Many battery manufacturers are currently focused on solutions for long-duration needs, especially as clean energy generation from renewables becomes more prevalent.
Long-Duration Energy Storage in the U.S.
Q&A with Scott Childers, VP of Essential Power | Stryten Energy
Tell us about yourself and Stryten Energy.
Stryten Energy is a leading provider of stored energy solutions across the Essential Power, Motive Power, Transportation, Military and Government sectors. Stryten helps solve the world’s most pressing energy challenges with a broad range of innovative energy storage solutions, which power everything from submarine and microgrids, warehouses and distribution centers, to cars, trains and trucks that keep people on the move and essential supply chains running.
In my role as Vice President of Stryten’s Essential Power division, I’m tasked with deploying solutions that allow us to harness the full power of our nation’s growing clean energy infrastructure. Our sustainable stored energy solutions, including advanced lead, lithium and vanadium redox flow batteries, offer reliable, medium- and long-duration power supply to ensure critical systems remain continually online.
Describe the current state of the energy storage industry. What challenges and opportunities are you seeing?
As power consumption increases in the U.S., it is important to consider the resilience of our electric grid. Two-thirds of North America is at risk of electricity supply shortages during periods of high heat in the summer. With the growing number of power outages, the demand for reliable energy storage will also intensify.
We will need larger energy storage systems using a wide variety of battery technologies to meet the growing demand for energy. Along with a $65 billion investment to upgrade the electric grid, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also includes $3.1 billion to build more batteries and components in America and shore up domestic supply chains.
The lead battery industry benefits from a well-established circular economy in the United States and has a long history of reliably and safely supplying power for stationary backup systems. However, it is anticipated that redesigns may be necessary to meet the requirements for lead battery energy storage systems (BESS) in long-duration energy storage applications. With additional, investments in research, the Department of Energy (DOE) estimates lead batteries could become a cost-effective energy storage technology (defined as $0.05/kWh) within five to nine years with much lower investment than what would be required for technologies such as lithium.
The DOE has also indicated that flow batteries match up particularly well with the needs of long-duration energy shifting, as discharge times from a few hours to a few days can be achieved simply by adjusting the electrolyte volume to meet the application’s needs. Vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB) are a particularly attractive subset of flow batteries, with ease of recycling similar to lead batteries, allowing them to benefit from the same type of domestic circular economy.
At a higher level, the energy storage industry also needs to invest more in education to help power generators and distributors understand the benefits of storage innovation and its uses beyond energy peak shaving. Other key services include ancillary services, reliability services, frequency response, reserve service and black start service. Battery manufacturers must also be clear about which technology can support solar and wind energy and other clean energy sources.
Duration is a key consideration for energy storage. What is long duration, and what are some application examples?
Many battery manufacturers are currently focused on solutions for long-duration needs, especially as clean energy generation from renewables becomes more prevalent. Although the definition is not yet an industry standard, generally four hours or more is considered long-duration. Batteries paired with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind often need to discharge for six to ten hours.
Long-duration energy storage systems, such as VRFB, offer several use cases. As demands on the aging grid grow, batteries can help keep critical operations, such as military bases and hospitals, online in the event of a blackout. They can also power microgrids, for smaller buildings, neighborhoods or villages that have access to local renewable power sources.
What is the market size/demand predictions for long-duration energy storage in the U.S.?
With the growing focus on moving to cleaner energy solutions for the U.S., and the government offering significant incentives to build more clean energy storage technology through the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the market is expected to surge through the rest of the decade. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects U.S. power generation from renewables will increase from 21% in 2021 to 44% in 2050, and grid-scale diurnal energy storage deployment is projected to increase five-fold by 2050.
What impact will the regulatory/legal environment have on the market? Are zoning, health and safety, and certification requirements keeping pace with the evolving technology? Is this a barrier to entry for companies?
Because of the impact renewable energy will have on our daily lives in the coming decades, it’s important that we have common sense regulations that ensure safe energy generation and availability to meet rising energy demand. However, we do see red tape slowing down some of the activities needed to get an energy storage project off the ground, in particular the process of connecting storage projects to grids. It can sometimes take years to get all the necessary approvals, and that can scare off potential investors.
What other new laws would facilitate an open market and the ability for suppliers to define revenue streams that match their investment?
I referenced the Inflation Reduction Act earlier, but its importance to the energy storage industry cannot be overstated. For years, tax credits tied energy generation to storage – in order for a battery project to receive a credit, it needed to accompany a generation project. The IRA eliminated that tie by offering 30% investment tax credits for standalone energy storage systems, which will encourage deeper investments that see quick returns.
In addition, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act vastly increases investment in the domestic battery supply chain, more than $3 billion. This is a huge step toward reducing our dependency on foreign manufacturing of batteries and components.
A variety of battery chemistries will be needed to meet the surge in demand for energy storage. What are the best use cases for vanadium, lithium and lead batteries?
Lead is a workhorse. Its supply chain is long established, and with its robust circular economy, nearly 100% of lead batteries are recycled, and new batteries are made with the resulting recycled lead and plastic materials. While this recyclability means we don’t rely heavily on newly mined lead, the U.S. does have an abundance of lead deposits we can access if necessary. Lead offers plenty of untapped potential, and as researchers look for solutions to our growing energy storage needs, we may soon unlock more of its capabilities.
Because VRFB has a potential circular economy similar to lead, they’re quite promising as battery energy storage systems (BESS) for clean energy. Their significant capacity, long-duration capabilities and recyclability will help ensure grid stability and facilitate increased utilization of renewables for businesses and consumers across the U.S. These systems are also independently scalable in power and capacity. This scalability has the potential for substantial cost reduction when discharge time goes up, making VRFB the preferred option for large-scale, long-duration energy storage.
Lithium has captured much of the conversation around clean energy storage. However, the need to establish a domestic supply chain for battery minerals, components and cell manufacturing is the current focus for this technology. Additionally, the second-life use and recyclability of lithium are challenges that must be addressed before lithium becomes a viable long-term storage solution.
What’s next for Stryten Energy in terms of long-duration energy storage capabilities?
We’re leaning into vanadium for BESS long-duration applications – we see it as a game changer in energy storage. Our VRFB has unlimited cycle life, with proper maintenance, and it can operate for more than 20 years without the electrolyte losing energy storage capacity. Even once the electrolyte has reached the end of life, it can be recycled.
Stryten Energy has launched multiple pilots across the U.S. to demonstrate vanadium’s capabilities, as well as identify additional use cases. Earlier this year, we launched one such pilot with Snapping Shoals EMC in Georgia – the first of its kind in the Peach State – and we have even more projects on the horizon.
Additionally, we see lead BESS as a promising technology that is cost-effective and is supported by a fully integrated domestic supply chain and battery manufacturing infrastructure. Key advantages to a lead BESS are its well-established sustainability, safety and reliability for energy storage applications. When a lead battery reaches its end-of-life it is collected and recycled at a rate of nearly 100 percent, which creates a complete circular economy and aligns well with the goals of the clean energy transition to reduce impacts on the environment through recyclability of batteries.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
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