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High winds, a beaming sun, a remote landscape — the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) Flatirons Campus might be a familiar environment to military servicemembers. Here at “Fort Renewable,” down a dirt road from the main research campus, military Quonset huts are dispersed among energy assets like solar photovoltaics and battery storage.

Compared to a real military base, the Fort Renewable setup is not so much forward-operating as forward-thinking, with its own critical mission: to design high-renewable systems for secure applications. With unique cyber and physical capabilities, NREL’s microgrid research platform is the scene of large-scale grid demonstrations that are helping the military, microgrid, and energy storage industries transition past technical barriers toward extreme renewable integration.

Quonset huts at NREL replicate military microgrid environments so that DOD and partners can reliably evaluate energy security with renewables and battery storage.

Quonset huts at NREL replicate military microgrid environments so that DOD and partners can reliably evaluate energy security with renewables and battery storage.

Quonset huts at NREL replicate military microgrid environments so that DOD and partners can reliably evaluate energy security with renewables and battery storage.

A Competition To Create Quality Microgrids

Microgrids are nothing new to the military, and especially nothing new for NREL–Department of Defense (DOD) collaborations. But as new threats emerge on energy systems — generally cyber and environmental — the DOD is now looking to bolster its backup power with battery storage, in place of a current preference for diesel generators.

“We’ve had military microgrids for 20 years now,” said Brian Miller, a senior NREL researcher and microgrid research lead. “But we didn’t have batteries back then, and very little solar.”

Relying on diesel generators alone could put microgrids at risk. If a true disaster scenario takes down the grid for an extended period, the military’s old diesel generators would not survive multiweek outages.

“Renewables and battery storage have the potential to last longer on fuel supplies and provide important energy diversity,” Miller said.

To discover the best microgrid-storage implementations across its diverse sites, the DOD arranged a unique program that is half competition, half technology accelerator. Under the program, the early-stage companies have been invited to validate their microgrid solutions on progressively more realistic grid systems, and progressively more challenging platforms. This way, companies can quickly gain field experience, DOD can confidently invest in its own microgrid improvements, and the experimental results will be widely available as stakeholder resources.

The project is facilitated through the DOD Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) and therefore inherits the program’s goal of assisting early-stage commercial products past the difficulties of breaking into the market. Each participating company is matched with an industry principal investigator, forming teams of two that apply the commercial concepts to real microgrid operations.

The validations got underway in 2020. While each of the participating teams are ultimately striving to prove their technologies at an actual DOD base, they first must advance through two lower-fidelity trials. These initial validations are taking place at NREL, where energy systems can be emulated to exact similarity under most any scenario.

Building Military Microgrids at a Replica Base

In preparation for the program, NREL refashioned its world-class power systems research platform ARIES into a distributed military microgrid — off-grid as a DOD base might be, but with high-performance experimental assets like weather stations and six-strand fiber optic communication links. At NREL’s Fort Renewable, DOD and participating companies have now been able to truly validate and derisk commercial microgrid systems.

Each team’s microgrid-battery storage solution is tested against emulated power outages, which the microgrid controls must be capable of managing.

Each team’s microgrid-battery storage solution is tested against emulated power outages, which the microgrid controls must be capable of managing.

Phase 1 of the program brought seven teams to NREL, where their microgrid-storage concepts were plugged into virtual systems and analyzed with simulated operations. This first phase validated teams’ technologies on a model military base, testing whether the devices could respond with a baseline level of performance, and filtered the number of participating teams down to four. Phase 1 results are available on the ESTCP website.

Phase 2 of the project raised the bar higher: Teams have submitted their technologies to more rigorous validations on a near-exact approximation of DOD’s Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Patuxent River) — a 34-MW Air Force base in Maryland — replicated right inside NREL.

“Our platform is built such that users can prove their designs for islandable microgrids that are able to provide power in a long-duration emergency at a reasonable cost,” said Miller, who led the development of the military microgrid research platform. “Doing a study is one thing, but you can’t pencil whip whether a power hardware is successful. That’s why these companies come to NREL. If they can leverage our capabilities, it’s huge.”

Miller, himself once a major in the U.S. Air Force, has a career’s worth of energy resilience experience drawn from service overseas and across the United States, and used his background to build out the replica research environment.

The research platform involves about 250 kW of hardware, which is variously swapped with teams’ technologies — everything from microgrid switches and controllers to batteries. The teams rely on NREL for the rest of the microgrid environment: power and grid emulators, SCADA networks, switchgear, load banks, renewable resources, and a replica of the NAS Patuxent River grid.

And that covers just the hardware. The full platform crosses nearly every lab space in NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility and connects out to the Flatirons assets miles away. An integrated Cyber-Energy Emulation Platform (CEEP) digitally emulates communications and controls for the microgrids, while a vast sensor network simultaneously collects power data at all points throughout the microgrid and visualizes interactive metrics in real time. All told, the military microgrid research platform is as close to real as the teams will experience until Phase 3.

Microgrid Lessons for a Larger Grid

Each team has a different approach to microgrid-storage solutions: One is using redox-flow batteries, others bring their own microgrid controllers, and another is validating lithium iron phosphate battery storage. As of Phase 2, the participating teams are led by Ameresco, the Energy Power Research Institute, Raytheon, and SRI and Arizona State University. Cummins, which helped NREL build out the military microgrid research platform and contributed its microgrid controller to the design, has also thrown its hat into the program. NREL could not resist entering the action as well.

The teams have an important stake in the program — successful validations could carry their products from relative obscurity to energy markets anywhere, with the bonus of being proven in highly demanding applications. But the larger energy industry stands to gain something more: The demonstrations are establishing first-ever data around what works for critical applications of energy storage in microgrids.

“This project is about learning how critical loads can survive disaster and outage scenarios,” said Martha Symko-Davies, laboratory program manager of the ESIF. “We’re not validating microgrids for the military only; we want to do this for the whole country. Future campuses and microgrid systems will look to this project for examples, and to NREL for microgrid research capabilities that exist nowhere else.”

In this perspective, project teams endure the hardest tests so that future microgrids can better survive worst-case scenarios. NREL validations force difficult decisions that a critical microgrid could encounter, like choosing between multiple critical loads. For participating teams, their early-stage concepts that have scarcely seen commercial applications are up against disasters that any system would hope to never see, but nevertheless must prepare for.

“Some universities maintain billion-dollar inventories of temperature-controlled cell cultures, for example. This is a critical load compared to other buildings on campus, and a functional microgrid should be able to allocate power accordingly,” Miller said.

NREL is advancing distributed grid and microgrid control and optimization solutions through research such as Autonomous Energy Systems and products like OptGrid.

Beyond specific technologies, this ESTCP evaluation program is creating important knowledge for microgrids generally. Networked microgrids are an upcoming approach for accommodating distributed energy while enhancing resilience against future threats. Likewise, the Autonomous Energy Systems portfolio of work is developing microgrid controls for autonomous configuration and operation of connected microgrid systems. In each topic, the ESTCP program is showing what critical microgrid operations look like — the real results of applying renewable energy assets to resilience events.

As the participants move to Phase 3 of the program — installation at one of seven DOD microgrid sites — industry moves one step closer to resilient renewable microgrids. For all the expectations that microgrids and renewables could reliably support critical loads, a new class of commercial players is arriving with the first data to show exactly how.

Article courtesy of NREL.

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Toyota is developing a small bZ electric crossover with… Suzuki?




Toyota is developing a small bZ electric crossover with... Suzuki?

The smallest electric vehicle under Toyota’s “Beyond Zero,” or bZ lineup, is under development. The small bZ electric crossover is reportedly being prepped in collaboration with Suzuki.

Toyota is finally waking up as the auto industry’s shift to electric vehicles heats up. Over the past several months, Toyota has revealed a series of innovations to help it catch up to EV leaders Tesla and BYD.

At a tech workshop in June, Toyota highlighted its next-gen EV batteries, enhanced design methods, and manufacturing upgrades as it aims to boost efficiency.

Toyota plans to launch new electric models with nearly 500 miles (800km) of range using advanced batteries in 2026. Last month, Toyota showed off its future EV production line, including Giga casting tech, self-propelled assembly lines, and robots transporting finished vehicles.

After accelerating its plans, Toyota aims to produce 600,000 EVs in 2025, tripling the 190,000 output expected in 2024.

By 2026, Toyota looks to sell 1.5 million EVs with ten new electric models, including small cars, SUVs, crossovers, luxury, and commercial. With just 0.26% of Toyota and Lexus sales being fully electric last year, the automaker has a big transition ahead.

Toyota bZ compact SUV concept (Source: Toyota)

We got our first look at Toyota’s new compact electric SUV last month in a video teaser posted on social media. Now, we are learning more about an even smaller separate model.

Toyota developing a small electric crossover with Suzuki

According to the Japanese news website Best Car, the small Toyota electric crossover will be jointly developed with Suzuki.

Toyota small bZ electric crossover (Source: Toyota)

Although Suzuki isn’t known by any means as an EV leader, the company has a knack for building small cars.

Earlier this year, Suzuki revealed its first global electric vehicle concept, the eVX. It will show the concept off at the Japan Mobility show alongside a mini eWX wagon EV later this month.

Last year, Toyota and Suzuki deepened their partnership to develop compact electrified vehicles.

Toyota, Suzuki, and Daihatsu electric vans (Source: Toyota)

In May, we got our first look at a new mini-commercial electric van co-developed by Suzuki and Toyota. The companies teamed up to develop a new EV platform for a series of mini electric vans that will be on display at the Japan Auto Show starting October 26.

According to the new report, the small Toyota electric crossover will ride on the e-TNGA platform, the same one used for the bZ4X electric SUV. It’s expected to launch in 2025.

Toyota and Lexus electric concepts (Source: Toyota)

The bZ small crossover was first showcased during a briefing session in December 2021 alongside 15 other EV models, including a pickup, sedan, sports EV, compact cruiser, large SUV, and several other Lexus and Toyota concepts.

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Genesis shares 2024 GV60 pricing, including cheaper RWD trim with ~50 miles more range




Genesis shares 2024 GV60 pricing, including cheaper RWD trim with ~50 miles more range

Genesis USA has just shared pricing and packaging for the 2024 model year of its GV60 SUV. In addition to new standard features, the luxury sub-brand of Hyundai Motor Group has introduced a new rear wheel drive (RWD) that offers nearly 50 miles more range than the 2023 EV models at a significantly lower MSRP.

The GV60 is an all-electric crossover first introduced by Genesis in the summer of 2021 and was really a kicking off point for the luxury automaker on its journey to end all new combustion models by 2025 and be entirely electric by 2030.

In May of 2022, Genesis delivered its very first GV60 to a customer in California, the first state it sold the BEV in. Throughout 2022, we saw Genesis expand the availability of the crossover to new markets in the US, and Electrek’s Seth Weintraub even got a chance to test it out for himself.

This past May, Genesis introduced biometric technology to the GV60 called Face Connect, allowing owners to access and start their BEVs using their face alone without the need for a smartphone or key fob. Today, we learned that Face Connect is one of several features that come standard on some of the new trims of the 2024 GV60 models, in addition to an enticing new RWD variant.

2024 GV60
The 2024 GV60 / Credit: Genesis

Genesis shares 2024 GV60 with better pricing, features

According to details from Genesis USA today, the star of the show for the 2024 GV60 model year appears to be the new RWD variant. Starting at an MSRP of $52,000, this trim features a 168 kW rear motor that offers 294 miles of range (non-EPA).

For comparison, the higher range Advanced AWD trim of the 2023 GV60 offered 248 miles of EPA estimated range. For 2024, the RWD GV60 garners 46 extra miles, or a 19% increase. In addition to the new, more affordable RWD trim, Genesis is introducing a slew of new features that will now come standard on the 2024 GV60 models, including WiFi hotspot capability, Genesis Digital Key 2, Highway Driving Assist II, and Advanced Forward Collision Avoidance-Assist.

The aforementioned Face Connect biometrics also come standard on all 2024 trims. Here’s how the pricing breaks down and how it compares to last year’s GV60 models:

2024 GV60 Trim MSRP* 2023 GV60 Trim MSRP* Price Difference
Standard RWD $52,000 N/A N/A N/A
Advanced AWD $60,550 Advanced AWD $59,290 +$1,260
Performance AWD $69,550 Performance AWD $68,290 +$1,260
* – excludes $1,195 in freight fees

Genesis shared that that the 2024 RWD and Advanced AWD versions of the GV60 are available at select retailers around the US, in the 23 states the automaker currently sells the BEV. The availability of the Performance AWD version will be announced at a later date.

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Virginia is about to get a big 772 MW solar boost




Virginia is about to get a big 772 MW solar boost

Dominion Energy Virginia today proposed more than a dozen new solar projects that will power nearly 200,000 Virginia homes at peak output.

A lot of new solar for Virginia

If the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) approves the proposed solar projects, they’ll generate 772 megawatts (MW) of clean energy for Dominion Energy Virginia’s customers.

Dominion Energy Virginia is the state’s largest utility company, and it serves the most densely populated metropolitan areas such as Richmond, Charlottesville, and northern Virginia. It wants to build six solar projects totaling 337 MW that it will own or acquire:

Project Size Location
Alberta Solar 3 MW Brunswick County
Beldale Solar 57 MW Powhatan County
Blue Ridge Solar 95 MW Pittsylvania County
Bookers Mill Solar 127 MW Richmond County
Michaux Solar 50 MW Henry & Pittsylvania Counties
Peppertown Solar 5 MW Hanover County

Dominion’s proposal also includes 13 power purchase agreements (PPAs) totaling 435 MW with independently owned solar projects. It selected the PPAs through a competitive solicitation process.

Construction of the projects will support more than 1,600 jobs and generate more than $570 million in economic benefits across the state.

In addition to SCC approval, the utility-owned projects require local and state permits before construction can begin. If approved, construction is expected to be complete between 2024 and 2026.

Dominion Energy’s solar fleet is currently the second-largest in the US. If the new projects proposed today are taken into account, Dominion’s solar capacity in Virginia will surpass 4.6 GW – enough to power more than 1.1 million homes at peak output. (For context, Virginia’s population is 8.64 million, and Dominion Energy Virginia supplies more than 2.5 million homes and businesses with power.) Dominion Energy says it’s committed to net zero by 2050 (wish that target was sooner). 

Electrek’s Take

This is welcome news for a state that’s heavily dependent on natural gas, which makes up 57% of Virginia’s total electricity net generation.

Virginia currently has enough solar to power 519,386 homes, or 4,393 MW, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). So it’s not doing too shabbily, as it’s currently ranked 10th in the US by the SEIA for the amount of solar installed.

But there’s a whole lot of room for improvement, as it needs to ditch the natural gas. So this 772 MW of new solar is a welcome boost for the state’s clean energy. Seeing how Virginia is expected to add 6.72 GW of new solar in the next five years, it looks like it’s headed in the right direction. 

Read more: A huge solar + storage + EV project just launched at Dulles Airport

Photo: Dominion Energy Virginia

To limit power outages and make your home more resilient, consider going solar with a battery storage system. In order to find a trusted, reliable solar installer near you that offers competitive pricing, check out EnergySage, a free service that makes it easy for you to go solar. They have hundreds of pre-vetted solar installers competing for your business, ensuring you get high quality solutions and save 20-30% compared to going it alone. Plus, it’s free to use and you won’t get sales calls until you select an installer and you share your phone number with them.

Your personalized solar quotes are easy to compare online and you’ll get access to unbiased Energy Advisers to help you every step of the way. Get started here.

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