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Wind energy reaches greater heights

November 6, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Wind

Startup’s on-site fabrication process makes taller wind turbines more feasible.

Model of a turbine constructed with Keystone Tower System's spiral tapered welding process Photo courtesy of Keystone Tower Systems Wind energy reaches greater heights

Model of a turbine constructed with Keystone Tower System’s spiral tapered welding process
Photo courtesy of Keystone Tower Systems
Wind energy reaches greater heights

Rob Matheson, MIT News Office

Wind turbines across the globe are being made taller to capture more energy from the stronger winds that blow at greater heights.

But it’s not easy, or sometimes even economically feasible, to build taller towers, with shipping constraints on tower diameters and the expense involved in construction.

Now Keystone Tower Systems — co-founded by Eric Smith ’01, SM ’07, Rosalind Takata ’00, SM ’06, and Alexander Slocum, the Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT — is developing a novel system that adapts a traditional pipe-making technology to churn out wind turbines on location, at wind farms, making taller towers more economically feasible.

Keystone’s system is a modification of spiral welding, a process that’s been used for decades to make large pipes. In that process, steel sheets are fed into one side of a machine, where they’re continuously rolled into a spiral, while their edges are welded together to create a pipe — sort of like a massive paper-towel tube.

Developed by Smith, Takata, and Slocum — along with a team of engineers, including Daniel Bridgers SM ’12 and Dan Ainge ’12 — Keystone’s system allows the steel rolls to be tapered and made of varying thickness, to create a conical tower. The system is highly automated — using about one-tenth the labor of traditional construction — and uses steel to make the whole tower, instead of concrete. “This makes it much more cost-effective to build much taller towers,” says Smith, Keystone’s CEO.

With Keystone’s onsite fabrication, Smith says, manufactures can make towers that reach more than 400 feet. Wind that high can be up to 50 percent stronger and, moreover, isn’t blocked by trees, Smith says. A 460-foot tower, for instance, could increase energy capture by 10 to 50 percent, compared with today’s more common 260-foot towers.

“That’s site-dependent,” Smith adds. “If you go somewhere in the Midwest where there’s open plains, but no trees, you’re going to see a benefit, but it might not be a large benefit. But if you go somewhere with tree cover, like in Maine — because the trees slow down the wind near the ground — you can see a 50 percent increase in energy capture for the same wind turbine.”

Solving transport problems

The Keystone system’s value lies in skirting wind-turbine transportation constraints that have plagued the industry for years. Towers are made in segments to be shipped to wind farms for assembly. But they’re restricted to diameters of about 14 feet, so trucks can safely haul them on highways and under bridges.

This means that in the United States, most towers for 2- or 3-megawatt turbines are limited to about 260 feet. In Europe, taller towers (up to about 460 feet) are becoming common, but these require significant structural or manufacturing compromises: They’re built using very thick steel walls at the base (requiring more than 100 tons of excess steel), or with the lower half of the tower needing more than 1,000 tons of concrete blocks, or pieced together with many steel elements using thousands of bolts.

“If you were to design a 500-foot tower to get strong winds, based on the force exerted on a turbine, you’d want something at least 20 feet in diameter at the base,” Smith explains. “But there’s no way to weld together a tower in a factory that’s 20 feet in diameter and ship it to the wind farm.”

Instead, Keystone delivers its mobile, industrial-sized machine and the trapezoid-shaped sheets of steel needed to feed into the system. Essentially, the sheets are trapezoids of increasing sizes — with the shorter size fed into the machine first, and the longest piece fed in last. (If you laid all the sheets flat, edge-to-edge, they’d form an involute spiral.) Welding their edges assembles the sheets into a conical shape. The machine can make about one tower per day.

Any diameter is possible, Smith says. For 450-foot, 3-megawatt towers, a base 20 feet in diameter will suffice. (Increasing diameters by even a few feet, he says, can make towers almost twice as strong to handle stress.)

Smith compares the process to today’s at-home installation of rain gutters: For that process, professionals drive to a house and feed aluminum coils into one end of a specialized machine that shapes the metal into a seamless gutter. “It’s a better alternative to buying individual sections and bringing them home to assemble,” he says. “Keystone’s system is that, but on a far, far grander scale.”

Behind Keystone

Smith, who studied mechanical engineering and electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, conceived of a tapered spiral-welding process while conducting an independent study on wind-energy issues with Slocum.

Running a consulting company for machine design after graduating from MIT, Smith was vetting startups and technologies in wind energy, and other industries, for investors. As wind energy picked up steam about five years ago, venture capitalists soon funded Smith, Slocum, and other wind-energy experts to study opportunities for cost savings in large, onshore wind turbines.

The team looked, for instance, at developing advanced drivetrain controls and rotor designs. “But out of that study we spotted tower transport as one of the biggest bottlenecks holding back the industry,” Smith says.

With Slocum’s help, Smith worked out how to manipulate spiral-welding machines to make tapered tubes and, soon thereafter, along with Slocum, designed a small-scale, patented machine funded by a $1 million Department of Energy grant. In 2010, Smith and Slocum launched Keystone with Rosalind Takata ’01, SM ’06 to further develop the system in Somerville, Mass. The company has since relocated its headquarters to Denver.

In launching Keystone, Smith gives some credit to MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service (VMS), which advised the startup’s co-founders on everything from early company formation to scaling up the business. Smith still keeps in touch with VMS for advice on overcoming common commercialization roadblocks, such as obtaining and maintaining customers.

“It’s been extremely valuable,” he says of VMS. “There are many different topics that come up when you’re founding an early-stage company, and it’s good to have advisors who’ve seen it all before.”

Opening up the country

Keystone is now conducting structural validation of towers created by its system in collaboration with structural engineers at Northeastern University and Johns Hopkins University. For the past year, the startup’s been working toward deploying a small-scale prototype (about six stories high) at the MIT-owned Bates Linear Accelerator Center in Middleton, Mass., by early 2015.

But last month, Keystone received another $1 million DOE grant to design the full mobile operation. Now, the company is working with the Danish wind-turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems, and other turbine makers, to plan out full-scale production, and is raising investments to construct the first commercial scale machine.

Although their first stops may be Germany and Sweden — where taller wind towers are built more frequently, but using more expensive traditional methods — Smith says he hopes to sell the system in the United States, where shorter towers (around 260 feet) are still the norm.

The earliest adopters in the United States, he says, would probably be areas where there is strong wind, but also dense tree cover. In Maine, for example, there’s only a small percentage of the state where wind power is economically feasible today, because trees block wind from the state’s shorter turbines. In the Midwest, wind energy has already reached grid-parity, undercutting even today’s low-cost natural gas — but in areas like New England and the Southeast, taller towers are needed to reach the strong winds that make wind energy economically feasible.

“Once you’re at the heights we’re looking at,” Smith says, “it really opens up the whole country for turbines to capture large amounts of energy.”

This article is an EV News Report repost, credit: MIT.

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Largest Utility Energy Storage Purchase in History Announced in California

November 5, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Large Energy Storage

Southern California Edison Names Suppliers for 261 MW of Energy Storage Projects Comprising Multiple Applications, Technologies and Services

California Governor Brown Photo courtesy of State of California. Largest Utility Energy Storage Purchase in History Announced in California

California Governor Brown
Photo courtesy of State of California.
Largest Utility Energy Storage Purchase in History Announced in California

November 5, 2014 – Southern California Edison (SCE) today announced the selected suppliers and projects for the largest grid-connected energy storage purchase in U.S. history – more than five times greater than the utility’s minimum energy storage procurement authorization of 50 MW, per California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ruling. Pending approval of the projects by the CPUC, SCE will purchase 261 MW of energy storage resources.

The California Energy Storage Alliance (CESA), a membership-based advocacy group committed to advancing the role of energy storage in the electric power sector, hailed the decision as another significant step in the commercialization of storage on the power grid – and California’s leading role in that power market transition.

“This is a monumental decision – arrived at after a team of SCE experts studied more than 1,800 offers for various storage solutions, as well as other preferred resources and traditional generation,” said Janice Lin, Executive Director of CESA. “The fact that SCE far exceeded the minimum amount of energy storage they were ordered to purchase after comparing multiple solutions head to head, demonstrates that energy storage can be competitive with other preferred resources on both performance and value, and that it’s now an integral part of the utility planning tool kit in California.”

This procurement effort also marks the first time SCE has contracted with energy storage projects through a competitive solicitation. Once deployed, the systems will provide a number of services to SCE’s power grid, including ensuring adequate available electrical capacity to meet peak demand.

The companies named to provide storage systems and the amounts are:
• NRG Energy        0.5 MW

• Ice Energy Holdings, Inc.    25.6 MW

• Advanced Microgrid Solutions    50.0 MW

• Stem       85.0 MW

• AES Energy Storage  100.0 MW

“This solicitation is the first time that such a wide range of new diverse resources were directly competing in the purchasing process,” said Colin Cushnie, SCE vice president, Energy Procurement & Management. “No single energy source can give us everything we need all of the time, particularly with our emphasis to use environmentally clean resources. To provide for flexibility, we need to accommodate a mix of energy resources.”

California utilities leading the way With clear leadership and momentum, California utilities are proving the value of energy storage in various applications from transmission-connected to customer-sited systems. There are currently 112 operational energy storage projects in California, according the U.S. Department of Energy’s Global Energy Storage Database (

The progressive clean energy policies of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) have helped make the state a global leader in energy storage, with substantial progress achieved since its 2013 decision ordering SCE’s storage procurement. The state is currently focused on implementing AB 2514, which requires investor-owned utilities to procure 1.325 GW of energy storage by 2020. AB 2514 also required California’s Publicly Owned Utilities to evaluate procurement targets for energy storage. In October, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) released a plan to procure 178 MW of energy storage capacity by 2021.

The California Energy Storage Alliance (CESA) has been an active stakeholder in the legislative, rulemaking, and implementation process in the state. CESA represents more than 85 organizations dedicated to making energy storage a mainstream resource that will enable a cleaner, more efficient and reliable electric power system. All five of the SCE storage project winners are CESA members.

About the California Energy Storage Alliance 

CESA is a membership-based advocacy group committed to advancing the role of energy storage in the electric power sector through policy, education, outreach, and research. It was founded in 2009 by Janice Lin, Managing Partner of Strategen Consulting, and Don Liddell, Principal of Douglass & Liddell. (

This article is an EV News Report repost, credit: CESA.

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UK official figures show outstanding October for wind energy

November 5, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Wind

UK official figures show outstanding October for wind energy  Image courtesy of CIA

UK official figures show outstanding October for wind energy
Image courtesy of CIA

By RenewableUK

New figures from the National Grid for October show that wind power smashed more energy generation records, contributing even more to the UK’s clean electricity mix.

Wind energy hit a record high providing a 24% daily share of the UK’s electricity needs on the 20th October, beating the previous record of 22% set in August. Wind energy’s share of the monthly electricity mix was also 12.3%, which easily beat last October’s share of 8%, and comes very close to the December record of 13%.

The new peak ‘half-hour’ record was also repeatedly broken. At the start of October the record high was 7,920 megawatts. This was broken over a number of days and now stands at an astonishing high of 8,100MW, enough to power 17 million homes at the time of generation.

In addition, the official statistics show that wind power generated more than nuclear for 11 full days over October, with the longest period being between the 17th – 24th.

RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs, Jennifer Webber, said: “These figures shine a light on the full extent of wind’s powerful performance over October; to beat nuclear for seven days straight, and 11 days overall in a month, is unprecedented. We saw August set new records for generation and October has followed hot on its heels”.


1. National Grid statistics provided by independent data analysts EnAppSys This includes National Grid estimates for embedded wind (turbines feeding into local networks).

2. In October, wind generated an average of 4208MW (12.3%) compared with 10982MW for coal (32.2%), 5152MW for nuclear (15.1%), 10355MW for CCGT (30.4%).

3. Wind beat nuclear on the following full days: 18th-23rd, 25th-28th and the 31st October. The longest period was between 6pm on the 17th to 3am on the 24th.

4. The record for wind energy’s monthly share of the fuel mix is 13%, set in December 2013.

This article is an EV News Report repost, credit: RenewableUK.

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Hawaiian Electric announces plans for approval of pending solar applications

November 5, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

Solar Inverter  Image courtesy of HiQ Hawaiian Electric announces plans for approval of pending solar applications

Solar Inverter
Image courtesy of HiQ
Hawaiian Electric announces plans for approval of pending solar applications

HONOLULU – The Hawaiian Electric Companies have announced a plan to clear the backlog of customers awaiting approval to interconnect their rooftop solar systems in neighborhoods with high amounts of solar already installed.

“We have been working diligently with inverter manufacturers, other national technical experts, and the solar industry to address potential safety and reliability issues which no other utility in the nation has yet faced,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of customer service. “Applying results of recent inverter testing, over the next five months we expect that we’ll be able to approve almost all of the customers who have been waiting for interconnection on these high solar circuits.”

“We again apologize for the long and frustrating delay they’ve experienced,” said Alberts.

Under the plan, by April 2015 customers currently awaiting interconnection under the net energy metering program to neighborhood circuits with high levels of installed PV (PV capacity over 120 percent of daytime minimum load) will be approved for interconnection after meeting the following conditions:

  1. Their PV systems must use inverter models that meet stricter settings for preventing transient overvoltage, or rapid voltage spikes, that can endanger customers, their appliances and utility equipment.Some inverter models are now being tested. Other models may be certified as meeting the new requirements using tests approved by the Hawaiian Electric Companies. Testing protocols are being provided to inverter manufacturers.
  2. Their PV systems must use inverter models capable of complying with Hawaiian Electric specifications to “ride through” possible unstable frequency and voltage conditions during emergencies on the island-wide electric grid.Once inverter models have been certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), customers and their solar contractors or inverter manufacturers must reset inverters to these new settings. In the meantime, they must use recently approved interim settings.

In some cases, the normal technical review process may identify other issues for which more significant equipment upgrades may be needed. About 250 applications may be in this category, but it is anticipated they will be approved for interconnection no later than December 2015.

The above actions are based on favorable results from initial inverter testing. The Hawaiian Electric Companies will consider the final testing results and evaluate the applicability of these solutions for future customers who apply for interconnection.

Year to date, the Hawaiian Electric Companies have approved about 7,500 applications from customers to interconnect their rooftop solar systems to the grid. As of October 2014, the list of applications in progress for Oahu includes approximately:

  1. 1,100 customers seeking interconnection on circuits with installed PV equal to or less than 120% of the daytime minimum load. These applications are moving through the normal process and are likely to receive prompt approvals. In this category, new applications come in and, after review, approvals are sent out on an ongoing basis.
  2. About 1,000 customers are awaiting completion of upgrades to substations or other modifications to their own systems and will soon receive approvals.
  3. 2,700 customers are on circuits over 120% daytime minimum load. These will be approved over the coming months as this plan is implemented.

Similar approval plans will go into effect for Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light with each company having about 330 customers awaiting approvals on circuits with high amounts of installed PV.

Beyond these solutions for customers already awaiting rooftop solar interconnection approval, the companies are working on a range of other customer options, such as a non-export model incorporating battery storage and a community solar program, that will support a tripling of customer-sited solar in coming years. The companies’ have submitted a Distributed Generation Interconnection Plan and Integrated Interconnection Queue Proposal for review to the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission.

Across the three Hawaiian Electric Companies, more than 48,000 customers have rooftop solar. As of September 2014, about 11% of Hawaiian Electric customers, 10% of Maui Electric customers and 8 percent of Hawaii Electric Light customers have rooftop solar. This compares to a national average of one-half of one percent (0.5%) as of December 2013, according to the Solar Electric Power Association.

This article (11-3-14) is an EV News Report repost, credit: Hawaiian Electric.

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Bombardier and CSR Puzhen Announce Joint Venture

November 5, 2014 in China, Electric Vehicles, EV News, Light Rail

Image courtesy of Bombardier Bombardier and CSR Puzhen Announce Joint Venture

Image courtesy of Bombardier
Bombardier and CSR Puzhen Announce Joint Venture

Monorail and Automated People Mover Projects

Rail technology leader Bombardier Transportation and CSR Nanjing Puzhen Co. Ltd (CSR Puzhen), two of the world’s largest rail suppliers, have signed an agreement to create a joint venture to develop and manufacture INNOVIA vehicles for urban and airport transit systems.

Rapid urbanization and an increase in air travel have created a fast growing market for urban feeder systems and airport transit solutions in China.

Pierre Attendu, President, Systems division at Bombardier Transportation said: “This agreement demonstrates the firm commitment of both parties to develop a long-term industrial partnership that addresses China’s urgent need for urban and airport transportation.”

Jianwei Zhang, President of Bombardier China said: “We are proud to continue to take an active role in the future of China’s rail industry with CSR Puzhen. Together, we will offer cost-effective, medium-capacity INNOVIA transit solutions that can help China’s cities to meet their public transportation needs efficiently and sustainably.”

Bombardier is a global leader in the turnkey transit system segment. Bombardier’s proven INNOVIA APM technology is in operation at 25 locations across the globe, including an urban system in Guangzhou, China as well as at the world’s three busiest airports; Atlanta in the USA, Beijing in China and London Heathrow in the United Kingdom. The new generation INNOVIA Monorail 300 system is the most advanced and desirable monorail system on the market and is currently being delivered in São Paulo, Brazil and for the new King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

About Bombardier in China

Bombardier is actively involved in China’s development of urban mass transit and advanced railway networks. With four joint ventures and seven Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises (WFOE), Bombardier Transportation employs more than 4,000 people in China. Across its rail transportation and aerospace businesses, Bombardier has manufacturing facilities in Qingdao, Changzhou, Suzhou, Shanghai and Changchun, as well as offices in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang and Hong Kong.

About Bombardier Transportation

Bombardier Transportation, a global leader in rail technology, offers the broadest portfolio in the rail industry and delivers innovative products and services that set new standards in sustainable mobility. BOMBARDIER ECO4 technologies – built on the four cornerstones of energy, efficiency, economy and ecology – conserve energy, protect the environment and help to improve total train performance for operators and passengers. Bombardier Transportation is headquartered in Berlin, Germany, and has a very diverse customer base with products or services in more than 60 countries. It has an installed base of over 100,000 vehicles worldwide.

This article is an EV News Report repost, credit: Bombardier.