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Published on September 11th, 2015 | by Tina Casey

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Energy Storage Free-For-All Heats Up With “Ultimate Electron Warehouse”

September 11th, 2015 by  


Ever since Tesla announced its Powerwall lithium-ion battery last spring, new energy storage solutions have been popping up like mushrooms after a rain. The latest one to pop up is a flow battery from Primus Power. This US company just got a $25 million thumbs up thanks to the global green venture fund I2BF Global Ventures, and an I2BF spokesperson describes the technology as “the ultimate electron warehouse.”

Primus energy storage flow battery

1,250 Flow Batteries For Kazakhstan

For those of you new to the topic, flow batteries generate a charge when two liquids flow adjacent to each other. The technology is a perfect fit for intermittent energy sources, namely wind and solar. Flow batteries can sit idle for long periods without losing their charge, and they can be activated quickly when needed.

CleanTechnica first took note of Primus Power in 2013, when the company made our list of 43 energy storage companies to watch. Fast forward to yesterday’s announcement from Primus, and it seems that we got at least one of the 43 right.

Primus is happy to let everybody know that its Series D financing round, which was headed up by I2BF, netted a whopping $25 million. Other participants included the I2BF-managed Russia-Kazakhstan Nanotechnology Fund along with Anglo American Platinum, Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, and DBL Partners.

Here’s the rundown from Primus:

Primus is shipping EnergyCells and EnergyPods® — safe, low-cost, modular electrical energy-storage systems. The patented storage technology pairs a unique zinc bromide chemistry with novel technical innovations to deliver optimum performance and multi-decade battery lifetime, at a low levelized cost of energy. Engineered for flexibility and long duration, Primus batteries economically serve a variety of energy storage applications that require multi-hour, daily duty.

Earlier this year, Primus secured its first big order when the principal electric utility for the Republic of Kazakhstan agreed to an order of 1,250 batteries totaling 25 megawatts.

Here’s Ilya Golubovich of I2BF elaborating on the technology’s advantages:

“Storing electrons safely, inexpensively, and with virtually no battery degradation, has long been a strategic imperative for the global energy industry…We are convinced that Primus Power has developed the ultimate electron warehouse.”

With the new round of funding under its belt, Primus also plans to step up its energy storage activities in North America and form partnerships with other energy companies around the globe.

Yes, We Built This Ultimate Electron Warehouse!

In its announcement, Primus Power also gave a shoutout to its public sector funders, which included the US Department of Energy and its high-tech funding arm, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), so group hug all you taxpayers.

Primus has been a star performer for ARPA-E. Back in 2010, ARPA-E provided Primus with a $2 million investment. By June 2010, the agency was reporting that Primus had already nailed down $11 million in follow-on funding for its grid-scale energy storage technology, and was in the process of building a demonstration-scale facility for the Modesto Irrigation District in California.

The ARPA-E funding enabled Primus to do some R&D on a new metal electrode that would be less expensive and more durable, and to leverage existing high-volume processes in the metals industry leading to commercial production.

In 2013, CleanTechnica logged in another small-scale flow battery project for Primus totaling 500 kilowatts in Washington State, with partners including the Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.



 

The next time we caught up with Primus was just last March, when we caught wind of another energy storage demonstration project that paired the company with NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The aim was to demonstrate that a storage-enabled microgrid could enable a particular facility to use all of the solar energy it collects on site.

The demo project took place at the lab and the next step is to deploy it in a microgrid at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California. That’s interesting because Air Station Miramar has been working with NREL to achieve net zero energy consumption, defined militarily as “a military installation that produces as much energy on or near the installation as it consumes in its buildings and facilities.”

That’s a pretty tall order for Miramar. An NREL baseline assessment toted up “all onsite buildings plus facilities (Main Base, Brig, Privatized Housing, and Commissary), and fleet vehicles.”

The good news, relatively speaking, is that, according to the assessment, more than 80% of the energy used at Miramar is in the form of electricity, and NREL rated Miramar “good” for solar potential, with geothermal and biomass also potentially chipping in.

The microgrid is being developed by Raytheon, and Primus is contributing its 250 kilowatt EnergyPodTM . Miramar already sports a 230 kilowatt solar array.

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Photo credit (cropped): Energy.gov via Primus Power. 
 

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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