The crowded energy storage arena just keeps getting more interesting. Just over a year ago, Southern CaliforniaEdison announced that it had awarded 260 megawatts (MW) of energy storage projects to four companies in response to its RFP, a move that caused quite a stir in the storage industry. To many observers, energy storage was finally beginning to seem real. The winners of the SCE award were AES AES +0.00% Energy Storage (100 MW of lithium ion), Stem (85 MW of lithium ion), Advanced Microgrid Solutions (50 MW of lithium ion), and Ice Energy (25.6 MW of ice storage).
In early December, it was Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PGE ) turn to award 75 MW of projects, from nearly 5,000 MW of applications, to five companies, of whom none overlapped with those on the SCE awardee list. The project technologies covered not only lithium-ion (Nextera – 30 MW; Hecate Energy – 12 MW), but flywheels (Amber Kinetics – 20 MW) and zinc-based batteries (Convergent/Eos – 10 MW; Western Grid – 3 MW) as well.
This was noteworthy for several reasons: The flywheel win was a surprise to some. Also getting attention was the fact that lithium-ion was not the only winning battery chemistry. Zinc-based technologies won as well, with Eos Energy Storage (Eos) grabbing the lion’s share in that department. Eos has claimed on its website that it could provide a battery system for $160 per kilowatt-hour. Although the company has several demonstration sites – most notably with Con Edison in New York, it had not yet won deals to put a lot of commercially viable ‘steel in the ground.’ And most of the major utility-scale storage players – from Tesla to AES – have been deploying lithium-ion (although flow batteries are seeing their share of business as well - Imergy and SunEdison announced in mid December a 10-year contract with Ontario’s grid operator – IESO – for five MW and 20 MWh).
Storage developer Convergent Energy + Power (Convergent) offered a variety of technology options in the solicitation, and a bid utilizing the specifications and pricing provided by Eos was ultimately selected by PGE. A recent conversation with Convergent CEO Johannes Rittershausen and Eos’s VP of Business Development Philippe Bouchard helped to explain how and why that transpired, and what the storage world looks like these days.
First, a little bit of background about Convergent: the company is a technology-neutral development company founded in 2011 that focuses on storage projects for utilities and larger commercial and industrial customers. It has strong ties to project financiers looking to put money into projects and has over 20 MW of battery projects either operating or under contract. and a pipeline of several hundred MW in North America. The company possesses experience with advanced lead acid batteries and flywheels as well as Lithium-ion batteries, so incorporating another new technology such as zinc-based storage was not a huge hurdle. As Rittershausen comments,
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