f there's one familiar thread to energy innovation, it's the challenge of storing it after it's generated. But news from around the world over the past month shows there is no shortage of storage research and experimentation — often accompanied by significant investment.
This week, for instance, Daimler AG announced on Dec. 1 it is expanding the production capacities for lithium-ion batteries with investments of around €100 million in the Deutsche ACCUmotive subsidiary in coming years. Currently, a new building to be completed by mid-2015 is under construction in the Saxon city of Kamenz. With the completion of the third construction phase Deutsche ACCUmotive will have nearly 20,000 sq. m. (215,285 sq. ft.) of production and logistics space at its disposal — four times the area since the start of production in the year 2011.
"We are looking forward to continuous growth in the demand for Deutsche ACCUmotive batteries," said Frank Blome, managing director of Deutsche ACCUmotive, during the topping out ceremony for the new production hall on Monday, which was attended by Saxony's Prime Minister Stanislaw Tillich.
"The production of battery systems by Deutsche ACCUmotive GmbH in Kamenz will contribute significantly to the growing expertise of the auto state Saxony in the area of electro mobility and battery technology," said Tillich, noting the state's plethora of higher education and research facilities and specialized talent.
Deutsche ACCUmotive was founded in 2009 for the development and production of lithium-Ion battery systems for vehicles, with R&D primarily stationed in Nabern, near Stuttgart, where it employs 80 people, and production in Kamenz, which employs around 180 people. Daimler subsidiary supplies lithium-ion batteries for the current smart fortwo electric drive and the hybrid variants of the S-, E- and C-Class of Mercedes-Benz, and has delivered more than 50,000 lithium-ion batteries to date. But it's not focused solely on cars.
"Additional growth opportunities outside the automotive industry also arise for Deutsche ACCUmotive through the entry into the business with stationary applications, where the vehicle batteries serve as the technological foundation for the development of stationary energy storage units," said a Daimler release. "The scalability of the systems enables the use of the lithium-ion batteries in big industry for network stabilization and smoothing of peak loads (peak shaving) for energy producers as well as private households, for example, in conjunction with photovoltaic installations. Deutsche ACCUmotive can already profit from economies of scales through series production of vehicle batteries and score with the high safety standards from the automotive industry."
Across the Grid
The very day after Daimler's announcement, the Province of Ontario, Canada — known already for a smart grid supported by 4.8 million smart meters in homes and businesses — announced it is supporting 17 new energy projects through its Smart Grid Fund program, providing almost $24 million to support about $54 million in total electricity sector investment that is expected to create more than 350 jobs. Storage is one of the lead areas, along with EV integration, behind-the-meter technology, microgrids, grid automation and data analytics.
"These projects represent an investment that will have long-term positive impacts on the energy sector's contribution to developing innovative technologies, fostering economic development and promoting job creation," said Bob Chiarelli, Ontario minister of energy.
The Smart Grid Fund is a $50-million program that supports high-value opportunities to advance energy innovation in Ontario. Launched in April 2011, it has supported 11 projects to date, creating more than 600 direct and indirect jobs. The trio of new storage projects includes:
eCAMION: The demonstration of three 250-kWh smart energy storage systems in Sudbury, Toronto, and Ottawa, to promote peak management, grid reliability, and increased renewable energy penetration.
Ryerson University's Centre for Urban Energy: Demonstration of a pole-mounted energy storage system to facilitate electric vehicle integration and improve grid stability/reliability.
Electrovaya: The installation 11 Intelligent Energy Storage Systems in Toronto and London to solve issues caused by system congestion and sudden connect/disconnect of electric vehicles.
The Walmart-ization of Renewable Energy
Chances are that many of the holiday decoration storage bins currently being unpacked nationwide were purchased at Walmart. It sells its share of batteries too. But the company, already known for its solar power commitment, is getting into battery-based energy storage too.
Just before Thanksgiving, SolarCity announced it has entered into a contract with Walmart for the installation of new solar projects at facilities in up to 36 states over the next four years. SolarCity has completed more than 200 solar projects at Walmart locations since 2010. It's also installed and tested energy storage projects co-located with solar power generation at 13 Walmart facilities since early 2013, and will be incorporating 10 additional storage projects in the next year. SolarCity has created 5,000 permanent American jobs since it initiated its first project with Walmart in 2010.
SolarCity said Walmart is "at the forefront of commercializing storage technology and was a pilot customer for SolarCity's energy storage system for businesses. Since early 2013, Walmart has tested 13 battery storage projects with solar installations across California to provide additional savings to Walmart by using stored electricity to lower peak demand charges. The next 10 solar energy storage projects will each use a larger 200-kilowatt (400-kilowatt-hour) battery, expanding battery storage capabilities as well as further reducing energy expense.
Walmart is the top commercial solar energy user in the United States according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, and the largest on-site renewable energy user in America according to EPA's Green Power Partnership.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Blues Brothers
Will County, Ill., like Walmart, is known for its vast storage capabilities, in the form of prodigious warehouse developments. But like Walmart, it too is now a location for energy storage innovation.
On Nov. 11, Broomfield, Colo.-based Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc., which develops and constructs wind, solar, transmission, and energy storage projects in North America, announce two grid-scale energy storage projects outside of Chicago that, once completed in 2015, will be the largest, fully commercial energy storage projects in North America.
RES Americas will develop and construct the two 19.8-megawatt (MW) energy storage systems, each having the ability to store 7.8 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy. The first project, Elwood Energy Storage Center, will be located on Pilsen Road in West Chicago. The second project, Jake Energy Storage Center, will be located on Brandon Road in Joliet. Construction is expected to begin on both projects this winter with completion by August 2015. The projects are expected to operate for at least 10 years. RES Americas acquired the projects during the development phase from Glidepath Power in September of 2014.
"The Jake and Elwood Energy Storage Centers represent commercial installations of cutting-edge energy storage technology," said Victor Babbitt, RES Americas' vice president of energy storage. "These projects will increase the reliability and quality of ComEd's grid in these communities which, in turn, may help attract new business that demands a high-quality and reliable electricity supply. We are excited to work with our host communities in the cities [of] Joliet and West Chicago to make these high-tech projects a reality."
The projects will both provide real-time frequency regulation service to the PJM ancillary services market and are interconnected to the local Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) electric grid. The frequency regulation service balances second-to-second variations in load and generation by absorbing excess energy during moments of over-generation and releasing energy during periods of under-generation to maintain power quality. Due to their very fast response time, battery projects are much more efficient at providing this service than conventional generators. This project efficiency allows PJM to deliver higher electrical quality, higher reliability, and lower cost to electricity consumers than traditional sources.
The battery storage modules for the projects will be supplied by Chinese-owned BYD America. The batteries utilize lithium iron phosphate, which RES Americas calls "an inherently safe variant of lithium battery chemistry." The projects consist of 22 identical energy storage modular units (11 per site), each of which will be a self-contained energy storage system containing thousands of individual battery cells, power conditioning equipment, safety and monitoring systems. The energy storage control and dispatch systems will be developed and provided by RES Americas.
"These landmark projects are another significant step forward in the continued expansion of our energy storage practice," said Babbitt. "The projects, coupled with our existing energy storage projects in Ohio and Ontario, demonstrate our commitment to be an industry leader in this emerging market and to provide real economic solutions to meet our customers' needs."
The global market for energy storage is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years, said RES Americas. IHS Energy forecasts North America leading the world in grid-connected battery storage, with nearly 3.3 GWh of cumulative installations by 2020.