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Getting extra power to where it’s needed is a tricky business, often requiring millions of dollars in investments. Now a solar-industry veteran has proposed a cheaper alternative: juice stored in batteries that are delivered by truck, rail or barge.

Shihab Kuran, who founded Petra Systems Inc. and also worked at NRG Energy Inc. and SunEdison Inc., has now formed Power Edison LLC, which offers grid-scale lithium-ion battery systems encased in specialized shipping containers that can be stacked like Legos. The Green Brook, New Jersey-based company was formed in March and formally announced Thursday.

 

The units would let utilities dispatch storage systems to match shifting demand and defer costly upgrades to the grid. Portability also allows businesses to send batteries to where power is needed most, like Canada in winter and Brazil in summer.

“We are the Uber of battery storage,” Kuran said in an interview. “We’re going to offer a solution for the duration that it’s needed, and after that, we’ll take our solution and re-purpose that for other applications.”

Power Edison’s offering comes as utilities like Consolidated Edison Inc. seek to employ new technologies like storage to avoid spending millions to beef up electricity networks to accommodate rising consumption. The amount of storage capacity installed globally is forecast to reach 750 megawatts this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, up from 160 megawatts in 2014.

 

Easy Delivery

Kuran, who previously headed storage businesses at NRG and SunEdison, said the key to his strategy is making batteries easier to move. Lithium-ion systems are complicated to transport. They are heavy, sensitive to temperature changes and prone to bursting into flames. To solve that problem, Power Edison designed containers to protect them from the rigors of travel.

“Today if you want to move an energy storage container by code you have to empty the batteries out, you have to put them into cool containers, you have to transport them separately,” Kuran said. “It’s a very expensive process.”

First Project

 

​Another part of the strategy is leasing the batteries instead of selling them, cutting costs for utilities, Kuran said. Utilities typically rely on battery storage for one to three years before major upgrades are needed to meet rising power demand. The containers, measuring up to 40 feet (12 meters) long, will have a capacity of one megawatt-hour. The company is taking orders now and the first project is expected to be unveiled this year.

Clean energy advocates have long considered storage the elusive link to better incorporating energy into the grid from wind and solar farms, where production ebbs and flows based on breezes and sunshine.

“Solving the storage problem, in my humble opinion, is the last obstacle before allowing renewables to become a meaningful source of energy that can tackle climate change,’’ Kuran said. “Renewables, they suffer from intermittency and they are not a dispatchable energy source, so energy storage remains to be the Holy Grail that many in the industry are working on.”

Dive Brief:

  • Power Edison LLC, a startup based in New Jersey, is offering grid-scale lithium-ion battery systems housed in shipping containers that can be stacked like Legos and delivered via truck, rail or barge, Bloomberg reports. 

  • As part of its strategy, Power Edison leases its batteries rather than selling them, cutting costs for utilities.

  • The Green Brook, New Jersey, company was founded by Shihab Kuran, who founded Petra Systems Inc. and also worked at NRG Energy and SunEdison.


Dive Insight:

Lithium-ion batteries are on the forefront of a boom in energy storage deployments. They dominated the makeup of storage projects in 2015, according to Navigant Consulting, composing more than half of newly announced energy storage system capacity and more than 85% of deployed power capacity.

But li-ion technology is not without its problems. It is difficult to transport li-ion batteries. They are heavy, sensitive to temperature changes and prone to bursting into flames. To address those problems, Power Edison designed containers to protect them from the rigors of travel.

“We are the Uber of battery storage,” Shihab Kuran, Power Edison’s founder said in an interview with Bloomberg.

“Today if you want to move an energy storage container by code you have to empty the batteries out, you have to put them into cool containers, you have to transport them separately,” Kuran said. “It’s a very expensive process.”

Making storage mobile allows utilities to dispatch storage systems to match shifting demand and defer costly upgrades to the grid. It also allows businesses to send batteries to where power is needed most, like Canada in winter and Brazil in summer.

Utilities typically rely on battery storage for one to three years before major upgrades are needed to meet rising power demand.

The containers, measure up to 40 feet long, and will have a capacity of 1 MWh. Power Edison expects to unveil its first project this year.

“We’re going to offer a solution for the duration that it’s needed, and after that, we’ll take our solution and re-purpose that for other applications,” Kuran said.

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - February 28, 2017) - Con Edison has filed a project that will bring battery storage technology to New York City neighborhoods to help keep service reliable during the hot summer months.

 

By the summer of 2018, the company will deploy batteries capable of sending 1 megawatt of power for four hours into the grid to serve homes and businesses. Con Edison will determine where to deploy the batteries each summer based on the needs of its electrical networks.

The project, called "Storage on Demand," is the second battery demonstration project Con Edison has filed in 2017. The company believes both projects will produce insights leading to more widespread adoption of large-scale battery storage to benefit electrical delivery systems and customers. The projects support the state's Reforming the Energy Vision initiative.

 

"Battery storage technology is advancing quickly and can provide us with another tool to keep our service reliable on the days our customers need it the most," said Matthew Ketschke, Con Edison's vice president, Distributed Resource Integration. "Battery storage can also help us defer making upgrades to our infrastructure, saving our customers money."

 

Con Edison has formed a partnership with NRG Energy, which owns almost 50,000 megawatts of generation capacity across the United States, to develop and build the units at NRG's generating station in Astoria, Queens. Storage on Demand will consist of two mobile battery trailers and one mobile electrical switchgear trailer.

 

When Con Edison and its customers do not need the batteries, the units will be stored at the generating station and the partners will sell peak-shaving, contingency support and other services into the New York Independent System Operator wholesale market.

While Con Edison plans on deploying the units during the summer, the batteries will also be available at other times of the year when an electrical network needs short-term support.

 

In its other storage demonstration project, filed in January, Con Edison will work with microgrid developer GI Energy to place "front-of-the-meter," 1 megawatt/1 megawatt hour batteries at the properties of four customers. Con Edison will make quarterly lease payments to those customers.

 

The company would charge the batteries during off-peak times and discharge them during peak times to support Con Edison's system or in wholesale markets. 

One site will also include an Urban Electric Power 200 kilowatt/400 kilowatt hour zinc manganese dioxide battery system that may provide increased flexibility at indoor battery sites.

 

That project, if successful, would provide an alternative to more traditional "behind-the-meter" batteries. Those batteries are owned by customers who store power in the units and then use that power to reduce their peak demand.

But those batteries make economic sense for only a small number of commercial customers -- those who pay demand charges and have highly fluctuating needs for power.

 

New York State's Reforming the Energy Vision program, or REV, encourages energy companies to use new technology to provide reliable, resilient service and to offer customers more access to products and services like energy efficiency, smart usage programs and renewables.

Yahoo Finance covering Con Edison's Storage on Demand project which Power Edison is involved in.

 

Con Edison Storing the Future for Energy Customers