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CEC awards $2.9M to companies investigating second-life batteries for use in solar microgrids

Photo taken inside Lucky Cat Labs, artist studios in Los Angeles, California, which will be home to a microgrid powered by second-life EV batteries and solar PV. Credit: Lucky Cat Labs

Software and services company CleanSpark and ReJoule, a battery diagnostics and optimization company announced that they have been awarded a $2.9 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to be deployed over the next 2.5 years.

As electric vehicles (EV) reach the end of their lives, the batteries that drive them can retain a high percentage of their original capacity, which presents opportunities for repurposing them as low-cost stationary storage in a second-life application. 

The CEC grant proposal was for Validating Capability of Second-life Batteries to Cost-Effectively Integrate Solar Power for Small-Medium Commercial Building Applications with an underlying goal of using second life batteries from EVs in a microgrid application. 

The $2.9M in funds will be distributed to ReJoule and CleanSpark and will be further supported by Ford Motor Company, BigBattery, and GRID Alternatives. CleanSpark expects to receive approximately $470,000 of the grant funding for its microgrid design and mVSO software services and follow-on deployment of its mPulse software and controls. CleanSpark has also agreed to provide over $88,000 in matched funding. 

Ford will be donating used EV battery modules and technical support. ReJoule, as the primary grant recipient, will develop a battery grading process and degradation model and will then collaborate with the other partners to validate the feasibility of repurposing EV batteries for storage paired with solar PV systems to provide building resiliency and load shifting services for small and medium-sized commercial buildings.

The systems covered by the grant will be deployed at two locations, Lucky Cat Labs, an artist’s studio located in Los Angeles, California, and a Housing and Training center for the Homeless, located in Santa Ana, California. They will both incorporate solar and second-generation energy storage batteries controlled by CleanSpark’s mPulse software and controls platform and ReJoule’s battery management system.  

Steven Chung and Zora Chung, Co-Founders of ReJoule stated, “This is a big step towards our goal of enabling the circular economy for EV batteries. This project will address the technical challenges associated with repurposing used EV batteries and demonstrate our technology in a commercial setting. We are excited to work with our partners composed of companies and nonprofits dedicated to combating climate change through the deployment of clean energy solutions.”

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Zach Bradford CEO of CleanSpark added, “This is an exciting opportunity for CleanSpark, we recognize the need in the market to extend the life of battery energy storage solutions. Electric Vehicle batteries are an ideal candidate to provide not only long-term value for deployment in residential and commercial applications, but repurposing used EV batteries can greatly assist in the avoidance of potentially substantial disposal and recycling costs. We have found that cost is generally the single largest factor that is considered by an end user. The ability to effectively offer lower cost solutions using second life batteries not only increases sustainability but it could potentially open up an entirely new market to those who find new energy storage systems cost prohibitive.”