Much of the world is moving towards renewable sources of power. In 2019, renewable electricity generation rose 6% and accounted for a quarter of global electricity generation. Many of the world’s nations have stated goals of increasing their percentage of electricity generated from renewables. India’s goal is 40% of power from renewable sources by 2030, China’s target is carbon neutrality by 2060, while the European Union aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and become “climate neutral” by 2050.
As a member of the International Energy Agency since 1974, The United States has been significantly expanding its energy output for renewables to help meet the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) goal of almost half of generation from renewables by 2030. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the pace of new renewable energy construction. However, this year renewables are expected to show their resilience. Delayed projects will come online, leading to a rebound in new installations. As a result, 2021 is forecast to reach the same level of renewable electricity capacity additions as in 2019. In fact, power capacity for renewables, led by solar PV, is expected to expand 50% by 2024.
The new administration’s energy policy has a goal of a 100% clean-energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. Towards this end, the federal government will invest $1.7 trillion over the next ten years and leverage the private sector for a total of more than $5 trillion. This will require a lot of energy infrastructure; a lot of photo-voltaic farms, wind farms, and tidal power generators. The president’s plan means 500 million solar panels, eight million solar roofs, thousands of community energy systems (microgrids), and 60,000 wind turbines installed within five years. In fact, it would double offshore wind generation by 2030. PCTI has the experience and know-how to profit from such a massive investment. Our High Current Battery Chargers and power conversion technology will be in demand more now than ever.
Sterling Plan B Energy Solutions
Recently, PCTI partnered with SPBES, Sterling Plan B Energy Solutions. SPBES has created a modular lithium ion battery product line that is the next logical step in industrial applications. The SPBES multiple battery units, or racks, are designed as modular, stackable, and configurable energy storage systems. Additionally, the batteries are protected by their “CellCool Liquid Cooling” system which virtually eliminates the danger of fire often associated with Li-ion batteries.
PCTI and SPBES already have the products to stabilize grid power, reduce blackouts, provide emergency power, and electrify remote areas. On a mass utility-scale, clean energy relies on industrial-grade power conversion products to transform and store sustainably sourced power. With over 29 years of experience, PCTI has solidified its reputation as a leader in providing renewable energy storage options on both a commercial and mass utility-scale. The partnering of PCTI with SPBES well positions us to take advantage of the president’s massive clean-energy initiative.
SPBES and PCTI teaming up will open many other doors; for instance, the maritime shipping industry. In fact, the chief focus of SPBES has been the shipping industry. They are a leader in providing energy storage systems for powering hybrid and electric ships: ferries, tugboats, and other working vessels. The new administration has said it will transform the energy sources that power the transportation sector, making it easier for ships to be powered by electricity.
The market for electric ferries alone is potentially huge. The global ferry industry is similar in size to the commercial airline industry, transporting approximately 2.1 billion passengers, 250 million vehicles, and 32 million trailers per year (and that does NOT include China). However, unlike aircraft, ships are much more easily retrofitted and electrified. The United States itself has about 778 ferries running weekly and the move towards electrification has already begun. The first zero-emission, all-electric passenger/vehicle ferry in the U.S. recently observed its first anniversary: Alabama’s Gee’s Bend Ferry. The $1.8 million project was funded in part by a $1.09 million Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grant.
SPBES has been involved in many e-ferry projects, both retrofit and new construction. SPBES provided the battery banks for the Elektra hybrid-electric ferry of Finland, capable of carrying 90 cars and 375 people; two fully electric ferries for Norway which, while boasting a capacity of 120 cars and 349 people each, can recharge in nine minutes; and the largest electric ships in the world, the Tycho Brahe and the Aurora of Sweden. These latter two massive ships carry 7.4 million passengers and 1.9 million vehicles annually. They also charge their batteries with shore power from renewables such as wind, water, and solar energy. This means that they are truly 100% zero-emissions vessels.
However, ferries are not the only electric ships out there. Another SPBES project is the Elfrida, the world’s first electric fish farming ship. This workboat is used to transport feed and equipment, to repair or relocate fish cages, check anchorages, and make inspections of the fish hatchery. During the normal eight-hour workday, including the two 50-minute trips to/from the port, the ship is under 100% battery power. They also provided the battery systems for Norway’s “2017 Ship of the Year,” the NKT Victoria Hybrid Cable Layer. She has installed hundreds of miles of cables for offshore wind and interconnector projects in countries such as Denmark, Belgium, and the UK.
PCTI and SPBES are well-positioned to profit from the trend towards maritime electrification. PCTI is a world leader in providing the DC Power Supply hardware necessary for charging electric ships and Shore Power Solutions for general maritime needs. SPBES technology makes new ships easier to build and existing conventional ships to be retrofitted. Their Integrated Rack Systems are self-contained, modular units designed for maximum life, low maintenance, quick replacement, and safety. A ship’s engineers and maintenance staff will no longer be required to wire up individual battery cells or build their own storage systems.
Precision Power Products
Another partnership that PCTI recently formed is with Precision Power Products, PPP, of India. Our Technology Development Agreement (TDA) with PPP allows them to purchase our products and repackage them into larger components and/or resell them in India under the PPP brand. Based on Precision Power Products’ evaluation, their five-year revenue opportunity projection is placed at $124 million. Here in the United States, PCTI/PPP bid on a unitized power station for the US Navy’s Bremerton, WA, submarine base at a cost savings of $213K over competitors.
An area that we are very excited about tapping into with PPP’s help is electric vehicle (EV) recharging stations. There are now one million electric vehicles on the road in the United States, but a key barrier to further deployment of these greenhouse-gas reducing vehicles is a lack of charging stations. Just as India is mandating its highway system to have EV charging stations every 15 miles, the president supports the deployment of more than 500,000 new public charging outlets by the end of 2030. Additionally, he plans to restore the fully-electric vehicle tax credit to incentivize the purchase of these vehicles and implement a time-line aimed at ensuring 100% of new sales for light- and medium-duty vehicles will be electric.
The magnitude of the coming green energy revolution will mean an enormous opportunity for PCTI and our partner, PPP, in the energy sector. The massive expansion of the nation’s energy infrastructure will require a staggering amount of hardware. PPP and its Associated Companies make a huge variety of products for the manufacturing and energy sectors including printed circuit boards, interactive technical manuals, control panels, distribution boards, junction panels/boxes, load testers, switchboards, relay panels, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), automatic changeover systems, fuse panels, master controls, power supply panels, transformers, and power supply units. They are involved with Internet Protocol Telephony (IPT) which facilitates the exchange of voice, fax, and other forms of information; Internet of Things (IoT), the network of physical objects embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting different devices over the internet; robotics; the installation, integration, and maintenance of power grids, communication systems, security systems, and process control systems; and software solutions for a wide variety of industries and applications.
Electric ships and cars are not the only mode of transportation about to get a boost. The new administration also plans to transform the energy sources that power the transportation sector in general, making it easier for mobility to be powered by electricity and clean fuels. Municipal vehicles such as buses, garbage trucks, plow trucks, mail delivery trucks, and street sweepers are all candidates for electrification as they typically have short, predictable routes where range and availability of charging stations are not a concern.
The new administration’s energy policy will seek to provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options. This effort will accelerate the trend towards electric buses. There are approximately 400,000 e-buses worldwide, with the vast majority being in China. However, Europe has over 4,000 e-buses operating currently and India is adding some 70,000 e-buses annually to its fleet. If their global popularity is any indication, we should expect to start seeing a lot more e-buses soon!
But we don’t need to only look overseas to see that e-buses are popular here. In Seattle, there are 185 zero-emission buses, which includes 174 electric trolley buses that use overhead wires, and 11 battery-electric buses with dedicated charging stations. New York City has ordered 500 e-buses, Philadelphia added 25 battery-electric buses in 2019, and Chicago recently purchased two e-buses. But it’s not just the big cities that are <ahem> getting on the bus. The coastal city of Gulfport, MS, has the state’s first fully-electric bus; Portland, ME, received a grant to buy the state’s first two e-buses; and Wichita, KS, now has that state’s first electric bus picking up passengers. In fact, nearly every state’s transit agency has at least one electric bus. Whether e-buses are battery-operated or are tethered to overhead lines, they require high current charging solutions, and PCTI is a global leader in the field.
The garbage truck is a municipal vehicle that is an especially attractive candidate for electrification. They generally start and stop often which is when a diesel engine is at its least efficient and they idle a lot, consuming fuel while the trash is being loaded and compacted. The trend for electric trash trucks was already picking up momentum in the US before the election. For instance, Seattle, with its quirky electric trolley buses, recently purchased two electric garbage trucks. In August, Nikola Corporation announced an order from Las Vegas waste-disposal company Republic Services for 2,500 battery-electric garbage trucks. And in early 2020, the world’s largest sanitation department, New York City’s, began testing all electric garbage trucks on five routes. The city has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2035 and to become carbon neutral by 2050.
We can also expect a surge in electric light-duty commercial trucks, such as panel trucks, box trucks, and delivery trucks. This sector is perfect for electrification because 80 percent of freight in the United States is transported less than 250 miles and travels on predictable regional routes that allow them to return to a central depot for charging. Right now, less than one percent of fleet vehicles is electric, but that number was already expected to grow to 12 percent by 2030. Since EVs are cheaper to maintain and new tax incentives will lower the cost of purchasing new ones, a wave of new e-trucks should be on the road soon. Think of all the companies with large fleets of local delivery trucks such as UPS, FedEx, and DHL, for example, all using electrified vehicles and all needing large fleet-scale battery chargers, such as the kind PCTI offers.
Electrified highways are coming soon. The concept is similar to electric commuter trains where the train has a pantograph on its roof that contacts the overhead powerline. With an e-highway, the e-trucks use pantographs to connect to the overhead cables and recharge their onboard batteries as they drive. When traveling on non-electrified highways, they use their battery power as usual. The very first e-Highway launched in Sweden in 2016. Germany is joining the ranks of those countries betting on eco-friendly trucking with a three-mile stretch of electrified Autobahn between Frankfurt and Darmstadt. Here in the United States, the first electric highway already exists. A one-mile long test strip has been built between the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two largest ports in the U.S. And since research had already predicted that 54,000 electric 18-wheelers would be on the road by 2025, it follows our new energy policy will accelerate the demand for electrified highways.
The new administration has pledged to invest in new industries and re-invigorate regional economies by spurring innovation from our national labs and universities. One such lab, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL, is concerned about the security of our nation’s power grid. As new energy technologies enter the market, they make the grid more dynamic, distributed, and autonomous. While that’s a good thing, they can also introduce new unknowns, potential vulnerabilities, and greater access to our electric grid by nefarious actors. The US Dept of Energy is working with NREL to beef up our energy security. One avenue of defense is investing in microgrids.
Microgrids use storage systems to strengthen emergency preparedness plans and make a power source more resilient to grid failure. Besides mitigating the variability of renewables, one role of utility-scale battery storage systems is to provide a consistent, reliable, and efficient energy supply in the event of grid failure. Microgrids are smaller, more independently controlled, and located closer to their power-generating structures. This allows greater control of one’s power usage as well as offering protection from main-grid failure. Whether it’s used for backup power during an outage or as an additional revenue stream, microgrids are at the forefront of the future of utilities.
As noted above, PCTI has recently partnered with companies that will streamline our presence in the renewables market. Between our battery chargers and inverters, SPBES’s Li-ion battery storage systems, and PPP’s considerable hardware and software offerings, we are perfectly positioned to be involved with the expanded use of renewables and to lead the effort of increasing our energy security through the construction of microgrids.
Hydrogen powered vehicles are a burgeoning field and the new energy plan calls for dramatic cost reductions in new clean energy technologies, including renewable hydrogen. Currently, most hydrogen is derived from fossil fuels. However, electrolyzers use electricity to split the water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen. This technology is well developed and commercially available, but very expensive as it requires a lot of electricity. The US Dept of Energy already considers hydrogen production to be a perfect way to efficiently make use of intermittent renewables, especially wind power. Although the cost of wind power continues to drop, its inherent variability diminishes its usefulness. By powering electrolysis with electricity from offshore wind farms, a carbon-free way of producing hydrogen is achieved. Hydrogen fuel production is also an alternative to mass-utility scale battery storage of excess electricity. In times of high wind or low consumer demand, instead of curtailing output or sending the excess power to storage, this excess electricity could be used to produce hydrogen through electrolysis.
Clean water availability and security continues to be of concern for most nations, including ours. In October, 2020, The United States and Saudi Arabia entered into a cooperative agreement for the development of new and more efficient methods of desalinating seawater. Removing salt from seawater is extremely energy intensive. Solar stills have been used for centuries, but it is not possible to distill enough water for the typical town, let alone for California or the southwestern United States. However, any one of the 16,000 global desalinization plants typically uses an average of 10 to 13 kilowatt hours of energy per every thousand gallons processed. Switching from fossil fuel powered desalinization plants to those powered by wind or wave power will be more likely under the United States’ new energy policy.
The Future is Bright for PCTI
The nation’s new energy policy is going to create a huge demand for the products that PCTI and our partners provide. The expansion of renewables, concern for energy security, an e-revolution in maritime shipping, the burgeoning EV sector, and increased usage of electricity in fields such as hydrogen production and desalinization, will require a lot of power conversion hardware and software. As the use of renewables continues, it will become more affordable and, therefore, more in demand. As that happens, expect to see more of our electrified transportation to be powered directly from renewables. As electrification becomes the norm and resistance to it drops, more industries and sectors will switch over, again increasing demand. Exciting new renewable energy sources, such as wave and tidal power, will expand, further driving the trend. The day is coming when all our energy is supplied by renewables and PCTI is thrilled to help make it happen!