Interview with Gavin Park, CEO, StorTera
This company could be the future of energy storage! I was pretty impressed by the StorTera batteries, particularly the SLIQ liquid flow battery. There are many applications, including automotive – which makes them incredibly versatile. Gavin was friendly, easy to understand and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the battery world – he gave a very interesting interview.
I know I am excited to see how StorTera goes forward. These are uncertain times in the energy industry, with huge changes happening now and in the near future. I expect StorTera to be at the forefront of these!
Can you give a brief history of the company and its aims?
StorTera was founded in 2013 to develop the next generation of flow battery technology. In parallel, we also provided electrical and electronic design services to UK based renewable energy companies. We built and installed the first demonstrator of the Single Liquid Flow Battery (SLIQ) in 2017 for Knoydart Renewables in Inverie, where the hydro-powered community often suffers grid outages.
Our flow battery is an extremely promising technology offering a lifetime of over 20 years, as well as millisecond response times and long duration energy. The aim is to reach the cost levels required for mass deployment of energy storage with renewable energy to eliminate the use of fossil fuels. Our technology will achieve a low capital cost and a levelized cost of £10/MWh.
We have commercialized our StorTower which includes lithium iron phosphate (LFP) modules in an outdoor rated enclosure, and our highly functional hybrid inverters with intelligent control systems.
How big are the advantages you are achieving with the Lithium Iron Phosphate modules compared to a traditional lithium-ion battery?
The LFP battery modules we supply in the StorTower provide longer lifetimes than traditional lithium-ion batteries with 10,000 cycles @ 75% depth of discharge compared to 3-6,000 for lithium-ion. They are also inherently safer with no cooling requirements. Because the energy density of LFP is lower than lithium-ion, they are heavier. In comparison, when space is limited and low weight is required, lithium-ion has some advantages. We do however anticipate that LFP will get a stronger foothold in the stationary energy storage market.
At what stage is SLIQ Flow Battery development currently at? Are there any limits on where it can be used?
The SLIQ is currently at Technology Readiness Level 5~7 with a demonstrator installed in a commercial environment. We are further developing the technology and suitable manufacturing processes under a BEIS funded project and we expect to launch the product in 2021.
The SLIQ can be applied to any behind the meter site as well as being suitable for co-location with renewables and any stationary energy storage application. It also has the potential application as a transport fuel, and could even act as a cooling device in data centers.
How big role do the DSR GridVerters and intelligent hybrid inverters play in StorTera?
We decided to make our power electronics commercially available ahead of the flow battery, to develop the technology and our reputation while building a customer base. The hybrid inverters we are providing now can also be used with the flow battery in the future. It also means we can offer a comprehensive energy storage product to our customers from a single manufacturer.
At what stage is your company’s development currently at? What are the next steps?
So far, we have grown organically according to the funded research projects and through our first year of commercialized products. We are currently expanding the team and expect to scale up quickly over the next few years. The priority is to commercialize the SLIQ in 2021. We are also going to install some larger scale MWh LFP storage projects to demonstrate our expertise and pave the way for the release of the flow battery.
Where has the funding for your company come from? Have there been any issues with it?
We have been fortunate enough to receive funding from Scottish Enterprise, Innovate UK and BEIS, and thus managed to get this far without private investment.
We are currently seeking further investments, looking for the right investor to help us expand and avoid the many pitfalls that exist for new technology start-ups.
What Geographical areas do you currently operate in? Where are you planning to expand?
We supply batteries and inverters to telecom companies in South Asia and have a partner in Canada with whom we aim to grow a customer base. In the UK, we have a few large projects in the pipeline that include remote community and council projects. We are also looking at future expansion into Australia and Africa.
Who are your biggest competitors?
In the flow battery industry, there are a lot of vanadium redox battery manufacturers as well as other technologies, such as zinc-bromine or hydrogen bromine. All of the technologies have individual advantages and disadvantages.
The key metric for success is the levelized cost of storage. This is dependent on having a technology that is low cost, robust and offers a long lifetime with minimal degradation in performance. We are confident that our flow battery technology will be able to deliver this within the next 2 years.
How do you see the future market for the battery industry? Where do you see the biggest demand happening?
The energy storage market is predicted to increase thirteenfold over the next 6 years with most of the growth happening in the US, China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Germany, Canada, India, and the UK. These markets are being driven by significant renewable energy penetration into the grid. To meet this demand, the levelized cost of storage will need to decrease towards 1p/kWh. This will require improvements in energy storage technology, manufacturing, and installation. It will also require optimization of how energy storage is integrated and therefore drive growth in power electronics development, grid modeling, and storage aggregation. StorTera is already involved in developing all these aspects of cost-effective energy storage, and we look forward to exciting developments in the global industry over the coming decade.