Greenbuddies tips – April 2021


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The Greenbuddies Charging team continues to grow

The development of our business goes hand in hand with the need to add new experienced colleagues to our team. Human capital is our main asset. It is therefore not surprising that we try to pay maximum attention to the selection of suitable candidates and their education.

At the beginning of March, our project management department was strengthened by Mr. Pavel Vycpálek. I decided to interview him a little for the current issue of our newsletter.

1) Hi Pavel, I remember very well that when we started talking about your future involvement in Greenbuddies Charging (GBC), you worked as a Quality Engineer in the automotive industry. What did the position actually mean and what parallel could you observe there with your current position with us?

Yes, for the last 15 years I have worked as a Quality Engineer – a customer service specialist. This meant that I was in charge of several customers (Audi / Porsche / Lamborghini / Bentley / Daimler / Wabco / Scania / ZF) in the product segment of manufactured switches at the TRW Benešov plant. the last two years the company was called BCS-AIS Benešov. The main task was to deal with complaints about switches via portals or on site in car manufacturers. The next step was sampling and introducing new switches directly in car manufacturers or steering wheel manufacturers.
To the point of the question, I rather saw more of a parallel between my current role in GBC and my previous position at TRW, when I worked in the new projects department. This meant securing everything about the new project (product) in the parent plant (production line / technology / workflows, etc.) with the Program Manager, who worked in our management plant in Germany where the entire team of designers was based.

2) What was the most awkward work situation you got into before the Greenbuddies and how did it turn out?

During my time at TRW (29 years), there were a lot of situations and it’s hard to say which was the most awkward.
One that could be highlighted was my first and also my last business trip to Tunisia to the steering wheel manufacturer. After arriving in the capital Tunis I rented a car, went to a hotel in Monastir and the next day went to the designated address of the production plant. I set off a little earlier and the navigation took me to a city. However, I did not find the production plant. So I reached the gas station and asked if there was such a thing in this city. I don’t speak Arabic and it was almost impossible to speak English. Finally, colleagues from Autoliv called me and asked where I was, they were waiting for me at a gas station of a particular brand. I told them that I was standing at the pump of the same brand, but we did not see each other. So I sent them a picture of my car and the place via the Whatsapp application. Eventually we found out that we were about 30 km apart. I got in the car again, drove back, and they were waiting for me as soon as I entered the city. In the end, the visit was very successful and both parties were satisfied.

3) You have had a month and a half of work for GBC now, so what are your impressions so far? What surprised you pleasantly, and on the contrary, what did you really not expect at all?
I must say that I was surprised by a very friendly and nice team with which it will definitely be great to cooperate. And what surprised me – everything is completely new to me, so I have to learn a lot. I had some knowledge about solar energy, but most other things are new to me.
4) I know that you live in a medium-sized city just outside Prague (after all, there are more of us like that in Greenbuddies). What advantages or disadvantages do you see in this?

I have lived in my hometown since my birth and I am satisfied here. I have everything at hand here and when I need to dive into the big city, I get in the car and I’m there in 30 minutes.

5) What subjects did you enjoy the most at school?

At school I liked history and especially physical education, because I’m sports-based. My biggest interest is in football, which I have been playing since I was 6 years old.

6) The Corona pandemic is now perhaps an overly frequent topic. Still, I ask – what about you and COVID?

COVID – this is one big unknown for each of us. It has a thousand different forms and attacks each one differently.
I myself also went through the illness last autumn and it was not pleasant. At first I had two days of fever and after testing I scored a positive result. This was followed by 13 days of unpleasant fevers, and on the last day, a breathing problem also appeared. Later it turned out that I suffered from bilateral pneumonia, followed by a CT scan, which revealed in addition pulmonary embolism. I was immediately transferred to Covid’s department, where I spent 7 days on drips, antibiotics, vitamins,minerals and all day use of an oxygen mask. By some miracle and good care on the part of the doctors I was released home after 7 days in a relatively good condition. Then I had to stay at home for another two and a half months. Now I will still have to go through a 3-week stay in the spa to get my breathing back to normal.

7) Will you tell us something about yourself that you have not yet told anyone?

That’s something I would really like to keep to myself 😊.

Thanks Pavel for the interview, we wish you good luck and success in Greenbuddies Charging.

Battery storage as a catalyst for future energy development?

On a daily basis one can read about the fact that the future development of energy is associated with decentralization, decarbonisation and the accelerating development of renewable energy sources (RES) in the media. Unstable RES represents a great challenge for the existing electricity networks of all developed countries. The transmission and distribution networks need stability and predictability.

Arguably, the future of the energy industry will not be made possible without storage systems that shall help maintain the stability and quality of supply. Energy storage systems are based on various technologies, including battery energy storage systems (BESS). Therefore, it is quite clear that energy storage systems will become an integral part of the energy system of the future.
Battery-based electricity storage is a highly promising solution. These make it possible to store excess electricity for a time when an increase of supply due to growing demand is required. In this way, they effectively assist the ability to balance the supply and demand for electricity at each point in time.
Let’s look at electricity storage in Europe by type and prevalence:

Battery storage

The most common technology is lithium-ion batteries, which is based on a technology similar to rechargeable consumer batteries that we are all familiar with from home use. However, there are other types of battery storage technologies such as so-called flow batteries, which are large-volume storage tanks with a longer service life.

Mechanical energy storage

Typical representatives are pumped storage hydropower plants. They store energy in the form of water which is expelled by excess electricity to a higher position, from which it is discharged back when needed to drive the turbine. However, energy can also be stored, for example, in the form of compressed air stored in large reservoirs. Flywheels are another type of mechanical storage.

Thermal storage

As a typical example, we can imagine a solar tower that concentrates sunbeams through a system of mirrors in one place and stores the heat obtained in, for instance, molten salt. The energy can later be used to heat water for the steam to subsequently drive a turbine producing electricity.

Power-to-Gas

This refers to the conversion of excess electricity into gaseous fuels (hydrogen or methane), which can then be injected into the natural gas distribution system and thus store energy. It is also possible to produce synthetic methane from hydrogen during further processing.

The data sources are the Study on Energy Storage – Contribution to Security of Electricity Supply in Europe, published by the European Commission in May last year, and the Database of European Technologies and Equipment for Energy Storage from the EC current as of March 2020. The data includes those that are still at a certain stage of the project and those of which construction has been announced.

It is also interesting to look at the status of installed storage systems in individual European countries:

The graph above shows the installed power of active electricity storage systems in individual countries. As you can see, the number is not the only important parameter, the United Kingdom for instance is losing significantly here compared to the previous statistics. The advantage of solar and wind power plants is, as is well known, the absence of emissions from electricity production, or even self-sufficiency. On the other hand, there are also problems associated with renewables. One of the challenges is their dependence on the weather, due to which they cannot produce energy continuously and consistently. It is sometimes the case that they even produce too much. It is for this reason that the grid must be able to respond to these fluctuations and flexibly increase or decrease the supply of electricity to the system.
Until now, the flexibility of the network has been solved mainly by means of gas and partly through coal-fired power plants. These are to an extent advantageous with the possibility of fast start-up and power regulation. As I pointed out earlier, in the future, this way of maintaining balance in the network will become less important due to the reduction of the share of fossil resources in total output. Renewables on the other hand will grow, so the ability to flexibly balance the ratio between immediate supply and consumption in the system will need to be further strengthened. That’s why energy storage has become such a topical issue.

 

The European Commission expects that during the course of this decade, EU countries will still use conventional power plants and cross-border interconnections of individual national systems to compensate for fluctuations in the system. Howev

er, the EU’s forecast clearly relies on the importance of electricity storage having grown rapidly by 2030. Today, about 90 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity of pumped storage and battery storage facilities are in operation or at least at some stage of development in Europe. By the end of the decade Europe will need up to 110 GW according to a study by the European Commission. This increase ought to be realized primarily through batteries. Wondering why batteries instead of the other aforementioned concepts? They offer the possibility of immediate energy supply in the event of a prolonged outage or a major blackout. Storage systems are also relatively versatile in terms of their deployment – you can install them in the form of standard containers virtually anywhere. In addition to this, we now live in a time when great emphasis is put on the environmental friendliness of new technologies and battery systems have a great advantage in environmental safety – they do not release any unwanted pollutants into the environment.

As part of the company’s business strategy, we at Greenbuddies Charging firmly believe that the installation of battery storage systems will increasingly become an integral part of complete solutions for the construction of solar power plants as well as charging infrastructure for electromobility.

Increase of transport and metal prices in solar business

The COVID-19 pandemic has without doubt affected most businesses around the globe. Some of them in a negative way (e.g. hospitality and tourist industry, airlines etc.) and some ramped up enormously after the initial hiccup in the spring of 2020.. We are in many ways fortunate to be a part of the technological sector, meaning that we belong to the second aforementioed catagory.

Governments began printing cash in order to fulfil economy support programs. The resulting surplus of money in the market allowed companies and individuals to increase spending which subsequently boosted demand for both transport and resources. However, the supply side had still been recovering from the lockdown and therefore did not allocate sufficient capacity for the coming demand storm.

The combination of a shortage on the supply side and a simultanious outburst on the demand side resulted in a huge increase of freight cost. This issues were mainly concentrated in container ship transport where prices had multiplied when compared to the previous spring. The same issue applied for metallurgical industry. Copper prices broke ten years old records and aluminium and steel followed a similar pattern. The biggest contributor to the situation was China bouncing back after the COVID-19 outbreak.
Since the whole sector of renewable energy development remains largely dependant on these inputs, the costs of solar parks have risen accordingly. Solar modules and inverters are mostly shipped from China on container ships, aluminium is utilized in AC cables and mounting systems, copper as a great conductor is used for DC cabling or transformer wiring and carrying structures are made of steel.

Copper price course

Copper price course. Source: https://www.nasdaq.com/market-activity/commodities/hg%3Acmx

The whole situation made any predictions in the solar field market much more difficult due to shifting component prices. Calculations could change over short periods of time, meaning the initial ones would no longer be valid. Manufacturers reflected the roller coaster-like market behavior in the sense that offer validity in some cases just reached a couple of days. This is of course a nightmare for anyone who is responsible for budget planning. The experts envisage the prices will settle down after a while- some businesses are hedging their bets and shifting projects to the next year. However, nobody can tell when the settling down of the market will take place and what the new price level will be.