solar news roundup

Solar news: week of June 29th, 2018

In this week’s Solar News Roundup, Bill Gates’ energy fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures is in discussions with Alphabet to fund a new energy storage project, plus Massachusetts joins the growing list of states looking to set the bar at 100% renewable energy.

Google’s parent company Alphabet is in discussions with Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures to fund a molten-salt storage project

Alphabet is currently in discussions with Breakthrough Energy Ventures to expand on an innovative energy storage project, known under its code-name Project Malta.

This project is aimed towards storing thermal energy in tanks made of molten salt. The thermal energy would start in the form of renewable electricity primarily generated by wind turbines and solar panels. This electricity would then be converted into thermal energy prior to being stored in the molten salt tank. Robert Laughlin, who previously won a Nobel Prize, is leading Project Malta’s efforts.

It has not been confirmed whether or not the deal has been finalized. Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the potential funder, is a $1 billion fund committed to investing in renewable energy technologies and other initiatives to combat climate change. The fund is spearheaded by Bill Gates, and also includes other notable investors like Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, and Marc Benioff.

Long-term storage of energy has been an ongoing barrier for the wide-scale use of renewable energy technologies. If successful, this type of energy storage will likely be less expensive and more effective at storing renewable energy for long periods of time than current storage technology. It’s a big challenge that Project Malta, with the help of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, hopes to take on.

Massachusetts Senate approves energy bills to spur renewable energy growth

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Senate approved a package of progressive energy mandates in bill S.2545. Titled “An Act to promote a clean energy future,” this bill included a number of measures directed towards growing the solar energy industry, such as including removing Massachusetts’ net metering cap and setting a 100% renewable energy mandate by 2047.

In addition to setting new targets for renewable energy use in the state, S. 2545 also puts additional limitations on the types of demand charges that utility companies can charge their customers. If passed, this would negate the Eversource demand charges set to be put in place for new solar customers at the start of 2019.

Another component of the bill sets an ambitious storage procurement target for the Bay State. Governor Charlie Baker has previously approved a bill to reach 200 MWh of storage by 2020, whereas bill S. 2545 looks to increase that capacity to 2 GW by 2025.

The bill is far from final approval. Prior to being signed by the Governor, S. 2545 has to go through the Massachusetts House and be reconciled with other energy legislative measures. If passed into law, this bill would go down as one of the most forward-looking renewable energy policies in the U.S.