The broad commodities rally even helped our normally moribund Renewables MMI increase at least a little (2%) this month.
The sub-index is still range-bound but it’s in the upper portion of the range we’ve seen it inhabit for the last year.
The steel plate products in the IndX were mainly responsible for the increase. Magnetic rare earth electric motor metal neodymium and silicon actually saw their prices decrease this month.
Rather than bore you with my regular disclaimer on how difficult it is to gauge what exactly is going on at the U.S. consumer level with renewables, due to rebates and subsidies, let’s talk about recent initiatives that could move the needle on solar.
The Department of Energy recently announced $25 million in available funding through an effort called Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy (ENERGISE) to help software developers, solar companies, and utilities accelerate the integration of solar energy into the grid.
How to Capture Solar Power?
It’s been a long-term gripe from many in the power generation business that solar, at least here in the U.S., has been great for homeowners and businesses using crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels to feed energy directly into their appliances, laptops, lights and TVs, but much more difficult to transfer it back into the nation’s grid.
$25 million might seem like a lot, but it’s actually a rather small sum considering how long this problem has confounded some of the greatest engineering minds out there.
The initiative specifically seeks to develop software and hardware platforms for utility distribution system planning and operations that integrate sensing, communication, and data analytics to help utilities manage solar and other distributed energy resources on the grid. Its products will, supposedly, be data-driven, easily scaled-up from prototypes, and capable of real-time monitoring and control.
We’ve been promised similar systems in the past so we’re not holding our breath or anything. Still, the expected 10-15 solutions developed with the new funding will be field-tested by utilities to demonstrate their performance and value in real-world operating environments so there’s some rigor to the program.
As always, we’ll monitor what comes out of this program and how the solutions could impact metals markets for products such as steel plate and silicon.
What This Means for Metal Buyers
While the broad rally has visited steel, the Renewables MMI is still rangebound.
Actual Renewables Prices
U.S. Steel plate increased to $621 an ounce from $490 in April, an increase of 27%. Chinese neodymium prices fell to $49,418.03 a metric ton from $49,617.40/mt in April, a decrease of .4%.