Oil giants pile into energy storage

This five-year chart of Brent crude prices shows the pain oil companies have been experiencing since mid-2014... and why they might be looking to diversify into energy storage.

This five-year chart of Brent crude prices shows the pain oil companies have been experiencing since mid-2014… and why they might be looking to diversify into energy storage (chart: CNBC).

By Jason Deign

The last week has seen two Big Oil firms move into energy storage as continuing low prices for crude force petroleum sector players to diversify.

On Monday the French oil giant Total announced a friendly takeover of Saft Groupe, which specialises in batteries for the transport, industry and defence sectors.

The €950m purchase represents a 38.3% premium on Saft’s share price on the close of business the Friday before the announcement. It is also 41.9% above Saft’s weighted average share price over the previous six months, Total said.

“The acquisition of Saft is part of Total’s ambition to accelerate its development in the fields of renewable energy and electricity, initiated in 2011 with the acquisition of SunPower,” said Patrick Pouyanné, Total’s chairman and CEO.

“It will notably allow us to complement our portfolio with electricity storage solutions, a key component of the future growth of renewable energy.”
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Bosch eyes PV energy storage

Featuring Saft li-ion batteries, the Bosch BPT-S 5 Hybrid is aimed at Germany's residential PV sector

Featuring Saft li-ion batteries, the Bosch BPT-S 5 Hybrid is aimed at Germany’s residential PV sector. Photo credit: Saft

All this recent talk of integrated solar and battery energy storage has got a lot of people thinking of market opportunities. Take German manufacturer Bosch, for example, which is now targeting its snapily-titled BPT-S 5 Hybrid system squarely at the residential photovoltaic market in its home country.
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Rail drives Indian battery boom

Battery giant Saft has just announced that it has cut the ribbon on a new factory in Bidadi, Bangalore, with its partner Amalgamations. The factory, which will double Saft’s local capacity, will produce advanced rechargeable nickel batteries for industrial uses. Among these will be aircraft (Saft products are certified for use by the Indian Airforce), mobile telecoms and what the company describes as “mega power plants”.

Interestingly, one big factor spurring the factory opening is public rail transport. According to the company’s press office: “The Bangalore plant incorporates all the resources required to support the Indian operations of major railway OEMs: from design to manufacturing and commissioning of battery solutions.

“It positions Saft to benefit from the large investments in the Indian railway market, anticipated for at least the next five years.”

Saft batteries are already to be found in the rolling stock of India’s booming city metro systems and it is heartening to think that at least somewhere in the world it is public transport, not the private vehicle, that is stimulating energy storage growth.

Saft in new US$98m deal with US military

Saft will be providing the US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) with lithium-sulphur dioxide batteries for portable devices such as radios,reports New Energy Network. The DLA will then pass the units onto the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

The contract Saft has secured will be worth up to USD$98 million over five years and adds to the recent top-up of $1.3 million the company secured from BAE Systems to develop energy storage solutions for hybrid vehicles destined for the US Army.

US military vehicles go electric

It is not just tree-huggers who are embracing electric vehicles: the US Army has several in the pipeline. This means opportunities for energy storage companies, such as Saft, which has just been awarded USD$1.3 million from weapons manufacturer BAE Systems.

The funding is for the continued development of a Lithium-ion energy storage system for the US Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle programme. Saft, which is designing and building ultra-high-power cells for the vehicle’s hybrid electric drive system, has already completed the demo battery system including hardware and software, says the company.

Saft breaks into wind with lithium-ion battery

Advanced battery manufacturer Saft will be supplying two Intensium Max 20E lithium-ion battery containers as part of the High Wind and Storage Project near the City of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. Commissioned by Cowessess First Nation to design, produce and install the complete battery-based energy storage system, the project is Saft’s first foray into wind power in North America.

Each of the two Li-ion units includes a 400kW power conditioning system for use in conjunction with a 800kW turbine, and Saft’s complete system has been designed to smooth output and provide up to 400 kWh peak-shaving capability.

ACCIONA adds energy storage to solar

ACCIONA has made history by integrating a battery and smart control system into a photovoltaic (PV) plant, connected to the main electricity grid. Located in Navarre, Northern Spain, the ILIS Innovative Lithium-Ion System management design for MW-level solar plants (ILIS) project uses SAFT’s lithium-ion batteries with a capacity of 1.1MW and 560kWh of power.Part of a growing trend for the integration of energy storage and solar power, ILIS has been designed to improve the integration of photovoltaic energy into the grid and bring about greater penetration of this technology in the electric power system, says ACCIONA. The €5.5m for the project, which began in 2010 and has been scheduled to run until April next year, comes from the Spanish taxpayer by way of the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and by the Government of Navarra.