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Solar competitors band together to help bring electricity to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico

Solar competitors band together to help bring electricity to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico

Solar companies are banding together to help restore electricity to parts of storm-ravaged Puerto Rico as 90 percent of the island’s 3.5 million residents remain without power.

Solar supplies such as roofing, generators and lighting equipment worth about $2 million are expected to arrive in the territory in the coming weeks.

Most of that aid is coming from a national solar industry group, which is sending a plane to Puerto Rico with $1.2 million in supplies donated by its members. The Solar Energy Industries Association is “putting together people that have product with people that have money,” the group’s president, Abigail Ross Hopper, told CNBC.

More aid is coming from a new group called Light Up Puerto Rico that was formed in the days after Hurricane Maria tore through the island. Light Up Puerto Rico will send about $700,000 in supplies by Oct. 15, the group said. Light Up Puerto Rico is led by two Puerto Ricans, Jorge and Carilu Alvarado, whose local connections will allow the group to distribute aid efficiently, according to Jarem Hallows, who is working with the organization.

Hopper said solar will be particularly useful in Puerto Rico because it can begin powering homes and businesses before the territory is able to rebuild its electric grid, a project that could take months. In the meantime, solar generators can serve as a stop gap that won’t require costly diesel.

“Everything is needed down there, but we are trying to help out in a unique way,” said Brad Creer, president of New Star Solar.

Creer is working with Light Up Puerto Rico and Tifie Humanitarian, a nonprofit, to provide solar equipment for rural areas of the island, such as Aguas Buenas, Salinas, Naranjito, Aguadilla, Las Marias and Mayaguez.

The effort to bring solar supplies to Puerto Rico is bringing together companies that are traditional competitors, such as Vivint Solar and Sunrun. While in normal times the two companies compete for market share, the crisis in Puerto Rico created an opportunity for the two national solar providers to cooperate.

For instance, after Sunrun pledged more than 8,000 pounds of solar products but did not have the capacity to bring the materials to Puerto Rico securely, Vivint volunteered to get the shipment into San Juan, according to emails between Light Up Puerto Rico members and the companies, provided by Hallows. A spokesperson for Sunrun said that none of the details have been finalized, and the company is now working with another nonprofit, not Vivint.

“That’s what’s great to see: They’re getting together; we are putting all our competition aside to do this,” Creer said.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, a solar entrepreneur better known for his work on electric vehicles and spacecraft, has also jumped into the fray, posting a message to his Twitter account Oct. 5 saying it would be feasible for Tesla to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello responded on the platform by saying that Puerto Rico could be Tesla’s “flagship project.” At a press conference the next day, Rossello said he was “very serious” about considering new, innovative technology.

Tesla has built electric systems on other islands such as Kauai and American Samoa, though those projects were built for far smaller populations than Puerto Rico. Last November, Tesla purchased solar company SolarCity for $2 billion. Musk later unveiled a new solar rooftop project the entrepreneur said would make solar roofs that are comparable in cost to nonsolar roofs.

In addition to being a humanitarian project, the work that solar companies are doing in Puerto Rico could serve as a case study for further projects. Hopper said the destruction of Puerto Rico’s electric grid means there is an opportunity to reimagine what an electric grid can look like.

“The devastation of the grid there means we can rebuild the way people actually use electricity as opposed to what we’ve always done,” she said.

Lynn Jurich, the CEO of Sunrun, said in a statement that the company would work to build “a more resilient, reliable distributed energy infrastructure.”

“Rooftop solar paired with batteries is a scale-able, cost-effective option and capable of strengthening electric grids worldwide, especially in remote island regions,” Jurich said.

An increase in the amount of renewable energy produced in Puerto Rico could theoretically reduce the amount Puerto Ricans pay for electricity by a dramatic amount. Three-quarters of the energy consumed in Puerto Rico is produced by petroleum products, according to government data, and all of that petroleum is imported. The only state whose residents pay more for electricity is Hawaii, which has set a goal for its utilities of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

Nonetheless, building out a full-scale solar infrastructure would be expensive. One clean-energy think tank cited by Bloomberg put the tally at $250 million for 90 megawatts of solar across several Caribbean islands — about 1 percent of the energy that would be needed to power all of Puerto Rico’s 1.2 million households.

Source: CNBC

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Extreme Storms Spur Interest in the Developing Battery Microgrids Market

Extreme Storms Spur Interest in the Developing Battery Microgrids Market

Tesla, Sonnen and others see a market for battery-backed, storm-resilient microgrids. The market could draw $22.3 billion in global investment over the next 10 years.

As the frequency of extreme storms, like the ones that recently devastated Puerto Rico and Houston, grows, battery-connected microgrids are emerging as a potentially crucial technology.
Such systems could help hospitals, shelters and retail outlets become more resilient against surging waters and torrential winds compared to backup diesel generators or relying on the power grid to remain operational.

For companies and investors selling and financing these battery grid systems, the rise of extreme storms could actually turn out to be a major opportunity. Potential customers could look to make energy systems more resilient before storms hit their regions, or rebuild energy services in the wake of disasters.
On Thursday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested that his company could rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid with solar and batteries in the wake of the devastating storm. Tesla has already sent hundreds of its batteries to the region to help with aid relief, but this offer was on a much larger scale.

“The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR,” tweeted Musk.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló responded to Musk with: “Let’s talk. Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your #TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project.”
The recent attention focused on distributed energy storage for storm resilience coincides with broader market trends that have this asset poised for takeoff in the years ahead.

Earlier this week, analysts at Navigant Research said they expect to see 14.85 gigawatts of batteries installed and connected to microgrids globally by 2026. Those projects could generate $22.3 billion in global investment over that time period, Navigant predicts.

“We’re seeing battery costs come down and microgrids connected to batteries are becoming the norm,” said Navigant’s research analyst Alex Eller. Eller said 41 percent of the microgrids that the research firm tracks are connected to energy storage.

Becoming more resilient against storms is “certainly going to be a big factor” for the sales of battery-connected microgrid systems to utilities, businesses and homeowners, said Eller. Many of those projects will happen in North America and Asia over the next decade, Navigant’s report found.

In remote and off-grid areas, where the grid is spotty or non-existent, customers are beginning to opt for battery-connected solar microgrids over systems with diesel generators. The dropping cost of batteries has helped make these systems a lower-cost option than the often expensive, reoccurring costs of diesel fuel.

Solar-plus-storage economics on islands have already passed an inflection point compared to diesel, said former Tesla executive and SolarCity founder Lyndon Rive, during a speech in April.

“It makes perfect sense to convert every island out there right now to solar and storage,” he said.
Backup systems reliant on diesel generators also might not be able to get back on-line if the supply chain for diesel has been crushed, noted Coleman Adams, managing director of Crescendo Power, a private equity firm that funds microgrid and distributed energy projects.

“Batteries can increase an island’s ability to get back on its feet,” said Adams.
Battery-connected microgrids are also increasingly financeable, he noted.

“Energy storage is paramount to most of the microgrids we work on,” he said. While the technology is not as easy to finance as solar projects are, it’s getting closer. “It all started with Sandy,” said Adams.
Puerto Rico has already emerged as a potential market for batteries following Hurricane Maria. Musk isn’t the only one interested in selling and delivering batteries to the region.

Sonnen, which makes battery storage systems for home and business owners, has been selling its technology into Puerto Rico for a year and a half, said Blake Richetta, U.S. senior vice president. But in the wake of the storm, Sonnen launched a program to build battery-connected microgrids working with solar developer Pura Energia.

Richetta says the program has led to a “tremendous spike in orders.” When it comes to rebuilding Puerto Rico’s energy grid, it’s all about distributed energy and storage, says Richetta: “Let’s stop talking and do something.”
Join GTM for a deep dive into the budding domestic energy storage market at the U.S. Energy Storage Summit 2017. Utilities, financiers, regulators, technology innovators and storage practitioners will all come together for two full days of data-intensive presentations, analyst-led panel sessions with industry leaders, and extensive, high-level networking. Learn more here.

Source: gtm

by Katie Fehrenbacher
October 06, 2017

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