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Firms to Watch in Smart-Grid Storage

Firms to Watch in Smart-Grid Storage

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Published by NanoMarkets
Improved energy storage is a key requirement for the deployment of the much touted Smart Grid.
There are many reasons for this. One is that efficiently integrating solar and (especially) wind
power into the grid requires buffering, since these renewable energy sources produce energy best
only at certain times. Another reason is that Smart Grids are intended to be highly resilient so
stored energy for times of peak demand and network outages is critical to building the new
infrastructure.
Improved energy storage is a key requirement for the deployment of the much touted Smart Grid.
There are many reasons for this. One is that efficiently integrating solar and (especially) wind
power into the grid requires buffering, since these renewable energy sources produce energy best
only at certain times. Another reason is that Smart Grids are intended to be highly resilient so
stored energy for times of peak demand and network outages is critical to building the new
infrastructure.

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Published by: NanoMarkets on Jan 22, 2010
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NanoMarkets
NanoMarkets, LC |PO Box 3840 |Glen Allen, VA 23058 |TEL: 804-360-2967|FAX: 804-270-7017
thin film|organic|printable|electronics
 
www.nanomarkets.net
 
Page | 1
Firms to Watch in Smart-Grid Storage
This article is based in part on research from 
Improved energy storage is a key requirement for the deployment of the much touted Smart Grid.There are many reasons for this. One is that efficiently integrating solar and (especially) windpower into the grid requires buffering, since these renewable energy sources produce energy bestonly at certain times. Another reason is that Smart Grids are intended to be highly resilient sostored energy for times of peak demand and network outages is critical to building the newinfrastructure.Faced with such opportunities a variety of firms have been piling into the energy storage businessin the hope that they will make money as the new Smart Grids in the U.S., Asia and elsewhere arebuilt. There are three groups of firms that bear watching in this regard; established battery firms,firms touting new battery technologies and supercapacitor firms.NanoMarkets' believes that within the established battery firms are those with established productlines in the UPS and industrial storage area; such firms can readily expand operations to supportnear-term smart-grid storage applications using existing technology. We also think that critical forthese firms will be partnerships with some of the emerging start-up companies to push theenvelope of lead-carbon battery technologies. Initially, it is likely that these established firms, withtheir large resources and tried-and-tested technologies, will be the ones who get the big orders forSmart Grid storage.However, we also see a second type of firm that will do well in the long run; firms that produceadvanced lead-based technologies. These firms are all either developing a lead-carbon cell or ultrabatteries (lead/lead-carbon). What these new types of batteries have to offer potentially are veryhigh energy densities, a factor that is critical to the successful deployment of Smart Grids for costreasons and to avoid the need for committing huge amounts of real estate to ugly battery farms.We believe that some of the firms active in this area will reap significant rewards in four or fiveyears. However, the advanced lead battery business will be like every other technology businessthat ever was; the next several years will see some lead-based battery technologies become
 
NanoMarkets
NanoMarkets, LC |PO Box 3840 |Glen Allen, VA 23058 |TEL: 804-360-2967|FAX: 804-270-7017
thin film|organic|printable|electronics
 
www.nanomarkets.net
 
Page | 2
industry standards and those that fall by the wayside. Consequently, we believe that lead batteriesshould be judged a risky business.The third class of firms that Smart-Grid storage watchers need to keep on their radar screens isthose in the supercapacitor market. Supercapacitors offer a completely new direction in energystorage and represent a technology that is still a long way from maturity; although we believe thatthe long-term market potential for these storage systems is great.Of course, the winners and losers in the Smart-Grid storage stakes will be determined not just bytheir technologies, but also by all the usual business factors. We think that "seriousness of purpose," will be a key factor; that is, it is not enough for Smart-Grid storage to be just one of many technologies being considered in the lab. There is too much competition in this space foramateurs to succeed. For success, Smart-Grid storage will have to be an important part of thecompany's strategy, and not just one of hundreds of technologies being considered in the lab. Andfinally, of course, a success Smart-Grid storage firm will have to have what it takes to survive;significant financial and marketing resources in an emerging market that will take years togenerate profits and where large contracts that take months to negotiate are the order of the day.
Exide and Axion
Exide is already one of the largest manufacturers of lead-acid batteries and has operations in over80 countries. All this gives it the worldwide footprint necessary to supply projected growth in gridstorage. Grid storage also appears to be a key focus for Exide; the company recently formed a newdivision, the ReStore Energy Systems division, to focus on renewable energy and lithium-ionapplications. The activities of this new division in North America and Europe will be centered onlarge-scale storage projects for grid-connected wind and solar farms.Clearly, Exide has both the seriousness of purpose and resources that we mentioned above. Assuch, NanoMarkets believes that it is a firm that should be watched closely in the Smart-Gridstorage business. What is also especially interesting in this regard is Exide's work with Axion Poweron lead-carbon electrode technology. Axion itself is a start-up company with no large-scalecommercial products in the field, but what it does have is a key enabling technology for large-scalegrid storage. The alliance between the two companies should allow the companies to expand tovolume manufacturing faster than possible if they were working alone. Axion plans to keep
 
NanoMarkets
NanoMarkets, LC |PO Box 3840 |Glen Allen, VA 23058 |TEL: 804-360-2967|FAX: 804-270-7017
thin film|organic|printable|electronics
 
www.nanomarkets.net
 
Page | 3
manufacturing the carbon electrode used in all batteries regardless of whether the final battery ismanufactured by Axion or Exide. The current target markets for this new technology are in hybrid,plug-in electric and heavy-duty transport applications, but major new applications are envisioned inthe grid, where these batteries will be used to enhance power quality, load leveling and peak sharing.The combination of near-term capacity of lead-acid technologies and a roadmap to higherperformance products positions Excide well to be a major supplier of advanced lead-acid batteriesfor smart-grid applications.
Lead-Carbon and NaS
Two battery chemistries that most observers believe will ultimately have a large penetration of theSmart-Grid storage business are lead-carbon and NaS. Firefly Energy is one firm that we believebears watching in the lead-carbon space. This company's version of a lead-carbon battery uses atraditional positive electrode with a negative electrode based on composite graphite foam. Thetechnical advantage that Firefly brings to the market is that its carbon foam electrode can fit into atraditional battery manufacturing scheme. It is always an advantage when a firm brings a newtechnology to market that it does not also have to re-engineer an entire a manufacturing process. Also working to Firefly's advantage is its partnership with C&D Technology, an established batterycompany, which gives Firefly the access to markets that will be important to its long-term success.To date, there is only one large-scale supplier of NaS technology; NGK Insulators Ltd. Thiscompany has done the Smart-Grid storage market a service by firmly establishing NaS technologyas viable for grid storage applications; it has deployed the technology in 200 locations (160 inJapan) with over 300 MW/2000 MWh of capacity in the field. We believe it will continue to havesuccess in this field, since it has enough capitalization to enable further production expansions andmanufacturing improvements, which are needed to reduce costs. NGK's capacity has grown from48 MW/year in 2005, to 90 MW/year in 2008, with planned capacity of 150 MW/year for 2010.General Electric's entry into the NaS battery market is also key development to watch in the NaSarea and smart-grid storage in general. Obviously, GE has all the resources to make NaS happenoutside of Japan, if the market permits. It also has some history with this technology - it workedon it in the 1970s - and, most importantly, it has the "seriousness of purpose" that we mentioned

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