Published on October 5th, 2015 | by Kyle Field27
CleanTechnica Exclusive: SimpliPhi Power Brings Game-Changing Battery Tech To Residential Storage
October 5th, 2015 by Kyle Field
We recently covered SimpliPhi Power’s history, levelized cost of energy (LCOE) figures, and the exciting automated home it enabled in New York. We ran into the company again at Solar Power International last month and arranged for a visit to its corporate HQ in Ojai, California, to sit down with CEO Catherine Von Burg and CTO Stuart Lennox for a deeper dive.
For those unfamiliar with SimpliPhi, what sets its solutions apart vs other residential storage units is that they not only raise the performance bar in almost every category but their battery chemistry is also better for the environment. Specifically, SimpliPhi Power products use a lithium-ferro-phosphate (LFP) chemistry that brings the benefits and energy density of conventional lithium-ion batteries without the cobalt. SimpliPhi’s proprietary architecture and battery management pulls this chemistry together in a unit that’s 98% efficient — setting the performance bar for the residential storage market.
What’s even better is that the modules run at this efficiency while offering a full depth of discharge (up to 100%!) without the thermal runaway issues of most lithium-ion packs. Why do Teslas need a titanium shield on the underbody and a complex heat management system? To protect the precious battery cells from physical damage, which could trigger thermal runaway. Conversely, SimpliPhi’s units are stuffed into sealed boxes and shipped all around the world by the military for (ab)use in some of the world’s harshest and hottest climates. What’s fantastic is that they do this without a perceptible heat signature.
A Serious Tesla Powerwall Competitor?
SimpliPhi initially worked with a more conventional lithium-ion chemistry in its early products, but switched to an LFP composition in 2007–08 for several reasons, first and foremost of which is that the heat management and architectural innovations they developed to mitigate heat generated from conventional Li-ion cells resulted in LFP packs that have no perceptible heat signature and are not prone to thermal runaway. The importance of this in just about any application cannot be understated. Heat management in Li-ion residential and mobile battery systems adds weight, complexity, and risk of fire to the system while not adding any value to customers. Eliminating the need for heat management all the way back in the design phase allows packs to be smaller, simpler, and fully sealed.
Their unique ability to operate at extremely high performance under brutal conditions from a sealed box with no perceptible heat signature has earned SimpliPhi’s products a special place in military arsenals on deployments around the world. SimpliPhi has a full product line that is purpose-built for the most rugged conditions in the world, and it frequently pairs them with solar arrays of various sizes and shapes to provide power where the military needs it, when they need it.
On top of just providing reliable power from the batteries, being able to generate (clean and sustainable) power and store power in the field enables the Marines and Army to cut out all of the fuel they would normally use to run generators for power (and the deadly convoys required to transport it) from their supply chain, which not only saves tons of money – but actual lives.
Minimizing power loss while getting your power in and out of storage is a key concern, as the more you use it, the more that’s potentially lost to any inefficiencies in the system. Studies across the web on the efficiency of conventional lithium-ion-based units vary from 80–100% efficiency, but SimpliPhi’s own experience in working with Li-ion and its research shows that you can typically expect 92–95% efficiency. SimpliPhi’s proprietary architecture raises the bar in a big way, offering a solid 98%+ efficiency, which allows customers to maximize the input from portable renewable sources like solar panels, your grid power for a residential battery backup solution, or otherwise — ultimately resulting in a lower cost of power from the unit. A quote from its website nicely summarizes the product features:
“SimpliPhi’s clean energy storage and management systems leverage the industry’s most environmentally benign chemistry. They require no cooling or ventilation and, unlike competing lithium ion systems, contain no toxic cobalt. Combined with proprietary architecture and power electronics (BMS), SimpliPhi eliminates operating temperature constraints, the need for toxic coolants, and the risk of fire or thermal runaway. The result is on-demand power that is safe, non-toxic, reliable, durable, economical and highly scalable. All with a 98% efficiency rate over the lifetime of the battery. All commercially available today.”
SimpliPhi’s specific implementation of the LFP chemistry also means that its batteries last much longer even under brutal conditions — they are warrantied for 5,000 cycles or 10 years, with a life expectancy of 15–20 years – far longer than most Li-ion packs. Li-ion batteries typically suffer when being cycled heavily (referring to a single charge and discharge “cycle”), with their life expectancy dropping to ~600 cycles under heavy, deep cycling.
Fast forwarding to today, SimpliPhi Power’s CEO, Catherine Von Burg, leads operations out of the 20,000-square-foot headquarters in Ojai, California. In addition to its corporate offices, SimpliPhi runs all of its R&D, shipping, and manufacturing out of this space, which is tucked up into the hills of Southern California, and it’s not standing still.
SimpliPhi has built its manufacturing processes to be quickly scalable and has plans to scale up production regionally to keep up with ever-increasing sales volumes, and to keep shipping costs to a minimum. It’s also in the process of adding a solar installation to its facility so it can continue to tune and optimize the interactions between its batteries, renewable power sources, and the inverters that help everything play nice.
Maui Brewing Company Installation
One of its latest success stories is in sunny Hawaii on the island of Maui where, with infamously high energy prices and power coming largely from oil, Maui Brewing Company wanted to reduce its reliance on and the cost of utility power and instead transition to solar. It worked with installer ZeroBase to install an off-grid solar PV system supported by a massive 100-kWh SimpliPhi battery storage system. SimpliPhi’s batteries allow the company to extend the power of the sun’s energy far into the night. Enabling a transition to user-owned renewable energy is what SimpliPhi Power is all about.
SimpliPhi has a full line of products ranging from stand-alone battery packs to mobile solar “generators” all the way up to fully customized microgrids. What has me the most excited about SimpliPhi is its superior products, products that consistently out-perform the competition on many key metrics while also being based out of the USA. I’ll leave you with the video below, which focuses on its military and off-grid applications but also showcases many of the strengths of its unique battery tech.
For more information about SimpliPhi Power, stop by its website: http://www.simpliphipower.com