Energy storage is critical for the integration of intermittent renewable energy sources into the energy mix. There is a wide portfolio of potential energy storage technologies and among these rechargeable flow batteries offer a number of advantages, including near unlimited longevity. But current implementations do not yet have the right balance between power and cost to meet industry needs.
FlowBox is a new energy storage solution that can produce and store electricity by combining hydrobromic acid with hydrogen. Based on the existing 50 kW flow battery prototype designed by EnStorage, the FlowBox team aims to optimise EnStorage’s technology to create a 150 kW demonstration module and prove that this could be a competitive and highly efficient solution for the integration of renewable energies.
Research teams at AREVA, a leading industry player in nuclear and renewable energy, had been working around energy storage and hydrogen systems for many years. Although the technology was suitable for different types of application, it was not seen as a marketable solution. However, at the beginning of 2012, the research team saw considerable potential in the innovative work being carried out by Israeli start-up, EnStorage, whose technology for flow batteries appeared to offer better performance at a lower level of capital expenditure than existing solutions.
AREVA launched a detailed assessment of EnStorage’s concept and then signed a collaboration agreement to develop a competitive storage product, based on EnStorage’s core stack. Schneider Electric joined the project, and FlowBox was born. Its goal was to evaluate new flow battery technology and to prove its ability to serve its target market, with validation studies focused on both its technical and economic feasibility.
When looking for financial support, the project leaders turned to InnoEnergy, as Guillaume Chazalet, business development manager at Areva explained: “We looked at numerous sources, and we felt the program from the InnoEnergy was the best for us. InnoEnergy offered us a funding framework that could adapt to the life of the project, so we have been able to bring on new partners and change the project structure. Other agencies don’t make these kind of adjustments possible. KIC InnoEnergy really understands the challenges of building a project not just how to finance a project. They are very business focused and very focused on delivering real-world solutions.”
AREVA is now leading the project, and has taken on responsibility for manufacturing, integrating and installing the storage solution. Schneider Electric is designing, manufacturing and installing the complementary power conversion system – and will act as the commercialising partner alongside EnStorage. Other research and industry partners have subsequently joined the FlowBox innovation project and, after eighteen months, FlowBox has now been installed at its first demonstration site.