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Form Energy To Supply 15 MW/1500 MWh Battery To Georgia Power

Form Energy will supply a 15 MW/1500 MWh battery system to Georgia Power, which supplies most of that state’s residents.

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Form Energy is a battery startup founded by Mateo Jaramillo, who left Tesla several years ago to focus on long duration energy storage. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to transitioning to renewable energy is the problem of intermittency. A nuclear or coal-fired generating station can make electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for decades. (They do need to be taken offline from time to time to fix things and to perform needed maintenance.) That makes the electricity they create dispatchable — which means it will be there, ready to go, whenever there’s a demand.

A solar power plant makes electricity for a few hours a day. Wind turbines only turn when the wind is blowing. That makes the electricity they create less dispatchable. Energy storage can help solve the dispatchability issue, but most battery storage installations today can only provide their full capacity back to the grid for about 4 hours.  That gets us from sundown to about 10 pm. What happens after that?

Form Energy announced this week that it is moving forward with its agreement with Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, to deploy a 15 megawatt / 1500 megawatt-hour iron-air battery system in Georgia, as part of the utility’s plan to integrate cost effective clean energy into its system while maintaining grid reliability and resiliency. The battery system is expected to come online as early as 2026 and is subject to regulatory approvals.

“As we continue to build Georgia’s clean energy future, battery storage systems play a vital role in how we will continue to serve our customers with clean, reliable energy for decades to come. That’s why partnerships with innovators like Form Energy are so important to our long-term strategy,” said Kim Greene, Georgia Power chairman.

“Our customers, including many business and commercial accounts, are increasingly interested in the use of new technologies such as multi-day energy storage to help grow renewable energy and enhance reliability, especially as they relocate or grow their operations in Georgia. Form Energy’s technology is cutting edge and we’re excited to continue to work with them to serve our customers.”

Integrating battery energy storage systems into the power grid requires extensive planning and analysis. Form Energy and Georgia Power will continue to fully evaluate and demonstrate that the 100-hour iron-air battery technology will strengthen Georgia’s electric grid against normal day-to-day, week-to-week, and season-to-season weather variability, in addition to extreme weather events. This analysis includes modeling by Georgia Power, as well as input from Formware, a next generation investment and operational modeling tool for power grids developed by Form Energy.

Jaramillo said, “We have a long standing relationship with Southern Company and Georgia Power, who continue to provide transformational leadership that will usher in an era of products to cost effectively provide safe, reliable energy to their customers. We are pleased to strengthen our relationship through this partnership with Georgia Power and look forward to delivering an innovative multi-day energy storage system that will provide grid reliability and resiliency in their service territory for years to come.”

Georgia Power provides electricity to 2.7 million customers in all but 4 of Georgia’s 159 counties. In 2022, the Georgia Public Service Commission approved its long term energy plan, which includes its largest single battery energy storage system (BESS) to date — the 265 MW lithium-ion McGrau Ford Battery facility located in Cherokee County, as well as an additional 500 MW of battery storage. Other Georgia Power BESS projects underway include a 65 MW project in Talbot County (Mossy Branch) and a 13 MW project with the US Army at Fort Stewart near Savannah.

Georgia Power’s three-year IRP includes plans to retire its coal-fired generating stations by 2028 and add 2,300 MW of solar generation over the next three years. In all, the utility says it will add up to 6,000 MW of renewable generation by 2035, coupled with a massive increase in energy storage.

In its IRP, Georgia Power notes a “potential need for weekly, monthly, or even seasonal storage resources,” which can weather the day to day variability of solar generation and ensure reliability longer than lithium ion batteries. New technologies, the utility wrote, “could provide an economic and reliable avenue to reduce reliance on fossil fuel-based generating resources,” although it added that emerging storage solutions require additional testing and demonstration.

Form Energy says its iron-air battery is capable of delivering electricity for 100 hours at system costs competitive with conventional power plants and at less than 1/10th the cost of lithium-ion battery storage. Made from iron, one of the safest, cheapest, and most abundant minerals on Earth, this utility-scale battery can be used continuously over a multi-day period and will enable a reliable and secure grid year-round.

Form Energy had previously announced a pilot project with Minnesota electric cooperative Great River Energy, but the Georgia Power announcement marks the first partnership with an investor-owned utility and will be “an order of magnitude larger,” said Jaramillo. “This utility is very unique and is probably not the first one you would guess would make this kind of announcement. That shows how far we’ve come. We’ve had collaborative discussions about what the future of the grid can look like.”

The Politics Of Energy Generation

Old-line investor owned utility companies are some of the most staid business organizations imaginable. They think in terms of decades and are very skittish about new technologies that might send their long term plans out of kilter. Georgia, unlike many of its Republican controlled neighbors, is quite willing to embrace new economic opportunities for its citizens.

Hyundai is building a massive new manufacturing facility near Savannah that will be supplied by batteries made nearby. And yet, the state’s Republican party invited an indicted former president to speak to its members last week, and speak he did, in a long diatribe in which he promised to do everything in his power to oppose the transition to electric vehicles.

What is interesting is that while Georgia sends vile human beings like Marjorie Taylor Greene to Washington and welcomes disgraced former presidents, it nevertheless is open to new ideas and new technologies that will bring new jobs to its citizens. It seems to be paying lip service to its most radical reactionaries while actively embracing progressive technology. Just don’t mention global warming or any of that other woke stuff. It’s a curious phenomenon which suggests that business is business and politics is just theater designed to appease the weak-minded.

Form Energy itself is promoting sustainability in solidly red areas. It recently chose Weirton, West Virginia, as the site of its first factory. Located in the state’s northern peninsula, Weirton is located between two former steelmaking cities — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Youngstown, Ohio. The company says the factory will inject over $700 million into the local economy, including $290 million in incentives from the state.

After considering more than 500 locations for the factory, “It became abundantly clear that Weirton, West Virginia, that historic steel community that sits on a river and has the rich heritage, raw infrastructure, and know-how to make great things out of iron, would be the ideal location for our first commercial battery production facility: Form Factory One,” Jaramillo said in a press release. Construction has already begun with production slated to begin in 2024.

The Takeaway

Long term energy storage will necessarily be a part of the transition to clean energy. Form Energy says its technology costs one-tenth as much as equivalent lithium-ion battery storage. Conventional batteries may be better able to provide nearly instantaneous voltage and frequency stabilization better, but the idea that electricity can be stored in a cost-effective manner for weeks or potentially even months opens up a whole new area of clean energy deployment.

Georgia Power sees the potential and is willing to explore this technology further. And make no mistake, Southern Company is one of the largest and most influential utility companies in the US. If it puts its stamp of approval on Form Energy’s technology, that will virtually guarantee other utility companies will want to have a piece of the long term storage action as well.

And so the clean energy revolution will take another step forward, signaling that the day when electricity from thermal generating stations becomes obsolete is getting closer all the time.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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