Bill Carswell in front of his UAH lab

Think Tank for Sustainable Energy Startups at UAH

“Alternative energy is the Internet of twenty years ago – It’s in its infant stage. We just have to create the pathways to make it grow and be available to everyone.” – Bill Carswell

Bill Carswell’s career has taken plenty of interesting twists and turns: he’s been involved in space research with NASA, border security around the world, and project management education at Emery Riddle. Before all else, Bill is a Scientist. He’s currently the Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the Executive Director of the Energy Huntsville Initiative.

Lab for Sustainable Energy Research at UAH

WHY ENERGY?

  • Renewable Energy is socially relevant.
  • Renewable Energy is technically challenging.
  • Renewable Energy is heavily funded.

WHY NOW?

“There’s a large cottage industry of startups trying to tap into this energy revolution that’s going on and the problem with energy is its really expensive. You can’t just start a garage business with an app – I mean, this stuff is expensive! I’m putting together a resource that entrepreneurs can use so they don’t have to buy all the energy infrastructure. They can just focus on the element they want to build a product or a business around.”

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Entrepreneurs creating sustainable products can borrow Bill’s lab, complete with equipment and resources – solar panels, generators, high-tech batteries, smart meters, and business automation system. Startups have access to Bill’s extensive network of experts from UAH, ALCSE, and Energy Huntsville. The scientist himself is available for questioning too. Test your product in the safety of the lab over the course of one year (seasons make a difference) to get ready for market. Finally, pitch the finished product to the company or military institution that will buy it.

Bill’s laboratory is a veritable mecca for mad scientists and mad-scientist wannabes.

An initial survey of the tiny fenced-off area tucked behind UAH’s NPR radio station reveals uneven terrain, faded signs, and decades-old solar panels. But don’t let the humble façade fool you; inside this little building is Bill’s energy lab, and it’s brimming with scientific discovery.

Let’s go see what’s happening……

Project: Commercial Building Automation System

Key Players: Johnson Controls, Dynetics, Huntsville Utilities, Aerojet, ALCSE

Purpose: Monitor a building’s energy use & move to backup source during peaks

building automation system

batteries

Project: Hybrid Generator & Battery System

Key Players: Aviation Research Developing & Engineering Center (AMRDEC), UAH Systems Engineers, Aerojet

Purpose: Use electricity generated from diesel fuel and generators as efficiently as possible.

(Batteries, load bank (building simulator) and graduated cylinder to measure fuel consumption with the generator.)

Project: Phase Change Solar Thermal Water Heater

Key Players: Aviation Research Developing & Engineering Center (AMRDEC), King Energy

Purpose: Find economical way to keep water heated longer

IMG_2125

e1c27182-8880-4f7f-abd5-26cf90a71a66

..Not a smart meter, but they’re some pretty sexy batteries…

Project: (Coming soon!) Smart Meter Student Penetration Contest

Key Players: UAH Cybersecurity Research Lab, ALCSE, Huntsville Utilities

Purpose: Protect smart energy from computer fraud

Project: (Coming soon!) Mobile Sustainability Demonstration Lab

Key Players: ALCSE and Others….

Purpose: Teach sustainable practice to community & train workers.

genearator

Drawings of a mad scientist, generator modified for laboratory use, and a generator efficiency curve developed from research

Have a sustainable product you need help with? Contact:

Bill Carswell, Ph.D.
256.679.2276
bill.carswell@energyhuntsville.com
www.energyhuntsville.com

 

Net Zero House

TVA’s Distributed Generation Integrated Value Report – What It Means

In October, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) released its Distributed Generation Integrated Value Report (DG-IV). Sounds great right? But what does it actually mean?

Why was this study done?

Good question and we’re glad you asked. TVA has operated a variety of distributed energy programs, mainly for solar, for the last few years. You may have heard of Green Power Providers or Generation Partners. Regardless, this study was completed to attempt an answer for one simple question.

How much money is distributed energy worth to TVA?

This question was brought to light because of three main factors, although many more exist.

  1. Solar, along with many other distributed generation technologies, has become much cheaper.
  2. TVA has traditionally paid above retail rate for distributed energy whereas many utilities pay retail or below.
  3. The market has repeatedly complained about TVA’s program structure. Why? Most solar companies express frustration at the low and arbitrary caps places on distributed energy which leads to the program only being open for a short amount of time. It’s hard to build a business, no matter how great the incentives, when you can only work for a few months a year.

What does this study say?

This study basically concludes that distributed energy, specifically solar, is worth 7.2 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) to TVA. Average retail rates in the TVA territory are about 10 cents per kWh and TVA is currently paying 10 cents per kWh.

So…

The study implies that solar is worth well less than what TVA currently pays for it. Almost 30% less.

How is that possible?

The best question you’ve asked! 7.2 cents per kWh doesn’t really tell the whole story. As you might imagine, there are a variety of things that must be factored in order to determine what solar or any other distributed generation is worth.

And here’s where the fun comes!

As they say, the devil is in the details.

What was factored in the 7.2 cents per kWh?

  • Not building new power plants
    • Ex. Not having to build a new natural gas plant or its related maintenance
  • Not having to buy fuel
    • Ex. If sun is available the fuel is free which offsets the amount of natural gas that must be purchased at that point in time.
  • Not paying environmental fees
    • Ex. Avoiding the need to purchase new scrubbers for a plant because energy is coming from a cleaner source.
    • Ex. Selling renewable energy credits on the open market
  • Fewer power lines
    • Ex. When energy production is placed near the site of consumption, less power lines are needed to carry large amount of power from one place to another.
  • Not losing energy during transmission
    • Ex. When energy is transmitted over long distances some of the energy is lost. However when energy production is places near the site of consumption there is less opportunity to lose energy.

What are some things that weren’t factored in the 7.2 cents per kWh?

  • Economic development
    • Ex. The benefits brought to TVA to and the regional economy from a thriving solar market. Increased market activity increased the demand for energy.
  • Customer satisfaction
    • Ex. The value of happy customers who prefer cleaner sources of energy.
  • Security enhancement
    • Ex. The value of reducing power outages due to backup sources placed throughout the Tennessee Valley.
  • Disaster recovery
    • Ex. The value of restoring power quicker due to the flexibility of distributed energy resources.
  • Carbon emissions
    • Ex. The value of cleaner sources of electricity should a cost on carbon emissions be adopted nationally.

Summing it all up

There are ton of ways to slice and dice this report as well as the methodology. Most simply, it’s a good start. But just a start. By leaving out so many possible value streams of distributed energy, solar is getting short changed. However this report is only a first step in determining a fair market value for distributed energy 24/7/365. Additional work will be needed to understand and compensate solar, and other distributed energy sources, for the full value they bring to TVA.

Also don’t forget that you don’t need to connect to TVA’s grid to go solar. You can self consume! And as battery technology continues to get cheaper, you may be able to start storing as well.

Go solar. Get a free solar survey.

To read the full DG-IV report for yourself, please visit: https://www.tva.gov/file_source/TVA/Site%20Content/Energy/Renewables/dgiv_document_october_2015-2.pdf

 

 

Boeing Provides $15K Grant to Alabama Sustainable Energy Group

An educational program of the Alabama Center for Sustainable Energy has received a major boost from the Boeing Company.

CEO Daniel Tait said his nonprofit organization’s hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program for Madison County students is the recipient of a $15,000 award from Boeing. The Energy Sustainability for Tomorrow initiative is a kit-based project aligned with College and Career Ready Standards that educates students of all ages about sustainable energy concepts.

To continue reading the full article, please visit: http://www.al.com/business/index.ssf/2016/01/boeing_provides_15k_grant_to_a.html#incart_river_index