The Areva energy storage programme, including the Areva Schneider Electric flow battery project, is in doubt following a profit warning and share price meltdown. Photo credit: FlowBox, KIC-InnoEnergy
The future of a major flow battery initiative appears in doubt after news emerged yesterday of financial troubles at Areva, the French energy giant.
The company, which in October signed an energy storage cooperation agreement with Schneider Electric, announced yesterday afternoon it was suspending its financial outlook for 2015 and 2016 because of problems with its nuclear reactor business.
Areva is currently in a legal wrangle with Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO), a Finnish nuclear power company, over the construction of a new European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) at Olkiluoto in Western Finland.
The project has been subject to major cost and schedule over-runs, with both parties blaming the other for causing the problems. Yesterday Areva and its Olkiluoto consortium partner Siemens updated an ongoing claim against TVO, to €3.4bn.
Until the matter is resolved there can be little certainty over when Areva will be paid.
Meanwhile the company is also awaiting the renewal of nuclear operations in Japan, other new reactor projects, recycling export contracts and an uptick in “the still lacklustre market for installed base services,” according to yesterday’s press release.
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Is hydrogen fuel cell energy storage a good investment? Photo: Plug Power stock was not as affected as others by the bankruptcy of fuel-cell technology company ClearEdge Power.
The demise of ClearEdge Power last month raises questions over the future of a technology that has many followers yet steadfastly refuses to take off.
Fuel cells, the product commercialised by ClearEdge, have a history dating back to 1838 and a service record that includes use by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Selling them seems to be a hazardous affair, however.
In 2012, ClearEdge paid USD$48m for the fuel cell business that United Technology Corporation (UTC) had spent a reported $1bn building up.
In April this year, however, Ballard Power Systems bought around 800 UTC fuel-cell intellectual property assets, leading some observers to question what it was, exactly, that ClearEdge had purchased.
But there are doubts even over whether Ballard, one of the biggest names in the fuel cell business, can make the numbers work. Stocks in the company soared at the beginning of the last decade, when fuel cells were expected to be the next big thing in transportation.
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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.”
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Thermal energy storage has been cited as one of the most convincing ways of housing a large amount of excess energy for a usefully long period of time. In other words, it makes for great grid-level energy storage. The current largest project, the Andasol plant in Spain, has sufficient storage to produce 150MW for up to 7.5 hours. The Solana plant under construction in Arizona will be able to provide over 250MW of power for up to eight hours. And although not dramatic, the figures for the sector are looking good, according to TechNavio’s analysts.
They forecast that the global molten salt market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17.25% over the period between 2012 and 2016, in their new report. The usual factors for the renewable sector seem to be at play, according to the analysis in the report: positive growth as a result of investment, which includes government subsidies. On the other hand, there is a note of caution at the threat of those subsidies being withdrawn.
According to TechNavio, the key vendors in the sector at the moment are Abengoa Solar, Areva, General Electric and Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne.