Alevo, The Other Energy Storage Gigafactory, Begins To Stir
May 12, 2016
In late 2014, a virtually unknown company called Alevo announced it was entering the energy storage market with a new inorganic, sulfur-based lithium ion battery technology that it had acquired from the bankrupt German company fortu PowerCell. Alevo entered the U.S. with a big splash, investing over $68 million in the 3.5 million-square-foot former Philip Morris tobacco factory in Victory, North Carolina, outside Charlotte. It also announced that it would hire up to 2,500 workers over three years, with a potential maximum workforce of 6,000 capable of turning out thousands of megawatts of electricity storage products annually. In other words, Tesla would not be the only storage company with a gigafactory.
Unlike many of the major storage manufacturers of the world – the Panasonics and the LG Chems – Alevo wasn’t simply going to sell its product into a competitive market. Instead, the plan was to becom a developer as well, deploying its own technology. This was in contrast with most of the other energy storage developers (RES and AES AES -0.09% are technology agnostic and deploy different storage technologies from multiple companies – AES, for example, tests and certifies various technologies at its own lab). By contrast, Alevo’s stated goal was to package its cells into two-megawatt, one megawatt-hour GridBanks and offer them turnkey into the marketplace.
Things were fairly quiet until Alevo’s announcement in February of last year, that it had signed a ‘joint operational agreement’ with Customized Energy Solutions to provide 200 megawatts (MW) of frequency regulation services (fast responding near-instantaneous release or absorption of energy to stabilize voltage on the power grid). While Customized Energy Solutions has been active in multiple power markets in the U.S. for well over a decade, providing a broad suite of services to many players, the announcement was seen by some as aspirational in that it did not identify specific deployments. After that announcement, Alevo went rather quiet again.
Until March of this year. when the company announced its first two major deployments: an 8 MW, 4 MWh storage system at the municipal utility in Lewes, Delaware, and a 10 MW, 3 MWh project in Georgetown, Texas, to be jointly owned and operated by Ormat Technologies (with the majority ownership going to Ormat – a company known to many for its expertise in geothermal power).