ESS inks massive deal with SB Energy for 2 GWh of long-duration batteries

SB Energy will deploy additional ESS battery systems to support solar power projects in Texas and California, where grid reliability issues have been front and center. (Courtesy: ESS)

Oregon-based ESS has agreed to supply SB Energy with 2 GWh of long-duration batteries, a deal reportedly worth at least $300 million. 

The first ESS system has already been delivered to an SB Energy location in California as part of the deal, which extends through 2026. SB Energy will deploy additional ESS battery systems to support solar power projects in Texas and California, where grid reliability issues have been front and center.

“ESS’s unique ability to manufacture and ship batteries using iron, salt, and water is a game-changer, enabling SB Energy to offer our customers safe, sustainable and low-cost energy storage today,” said Rich Hossfeld, co-chief executive officer at SB Energy and an ESS Board Member. “Long-duration storage is absolutely critical to providing flexible, affordable renewable energy at scale and aligns perfectly with the Biden administration’s ambitious clean energy initiatives.”

Long-duration energy storage is crucial to maximizing reliance on renewable energy resources over fossil fuels. And unlike lithium-ion batteries, the materials to make iron flow batteries are cheap and easy to find. The ESS iron flow systems utilize iron, salt and water for the electrolyte. This combination eliminates fire and explosion risks, according to the company.

Last week, ESS announced an agreement to deliver 17 long-duration iron flow battery systems to a solar project in Spain. The ESS system will offer a combined capacity of 8 MWh to provide resilience for the local power grid.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy announced $17.9 million in funding for researching and development projects to scale up American manufacturing and reduce costs of flow battery and long-duration storage systems.

Energy storage advancements are crucial to the Biden administration’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“We’re moving at lightning speed to harness renewables and access to long-duration storage is critical for dispatching this clean energy for use whenever and wherever it’s needed,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE’s investment to boost battery storage technology coupled with our first-ever Energy Storage for Social Equity Initiative will help generate jobs, build more resilient communities and ensure a cleaner, healthier environment for all Americans.” 

More than half of the battery storage capacity added in the U.S. in the next three years will be paired with a solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant, bucking the historical trend of majority standalone sites.

Data from the Energy Information Administration estimates that 9.4 of 14.5 GW, or 63%, of battery storage capacity planned to come online through 2024 will be co-located with solar PV. The remaining capacity additions will be paired with wind or fossil fuel generators (1.3 GW) or will be placed on standalone sites (4 GW).

“Historically, most U.S. battery systems have been located at standalone sites,” Vikram Linga wrote for EIA. “Of the 1.5 GW of operating battery storage capacity in the United States at the end of 2020, 71% was standalone, and 29% was located onsite with other power generators.”

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