Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Enervault: In Search of a Cheap Grid Battery

Battery developers have latched onto flow battery technology.  A flow battery is a rechargeable fuel cell in which an electrolyte composed of some sort of electro-active element flows through an electrochemical cell.  This flow converts chemical energy directly to electricity.  The total amount of electricity that can be generated depends on the size of the tanks used to store the electrolytic material.  One benefit to this design is that the cell can be recharged simply by changing out the storage tanks.  Capacity and convenience!     

Vanadium is a favored electrolyte material.  Sumitomo, Gildemeister and American Vanadium have been pursing various vanadium flow batteries designs.  All have achieved good results for large-scale energy storage applications.  However, vanadium is expensive and not easily sources.  Of course, this is why Gildemeister has teamed up with American Vanadium, which has access to a significant vanadium deposit in the U.S.

Battery developer Enervault has been trying to work around the vanadium supply problem by coming up with a flow battery that uses iron chromium chemistry.  This is less expensive material than vanadium, but just as efficient.  Enervault has also come up with a unique pumping system to bring efficiency to the charge and discharge sequence.  The company calls it the Engineered Cascade and has patented the design in the U.S.

The company has yet to bring its iron chromium flow battery to the market.  The company received funds from the Department of Energy to build a 250 kilowatt demonstration project.  The demonstration project is supposed to prove the battery design can be used for smoothing intermittent renewable energy production, micro-grids, or peak demand management solutions for electric utilities.

Enervault is getting serious about commercialization.  The company took on a new chief executive officer this year, hiring an executive with diverse operating experience in the energy industry.  We expect more news from Enervault in 2014.  Success with the demonstration project and signing a first commercial customer should elevate Enervault’s appeal to acquirers. 

Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein.



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