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California Energy Commission funding energy storage, microgrid firms

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Credit: Photo by Ahmet Yalçınkaya on Unsplash

The California Energy Commission (CEC) selected UK-based Invinity Energy Systems for funding as part of an initiative for long-duration, non-lithium energy storage with the use of its vanadium flow batteries (VFBs) technology. CEC also awarded modular microgrid energy solution company, BoxPower, a $1.2 million dollar grant to further develop its software and hardware solution at 15 microgrid sites in California.

California’s renewable generation often outstrips demand, though not always when energy is most needed. The CEC, California’s primary energy policy and planning agency, sees long-duration storage as a key to stabilize the grid and deliver on the state’s decarbonization goals.

State officials expect that California needs 1 gigawatt (GW) of new long-duration energy storage to advance its targets for electricity sector decarbonization. Consequently, a $20m solicitation was launched this year to fund innovative long-duration non-lithium storage.

The CEC received 23 proposals and selected eight for funding, with four of the winning eight including VFBs supplied by Invinity. The project sites in California are comprised of 7.8MWh of Invinity VFBs. Invinity’s long-duration batteries will be paired with renewable energy to perform services including peak shaving, demand charge reduction and provision of back-up power.

Invinity’s VFBs are a form of heavy duty, non-degrading, stationary energy storage which are deployed in high-utilization, industrial applications such as grid balancing, renewable ‘firming’ and electric vehicle integration. In addition to the state’s wind and solar generation, the storage system can power for eight to ten hours for a 20- to 30-year lifespan. This solution yields better economics for these energy-shifting applications than comparable lithium-ion batteries.

“California has pioneered renewable technology for decades, but their electric grid is currently plagued by problems, with wildfires, regular blackouts and tremendous instability in electricity supply,” said Matt Harper, Chief Commercial Officer at Invinity. “Our vanadium flow batteries can help to address these issues by dispatching clean, low-cost renewable energy on demand, delivering the stability needed to achieve California’s ambitious decarbonization targets.”

Microgrids for resiliency

In related news, BoxPower announced that it was awarded a $1.2M grant to develop 15 microgrid test sites across the state of California. The three-year microgrid project, under the designation of California Title 24 Advanced Power Utilization Technology, will provide insights into energy cost reduction strategies and increased energy resiliency. BoxPower’s work will seek to drive cost reductions, open new cash flow opportunities for batteries, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and measure non-energy societal benefits, such as resiliency. However, the key issue is the uncertainty of how a microgrid battery asset can be used to cover the initial investment.

Customers in the past have used BoxPower’s modular microgrids in disaster relief, medical clinic, agriculture, remote power, and most recently, utility applications. This experience working with utilities will enable BoxPower to bring utility representatives into the research and testing process, ensuring the resulting solution works for all stakeholders.

Global need for cleaner, greener energy

The need for energy solutions on the other side of the Atlantic is equally urgent, as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pledged earlier this week to ‘Build Back Better’ by developing enough offshore wind to power every home in the UK by 2030. This need is reflected in the negative prices in Britain and the EU throughout 2020. Both Invinity and BoxPower aim to enhance the grid through their energy solutions.