ESS Inc enters Latin American market, signs contract with Pacto GD in Brazil

ESS is contributing to the growth of solar plus storage in Brazil, providing an alternative to thermal generation plants such as this one in Camaçari. Pic: Manu Dias/AGECOM, published under Creative Commons.

ESS is contributing to the growth of solar plus storage in Brazil, providing an alternative to thermal generation plants such as this one in Camaçari. Pic: Manu Dias/AGECOM, published under Creative Commons.

By Jason Deign

ESS Inc yesterday announced a contract to design and install a combined Energy Warehouse flow battery storage and solar energy system in Brazil.

It is the first deal in Latin America for the leading manufacturer of safe, low-cost and long-duration flow battery storage systems, and comes hot on the heels of the company’s first shipments to Europe.

The USD$1.3m Brazil project will be funded in part by a grant from the US Trade and Development Agency through Pacto Geração Distribuída or Pacto GD, a subsidiary of the renewable energy plant developer Pacto Energia.

The goal is to prove the value of energy shifting using the ESS Energy Warehouse with solar PV, potentially leading to future, larger-capacity projects, the flow battery maker said in a press statement.

ESS will plan, design, install, commission and test its 50kW/400kWh Energy Warehouse storage system integrated with 100kW of PV in the Brazilian state of Goiás. 

Eliminating diesel generators in peak hours

The project will enable the end customer, a local commercial entity, to eliminate the use of diesel generators during peak hours.

The solar-plus-storage system will provide health, safety and noise reduction benefits, financial savings in fuel and maintenance, and reduced energy costs during times of peak demand, ESS said.

Craig Evans, founder and CEO of ESS, said the deal was significant for two reasons.

“This project is not only our initial entry into the dynamic Latin American energy storage market, it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate the many advantages of long-duration storage in combination with solar PV assets,” he said.

“Pacto GD is an outstanding partner with a major renewables presence in Brazil and surrounding regions.

“Widespread global deployment”

“As we’re doing in Europe, teaming up with a large, well-established company, with on-the-ground resources, provides the surest path to widespread global deployment of our Energy Warehouse systems.”

Based on the performance and benefits of the system, ESS and Pacto GD will develop a technical and economic plan to prove the feasibility of deploying multiple distributed generation projects.

These could be up to 5MW of PV and 20MWh of energy storage each.

Pacto GD acts as a structuring partner and/or investor of projects for distributed generation, supporting the reduction of costs for large consumers, ESS said.

The company invests, builds and operates low- or medium-voltage solar plants, carrying out the commercialization through bilateral contracts for equipment rental, land leasing and operations and maintenance. 

Improving potential for self-consumption

Adding energy storage to the solar plants is an obvious way to improve the potential for self-consumption. This emerged as the main reason for deploying long-duration energy storage in research published by ESS in April.

ESS has also signed up a Brazilian channel partner, VedantaESS, “to provide innovative solutions to address the energy challenges facing Brazil,” the flow battery company said.

Breaking into the relatively virgin Latin American energy storage market is something of a coup for ESS, which was established in 2011.

It shows how flow batteries can still steal a lead on lithium-ion, which has been implicated in the demise of companies such as Aquion Energy and ViZn Energy that were trying to break into the market with competing chemistries.

ESS seems relatively impervious to such competitive pressures since it secured the chemical industry leader BASF as a backer in December 2017.

BASF led ESS’s 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. 

ESS Energy Warehouse flow battery

ESS develops and manufactures the low-cost, long-duration Energy Warehouse flow battery for commercial and utility-scale energy storage applications requiring four-plus hours of flexible energy capacity.

The company claims the Energy Warehouse offers more than 20 years of operating life, with no capacity fade, and has “the lowest levelized cost of storage per kWh.”

The flow battery is made of earth-abundant iron, salt, and water for the electrolyte, making it impervious to supply chain concerns hovering around the lithium-ion battery market.

Writing in Energy Storage Reportearlier this year, Evans said it was important to seek alternatives to lithium-ion for bulk, long-duration energy storage.

The scarce commodities used in lithium-ion battery manufacturing were more desperately needed by the consumer electronics and automotive sectors, he noted.

“The energy storage sector needs to get over its ‘lithium-ion for everything’ phase,” he said. “The materials are just too precious to go around.”

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