Areva boosts energy storage business

One of many Areva energy storage systems and technologies, the Greenergy Box consists of an electrolyser and a fuel cell. It stores hydrogen and oxygen generated by water electrolysis, allowing grid stabilisation. Photo credit: Areva

One of many Areva energy storage systems and technologies, the Greenergy Box consists of an electrolyser and a fuel cell. It stores hydrogen and oxygen generated by water electrolysis, allowing grid stabilisation. Photo credit: Areva

Areva is poised to announce its first major energy storage deal in Germany, according to Rémi Coulon, chief commercial officer at the company’s Renewables division. “We are about to announce our first client in Germany after having clients in France,” he told Energy Storage Report. “Germany is of course a key market for storage, it is where we see the most need. We are fine-tuning the press release.”

The deal, with a large utility in Southern Germany, is known to involve electrolysis and power-to-gas technology, one of Areva’s core energy storage competencies. Further details could be released within days, Coulon stated.

He also confirmed the French industrial giant is in the process of adding flywheels to its energy storage portfolio, which has historically focused on hydrogen production and electricity from fuel cells. Last year Areva signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Leinolat Group, a Finnish industrial conglomerate, to support work on its Olkiluoto 3 European Pressurized Reactor in Finland.

Finnish flywheel supplier?

One of Leinolat’s subsidiaries, Kilkanen, is a flywheel specialist, although it is not known whether the Finnish supplier is linked to Areva’s takeup of the technology. Coulon added that Areva was investigating two other energy storage technologies but would not give further details.

To reflect the growing diversity of its portfolio, Areva Renewables has changed the name of its storage group from ‘Hydrogen’ to ‘Energy Storage’, he said. Areva is also developing molten salt thermal storage technology for its linear Fresnel concentrated solar power (CSP) plants, after working with Sandia National Laboratories on a test plant at the US Department of Energy’s National Solar Thermal Test Facility.

This work is separate from that being carried out by the energy storage team, however.

Investigating phase-change materials

A further line of energy storage research concerns phase-change materials, which Coulon said will initially be employed in CSP projects but could also be applied to thermal power plants. “We have contact with some utilities, especially in Germany,” he said. “They have a lot of interest in adding a temporary, small buffer of storage to allow these plants to be a bit more reactive. It’s a key issue in Germany.”

Areva introduced a potential funding route for these types of projects earlier this month when it inked an MoU with the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), South Korea’s largest utility, regarding ‘commercial opportunities’ in renewable energy.

Under the terms of the agreement, Areva will offer Kepco the chance to invest in projects across its renewable energy portfolio, which includes energy storage, CSP, offshore wind and biomass. “This alliance confirms AREVA’s ambitions in renewables,” said Louis-François Durret, chief executive of Areva Renewables, in a press statement.

Seeing promise in energy storage

The company’s energy storage plans support this sentiment. Although Areva is essentially backed by the French government, rendering it all but unsinkable in financial terms, in recent years the company’s economic performance has been less than stellar.

Losses brought about in part by delays and overruns with the Olkiluoto 3 plant in Finland have forced the business to embark on an important restructuring programme. This means Areva is unlikely to throw cash at speculative ventures, which implies it sees significant promise in energy storage. Coulon confirmed this is the case.

“The caveat is it still needs a few things to come into play before we see the potential fully mature,” he stated. “We still need a financial support scheme to put a value on storage. Financial support schemes will be the key enablers of this market.”

Written by Jason Deign

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