US ROUND-UP: SEIA backs long-duration storage plan, patent success for LONGi, 20MW of PV installed at airport

A new microgrid at Pittsburgh International Airport has more than 9,000 solar panels. Image: Pittsburgh International Airport.

A round-up of the latest stories from the US solar market, featuring proposals to support long-duration energy storage, patent successes from LONGi and the completion of a microgrid at Pittsburgh International Airport that features 20MW of solar.

SEIA urges Congress to fund long-duration storage initiative

14 July 2021: Trade body the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has called on Congress to fund a new programme from the Biden Administration that aims to reduce the cost of grid-scale, long-duration energy storage by 90% by 2030.

The storage initiative will inspire innovation, support a competitive storage market and push the clean energy industry to work together, said SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper. “Together, we can help to improve the dispatchability of long-range storage, establish a domestic manufacturing base for storage, and create jobs, all while cutting costs.”

The target was announced as the administration unveiled details for its 2022 budget request for the Department of Energy, including funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and the newly proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Climate.

“We are urging congressional leaders to fully fund the administration’s budget request for these agencies,” Ross Hopper said.

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Success for LONGi in patent dispute against Hanwha Q-Cells

14 July 2021: The US court of appeals has upheld a previous decision that confirms LONGi products did not infringe on a US patent from Hanwha Q-Cells, LONGi has announced. The patent is related to a method of manufacturing solar cells with a surface-passivating dielectric double layer.

LONGi said it also believes that the relevant products do not infringe another patent in Europe related to the same method. The company has filed an opposition to that patent’s validity with the European Patent Office, a procedure that is still pending.

In addition, a patent from Hanwha Q-Cells in the US covering a type of PERC solar cell with a three-layer passivation structure has been invalidated by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the US Patent and Trademark Office, according to LONGi.

Pittsburgh airport powered by microgrid featuring 20MW of PV

14 July 2021: Pittsburgh International Airport is now powered by a 20MW solar array and five natural gas-fuelled generators following the completion of an on-site microgrid.

Featuring 9,360 solar panels, the microgrid has been installed to increase power resilience at the Pennsylvania airport, which has a current peak demand of 14MW and will remain connected to the traditional grid as an option for emergency or backup power if needed.

Pittsburgh International Airport said airports across the US have been exploring ways to increase power resilience and reliability after several power outages resulted in thousands of cancelled flights.

Work on a project at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport featuring 12.3MW of solar and between 5MW and 7.5MW of battery storage started last year.

New firm launched to provide capital for renewables projects

14 July 2021: US solar industry veterans David Riester and Joseph Song have launched a new company that will provide development capital to renewables and energy storage plants.

Segue Sustainable Infrastructure, which has secured more than US$100 million of initial capital commitments from its management team and an affiliate of private equity firm NGP Energy Capital Management, plans to invest in development-stage renewables plants and the infrastructure enabling them.

Riester previously led project finance for Cypress Creek Renewables, while Song led the engineering team at SunEdison and later held an executive leadership role at Sol Systems.

“Too many developers with great ideas are forced to sub-optimally capitalise their projects, sell out too early or abandon their projects altogether. We are going to offer a better path,” Riester said.