Texas Spearheads Wind Power
Texas is leading the nation—and the world—in wind energy. After setting wind power generation records in October, Texas is swiftly getting to work on a massive $6.8 billion transmission project that will more than double its total installed wind power by 2013. Who knew the oil-centric state would become such a leader in renewable energy?
As of now, about 8 percent, or 10,000 MW, of Texas' power comes from wind, expected to jump up to 16 percent in the next year. While some Texas landowners are not happy about the lines set to cross their property, they will receive a onetime payment for hosting them. Texans will pay an approximate $5 more on monthly electricity bills to finance the project for years to come.
In the long run, wind is making electricity cheaper. Texas experienced intervals where wholesale electricity dropped to $0.00 in October due to wind power, siting more gains for the project. Part of the drop was caused by high winds at night, followed by a low energy demand on an early morning, but mostly, wind is just cheap—the cheapest form of renewable energy.
Another reason for the sudden demand to ramp up wind power generation is the growing concern of rolling blackouts caused by extreme weather, like the drought Texas experienced this summer, and its effect on power plants. Since power plants use water for cooling, the lower the water levels get, the bigger and more unpredictable the problem could be.
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That's one of the advantages of wind farms—they don't use water. However, wind is not a total solution. It can be extremely variable from the coast to turbine farms in western Texas. The more the state increases wind capacity, the harder it will be for the Electric Liability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state's electric grid operator, to maintain stability of the grid. There will also have to be a backup that can be readily available when wind is down.
What about solar? Donna Nelson, chair of the Public Utility Commission, notes in an interview with the Texas Tribune that solar energy is even more variable than wind. Although it hasn't been a viable option yet, according to Donna, recent dropping prices of solar panels may open up another avenue for renewables for the sunny state.
Despite the variability of wind power, Nelson sees an overall positive outcome of the large-scale project. “You're basically changing the way electricity has historically been measured, and you're changing the customers' interaction with it... So we're ahead of everybody else—Texas is,” Nelson told the Texas Tribune.
Sakuu Corporation creates 3D printer for EV batteries
Sakuu Corporation has announced a new industrial-grade 3D printer for e-mobility batteries which it claims will unlock the mainstream adoption of electric vehicles.
Offering an industrial scale ‘local’ battery production capability, Sakuu believes the technology will provide increased manufacturer and consumer confidence. Sakuu’s Alpha Platform for its initial hardware offering will be available in Q4.
Backed by Japanese automotive parts supplier to major OEMs, Musashi Seimitsu, Sakuu is set to enable fast and high-volume production of 3D printed solid-state batteries (SSBs) that, compared with lithium-ion batteries, have the same capacity yet are half the size and almost a third lighter.
The company’s KeraCel-branded SSBs will also use around 30%-50% fewer materials – which can be sourced locally – to achieve the same energy levels as lithium-ion options, significantly reducing production costs. Sakuu anticipates the 3D printer’s attributes being easily transferable to a host of different applications in other industry sectors.
"For the e-mobility markets specifically, we believe this to be a landmark achievement, and one that could transform consumer adoption of electric vehicles,” said Robert Bagheri, Founder, CEO and chairman, Sakuu Corporation. “SSBs are a holy grail technology, but they are both very difficult and expensive to make. By harnessing the flexibility and efficiency-enhancing capabilities of our unique and scalable AM process, we’re enabling battery manufacturers and EV companies to overcome these fundamental pain points."
The ability to provide on-demand, localised production will create more efficient manufacturing operations and shorter supply chains, he added.
Sakuu will initially focus on the two-, three- and smaller four-wheel electric vehicle market for whom the company’s SSB proposition delivers an obvious and desirable combination of small form factor, low weight and improved capacity benefits. The agility of Sakuu’s AM process also means that customers can easily switch production to different battery types and sizes, as necessary, for example to achieve double the energy in the same space or the same energy in half the space.
Beyond energy storage, Sakuu’s development of print capability opens complex end device markets previously closed off to current 3D printing platforms. These include active components like sensors and electric motors for aerospace and automotive; power banks and heatsinks for consumer electronics; PH, temperature and pressure sensors within IoT; and pathogen detectors and microfluidic devices for medical, to name a few.
"As a cheaper, faster, local, customisable and more sustainable method of producing SSBs – which as a product deliver much higher performance attributes than currently available alternatives – the potential of our new platform offers tremendous opportunities to users within energy, as well as a multitude of other markets," said Bagheri.
Ongoing research and new funding collaborations
Omega Seiki, a part of Anglian Omega Group of companies, has partnered with New York-based company C4V to introduce SSBs for EVs and the renewable sector in India. As part of an MoU, the two companies are also looking at the manufacturing of SSBs in the country, according to reports.
Solid Power, which produces solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, recently announced a $130 million Series B investment round led by the BMW Group, Ford Motor Company and Volta Energy Technologies. Ford and the BMW Group have also expanded existing joint development agreements with Solid Power to secure all solid-state batteries for future EVs. Solid Power plans to begin producing automotive-scale batteries on the company's pilot production line in early 2022.
"Solid-state battery technology is important to the future of electric vehicles, and that's why we're investing directly," said Ted Miller, Ford's manager of Electrification Subsystems and Power Supply Research. "By simplifying the design of solid-state versus lithium-ion batteries, we'll be able to increase vehicle range, improve interior space and cargo volume, deliver lower costs and better value for customers and more efficiently integrate this kind of solid-state battery cell technology into existing lithium-ion cell production processes."
A subsidiary of Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private company, Vinfast has signed an MoU with SSB manufacturer ProLogium - which picked up a bronze award at the recent Edison Awards - to accelerate commercialisation of batteries for EVs (click here).
Xin Li, Associate Professor of Materials Science, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is designing an SSB for ultra-high performance EV applications. The ultimate goal is to design a battery "that outperforms internal combustion engines so electrical vehicles accelerate the transition from fossil-fuel-based energy to renewable energy," according to The Harvard Gazette.
The dramatic increase in EV numbers means that the potential battery market is huge. McKinsey projects that by 2040 battery demand from EVs produced in Europe will reach a total of 1,200GWh per year, which is enough for 80 gigafactories with an average capacity of 15GWh per year.