$200 million in orders for Premium Power?

Okay, so I’m sitting in a hotel meeting room listening to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. talk to members of Ontario’s Electricity Distributors Association and the high-profile environmental lawyer mentions that he’s on the advisory board of venture capital firm VantagePoint Venture Partners. That’s pretty cool, I thought. He talks about some of VantagePoint’s investments, including electric-car champion Better Place, solar-thermal power provider BrightSource, and energy storage company Premium Power. He then zeroes in on Massachusetts-based Premium Power and its zinc-bromide flow battery technology, which is touted as a fully recyclable/disposable, non-toxic battery based on zinc and salt water. The battery has three times the energy density of lead-acid, is cheaper, and has an operating life of 30 years with virtually unlimited ability to cycle. “It’s cheaper than using pump storage,” Kennedy claims, emphasizing that this technology can affordably store renewable energy like wind and solar power today — we don’t have to wait for future breakthroughs. Continue reading $200 million in orders for Premium Power?

There’s no Christmas for EEStor this year… maybe 2009

EEStor is citing funding problems to explain what is likely to be another delay of its allegedly disruptive energy storage technology. At least that’s what you can read over at the GM-Volt site, which has posted a dispatch from EEStor CEO Dick Weir about the likely timing now of commercial production of the company’s Electrical Energy Storage Units. “The funding that we did receive was not sufficient to meet the production status late in 2008,” Weir wrote. Continue reading There’s no Christmas for EEStor this year… maybe 2009

Small wind system tackles big issues

As I’ve said before, the market for small wind turbines doesn’t get much respect on the larger renewable-energy stage, and that’s probably because many of the products out there don’t live up to their claims. I’ve seen a dozen or so newcomers hoping to corner the small-wind market with their vertical-axis wind turbine models but so far nothing major ever comes of their efforts. Part of the problem with small wind is that you typically need to erect a standalone pole — separate from any residential structure — because the turbines cause very annoying, and over time destructive, vibrations. The pole itself adds extra cost and is unsightly if you’re planning it for any suburban or urban area, so these systems only end up at cottages and other rural dwellings where there’s lots of space and neighbours can’t complain. Continue reading Small wind system tackles big issues

Hybrid heating systems make sense for some

My Clean Break column today takes a look at Vancouver-based Sempa Power Systems, which helps large energy customers reduce their bill and lower greenhouse-gas emissions by dynamically switching their heating requirements between fossil fuels (mostly natural gas) and electricity. Now, you might be saying to yourself: this makes no sense because electricity is too inefficient for space and water heating.  True, but in certain jurisdictions off-peak electricity tends to be zero- or low-emission (i.e. nuclear, wind, hydroelectric) and wholesale prices can drop dramatically as power generators look for ways to offload what is often baseload power that can’t be easily turned down. What Sempa will do is install an electric boiler at, say, a hotel or university residence, and use its proprietary software to switch to electric mode when the wholesale price of power drops below the price of the fossil fuel being used, whether that be natural gas, oil or propane. Continue reading Hybrid heating systems make sense for some