A diverse mix of companies and experts in the solar power and energy storage sectors are in Long Beach, California, this week for the annual Intersolar North America (ISNA) and Energy Storage North America (ESNA) conference. The event, which is supported and attended by POWER, provides a look at the latest innovations in solar and storage from more than 350 exhibiting companies, including equipment designers and installers.
Long-duration energy storage is among the main topics of discussion at the Long Beach Convention Center. Companies such as CMBlu Energy, with offices in California and Germany, are announcing new products and projects; CMBlu just detailed its plan for a 1- to 2-MWh battery storage pilot with WEC Energy Group at the utility’s Valley Power Plant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Electric vehicle (EV) charging technology is in abundance, with several companies showcasing charging solutions for both residential and commercial and industrial applications, a topic featured prominently at POWER’s Distributed Energy Conference the past few years and expected to be part of this year’s event Aug. 14-17 in Savannah, Georgia. Several of these solutions feature charging infrastructure powered by rooftop solar; there’s even an EV powered by rooftop solar panels (Figure 1).
Sessions at ISNA and ESNA include a look at utility-scale solar and energy storage—the subject of the cover story for POWER’s February issue (Figure 2)—along with EVs as a grid storage resource, and vehicle-to-grid applications.
Enteligent, based in Morgan Hill, California, is showcasing its DC-to-DC-solar hybrid bi-directional EV charger at ISNA. The charger can supply 25 kW of fast DC charging; the company told POWER the Enteligent equipment can charge three times faster than an AC Level 2 EV charger, with energy savings of as much as 25% because the power does not have to be converted.
Energy Dome, an Italian company profiled last year by POWER, continues to push its CO2 storage product. The company has said its concept for energy storage could advance efforts to capture and reuse carbon from the industrial and power generation sectors, and promote the integration of renewable energy by helping stabilize the power grid.
Zendure is among several startup companies at the event. The company is showcasing its latest innovations in portable solar power, including its SuperBase V, a modular, portable power station with semi-solid state batteries. The produce is designed to provide energy for off-grid applications, including recreational vehicles and EV charging, along with whole-home and emergency backup power.
Massive Project in Nevada
A prominent project being discussed in Long Beach is the Gemini solar-plus-storage installation in Nevada. Several groups involved with the project are at this week’s conference, including Zeitview, a company formerly known as Dronebase. Zeitview has been contracted to use its drone technology to inspect, monitor, and analyze the construction of the Gemini project, which is being led by Primergy Solar. Kiewit is the project’s engineering, procurement, and construction lead.
Gemini (Figure 3), which is sited on about 6,500 acres of federal land near Las Vegas, is being designed as a 690-MW solar array with about 1,500 MWh of energy storage, and will be one of the largest such U.S.-based projects to date.
Jamal Burki, president of IHI Terrasun—another group working on Gemini—and the subject of a recent POWER Interview, in a Feb. 15 meeting at ISNA said his group is using ISNA and ESNA for “getting together with the industry, getting the pulse of the market, how our suppliers and customers are thinking. We’re talking about where the industry needs to go, in addition to hitting many people in one place.”
Burki said Gemini is expected to enter a commissioning phase this year, with commercial operation expected in 2024. He said he’s seeing “a number of new ventures in the battery space … they are primarily driven by incentives for the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act].” He said conversations about energy storage often revolve around how those in the industry can take advantage of investment tax credits contained in the IRA.
“Two themes that are emerging,” said Burki. “Established OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] who understand the need for non-China based manufacturing. Onshore or near-shore, understanding that labor costs need to be addressed.” He also noted that, “One day the incentives are going away, and you need to be prepared for that.”
CMBlu Pilot Project
CMBlu’s pilot with WEC will test Organic SolidFlow energy storage for discharge durations of 5 to 10 hours, which the group said can support decarbonization goals. CMBlu’s technology is different from traditional lithium-ion chemistry, as it’s made from recyclable materials. The company’s batteries are flexibly scalable between power and capacity, and CMBlu said they can be engineered to meet the specific requirements of different grid applications.
“We’re pleased to be showcasing our long-duration storage technology for domestic utilities and large energy users, and we are thrilled to collaborate with WEC Energy Group and EPRI,” said Ben Kaun, president of CMBlu Energy Inc. “The Valley Power Plant in Milwaukee is an excellent site to demonstrate our sustainable Organic SolidFlow batteries, and this project marks an important first step in our plans to deploy our energy storage solution in the United States.”
“One of our most important goals is to help shape the future of clean energy by testing technologies that could be true game-changers,” said Gale Klappa, executive chairman of WEC Energy Group, in a news release. “We’re pleased to work with CMBlu and EPRI to test this technology. On-demand energy storage is clearly a key component of an energy transition that is affordable, reliable and clean.”
EPRI is another group involved in the Wisconsin project. “The results of the pilot will provide key insights that could inform the deployment of clean energy technologies across the industry,” said Neva Espinoza, EPRI vice president—energy supply and low-carbon resources. “We look forward to collaborating with WEC Energy Group and CMBlu Energy to advance solutions with the potential to strengthen resilience on the path to a low-carbon future.” The project is planned to begin testing in Milwaukee during the fourth quarter of 2023.
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).