By Jason Deign
The Portland, Oregon, USA-based flow battery maker ESS Inc. last week made its European market debut with news of upcoming shipments to Germany.
The company said it would be sending two of its safe, low-cost, long-duration Energy Warehouse flow battery systems to BASF, the leading chemical company, which also recently made a significant investment in ESS.
The systems have 50kW and 400kWh of capacity each and “mark the company’s first deployments in Europe, setting the stage for active market development on the continent,” said ESS in a press release.
It is understood that BASF wants to evaluate the Energy Warehouse units with a view to incorporating the technology into its energy storage portfolio.
According to its website, the chemical giant already offers a sodium-sulphur battery chemistry with flow battery features.
Storing large amounts of electricity
“[A] core part of the battery is a ceramic cylinder that conducts sodium ions and serves as electrolyte,” says BASF. “The new technology can store large amounts of electricity.
“An innovative cell design and the usage principle of a flow battery enable low specific costs while increasing the storage capacity.”
Olaf Rogge, head of energy storage sales and marketing at BASF New Business, said in press materials that the chemicals company was aiming to collaborate with ESS on battery applications.
“Taking delivery of two ESS Energy Warehouse systems will create a working relationship that will enable us to gain first-hand experience with the technology,” he said.
Extending the ESS partnership ecosystem was one of the objectives of the flow battery maker’s recent USD$13m funding round, which finished in December.
BASF led the Series B round
BASF led the Series B round, which also saw money coming in from Cycle Capital Management, Presidio Partners Investment Management, InfraPartners Management and existing ESS investors including Pangaea Ventures.
As well as helping boost ESS’s manufacturing capacity to produce up to 900MWh of batteries a year, the cash aimed to “create a stronger ecosystem for promoting clean, low-cost, long-duration energy storage,” ESS said.
Craig Evans, ESS founder and CEO, said the BASF deal “shows the industry’s confidence in our technology and our business.
“We are pleased to receive orders from companies like BASF and to establish our footprint in the European market,” he said.
“We look forward to continued collaboration with BASF and to serving other major clients in the exciting European market.”
Demand for flow batteries in Europe
There could indeed be significant demand for flow batteries in Europe as several markets on the continent move beyond short-term energy storage applications and look for assets that can work over longer time frames.
Germany, for example, has already started to look into the feasibility of long-duration bulk storage technologies including flow batteries.
Last year it was reported that EWE Gasspeicher, a gas storage company, was investigating a flow battery system big enough to power a city as large as Berlin for a whole hour.
More interest is likely to follow as Germany’s energy storage market mushrooms. GTM Research estimates the German energy storage market will grow to 713MW and more than 1.6GWh by 2021.
In the UK, meanwhile, changes to the capacity market have penalised short-duration storage assets and could favour the implementation of flow batteries alongside other longer-duration assets.
Both the UK and Germany are seeing growing demand for energy storage among commercial and industrial customers, which is another segment being targeted by ESS.
Commercial and industrial energy storage
Last December, the company was listed as one of the top 12 companies for commercial and industrial energy storage in the US, as ranked by the analyst firm IHS Markit.
A factor in ESS’s favour is that the Energy Warehouse flow battery uses earth-abundant iron, salt and water for its electrolyte, and simple materials for battery components.
This makes the battery inherently safe and gives it the ability to achieve extremely low costs when produced at scale.
ESS, which upped its European presence with a stand at Energy Storage Europe last week, claims the technology has a lifespan that exceeds 20,000 cycles, low maintenance requirements and an energy capacity of eight hours.
“It matches well with the 25-year life span of solar and wind projects, supporting those applications’ low levelised cost of energy requirements,” said ESS.
It is also ideally suited for time-shifting renewable energy, managing a facility’s demand charges and smoothing the intermittency of renewables on a constrained grid, according to the company.
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