Battery storage transforming the electric power grid

Following up to “Lowering peak energy demand with a bank of lead-acid batteries in the basement“, see McKinsey report “Battery storage: The next disruptive technology in the power sector” by David Frankel and Amy Wagner.

Solar customers are paying for their own energy but not paying for the full reliability of being connected to the grid. The utilities’ response has been to design rates that reduce the incentive to install solar by moving to time-of-use pricing structures, implementing demand charges, or trying to reduce how much they pay customers for the electricity they produce that is exported to the grid.

However, in a low-cost storage environment, these rate structures are unlikely to be effective at mitigating load losses. This is because adding storage allows customers to shift solar generation away from exports to cover more of their own electricity needs; as a result, they continue to receive close to the full retail value of their solar generation. This presents a risk for widespread partial grid defection, in which customers choose to stay connected to the grid in order to have access to 24/7 reliability, but generate 80 to 90 percent of their own energy and use storage to optimize their solar for their own consumption.


The grid is a long-lived asset that is expensive to build and maintain. Fixed fees for grid access are unpopular with consumers, and regulators are therefore not particularly keen on them, either. However, imposing fixed fees could ensure that everyone who uses the grid pays for it. The volumetric or variable rate structure in general use today is a historical construct. People are used to paying for the energy they use. But as more and more customers generate their own energy, the access to the grid for reliability and market access becomes more valuable than the electrons themselves.


Utilities must radically change their grid-system planning approaches. […] Storage can be a unique tool in support of this. The straight economics of changing grid planning, with respect to return on capital, may not look different at first glance. But, because storage is more modular and can be moved more easily, the risk-adjusted value is likely to be much higher. That will enable utilities to adapt to uncertain needs at the circuit level and also to reduce the risk of overbuilding and stranded investments.

Cold fusion (LENR) and near room temperature superconductivity — a USA government report

According to the report “INVESTIGATION OF NANO-NUCLEAR REACTIONS IN CONDENSED MATTER“, from the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency,

By using the Pd/D co-deposition technique and co-depositional variants (based on flux control), solid evidence (i.e., excess heat generation, hot spots, mini-explosions, ionizing radiation, near-IR emission, tritium production, transmutation, and neutrons) has been obtained that indicate that lattice assisted nuclear reactions can and do occur within the Pd lattice. The results to date indicate that some of the reactions occur very near the surface of the electrode (within a few atomic layers). Also, the reactions may be enhanced in the presence of either an external electric or magnetic field, or by optically irradiating the cathode of cells driven at their optimal operating point (OOP). Optimal operating points appear when heat, power gain, or helium or tritium production, are presented as a function of the input electrical power. They allow standardization, and driving with electrical input power beyond the OOP yields a falloff of the production rates.

Besides LENR, the Pd/H(D) system exhibits superconductivity. Palladium itself does not superconduct. However, it was found that H(D)/Pd does and that the critical temperatures of the deuteride are about 2.5 K higher than those of hydride (at the same atomic ratios). This is the ‘inverse’ isotope effect. In these early measurements, the loading of H(D) in the Pd lattice was less than unity, i.e. H(D):Pd < 1. Later Tripodi et al.  developed a method of loading and stabilizing 50 µm diameter Pd wires with H(D):Pd loadings greater than one. These samples have exhibited near room temperature superconductivity. Examples of measured superconducting transitions of PdHx samples are shown in Figure 1-2.

We believe the two phenomena, LENR and high Tc superconductivity, are related and that both need to be investigated in order to gain an understanding of the processes occurring inside the Pd lattice. The scope of this effort was to design and conduct experiments to elucidate the underlying physics of nuclear reactions occurring inside Pd-D nano-alloys and to make that data available to theoreticians to aid in their ability to develop a theory that explains how and why low energy nuclear reactions can occur within a palladium lattice.

Tip of the hat to Frank Acland.

Lowering peak energy demand with a bank of lead-acid batteries in the basement

Background: For stationary storage in a moderate climate, such as in a basement, lead-acid batteries still have a total cost of ownership comparable to lithium-ion batteries.

According to Samantha Page

In the basement garage of a high-end apartment building in the middle of New York City, a few electricians are quietly installing a century-old product that is now poised to revolutionize an industry — and maybe lead the United States into a carbon-neutral future.

Taking up about two parking spaces is a wall of boxes. They are simple lead-acid batteries, similar to what keeps the lights on in your car. But these batteries are linked together, connected to the building’s electricity system, and monitored in real time by a Washington-state based company, Demand Energy. Demand’s installation at the Paramount Building in midtown Manhattan is going to lower the building electricity bills and reduce its carbon footprint, even while it doesn’t reduce a single watt of use.

Every night, the batteries charge up. Every day, they run down, providing a small portion of the building’s energy and reducing the amount of power it takes off the grid. This cycle of charging during low-use times and discharging during high use times helps level out the Paramount’s electricity use.


American home bills usually have a flat rate for the amount of electricity the resident uses. No matter when it’s used, or how quickly power is drawn, the rate is the same amount per kilowatt hour. Flat rates are like an odometer saying how many miles were drive — or, in this case, how many kilowatt hours (kWh) have been used. But for commercial and industrial properties, including residential apartment buildings, the electricity bill also has a demand charge. The demand charge acts like a speedometer: Not only is a business charged for the total amount of electricity it uses, it is also charged for how quickly power is taken. A business will receive a higher bill for using 10 kWh in an hour than for using the same 10 kWh over, say 10 hours. In New York, demand charges make up, on average, half of commercial and industrial customers’ bills.

Electricity rates are designed like this because utilities don’t like peaks in demand. Peaking plants are expensive, wasteful, and dirty. But from the utility’s perspective, putting a lot of electricity on the grid is also bad news. The higher the peak demand, the more infrastructure — wires, generators — has to be built. And transmission congestion means a less efficient system. (Line loss, a phenomenon in which not all the electricity gets from point A to point B, is greater when the transmission system is overloaded). Not to mention the risks of brownouts and blackouts that increase with too much strain on the grid.

Designing a practical electric airplane — hydrogen fuel cells

According to Tom Neuman in “How I Designed a Practical Electric Plane for NASA: To win a competition, a Georgia Tech student devised a fuel-cell plane to rival today’s best-selling small aircraft”

Fortunately, electric propulsion offers some flexibility that the engineers at Cirrus did not enjoy. Unlike combustion engines, electric motors are compact and efficient. These small, light motors can be placed in many more locations on the aircraft than would be practical for a combustion engine. If applied strategically, this tactic can distribute the power production across more or larger propellers. And the greater the area swept by propellers, the more efficient and quieter they become.

I ran yet another analysis and found a sweet spot in efficiency using two rather large propellers attached to a pair of motors. Instead of mounting them conventionally, on the wing or fuselage, I put them in my design atop the plane’s V-shaped tail, where the airflow is cleaner.

This simple strategy not only improved propulsive efficiency (from 85 to 92 percent), it also benefited the plane’s aerodynamics. Now air could flow more cleanly over both fuselage and wing. And although the propellers were large, putting them on the tail meant that I didn’t have to increase the height (and therefore, weight) of the landing gear. Having short gear made choosing retractable wheels much more palatable, and this reduced drag even further.

When I ran the next analysis, I found that this change, combined with some more optimization, decreased the plane’s energy consumption by another 27 percent. Indeed, this design change had lowered the power demand to the point that it became feasible to fly the plane on hydrogen-powered fuel cells. That’s when I dubbed my V-tailed, hydrogen-powered design “Vapor.”

Semiconductor device engineering — the neglected design importance of reducing variation

According to Scotten Jones

One really interesting point in this talk that was repeated at the Coventor event at IEDM was the importance of reducing variation. Device engineers focus on improving the mean but designers are more concerned with the distribution tails. Reducing variation is better even if the mean is lower! It was also noted that many of the proposed future devices will likely have more variability and therefore their actual performance may be less impressive than originally expected.

The interpreter from Rossi’s ideas to the standard world

According to Fulvio Fabiani, the lead engineer on inventor Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat,

Rossi doesn’t like standard reasoning. He is not a linear researcher. I find myself arguing with Andrea because his views are not compatible with other points of view in a way so you can exchange information. I am lucky that after three years I now have a certain confidence, and this confidence allows me to do things in my own way regarding the power supply system, because what he thinks is not feasible for standard and linear technicians. I’m acting almost as an interpreter from his ideas to the standard world.


He comes with a paper fluttering, saying ‘Oh, I had this idea, we have to try this’, throwing away 15 days of your setup of a reactor because he wants to try something different, and you have not even finished the idea that he had previously. Rossi is an avalanche of great ideas.


I assure you that I have seen things that only I, Rossi and a few other people saw. We really saw things… I really saw the new frontier of energy. There is nothing in comparison. You cannot imagine. I speak of the E-CatX and many others of Rossi’s experiments. We have tried lots of things, and we have made some twenty and more different reactors. And I can assure you that with some of them we have truly seen a new world. Energy density, reaction capacity, in the sense of things never seen. The new frontier of energy. The field that this reaction opens up is so vast that it’s almost impossible to imagine all the capabilities and possibilities.



“Thousands of semiconductor professionals will be looking for work,” says Daniel Nenni

According to Daniel Nenni

Daniel, aren’t we at a different time, where silicon startups don’t even get funding, etc ?

Yes, that is true. What the VCs do not realize is that without semiconductors there would be no Uber, AirBnB, or the other billion dollar tech unicorns that they have poured their money into.

New semiconductor companies will come from small groups of engineers that use personal investments and seed money to start. Many of them will begin as IP companies or services groups. As I mentioned before, thousands of semiconductor professionals will be looking for work due to the industry consolidation. They will either create new companies or go hungry, my opinion.

Waveform debugging 2015

According to Dave Rich in “A Decade of SystemVerilog: Unifying Design and Verification?

Most design engineers still debug their simulations the same way they debug in the lab: they look at waveforms. During simulation, they rarely look at the design source code, and certainly never look at the testbench code (unless it’s just basic pin wiggling like a waveform). Verification engineers are not much different. They rely on waveform debugging because that is what they were brought up on, and many do not even realize source-level debugging is available to them.

Vital signs

Ask for the hardest problems

According to Daniel Nenni, regarding the acquisition of Berkeley Design Automation by Mentor Graphics,

BDA built its business by literally asking leading-edge analog/mixed-signal (A/MS) design teams for the problems that no other simulator can handle and providing the solution. BDA would then move “downstream” to run circuit simulations that other simulators could run, but BDA’s Analog FastSPICE simulator would run them 5x-10x faster than any other foundry-certified simulator. They take the same approach to this day. (See BDA History)

Inductive coupling, instead of TSV, for 3D chip interconnect

According to Noriyuki Miura, et al. in “A scalable 3D heterogeneous multi-core processor with inductive-coupling thruchip interface

It communicates through inductive coupling between coils in the stacked chips. TCI is a low-cost wireless version of a through-silicon via (TSV). It can provide competitive performance to TSV while maintaining its cost at close to the same level as wire bonding. Because the interface coils are drawn using existing IC interconnections, we can use a standard CMOS process (without any RF options) for fabrication. Unlike TSV, no additional wafer process steps are required, resulting in low cost. In addition, TCI is covered under the passivation layer of the chip. No electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection devices are needed, resulting in small channel loading. We can achieve an over-Gbit/s data transfer rate with < 10 mW power dissipation. Parallel data bits can be multiplexed into a single coil and burst-transferred.