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The Future Of Energy Storage Beyond Lithium-Ion

Learn More About Battery Storage

Tigo Energy Inc., a Flex MLPE (module-level power electronics) company, is taking orders for its energy intelligence (EI) inverter and battery product lines from residential installers in the U.S.

The new line of EI battery and inverter products will allow U.S.-based residential installers to benefit from native integrations of Tigo technology with solar and storage components. The program represents an extension of the Tigo Enhanced commercial and industrial solar partnership program into the residential market.

Tigo Energy’s TS4 Flex MLPE enables customers to choose features and components for their solar installations. The new inverters offer high-efficiency energy conversion for home consumption or export to the grid. When used in combination with Tigo TS4 MLPE products, it provides module-level optimization, monitoring, and rapid shutdown, and enables home energy backup when paired with a home energy storage system like the Tigo EI Battery. Available in 7.6 kW and 11.4 kW configurations, the products feature up to 200% DC oversizing, 50V starting voltage, built-in Wi-Fi and optional cellular communication, and modular and lightweight designs.

The new Tigo Energy Intelligence Battery provides energy bill management for time-of-use rate plans and backup energy in the event of a grid outage. To satisfy a comprehensive array of home energy needs, the EI Battery can be configured for both whole-home and critical load backup. Tigo EI Battery systems are rated at 9.9 kWh of energy per enclosure, with a usable capacity of 9.0 kWh. They feature scalability up to 40 kWh with four enclosures per inverter, 5 kW continuous and 6 kW peak power, and operating range between 14-122° F. How Electricity is Produced

The Tigo Energy Intelligence product line allows for maximum flexibility in an integrated system that is easy to install, fast to the commission, and convenient to maintain through the Tigo EI mobile app and a browser-based program. The Tigo EI platform provides system diagnosis and over-the-air software upgrades. In addition, energy production is clearly monitored and analyzed for greater visibility and understanding of energy systems. With industry-leading warranties on all hardware, homeowners and installers can continue to rely on product performance and support from Tigo Energy.

“With the addition of the battery and inverter products, we now offer a comprehensive solar-plus-storage system that maintains the flexibility and choice our customers have come to expect from Tigo,” says Zvi Alon, CEO at Tigo Energy. “As with our Flex MLPE products, the new EI battery and inverter products provide a very simple installation and commissioning process as well as powerful fleet management features. The end customer, in turn, will benefit from access to an abundance of resilient, renewable, and safe energy with a system that can be precisely tailored for price and performance.”

Over the past 12 months, Tigo released key updates and innovations to its Flex MLPE product line to address the growing demand for high-power solar modules and energy projects that call for a diversified set of fire safety, monitoring, management, and power optimization features. The new product offerings include upgrades of all Tigo TS4 MLPE devices, including those with rapid shutdown with module-level monitoring, to serve modules up to 700 W, and the updated EI software solution to simplify fleet management for installers.

The post-Tigo Energy Debuts Inverter/Battery Storage Line appeared first in Solar Industry.

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More about Solar Battery Storage

Battery Storage
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Over the past decade, prices for solar panels and wind farms have reached all-time lows, leading to hundreds of gigawatts worth of new renewable energy generation. As the saying goes though, the wind isn’t always blowing and the sun isn’t always shining.

If, for example, it’s a beautiful sunny day and we’ve got a superabundance of electricity, we can’t use it. The question of how to firm renewables, that is, ensuring there’s always energy on demand no matter the time of day or weather, is one of the biggest challenges in the industry.

We need a good way to store energy for later. And the main option right now is lithium-ion batteries. You see them in products like Tesla’s home battery, the Powerwall, and the utility-scale system, the Powerpack.

But though lithium-ion is dropping in price, experts say it will remain too expensive for most grid-scale applications. To get to the battery for the electrical grid, we need to look at a further cost reduction of 10 to 20x.

Right now, lithium-ion batteries just can’t store more than four hours’ worth of energy at a price point that would make sense. Plus, they pose a fire risk, and their ability to hold a charge fades over time.

To address this, there’s a cadre of entrepreneurs experimenting with a variety of different solutions. Now we’re seeing flow batteries, which are liquid batteries, and we’re seeing other forms of storage that are not chemical or battery-based storage.

And each has serious potential. We looked at materials on the periodic table that were actually going to be cost-competitive from day one. Primus Power’s flow battery is a workhorse. Thermal energy storage has a pretty unique opportunity to be extremely low cost.

Our solution will last 30 plus years without any degradation in that performance. Which technologies prevail remains to be seen. But one thing is clear. For renewables to truly compete with fossil fuels, we need to figure out a better way to store energy.

From 2000 to 2018, installed wind power
grew from 17,000 megawatts to over 563,000 megawatts. And solar power grew from a
mere 1,250 megawatts to485,000 megawatts. And it's not stopping there. Renewables are expected to grow an
additional 50 percent over the next five years.

We know today that solar P.V. and wind are the least expensive way to generate electricity. In particular, the price of solar photovoltaics has plummeted far faster than all forecasts predicted after China flooded the market with cheap panels in the late 2000s.

All the Wall Street analysts did not
believe that solar was going to ever stand on its own without subsidies. Well, a few years later, even
the most conservative analysts started realizing that actually solar was going to
become economic in most parts of the world pretty quickly.

And as solar has gotten cheaper, so too have lithium-ion batteries, the technology that powers electric vehicles, our cell phones, and laptops. And thanks to improved manufacturing techniques and economies of scale, costs have fallen 85 percent since 2010.

Now, wind or solar plus battery storage is oftentimes more economical than peaker plants, that is, power plants that only fire when demand is high. Tesla, for example, built the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in Australia, pairing it with a wind farm to deliver electricity during peak hours.

But this doesn’t mean lithium-ion is necessarily economical for other grid applications. We don’t really see the cost structure coming down to the point where it can serve those tens to hundreds of hours applications.

Basically, the market is ripe for competition. There are dozens of chemistry being looked at today. There are hundreds of companies working on scaling up and manufacturing new battery technology. Lithium-ion has done remarkable things for technology, but let’s go to something far better.

One of the main alternatives being explored is a flow battery. Unlike lithium-ion, flow batteries store liquid electrolytes in external tanks, meaning the energy from the electrolyte and the actual source of power generation are decoupled.

With lithium-ion tech, the electrolyte is stored within the battery itself. Electrolyte chemistries vary, but across the board, these aqueous systems don’t pose a fire risk and most don’t face the same issues with capacity fade.

Once they scale up their manufacturing, these companies say they’ll be price competitive with lithium-ion. Hayward, California-based Primus Power has been working in this space since 2009 and uses zinc bromide chemistry.

So far it's raised over $100 million
dollars in funding, including a number of government grants from agencies like
the Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission. Primus's modular EnergyPod provides 25 kilowatts
of power, enough to power five to seven homes for five hours
during times of peak energy demand and for 12 to 15
hours during off-peak hours.

Most systems use multipleEnergyPods though,
to further boost capacity. The company says what sets it
apart is its simplified system. So instead of two tanks, which every
other flow battery has, Primus only has one.

And we are able to separate the electrochemical species by taking advantage of the density differences between the zinc-bromine and the bromine itself, and the more aqueous portion of that electrolyte.

To date, Primus has shipped 25 of its battery systems to customers across the U.S. and Asia, including a San Diego military base, Microsoft, and a Chinese wind turbine manufacturer. It expects to ship an additional 500 systems over the next two years.

Future customers are either independent
power producers that are doing solar plus storage at utility-scale
or larger commercial enterprises. Also operating in this space is
ESS Inc, an Oregon-based manufacturer of iron flow batteries, founded in 2011.

Its systems are larger than Primus Powers. They’re basically batteries in a shipping container and they can provide anywhere from100 kilowatts of power for four hours to 33 kilowatts for 12 hours, using an electrolyte made entirely of iron, salt, and water.

When we came into this market, we wanted
to come into it with a technology that was going to
be very environmentally friendly. It was going to be very low cost. It didn't require a lot of volume
on the production line to drive down costs.

ESS is backed by some major players like SoftBank Energy, the Bill Gates-led investor fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, and insurance company Munich Re. Having an insurance policy is a big deal since it will make risk-averse utility companies much more likely to partner with it.

So far, ESS has six of its systems, called Energy Warehouses, operating in the field and plans to install 20 more this year. It’s also in the process of developing its Energy Center, which is aimed at utility-scale applications in the 100 megawatts plus range.

That would be 1,000 times more power than a single Energy Warehouse. We’re planning to be at 250-megawatt hours of production capacity by the end of this year, which is probably a little over 10 times the capacity we had last year.

And then eventually getting to a gigawatt-hour of production capacity in the next couple of years. So far, key customers include auto GD, a private Brazilian energy supplier, and UC San Diego. But for all their potential, flow battery companies like Primus and ESS Inc still aren’t really designed to store energy for days or weeks on end.

Many of those flow battery technologies
still suffer from the same fundamental materials cost challenges that
make them incapable of getting to tens or hundreds of
hours of energy storage capacity. Other non-lithium ion endeavors,
such as the M.

I.T spinoff Ambri, face the same problem with longer-duration storage. Form energy, a battery company with undisclosed chemistry, is targeting the weeks or months-long storage market, but commercialization remains far off.

So other companies are
taking different approaches entirely. Currently, about 96 percent of the
world's energy storage comes from one technology: pumped hydro. This system is
pretty straightforward.

When there's excess energy on the grid,
it's used to pump water uphill to a high-elevation reservoir. Then when there's energy demand, the
water is released, driving a turbine as it flows into a reservoir below.

But this requires a lot of lands, disrupts the environment, and can only function in very specific geographies. Energy Vault, a gravity-based storage company founded in2017, was inspired by the concept but thinks it can offer more.

And so we wanted to look at
solving the storage problem with something much more environmental, much more low cost,
much more scalable, and something that could be brought
to market very quickly. Instead of moving water, Energy Vault uses
cranes and wires to move35 ton bricks up and down, depending on
energy needs, in a process that's automated with machine
vision software.

We have a system tower crane that's
utilizing excess solar or wind to drive motors and generators that lift and stack
the bricks in a very specific sequence. Then when the power is needed
from the grid, that same system will lower the bricks
and discharge the electricity.

This system is sized for utility-scale operation. The company says a standard installation could include 20 towers, providing a total of 350-megawatt hours of storage capacity, enough to power around 40,000 homes for 24 hours.

Some of our customers are looking
at very large deployments of multiple systems so that they'll have that power
on demand for weeks and months and whenever it's gonna be required. The company recently received110 million
dollars in funding from SoftBank Vision Fund, and it's building out a test
facility in Italy as well as a plant for India's Tata Power Company.

But some say the sheer size of the operation means it just can’t be a replacement for chemical batteries. Sounds very simple. However, the energy density in those systems is very low. And so that’s where we believe chemical-based storage still has an advantage in terms of a footprint.

You can’t install a gravity-based system in the city, but you’d have to install it outside in remote areas. Then there’s thermal storage. It’s still an emerging technology in this space, but it has the potential to store energy for longer than flow batteries with a smaller footprint than gravity-based systems.

Berkeley, California-basedAntora Energy, founded in2017,
is taking on this challenge. Basically, when there's excess
electricity on the grid, that's used to heat upAntora's cheap carbon
blocks, which are insulated inside a container.

When needed, that heat is
then converted back into electricity using a heat engine. Typically, this would be a
steam or gas turbine. But Briggs says this tech is just
too expensive and has prevented thermal storage solutions from working
out in the past.

Sonora has developed a novel type of heat engine called a thermophotovoltaic heat engine, or TPV for short, which is basically just a solar cell, but instead of capturing sunlight and converting that to electricity, this solar cell captures light radiated from the hot storage medium and converts that to electricity.

So it's electricity in, electricity out,
and it's stored in ultra-cheap raw materials as heat
in the meantime. Recently, Antora received funding from
a joint venture between the Department of Energy and Shell, who
are excited by the company's potential to provide days
or weeks-long storage.

We think that that solves a need that is currently and will continue to be unmet by lithium-ion batteries and that will sort of enabling the next wave of integration of renewables on the grid. It’s still early days for Antara and Energy Vault though, and there are definitely other creative solutions in the mix.

For example, Toronto-basedHydrostor is
converting surplus electricity into compressed air. And U.K. and U.S.-based Highview Power
is pursuing cryogenic storage. That is, using excess energy to cool
down air to the point where it liquefies.

These ideas may seem far out, but the investment is pouring in and projects are being piloted around the world. While these companies are all vying to be the cheapest, safest, and longest-lasting, many also recognize that this is a market with many niches, and therefore the potential for multiple winners.

In the residential and commercial areas,
you're gonna have a certain type of technology. A lot of
it will probably be battery-based. I think as you get to utility-scale
and grid-scale, you're going to see some batteries, you're going to see
other types of compressed air and liquid air solutions, and then you're going
to see some of the gravity solutions that could be scaled.

Overall, the energy storage market
is predicted to attract$620 million dollars in investments by 2040. But as always, it's going to be tough
to get even the most promising ideas to market.No matter if the raw materials
were dirt cheap, the initial cost of a first system
is essentially astronomical.

Of course, government policies and incentives could play a major role as well. There is a production tax credit on the wind. There’s an investment tax credit on solar. We in the battery community would like to see an ITC for batteries in the same way that it is in existence for solar.

Implementing a storage mandate, as California
has done, is another policy that many are advocating. When we get to roughly 20 percent
of our peak demand available in storage, we will be able to run a
renewable-only system, because the mix of solar and wind, geothermal, biomass all backed up
with storage will be enough to carry us through even some
of these potentially long lulls.

With the right mix of incentives
and ingenuity, we're hopefully headed towards a future with a
plethora of storage technologies. The future is not going to
be a mirror of the past. We've got to do something
that's radically different from everything that's been done up until now.

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