By Jason Deign
Aquion Energy, the saltwater battery maker, has cut a 10-year, 50% cost reduction target by eight years within the last five months.
The company now hopes to halve the cost of its products in as little as 48 months, instead of the decade it had estimated in June this year.
“We’ll probably achieve that within two years,” confirmed chief commercial officer Tim Poor.
“We’re a new chemistry with lots of optimisation as yet to be factored in by additional innovation and improvements to the basic battery chemistry design.”
A 50% reduction would bring the wholesale price of Aquion’s Cradle-to-Cradle-certified products down to around USD$200 per kWh.
A lot of confidence
“We actually have working batteries in the lab right now that are demonstrating the performance that gets us there,” Poor told Energy Storage Report. “We have a lot of confidence and it’s quite reasonable given that we are still new.”
Besides performance improvements, Poor said Aquion’s cost-reduction efforts would benefit from the fact that its saltwater batteries are made with cheap materials that can be sourced globally.
They do not contain rare earth elements or heavy metals, he said.
The cost reductions come as Aquion gears up for a major increase in production through the sale of integrated products developed in partnership with other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
In Australia, for example, Aquion earlier this month announced an integrated storage system called Titan SmartStorage, launched in association with the Australian power and energy systems integrator Fusion Power Systems.
Residential solar energy storage
“Fusion’s Titan SmartStorage is Australia’s first fully integrated, safe and easy-to-install residential solar energy storage system,” claimed Aquion in a press release.
“The system combines clean and cost-effective Aquion Energy Aspen saltwater batteries with an Australian-made, purpose-built inverter and charge controller, designed and built to withstand Australian conditions.”
Poor called the Titan SmartStorage product “a more elegant, packaged solution” than simply having batteries hooked up to an inverter. “Some customers, especially on the residential side, like that,” he said.
Fusion also offers an integration system called Titan Smart Bridge, which allows the storage arrays to be connected to existing PV setups without having to swap out the inverter.
Besides avoiding extra cost, Titan Smart Bridge connections negate the need for work on the AC side of the consumer’s electricity system, meaning any feed-in tariff or permit arrangements would be unaffected, said Poor.
Bringing a lot more value
“It’s a lot more sophisticated and brings a lot more value” than assembling a storage system from scratch, he noted.
Fusion Power also sells Aquion batteries on a standalone basis. But the Titan SmartStorage agreement is not exclusive, meaning Aquion is free to tie up similar integration deals with other vendors in Australia and further afield.
Last month, for example, Aquion unveiled a partnership with the Canadian PV company Sentinel Solar, releasing a plug-and-play offering called the Wave Energy Storage System.
Poor said to expect more of these tie-ups in the near future as Aquion is in “active discussions” with a number of possible partners. Further announcements are likely within six to 12 months, he predicted.
“For the large residential markets we’re very interested in working with OEM-type suppliers that want to design our batteries in as a component to a complete packaged energy storage solution,” he said.
Keen to court integration partners
Aquion, which has shipped about 30MWh across some 150 installations around the world, is keen to court integration partners not only to extend its current sales footprint but also to tap into new applications.
The Wave and Titan products, for example, are both rated for outdoor use, allowing them to be sited in places where you might not use a standalone battery.
Ultimately Aquion expects up to half its revenues could come from this component-based sales approach.
Currently, the residential market accounts for roughly 50% of Aquion’s income, and sales to this segment could see a “double-digit” uplift thanks to batteries being used in integrated storage systems, according to Poor.
As well as the residential sector, Aquion sees potential in off-grid and microgrid projects. “The batteries are really competitive on remote, off-grid applications,” Poor said.
No complex battery management
“Our batteries have zero maintenance and we have no complex battery management system that has to be used and maintained. That makes them ideal for remote locations. They’re also tolerant of high temperatures.”
The company is currently seeing products being commissioned in commercial and industrial settings in Samoa, Asia, Africa and North America, said Poor.
Finally, the company is also active in the telecommunications base station market. This makes up around 10% of Aquion’s sales, compared to 40% for the commercial and industrial segment and 50% for residential use.
Overall, the company expects to see around 20MWh of products shipping this year. To support this expansion, Aquion is engaged in a fundraising round that has already pulled in $30m.
The company is “making good progress” to break even, Poor said.