Toward a More Stable Grid: New Technological Solutions for an Old Problem

By: Matthew Hoff For power providers, grid stabilization has been a rising concern in recent years, especially because of the increasing use of intermittent energy sources such as wind turbines. Maintaining a stabilized energy grid is difficult because of the unpredictability of these intermittent energy sources. If wind turbines, for example, are supplying 5% of the overall power for the electric grid and the turbines stop moving because the air grows still, the grid has to find a way to kick into overdrive to compensate for this sudden decrease in energy. It's not as easy as it sounds....

The Wanxiang Transaction Is Not Necessarily A Permanent Solution For A123’s Problems

John Petersen On Wednesday A123 Systems (AONE) announced the execution of a Non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with the Wanxiang Group that will, if successfully implemented, restore A123 to a sound financial footing. Since the basic deal terms are a good deal more complex than the reports one reads in the mainstream media, I think a drill down into the detail may be helpful for investors who want to understand what a restructured A123 will look like. The critical document for this analysis is the MOU included as Exhibit 99.2 to A123's recent report on Form 8-K. The...

High Conviction Paired Trade – Short Tesla Motors And Buy Exide Technologies, The Sequel

John Petersen Last November I broke with tradition for the first time in over 30 years and suggested a paired trade that bought Exide Technologies (XIDE) and shorted Tesla Motors (TSLA). Over the following three months, investors who made the trade and bought four Exide shares while shorting one Tesla share pocketed the following gains. 16-Nov-2010 16-Feb 2011 Net Entry Exit Gain Buy Four Exide -$29.76 $49.68 $19.92 Short One Tesla $30.80 ...

Money Is Flowing Into Alt Energy Again, But We Are Not Out Of The...

Charles MorandIt seems as though the darkest clouds are finally dissipating over alt energy's financing horizon. Over the past few weeks, money has started flowing into the sector again, as evidenced by a number of recent deal announcements: On June 9, I reported on the upcoming IPO for Magma Energy Corp., a geothermal exploration company. The IPO's size will be upped from an initial C$50 MM to C$100 MM, a sign of increased market appetite  SunPower Corp. raised $418 MM in early May through a share and debt offering, and recently announced it had reached a $100...

Shares in Altair Nanotechnologies Purchased

I purchased shares in Altair Nanomaterials (ALTI) this morning for both my personal portfolio and also the mutual fund. ALTI is a holding company that specializes in nanomaterials and also contains a life sciences division. The materials company has research in high performance batteries, fuel cells, and photovoltaics. Altair announced earnings today and the stock is up on the morning trading. Revenue Increases 68 Percent for Third Quarter and 230 Percent for Nine-Month Period "An increase in revenue of 230 percent for the first three quarters of 2005 is representative of the significant progress Altair has...

GE’s Energy Storage Restart

by Debra Fiakas CFA A few years ago General Electric (GE:  NYSE) built out a manufacturing facility in Schenectady, New York for its sodium-ion batteries.  CEO Jeff Immelt declared the company a contender in the energy storage industry.  He projected that the company could ring up $500 million in annual sales by 2016, and build to $1 billion a year by 2020 by providing energy storage to utility-scale alternative energy projects.  Reality has been a bit different than Immelt's vision.  GE ended up shuttering the plant in the Fall 2014, and all but fifty employees were...

SatCon Receives a Follow-on Order For a Second Rotary Uninterruptible Power Supply from NIST

SatCon Technology Corporation (SATC) announced that it has received a follow-on purchase order for a second 2200 kVA Rotary Uninterruptible Power Supply (RUPS) on a government contract valued in excess of $1.1 million. SatCon's StarSine(TM) Rotary UPS is designed to provide both high quality electrical power during normal operation, as well as prevent any interruption of electricity to critical manufacturing processes, telecommunication centers, data centers, and healthcare facilities in the event of power grid failures such as black-outs and brown-outs. The RUPS is connected directly to SatCon's patented flywheel for short duration power disturbances and is integrated...

EESAT And Energy Storage Opportunities On The Smart Grid

John Petersen Last week I appeared as a luncheon speaker at EESAT 2009, a biennial international technical conference sponsored by the DOE, Sandia National Laboratories and the Electricity Storage Association that focuses on storage technologies for utility applications. The conference included dozens of high-level technical presentations from storage technology developers and was far and away the best-organized event I've ever attended. The only notable absence was a large contingent of buyers, which left some participants wondering whether they were preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, I was encouraged by rapid growth in the number and size of utility-scale demonstration...

Why Energy Storage Investors Must Understand Newton’s Laws

John Petersen Vinod Khosla, the founder of Sun Microsystems and an icon of cleantech venture capital investing, is famous for bluntly telling audiences that "Economics matters, NOTHING that defies the law of economic gravity can scale." This principle is a simple yet self-evident adaptation of Newton's law gravitation to the human condition. An equally self-evident characteristic of the human condition is explained by Newton's laws of motion, which state: First, that a body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion with a constant velocity, unless acted upon...

ETS Interview: The Will the Real Transportation Fuel of the Future Step Forward

For macro reasons, I think that the next generation liquid fuels may be cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel or renewable diesel from algae.  But those fuels will increasingly be sharing the roads with the long term transportation fuel of the future: electricity from renewable sources, especially wind.  Wind will be important for electric transportation and electric transportation will be important for wind because, when you're already going to be charging batteries, you may as well do it when the electricity is cheap, which will be when the wind is blowing..   Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) neatly solve the main barrier...

Storm Warnings For Lithium-ion Batteries and Electric Vehicles

John Petersen Before moving to Switzerland in 1998 I lived and worked in Houston, Texas, a place that teaches you the importance of keeping an eye on long-term weather forecasts, particularly during hurricane season. Most of the time it turns out to be wasted effort because Mother Nature is fickle and highly unpredictable, but when it's important it's really important. The same logic holds for investments in energy storage and electric vehicle technologies. You have to keep a close eye on the industrial and regulatory climate and be ready to change your plans when conditions change. For...

Are Energy Storage Investors Chasing Their Tails?

John Petersen I didn't learn about normal bell shaped curves in kindergarten but I developed a pretty solid understanding of the concept by the second or third grade because at report-card time A's were worth a quarter, B's were worth a dime and C's had no value at all. By the time I reached college I was chasing the right hand tail of the bell curve on my own initiative. Law school and the competitive nature of my profession merely pushed my drive for the right hand tail up a notch. Old habits die hard, so I...

Lithium-ion Battery Stocks: Investment Opportunities or Subsidized Laggards?

John Petersen I'm often critical of public lithium-ion battery manufacturers based on objective investment metrics including their financial condition, their results of operations, their potential markets and the fundamental soundness of their business plans, but I don't usually drill down into thornier issues like technical merit and business execution because those questions are out of my depth and in the words of Harry Callahan, "A man's got to know his limitations." Every once in a while, however, organizations that are competent to evaluate those issues publish analytical reports that can help investors cut through the hype...

Lithium Technology Corporation (LTHU.PK)

Quite a while ago, I promised readers that  I'd write an article looking into Lithium Technology Corporation (LTHU.PK,) in addition to articles I've already written on US Geothermal (HTM) and Evergreen Solar (ESLR)  Lithium Tech is a provider of custom lithium rechargeable batteries for military, national security, stationary power, and transportation applications.  Investors hoping for the big score probably have their eyes on the transportation applications, which should drive demand for lithium-ion batteries over the next decade.  That's all wonderful, but since August, we've had a financial meltdown, prompting me to focus much more on companies' need to raise...

VRB Power Announces Shipment of First 10kWh VRB-ESS

VRB Power Systems (VRB.V) has completed the assembly and has commissioned the 30kW x 2 hour system for the South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG). This system will be used for back-up power and to provide power quality enhancement for a tactical radar system in the event of grid disruption. The SCANG VRB-ESS will also be evaluated for widespread adoption in other military applications. This unit is awaiting final delivery instructions from the customer and is expected to ship shortly. Tim Hennessy, CEO of VRB Power said "This is an important milestone for VRB Power. The delivery of...

Bernstein and Ricardo Report: Cheap Will Beat Cool in Vehicle Electrification

John Petersen On September 26, 2011, Bernstein Research and Ricardo plc published a 450 page analytical report titled, "Global Autos: Don't Believe the Hype – Analyzing the Costs & Potential of Fuel-Efficient Technology," which combines best in class securities research from Bernstein with the deep automotive expertise of Ricardo, a global leader in engineering, product innovation and strategic consulting. The result is the most comprehensive, detailed and eminently reasonable forecast of short-, medium- and long-term trends in advanced automotive powertrain technology that I've had the pleasure to read. It's devoid of axe grinding or cheer-leading and...