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Friday, August 3, 2012
Xtreme Power: A Pig-in-a-poke For Hawaii Wind Farm
By Andrew Walden @ 3:46 PM :: 24517 Views :: Energy

Originally Posted July 14, 2010:

When the entire Hawaii politico-business establishment is in perfect unity behind a project such as the Kahuku Wind Farm, it can only mean one thing: disaster.

See:  Wind Energy's Ghosts

Here is a look (with proper annotations in parenthesis)at the alleged battery system that allegedly is going to “smooth out” the erratic supply of electricity from First Wind’s Kahuku Wind Farm.  The akamai reader will note:

  1. The whole project from beginning to end relies on taxpayer dollars and government mandates
  2. The technology is secret and Hawaii is asked to rely on the claims of the developer
  3. The developer refuses to name his price.  An “analyst” admits that the price for Hawaii is likely over $500 per kilowatt hour just for the batteries
  4. The analyst admits that lithium ion batteries are about $250 per kilowatt hour
  5. The analyst admits it would also be cheaper to use windmills to pump water uphill and then generate hydro power from the reservoir discharge
  6. Maui’s Na Wai Eha dispute shows the need for more underground water supplies to be developed on Maui.
  7. Molokai also has a shortage of water.    

  *   *   *   *   *   

Xtreme Power: A Super-Battery For Hawaiian Wind Farms

By Jeff St. John Mar. 9, 2010,


(Xtreme Power mystery box.)

Xtreme Power has been pulling the veil away from its decades-old energy storage technology over the past six months or so, getting attention for claims (key word: “claims”) of a “chemical capacitor” (All batteries are chemical.  This term is meaningless.) that can beat lithium ion batteries  (Why compare to lithium?  Read on…) in terms of energy storage, efficiency, cycle life and cost. Now the Kyle, Texas-based startup has a big contract (ca-ching!) to test its technology: a 10-megawatt storage system meant to back up a 30-megawatt wind farm planned for the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

The developer of the project, First Wind, just got a $117 million Department of Energy loan guarantee (Federal taxpayer dollars when they default) for the project, and Xtreme Power says it will be managing not only its battery, but the entire wind farm’s output via a home-built smart grid network.  (“Home-built”?  Another secret technology?)

Xtreme’s Evolution

Xtreme’s PowerCell chemistry was born in a 1990′s joint venture of Ford Aerospace and defense contractor Tracor that was shelved after its target market — California’s zero-emissions vehicle fleet — collapsed in the wake of the state’s decision to back off its ZEV mandate.  (None of this stuff makes any sense without a government mandate or subsidy.)  Xtreme, backed by about $25 million from investors including Sail Venture Partners and the state-run Texas Emerging Technology Fund (Texans’ tax dollars.), bought the technology in 2004 and put its first 500-kilowatt PowerCell in place at the South Pole Telescope, (Government funded) an extreme environment to be sure, in 2007. Since then, it has also tested a 1.5-megawatt PowerCell at another 30-megawatt wind project on the island of Maui.  (And the results?  Public?  No reports of any kind any where.)

Xtreme has made some extreme claims (key word: “claims”) for its technology. According to CEO Carlos Coe (whose personal finances ride on this project), PowerCells act more like capacitors, charging and discharging at high speeds, while at the same time keeping the qualities that make batteries better than capacitors for long-term energy storage. Combined with Xtreme’s own power electronics, PowerCells can yield a 90-percent or better “AC-to-AC” energy efficiency, he said (key words: “he said”)— that is, a measure of the input and output of grid-friendly alternating current from the system, rather than the direct current that batteries actually accept and provide.  (And the evidence for this claim?) The PowerCells also have deep discharge capability combined with long cycle life, and Xtreme is also working on a line of portable batteries, he said. (key words: “he said”)

As with all new battery technologies, the proof will be in the deployments, with close attention being paid to how long, and for how many cycles of varying depths, the systems can operate before degrading.  (In other words, Hawaii is being used to ‘prove’ a secret technology which has never been proven anywhere else.  The fact that they chose a place with unanimous unquestioning politico/economic/media support for the project shows that they don’t have much faith in it.)

Energy Storage Economics

Coe wouldn’t give any price figures for the PowerCell,  (Wow.) saying that costs vary too much from project to project, not to mention application to application. But Sam Jaffe, analyst at IDC Energy Insights, said that Xtreme has been targeting $500 per kilowatt-hour as a profitable price point for grid storage systems, though he expects the Hawaii projects to exceed that, given their novelty.  (More than $500/kwh in Hawaii but the exact figure is secret.  Notice how this is the one place where an outside analyst speaks.  The CEO has promised NOTHING on price.)

At $500 per kilowatt-hour that compares well to costs of about $800 per kilowatt-hour for sodium-sulfur batteries, the primary battery technology now widely deployed for grid backup, or between $622 to $1,500 for flow batteries, another technology competing for grid-scale markets, Jaffe said. (These are ‘known’ technologies whereas the “PowerCell” is just a name and a claim.) Pumped hydro and compressed air energy storage are cheaper, but require hard-to-find canyons (Is it hard to find canyons at Kahuku???) to dam and fill up with water, or underground caverns to fill with air, while batteries can be placed next to wind farms or at utility substations.

(Pumped hydro is cheaper??? So instead of this scam battery technology we could have used the Maui wind farm to expand Maui's underground water resources—and generate electricity.  Just wait ‘til HC&S finds out.)

As for lithium-ion, it hasn’t been deployed for grid storage at a wide scale, although projects are being planed — Southern California Edison got a DOE stimulus grant (more taxpayer money) to back up wind farms with an 8-megawatt lithium ion battery from A123 Systems, for example.

The lithium ion battery industry could be scaling up to the point where it can compete at grid power — laptop-sized lithium ion batteries are available for about $250 per kilowatt-hour. But Jaffe noted that putting together a megawatt-sized lithium-ion battery is a much greater challenge when it comes to one of the main drawbacks to that chemistry, its potential for thermal runaway. (This is a fancy word for “fire”.) Xtreme Power’s batteries, on the other hand, work at room temperature, Coe said.  (Really?  Why should we believe the promoter?  Where is the independent evidence?  We are asked to ignore batteries that are less than half the cost because of an alleged fire danger.  Lithium batteries are everywhere, but the one place we can’t have them is Kahuku?  This is a sales pitch aimed at the easily distractible.)

There’s one thing for sure — as solar and wind power grow, they’ll place bigger demands on the grid to absorb their on-again, off-again power. Experts including Energy Secretary Steven Chu say storage will play a critical role in the country’s renewable energy growth, and DOE has targeted energy storage for $120 million of its $4 billion in smart grid stimulus grants.  (More taxpayer dollars.) A California energy storage bill that would require utilities to store about 5 percent of their peak generation capacity by 2020 could be the start of increasing requirements that renewable power projects back themselves up with storage of some kind, Coe noted. (Another government mandate, without which none of this would work.)

Island grids pose particular challenges to integrating big amounts of wind power, Coe said. First, they need to clean up the power to grid quality through power electronics. Then, they need power to “up-ramp and down-ramp” through the times where the wind dies down and picks up again — a cushion of sorts against big fluctuations that would otherwise require firing up fossil-fueled generators. Most wind farms today have natural gas-fired power plants standing by to cover those fluctuations.  (Actually, most utilities saddled with the requirement to accept this garbage electricity have to keep natural gas plants on line ready to fire up when the wind dies down.) Hawaii, on the other hand, generates 90 percent of its power from burning oil. (And HELCO will have to keep those plants running to take up the slack when the wind dies down.)

Eventually, if you’ve got a big enough battery, you can shift loads, Coe said — storing power at night, when the wind tends to blow the hardest, and putting it back onto the grid in the afternoon, when power consumption tends to reach its peak. Today’s wind farms tend to manage all of these tasks separately, if at all, Coe said.

(Today most wind farms exist solely because the utilities are forced to buy their garbage electricity.  The wind farm developers do nothing to solve these problems because they are smash and grab tax scammers backed by major investment funds, banks, and insurance companies, looking for a quick government-guaranteed buck.)

On the Horizon

Coe added that Xtreme will also be providing a smart grid network management system (An abacus, perhaps?) for the utility, Hawaiian Electric Company, to manage the wind farm, PowerCell storage device and all.  (HELCO is going to manage this?  Xtreme sells the battery and walks away laughing.)  Building batteries might seem like enough for a company with some $25 million in funding (from Texas taxpayers), but Jaffe said that anyone making grid batteries better be finding ways to link them up with utility’s control systems, both legacy and “smart grid” enabled, in ways that make them trouble-free to operate as part of the overall grid system.

Xtreme is nothing if not big in its ambitions — the company is seeking (taxpayer?) financing for a $425 million plant to roll out an eventual 2,000 megawatts of batteries per year, and has gotten state backing (Michigan taxpayer dollars.) to build it on an old Ford Motor Co. site in Wixom, Mich..  (And if they can use the unquestioning political environment of Hawaii to pretend this is a great technological leap, they might sucker the Feds into giving them even more of our dollars.)  Solar developer Clairvoyant Energy expects to build a solar panel plant, using Oerlikon Solar equipment, on the same site. Coe said that Xtreme and Clairvoyant are working on integrating solar and storage, though he wouldn’t provide details.  (No details?  Gee, what a surprise.)


UPDATE July 19: "Grid Battery Maker Xtreme Power To Unfurl More Funding" 

More clues to the contents of the Xtreme mystery box battery technology:

“The company's dry-cell battery was initially developed in the early 90s by Corning, British Aerospace and Ford Aerospace….

“Analysts have varied views of the company. Some believe it could provide battery packs that undercut the cost of lithium ion for grid storage. $500 a kilowatt hour, a level lithium has yet to reach, is within the capabilities of Xtreme, some have said. Others sniff that it's an advanced lead acid battery.”

Notably, the cost of lithium was cited as being only $250 per KWh in the above article and the Xtreme cost was OVER $500 per KWH in Hawaii.  Do they just keep making this stuff up as they go along?


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