In Rust Belt, Energy-Storage Gets Boost

One grant to one company won’t turn the Rust Belt into a thriving clean-energy mecca. But International Battery in Pennyslvania’s Lehigh Valley will take what it can get, and in this case it’s getting $800,000 from the state’s Energy Development Authority to design, manufacture and test what is essentially a giant lithium-ion battery for storing renewable energy.

The Allentown-based company is working on an 800 kilowatt-hour bulk energy storage system (BESS) that would be housed in a 40-foot mobile container. The company’s president and CEO, Ake Almgren, said in a press release that “by using our large-format prismatic battery cells, we can build large lithium-ion storage systems with high energy density and efficiency to provide multiple functions such as time shifting, frequency regulation, solar smoothing and wind ramping.”

Southern California Edison, Tehachapi wind power

image via Southern California Edison

Energy storage is proving to be one of the biggest technological challenges with renewables — especially wind, but solar as well — which don’t always produce power precisely when it’s needed. International Battery said it expected to have the BESS, which it envisions expanding to a full megawatt, ready for initial testing by the second quarter of 2011. Once completed, it would be integrated with onsite renewable energy sources and the grid.

International Battery says it is the only company in the United States to use a cleaner, water-based process — instead of chemical solvents — in producing its battery cells. Earlier this month it introduced a 24-volt, 4.2 kWh lithium-ion storage system intended for off-grid residential projects.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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