Marketwatch: Canada – the new storage hotbed?

BY BEN COOK

  • Canadian storage companies at the forefront of recent sector innovation
  • Investors backed number of Toronto-based storage companies in last year
  • Canadian storage businesses establishing themselves on world stage


Canada, and the city of Toronto in particular, has proved to be a hotbed of energy storage activity and innovation in recent months.

The country – which is ranked 15th in the world in terms of GDP per capita – is home to a number of companies that have been making significant strides in the energy storage market of late including Canadian Solar, Hydrostor, NRStor, Amp Energy and e-Zinc.

Canadian Solar’s storage output ‘set to double’

While Canadian Solar, as its name suggests, built its reputation in the solar industry, it is now becoming a major force in the energy storage market. The company – which has cumulatively provided more than 67GW of solar modules to customers in 160 countries – recently highlighted in its 2021 annual results presentation that its battery storage business delivered nearly 900MWh in its first year after launching.

And this is just the start. Canadian Solar also issued the bullish prediction that it expects to double that output in 2022. The signs in the last year have certainly been positive, with the company – which is led by founder and CEO Shawn Qu – planting its flag in a number of overseas territories. In the last year, it was announced that Canadian Solar had signed a project development agreement with Windel Energy to co-develop 1.5GW of battery energy storage system projects in the UK.

US, Spanish and Colombian markets targeted

Shortly after the Windel Energy announcement, it was revealed that Canadian Solar’s subsidiary Canadian Solar EMEA capital markets had registered a €100 million medium term note programme on the Spanish multilateral trading facility for debt securities (MARF), with the proceeds earmarked for solar PV and battery storage projects.

The developments in the UK and Spanish markets followed hot on the heels of expansion in Latin America. In July last year, it was revealed that Canadian Solar had been awarded the first utility-scale battery storage project in Colombia. The 45 MW / 45 MWh lithium-ion battery scheme, located in the city of Barranquilla in northern Colombia, is expected to begin commercial operation by June 2023.

Canadian Solar also has designs on markets closer to home. Last year, in an effort to signal the extent of the company’s ambition, it stated that it expected to “capture around 10% of the battery storage market in the US alone”.

Hydrostor goes big in California 

Meanwhile, it’s been a particularly big year for Toronto-headquartered Hydrostor. The company – founded in 2010 – hit the jackpot earlier this year when it received an equity financing commitment of $250 million from Goldman Sachs. The world-renowned investment bank expects big things from the company and sees it as having the potential to become a major player in the energy storage industry.

Like Canadian Solar, Hydrostor, which is led by CEO Curtis VanWalleghem, is keen to make a big splash in the US storage market. In December last year, Gem A-CAES LLC, a subsidiary of Hydrostor, filed an application for certification (AFC) with the California Energy Commission for development of a 500 MW / 4,000 MWh energy storage facility located outside of the City of Rosamond in Kern County. The Gem AFC filing followed a Hydrostor AFC filing for the Pecho Energy Storage Center, a 400 MW x 8-hour ‘advanced compressed air energy storage’ project located in San Luis Obispo County, California.

NRStor receives $170m backing

Elsewhere, in May last year, a $500 million energy storage project being developed by Toronto-based storage company NRStor – in partnership with the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation – was backed by Canada Infrastructure Bank to the tune of $170 million. Once complete, the Oneida Energy Storage project, in southwestern Ontario will help the province reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4.1 million tonnes, or the equivalent of taking 40,000 cars off the road every year. Annette Verschuren, CEO and founder of NRStor, has said the project will help protect our environment, lower electricity costs for Ontarians, and support the economic recovery and future growth of our province and Canada.” 

Amp Energy’s global storage boost

Which other Canadian companies will be driving growth in the storage market in the coming year? Keep an eye on Amp Energy – yet another Toronto-based company – which, in January this year, secured a $350 million cross-jurisdictional credit facility with a consortium of institutional investors including Brookfield Asset Management, a sovereign wealth fund, and Nomura Securities. The facility, which is structured in order to potentially allow an increase of up to $700 million, will be used to support the construction of Amp’s “robust and rapidly growing renewables and battery storage asset portfolio globally”, said a statement from Amp Energy, which is led by founder and president Dave Rogers.

The next big thing?

And the Canadian energy storage production line shows no signs of slowing down as new market players begin to emerge. Earlier this month, zinc-air based battery company e-Zinc – which is based in, you guessed it, Toronto, and led by CEO James Larsen – raised US$25 million in a Series A financing, which was led by Anzu Partners and included Toyota Ventures. Commenting on the investment, Lisa Coca, partner, climate fund at Toyota Ventures, said: “Despite solar and wind deployments being on track to hit record highs, it is critical to address the issue of intermittency, which is why we are excited to support e-Zinc – the company’s innovative battery architecture decouples energy from power to enable cost-effective, long duration energy storage – bringing us one-step closer to a zero-carbon future.”

If you’re looking for the next big thing in energy storage, it’s advised that you keep your finger on the pulse of the Canadian storage market, which could be at the forefront of some of the biggest innovations in the sector in the coming years.

Image (clockwise, from top left): Shawn Qu (Canadian Solar); Dave Rogers (Amp Energy); Curtis VanWalleghem (Hydrostor); James Larsen (e-Zinc); and Annette Verschuren (NRStor).

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