and qualification issues. It clarified that ERCOT can exchange two telemetry points with an aggregation-qualified scheduling entity (QSE).

Tesla ERCOT Demo Tests

Tesla’s first demo looked at the comparison of battery and premise-level telemetry. Below is a chart showing the initial conditions, test steps, data collected, and pass criteria.

Table courtesy of Tesla

This first test results show that VPPs work beautifully in Texas. According to the results, the load decreased during the evening while in the morning it decreased while exporting to the grid. And during the daytime, the exporting of energy to the grid only increased. Tesla explained further:

“Discharging from the customer’s battery using a step function can clearly be identified in the premise-level data.

“At different times of day, premise-level data will look differently, depending on the current load:

1. Evening time: during the evening peak, user load is typically high, and discharging the battery will show up as a decrease in premise-level load.

2. Morning time: during the night/morning time, user load is typically lower, and discharging the battery will both decrease load, and export energy to the grid.

3. Daytime: during the daytime, solar is exporting to the grid, and discharging the battery will increase the export.”

You can view the full demo, test results, and all of Tesla’s comments here.

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