Japan Looks at Recycling Vehicle Batteries for Renewable Power

The March 2011 nuclear catastrophe at the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex has left Japan scrambling for power alternatives, as in the wake of the debacle, the Japanese government shuttered all 57 of the country’s nuclear power plants.

Not surprisingly, renewable energy has experienced a surge of interest in Japan, but most forms of renewable power suffer from a lack of being able to provide reliable power 24/7 – the wind doesn’t always blow, the sun doesn’t always shine.

Accordingly, storage systems of batteries are a high priority worldwide before renewable energy can advance.

The world’s first large-scale solar power storage system to incorporate 16 used electric-vehicle batteries has been built in Japan at a 10 megawatt solar farm in southwestern Japan. Japan’s Ministry of Environment chose the site as a “model project” for evaluating the use of battery storage of renewable energy surplus power generation.

Sumitomo Corp. developed and installed the large-scale power storage system which utilizes used batteries collected from electric vehicles on Yumeshima island, Osaka prefecture, which will begin operating later this month. For the next three years, the Sumitomo Corp. will maintain stable energy output from fluctuations from the “Hikari-no-mori,” solar farm close by and will serve as a test bed to establish a large-scale power storage technology by safely and effectively utilizing the huge quantities of discarded used EV batteries which will become available in the future.

In September 2010 Sumitomo Corp. created the 4R Energy Corp. joint venture company in collaboration with Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. to reuse EV lithium-ion batteries. The used EV batteries recycled into the storage system have been recovered and have gone through thorough inspection and maintenance at 4R to confirm safety and performance and are capable of storing 600kW/400kWh. Battery Business Development Department General Manager, Norihiko Nonaka said, “We are pleased to be a part of such an important verification project that can both utilize used EV batteries, and provide a large-scale power storage facility, which are important issues that need to be addressed for the future of renewable energy.”

Spurred by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, in 2009 Sumitomo and Nissan announced the collaboration, whose four Rs stand for “Reuse, Resell, Refabricate and Recycle,” and launched it in 2010. Nissan, seeking to boost resale value for its battery-electric Leaf at the time by creating a profitable source for its spent battery packs, estimated at the time that sales of the Leaf battery-electric would generate 50,000 battery packs available for the secondary market by 2020.

In December 2013 Toshiba announced a project to install a 20-megawatt-hour/40-megawatt lithium-ion battery project in Tohoku. Japan is expected to be the largest market for solar PV installations, with around 9 gigawatts to be installed following the introduction of feed-in tariffs in 2012 in response to the Fukushima nuclear debacle.

In 2013 the Japanese government launched a $300 million grant program to support the installation of large-scale battery systems to help integrate renewables into the grid.

The northern island of Hokkaido has announced a 60-megawatt-hour/15-megawatt redox flow battery storage project would be built by Sumitomo because of the large amount of solar PV systems being installed. Hokkaido Electric has received proposals for constructing 1.6 gigawatts of solar PV projects of 2 megawatts or more.

Japan is seeking to reform its regional grid system and electricity market over the next several years to smooth the introduction of more distributed energy. Currently, ten regional utilities are responsible for different sections of the grid and have a monopoly in each region for generation, transmission and distribution, and legislation is being introduced to ease control of the vertically integrated utilities.

Given Japan’s high technology expertise, the Sumitomo-Nissan joint solar venture will be closely watched.

By John Daly of Oilprice.com

Plug-In Solar Panel Kit That Is Truly DIY

Plug-In Solar Panel Kit That Is Truly DIY (via Clean Technica)

DIY: Three letters that have the power to send either titillations of excitement or bolts of pure terror down your spine. Myself, I fall into the second group. To me, “Do-It-Yourself” sounds more like a threat than an exciting proposition. DIY solar…

Read more »

Global Buying Spree is Saving Solar Panel Manufacturers

By John Upton

Shutterstock

The sun is starting to shine again on the solar-panel manufacturing industry, a year after a string of corporate collapses.

The glut of cheap solar panels that pushed manufacturing giant Suntech and others into bankruptcy is being whittled away by a worldwide surge in solar installations. The manufacturing sector’s gradual return to profitability comes eight months after China announced it would go on a solar-buying spree to cash in on the oversupply of panels.

Yingli Green Energy Holdings Co., the world’s leading producer of solar panels, on Tuesday announced its 10th consecutive quarterly loss — but said it expected to rejoin many of its competitors in turning a profit by the third quarter of this year. Reuters reports:

A recovery in solar panel prices after a four year slump has helped Yingli’s rivals such as Trina Solar Ltd [and] JA Solar Holdings Co Ltd post profits in recent quarters, while JinkoSolar Holding Co Ltd posted a profit last August.

Bloomberg explains why the glut of panels that triggered the sector’s woes a year ago is starting to disappear:

Developers installed 37.5 gigawatts of panels worldwide last year, up 22 percent from 2012, and that figure may increase as much as 39 percent this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

That growth is starting to “sponge up” much of the glut, especially among Chinese manufacturers, that resulted from a buildup in the late 2000s, Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in Houston, said in an interview. “That has made a real dent in the overcapacity.”

China, which surpassed Germany to become the biggest solar market last year, may install more than 14 gigawatts this year, aiding domestic producers. The Asian nation added a record 12 gigawatts of solar power in 2013, compared with 3.6 gigawatts a year ago, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

There seems to be a little bit of good news in here for everybody.

Courtesy: http://grist.org/news/global-buying-spree-is-saving-solar-panel-manufacturers/

Big News In Panda Poop!

One of the big stumbling blocks to using biofuels has been the difficulty in breaking down tough, woody cellulose in stalks and leaves…but a microbe found in panda poop may be the key to making energy from raw plant materials.

Courtesy: todaysgreenminute.com

Illinois No. 1 in Switching to Renewable Energy: Report

(AP) — Illinois buys more renewable energy than any other state, which has reduced pollution by the equivalent of removing a million cars from the road over the past few years, according to a report released today by national and state environmental groups.

A 2009 state law allowed communities to buy their own electricity rather than rely on a central purchasing agency. Since then, more than 600 Illinois cities and towns have adopted aggregation, which allows them to bundle residential and small business customers to buy cheaper electricity in bulk from smaller suppliers.

Of those, 91 are providing 100 percent renewable energy, either by buying it directly or buying credits that help fund renewable energy development, the report says.( Read the report here.)

Five other states — California, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island — allow communities to buy electricity, but none comes close to matching the renewable energy Illinois is purchasing, said Keya Chatterjee, senior director for renewable energy and footprint outreach at the World Wildlife Fund.

“It is huge what is already being done” in Illinois, Chatterjee said. “This is a story about local choice, and (Illinois) is choosing renewables in town after town after town.”

Buying renewable energy credits encourages development of power sources such as wind and solar, she said. The next step is for more cities to buy renewable energy directly, which will help create jobs in Illinois while benefiting the environment, Chatterjee said.

Last year, Chicago officials announced that 5 percent of electricity used by city residents and small businesses who participate in aggregation was supplied by Illinois wind farms and said they will consider increasing that percentage when the current contract ends.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said the report’s findings could be a model for other states considering allowing community aggregation.

“Illinois is showing what can happen when change at the local level is harnessed to create a collective movement, and I hope other states take notice,” Durbin said.

Courtesy: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140307/NEWS11/140309818/illinois-no-1-in-switching-to-renewable-energy-report