By Jason Deign
Ice Energy, the thermal energy storage player, is planning to offer a consumer variant of its new Ice Bear 20 product next year.
The product will use ice for air conditioning and will likely have a little less than the Ice Bear 20’s current four hours of storage, CEO Mike Hopkins told Energy Storage Report.
It will cost slightly more than a new air conditioning system. But it could come in “a little bit under the cost of air conditioning if you take account of rebates in California,” Hopkins said.
The Ice Bear 20, a 20 ton-hour ‘ice battery’ launched at the beginning of this month, is already designed to replace household air conditioning units in what Hopkins termed “a standard-sized home” in the US, measuring around 230m2.
However, Ice Energy is targeting the Ice Bear 20 at utilities wanting to gain greater control of consumer energy loads. Hopkins said National Grid had already expressed an interest in deploying the product in Nantucket, USA.
Offered free to customers
Utilities are expected to bulk-buy the Ice Bear and offer it at a significant discount, or perhaps even free, to consumers in place of traditional air conditioning.
The benefit to the utilities is that, unlike a standard air conditioning system, they can control the Ice Bear’s mode of operation via a wireless link.
Thus, if grid energy demand starts to peak then the utility can signal Ice Bear units to start running cooling systems off their ice reserves, cutting air conditioning electricity requirements by 95%.
Conversely, when the grid faces an excess of production, for example due to daytime solar power generation, the utility can use it to increase ice reserves across its Ice Bear estate, at low cost.
“I don’t believe there is any other way available to utilities to directly control residential loads,” said Hopkins. “There are some products made for the home, but they are more in the area of energy efficiency.”
Demand response programmes
Elsewhere utilities have attempted to get consumers to participate in demand response programmes, but the levels of load involved have tended to be relatively small, and for short time spans.
Using thermal storage instead of air conditioning not only helps the utility deal with load and generation peaks, but also cuts consumer electricity bills.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, more than 50% of Californians have air conditioning and its use accounts for 4% of home energy consumption, which is below than the national average of 6%.
However, due to high electricity prices in the state this still represents a significant financial burden, which is why the Ice Bear could be attractive to the consumer market.
Hopkins said he expects to sell a number of Ice Bear 20 units direct to homeowners even though the product is not being marketed to them. No other ice battery vendors are known to be targeting the consumer market.
Focus on commercial and industrial
Calmac, one of Ice Energy’s main competitors, is focused on commercial, industrial and public sector cooling, for example. The company has installed its IceBank products across 4,000 locations worldwide.
Ice Energy started out with a similar focus. The Ice Bear 20 is based on its 30 ton-hour Ice Bear 30 product, designed for industrial and commercial applications.
The Ice Bear 30 made a surprise entry into Southern California Edison’s supersized 2014 storage procurement round, bagging 25.6MW of the 250MW capacity snapped up by the utility.
In total, more than 1,000 Ice Bear 30s have been installed across at least 40 utility service territories in the US, and the product has notched up 32 million service hours, according to Ice Energy.
The company currently has a pipeline of 225MW of orders “shortlisted or in bilateral negotiation,” Hopkins said. Of this, 50MW relates to a single, unspecified overseas opportunity and 25% is for the Ice Bear 20.
“This is remarkable considering the Ice Bear 20 is not in production yet,” said Hopkins.