Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

High Lithium-Ion Battery Demand Prompts Japanese Manufacturers to Speed up and Expand Capacity – TDK plans to increase the annual capacity by around 15% in 2018; Murata Manufacturing, which acquired Sony’s battery business in September, plans to invest approximately 50 billion yen by the end of March, 2020 to expand capacity. Already we know there are 10-20 Gigafactory equivalents around the world being built. And, due to demand growing at rates faster than projected, and costs falling greater than anticipated we’re now seeing those expansion plans – expanding. Interesting list from article: Current lithium-ion battery leading manufacturer in the world is Japan’s Panasonic, with market share 23%, followed by Korea’s Samsung SDI, with market share 21%. The rests are South Korea’s LG Chem (market share is 14%), TDK (11%), Murata (8%), China’s Tianjin Lishen Battery (6%), China’s BAK (4%), China’s BYD (4%) and Maxell (1%).

Indiana politicians got thousands in gifts while pushing solar policy – During the 2015, 2016 and 2017 reporting periods, investor-owned utilities and the organization that represents them spent more than $109,000 entertaining Indiana General Assembly legislators. More than $32,000 was spent entertaining members of the Senate and House committees focused on utility legislation. Since the latest net metering policies were enacted in Indiana in 2011, political action committees representing Indiana’s five investor-owned utilities have poured nearly $1.7 million into state candidates. And then at the end of the process – the politicians took an energy bill that was created by a national organization, copy pasted the text and the public arguments, and voted against solar power. This is defined as legalized corruption. We are bought.

The seven megatrends that could beat global warming: ‘There is reason for hope’ – Methane, renewable energy, dying coal, electric cars, batteries, efficiency and forest management. The clouds open to those whose heads are held high, aiming forward and working hard. A bunch of you have thrown your hat into clean industries, I personally left a six figure banking job to work at solar. And now the world is seeing results. The human species is pretty cool.

Syria signs Paris climate agreement – In no way am I speaking highly of the Syrian government, it is a terrible humanitarian event that’s been going on since 2011, and much longer under their current family autocracy. Yet, even a country in the midst of a civil war has taken the time to pledge themselves to a global plan of working to reduce emissions. At least that spells well for the rest of the world.

Ingeteam’s Project SCARAB Will Use Drones to Enhance PV Plant Performance – It’s now becoming common knowledge that drones are more economical for operations and maintenance actions at large-scale solar farms. What I see occurring currently is that we’re now becoming good at using drones – The drone is equipped with in-built sensors, algorithms to detect and classify potential causes of reduced panel performance and provide indicators of the technical and economic performance of the system, and an application to optimize maintenance activities. Now, instead of just taking pictures and scanning, the drone has built-in hardware/software to help it think further about what’s going on at the site. I do wonder why it matters that this information is being done in the drone versus in a backend O&M piece of software, but I’m sure the work flow analysis suggested this model.

Lazard: Project economics for energy storage still hugely variable – At the moment, energy storage is most economically viable when providing high power and flexibility to networks, rather than being rewarded for high energy density or energy storage duration. In other words, storing energy for long periods of time with batteries is still expensive enough that grid defection or providing baseload power with solar-plus-storage, for example, is still a way off from being a mainstream application for energy storage. Really, what they’re saying is that if you’re buying a battery in your house – unless you’re in a place where you pay significantly more for evening power (time of use) – you are probably buying a backup generator with a low payback period versus a piece of hardware to save money. Solar will save money for now, battery storage will protect you – for now. Change is still coming though.

I find these weekly solar price updates and the discussion around them interesting. Poly/multi solar cells cost about 2¢/W less – and in this chart we’re seeing a difference in efficiency of 1.4-1.9%. Then for another 5¢/W we see a monoPERC – but then hit 20.9% efficiency – that’s a 13.5% jump in efficiency for 7¢/W. Looking at a solar panel – we see 42¢ through 49¢/W. During an installation – 7¢/W turns into about 10-15¢/W when talking shipping and profits, etc. And that’s $550-850 added onto a 5.5kW solar installation. How many of you are cool with a lower efficiency solar panel if you save $550-850 bucks? Is your roof big enough for lower efficiency?

Header image is by Will Hanley as part of the SunShot photography contest

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