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Energy Storage Roundup: Ontario and California, Imergy, Stem, Hitachi

Many see energy storage as the holy grail for renewable energy integration. We think it's important enough that we recently added a new technology category to our site to track this topic. We see a lot of headlines related to energy storage cross our desks; here's a sampling from the past few days.

Committing to Energy Storage in the U.S., Canada, Japan

This week, Ontario unveiled its Long-Term Energy Plan, and alongside significant hikes in renewable energy procurement, a pullback from nuclear, and total abandonment of coal, Ontario also will include energy storage in its procurement processes, starting with 50 MW of energy storage by the end of next year. As part of its competitive procurement process for large (>500 kW), Ontario also will consider proposals that integrate energy storage.

In California, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently planted its flag for grid-scale energy storage, mandating 1.3 GW of energy storage by 2020. That includes "behind-the-meter" types of storage, only up to half can be utility-owned, and pumped hydro systems larger than 50-MW are excluded. EPRI and DNV Kema will be called upon to help with valuation of the various energy storage technology options.

Meanwhile, southern Japan has a problem: its power grids are fast approaching their limits of renewable energy capacity additions. Faced with a growing pile of solar project applications — more than 57 MW worth of capacity, from projects 300 kW and larger, is expected this month alone — Okinawa Electric Power is turning to energy storage to help. Its solution: a 2-MW lead-acid battery installation, will be set up in the next fiscal year (starting April 2014) and will run 1-2 years. A similar project is reportedly underway in Hokkaido.

Imergy Rebrands, Refocuses on Flow Batteries

Deeya Energy is under new management with a new moniker, Imergy Power Systems, and a new mission: expand the reach for its flow battery technology. Top management now includes CEO Bill Watkins, former CEO at LED maker Bridgelux and hard-drive maker Seagate; EVP Tim Hennessy, formerly of flow battery firms Prudent Energy and VRB; and CFO Jack Jenkins-Stark, previously the CFO at BrightSource Energy. Financial backers include VC firms Technology Partners, NEA, BlueRun, DFJ, and Element Partners. Imergy also has inked a deal to contract out some design work, and possibly future manufacturing, to Flextronics starting next spring.

Imergy's technology is a vanadium-based flow battery, in which a liquid electrolyte is stored and circulated between tanks, with integrated power electronics to charge and discharge. The company says a unique architecture allows the system to be scaled up by simply increasing the electrolyte volumes (i.e. more materials and bigger tanks), and its batteries can operate at higher temperatures (50 °C) without cooling and without hurting life or cycling capabilities. The company says it "has a path" to get its products below $300/kWh by 2015, a quarter the cost of (some types of) lithium-ion batteries, according to the company. So far it has been marketing its products primarily as backup for telecommunications providers (reportedly it has 50 customers mainly in India) but is now positioning for a push into solar arrays and wind turbines, as well as "behind-the-meter grid applications."

The company currently touts a third-generation small-scale product (1-3 kW, 10-15 kWh capacity, 3.5-5 hour charge time, 10-year cycle life... here's the spec sheet) that it says reduces energy cost by up to 70 percent by reducing or eliminating diesel generator use for applications including wireless telecom towers, railway signaling stations, rural ATMs a, remote lighting and networks, and remote military stations. A 5-kW/30-kWh flow battery system targeting telecom, hybrid and residential applications will be ready next year per that Flextronics agreement. A bigger 250-kW system for distributed applications such as microgrids and solar PV is planned for next fall. These bigger batteries (>10-kW to "megawatt-scale") will broaden the company's reach to other commercial and industrial applications (data centers, hospitals, food storage, IT ops, call centers) and rural electrification paired with solar and wind.

More Money for Stem's Leased Storage Model

Stem has closed a $15 million Series B financing round to spur momentum into new commercial and industrial markets and geographies. The round was led by the investment arms of Iberdrola and GE, along with previous investor Angeleno Group.

The company offers battery energy storage with proprietary data analytics and "an autonomous, real-time decision engine" to shift between the grid and battery power. the new funding will be applied to expanding to new commercial and industrial markets and geographies, the company says. Stem also recently unveiled its "Stem Zero" third-party-owned model, offering financing through a partnership with Clean Feet Investors with no upfront costs.

Stem was launched in 2009 and secured its initial round of funding in April 2012. In October of this year it rearranged its financing model into a third-party-owned energy storage concept, with $5 million from Clean Feet Investors giving it enough runway to deploy up to 15 MW. Typical customers would use three of the company's 18-kW systems for 54 kWh of storage capacity costing about $97,000 under 10-year contracts. Some customer examples include two San Francisco hotels, a car wash/service station, and a California bike manufacturer.

Hitachi's Energy Storage Debut

Hitachi is getting into the energy storage game, planning a North American demo early next year of what it calls "an all-in one, container-type energy storage system" combining technologies from two of its businesses.

The System, dubbed "CrystEna" (a mashup of "crystal" and "energy"), packages a 1-MW lithium-ion battery from Hitachi Chemical with "grid control technologies," to be tested initially for commercial viability and performance in the ancillary services market.

Details are somewhat scarce, but Bloomberg reports the products will be installed on high-voltage power lines, to capture excess energy produced by wind and solar generation which can be sold back to grid operators to help stabilize the grid. Hitachi reportedly has an unidentified pilot partner in place.

Lead image: Electricity icon, via Shutterstock

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