Ice Energy pursues refrigeration and overseas markets in expansion move

Southern California Edison (SCE) is one of the utilities using Ice Energy's storage systems to cut peak energy use. Pic: SCE.

Southern California Edison (SCE) is one of the utilities using Ice Energy’s storage systems to cut peak energy use. Pic: SCE.

By Mike Stone

Ice Energy is leveraging its thermal energy storage technology to enter the commercial refrigeration sector, Energy Storage Report has learned.

The company is also in negotiations to export a range of new and existing products to markets outside the US for the first time.

The California-based company has already proved its approach to air conditioning can effectively store cheap night-time electricity as ice, to provide daytime cooling for homes and businesses.

And in the process, it is helping to stabilise the grid for utilities such as Southern California Edison (SCE).

Now, CEO Mike Hopkins explained, Ice Energy has adapted its existing Ice Bear technology to provide the lower temperatures needed for applications such as in-store refrigerators and process cooling.

Opening the refrigerator door

Like its air-conditioning sibling, the tentatively-named Polar Bear unit saves on running costs by using cheap electricity, immediately making it an attractive alternative to conventional refrigeration.

According to Hopkins, it also beats the competition on purchase costs, with an all-inclusive price tag of around USD$1,000 per installed kW of capacity.

Polar Bear units have been in development for some six months now and are currently being piloted in a supermarket and a winery.

The initial rollout, scheduled for Q4 2018, will feature rooftop units that simply retrofit into a customer’s existing system to deliver cooled refrigerant via a tube. Later units will integrate both the chill cabinet and the refrigeration unit.

Diversifying into a market that, unlike air conditioning, is non-seasonal has obvious strategic advantages for the company. 

Chilling out into new territories

It’s also a market which Hopkins expects will deliver the same overall economic value to the company as air conditioning. At the same time, Ice Energy is very serious about expanding its activities geographically.

To date, the firm has only had pilot projects outside of the US, but that is set to change, Hopkins said, assuming current discussions with an as-yet unnamed global energy company reach a satisfactory agreement.

Hopkins said he was confident of a positive outcome within three months or less, which should open doors in for Ice Energy in South America, the Middle East and Australia.

These ambitious plans to expand territorial and market reach will need financial backing. Hopkins said Ice Energy is looking to raise between $10m and $15m from equity during the summer.

“It’s not money we need to survive,” he commented, “it’s money we need to support our expansion.” 

Moving forward with funding

Hopkins said Ice Energy expects to nudge into a positive cash flow situation by year end.

What’s more, the company recently proved it could stand firmly on its own feet when erstwhile partner NRG Energy divested from everything renewable-related, including a 26MW Ice Energy project with SCE.

Ice Energy took the opportunity to seize total responsibility for the deployment.“We are now the owner and supplier [of the project] and are now installing units and on track to fulfil all our commitments,” Hopkins explained.

“We will be deploying continuously for the next three years.”

Previously, the company’s largest engagement had been 6MW, so the current SCE deployment is a landmark project. It will hopefully prove Ice Energy can take on not only sector diversification but overseas markets, too.

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