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Battery charge: three companies leading the storage race

Car batteries can still hold up to 70% of their capacity when they’re no longer suitable for electric vehicles (eVs), making them perfect for storage.

Connected energy has developed the world’s only commercially available stationary energy storage system that uses electric vehicle battery packs after their lives on board vehicles are over. 

The company works with Renault, Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan, building energy storage units for commercial, industrial, and utility use. Manufacturers and local authorities use its modular systems to cut energy and connection costs, generate revenue from grid services, protect against shortages and optimise renewable generation. 

The company’s current total installed capacity is 2390kWh is – equivalent to lithium-ion batteries from 160 vehicles – but eVs are gaining popularity and next year the company starts building systems with several thousand.  

Based in Newcastle upon Tyne and operating in the UK and Europe, Connected energy raised more than £5m from Sumitomo Corporation, ENGIE, Macquarie Group and others in June, to fund further overseas growth and is now developing opportunities in the US and Japan.

Matthew Lumsden, Connected energy’s CEO, said:

With an increasing interest in embracing the circular economy, interest in our systems is increasing and we are now working on projects of up to 24MW. We aim to assist eV original equipment manufacturers by providing a pipeline of projects to capture 2nd life batteries as they become available whilst also offering lower cost, more sustainable systems to our customers.

Another company, Highview Power, has developed a ‘cryogenic’ energy storage system that cools air to below -196°C (-320˚F), to liquid. This can then be regasified by exposure to normal temperatures, expanding 700fold in volume to drive a turbine and create electricity without combustion. 

The technology, which was developed out of Leeds University, has the capabilities of pumped hydro storage, as used in Scotland, without the geographical limitations, making what looks an extremely efficient way to address renewable-energy intermittency. 

And it’s flexible. The large-scale, long duration technology can be built from 50MW to 200MW+ power output, with a storage capacity of 200MWh to more than 2,000MWh, powering up to 200,000 houses for a whole day. 

Using off-peak or excess electricity to liquify air, the system operates at 60% efficiency in standalone mode, or 70%-plus by utilising waste heat or cold, for example from peaking generation, steel mills or liquid natural gas terminals. 

Developed in partnership with the waste company Viridor and £8 million UK Government funding, a 15MWh commercial demonstration plant has operated since April 2018 in Greater Manchester, showing how to create short-term operating reserve (stOR) and support the grid during winter peaks. 

Javier Cavada, CeO of Highview Power, said:

As renewable deployments continue to rise, long duration, giga-scale energy storage will become more important and will need to be flexible and gridsynchronous. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to make renewables a baseload power. Our technology does that and it is available now.

Cumulus energy storage is enabling more renewable electricity to be delivered at the right time; developing energy ‘super-storage’ systems by combining 200-year-old battery technology with processes used widely today in the mining and metal-refining industries. 

The first primary (single use) battery was invented by Alessandro Volta in 1799, using copper and zinc electrodes. In 2014, Cumulus engineers developed a patented system for making the copper/zinc battery rechargeable using a key component missing from the original – an ionically permeable separator. 

The batteries are very scalable, designed to operate at 1MWh to more than 100MWh and are ideal for bridging the gap between renewable electricity generation and consumption – for customers in infrastructure, micro-grids and electricity-intensive industries such as mining. 

Cumulus claims a winning mix of reliability, scalability, low stress, a lifespan up to 30 years and greater than 80% round-trip efficiency. Copper and zinc are abundant and the batteries are 98% recyclable – all adding up to the lowest levelised cost of storage (LCOs) globally. 

With financial support from the UK Government and investors, Sheffield based Cumulus has extended to san Francisco, its laboratory facilities developing full-scale, grid-connected systems. 

Cumulus recently completed a further £400,000 fundraise to facilitate a series of increasingly large demonstrator energy storage systems and is currently raising further equity finance to fund production capacity. 

Cumulus CEO Nick Kitchin said:

Cumulus rechargeable copper/zinc batteries complement rather than compete with lithium-ion, by providing longer duration storage for stationary applications.