SolarEdge acquires stake in South Korea lithium-ion battery cell provider

 

SolarEdge

SolarEdge Technologies Inc. keeps preparing for the solar + storage energy future, entering into definitive agreements to acquire a majority stake in Kokam Co. Ltd. Headquartered in South Korea and founded in 1989, Kokam is a provider of lithium-ion battery cells, batteries and energy storage solutions. SolarEdge develops “smart energy solutions,” including a DC-optimized PV inverter solution.

“The acquisition of Kokam will enable us to grow our offering, adding already proven battery storage to our product portfolio,” says Guy Sella, CEO, chairman and founder of SolarEdge. “Our technological innovation, combined with Kokam’s world-class team and renowned battery storage solutions, will enable seamless integration with our current solutions, taking us a further step toward making solar installations smarter and more beneficial.”

The acquisition of approximately 75% of outstanding equity shares of Kokam reflects an aggregate investment of approximately $88 million, including related transaction expenses. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the coming weeks.

Over time, SolarEdge intends to purchase the remaining outstanding equity shares of Kokam, resulting in Kokam’s becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of SolarEdge.

— Solar Builder magazine

Lead-acid upgrade? Tydrolyte promotes new electrolyte to replace sulfuric acid in batteries

lead-acid battery

The lead–acid battery consisting of lead, lead oxide, and a sulfuric acid electrolyte was invented in 1859 by French physicist Gaston Planté and is the oldest type of rechargeable battery. Lead batteries have been and continue to be the most popular rechargeable battery with over 400 GWh shipped annually according to market research firm Avicenne Energy. This is equivalent to over 400 giga-factories of established capacity spread throughout world. But in spite of its historic success, many aspects of lead battery chemistry are not fully understood.

Tydrolyte LLC is introducing its patent-pending electrolyte solution that will eliminate the drawbacks of handling sulfuric acid including safety, storage, disposal and insurance and initial tests demonstrate that it may improve some critical performance parameters.

“Another benefit is that as a drop-in replacement the new electrolyte doesn’t require any change in existing paste recipes, production technology, or equipment, so battery manufacturers can switch to it easily,” said Paul Bundschuh, CEO Tydrolyte LLC.

“We are delighted to welcome Tydrolyte into membership of the ALABC, and strongly support companies such as Tydrolyte in pursuing innovative new solutions to the challenge of improving lead battery performance,” stated Dr. Boris Monahov, PhD, program manager at the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium (ALABC). “There is a bright future for the lead battery, but it is essential that the industry continues to drive innovation to meet future market requirements. We look forward to working with Tydrolyte in the future.”

Lead batteries are one of the world’s most environmentally sustainable industrial products. 100% of lead battery material is recyclable, and in the U.S. and Western Europe, 99% of lead batteries are recycled, achieving the designation of the world’s most recycled product. The entire lead battery circular economy including manufacturing, consumer product, and post-consumer recycling is accomplished with minimal human exposure to lead materials.

A whitepaper with independent test results is available at the company website.

— Solar Builder magazine

EnerSys shows complete line of battery, stand by power options for solar installs at Intersolar

 

enersys batteries

EnerSys featured a broad selection of standby power solutions for renewable energy applications at the Intersolar North America exhibition in San Francisco, July 10-12. EnerSys manufactures a range of batteries for standby power and energy storage solutions for applications that range from small, off-grid solar energy operations to large-scale commercial solar energy facilities. Batteries are available in a variety of types, including Thin Plate Pure Lead (TPPL), long-life lead calcium, tubular flooded and gel, nickel cadmium and lithium ion.

In addition to batteries, the exhibit also featured OptiGrid Stored Energy Solutions management software for renewable integration and Behind the Meter (BTM) operation, and thermally managed VaultFlex outdoor enclosures, which feature technology to ensure that the battery operates under optimum temperatures.

RELATED: Battery chemistry matters: What to know before installing solar + storage systems

“More than a century of experience has refined the design and manufacturing of EnerSys batteries to meet the needs of solar energy facilities,” said Jay Frankhouser, director, reserve power business development and marketing at EnerSys. “Our broad portfolio of standby power solutions offers high cycling performance and reliability while helping to minimize Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).”

Among the batteries featured were Genesis EP TPPL batteries, designed to provide power density with a smaller footprint; PowerSafe SBS TPPL batteries in 2-volt and 12-volt formats to provide flexibility in system design and sizing; and lithium ion battery modules.
The exhibit also featured a solar PV panel with energy storage from a Genesis EP 200 batteries housed in a VaultFlex enclosure.

— Solar Builder magazine

Panasonic now offering beefed up battery for residential solar + storage (17.1 kWh of capacity)

pika solar storage

Panasonic Eco Solutions of North America sent word of a significant upgrade to the Harbor Smart Battery portfolio with the Harbor Plus Smart Battery, which now clocks in as the solar industry’s most powerful and efficient smart battery with 17.1 kilowatt hours (kWh) of capacity and real power output of up to 10 kilowatts (kW). Additionally, the Harbor Plus Smart Battery now delivers 21 percent more energy and 30 percent more peak power than the next leading home smart-battery solution, enabling homeowners to extend solar power longevity, better manage energy around peak-rate periods and withstand off-grid scenarios at a more cost-effective price per kWh of storage.

Panasonic and Pika Energy first co-developed the Harbor portfolio of residential smart batteries in 2017, and less than a year later, the companies are introducing upgraded capacity with the premium Harbor Plus as well as the entry-level Harbor Flex to deploy more power, efficiency and capability than any other solar smart batteries available on the market.

“The solar industry faces the reality of certain maximum energy density, pushing the market to deliver innovative and disruptive solar solutions to a quickly growing consumer base,” said Dan Silver, vice president, Panasonic Eco Solutions North America. “We are excited to once again partner with Pika Energy to deliver an industry-leading solution in the Harbor Plus Smart Battery, outpacing competitors to expand solar power capacity and capability, ultimately providing customers with freedom from grid dependence.”

The solar-ready Harbor Plus Smart Battery is powered by six Panasonic Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) battery modules connected in series for built-in redundancy. This robust design coupled with 17.1 kWh of usable energy and up to 10 kW of power can support homeowners for long-term grid outage and off-grid scenarios, and can also power heavy equipment such as well pumps and air conditioning units.

Paired with the Pika Energy Island, the Harbor Plus Smart Battery offers solar system owners enhanced and expanded features, including:

  • Self-supply Mode, which maximizes self-consumption of stored energy captured by solar panels – such as Panasonic solar modules HIT – to reduce the home’s dependence on the grid
  • Zero-export Mode, a subset of self-supply mode that prevents any solar energy from transferring to the grid, enabling homeowners to reduce grid dependence as well as remain in compliance in states where exporting solar power to the grid is prohibited, like Hawaii
  • Time-of-Use Capability, helping homeowners who live in areas with time-of-use rate policies, such as California, efficiently manage solar power and reduce costs with an optimized schedule that reduces or eliminates grid use during peak-rate periods
  • Clean-backup Mode, which stores clean solar energy in the smart battery for use when the grid is disrupted. Load transfer is instantaneous, taking as little as 1/60th of a second.
  • Priority-backup Mode, which charges the smart battery from the grid at the full capacity of the system, allowing homeowners to prepare for an expected grid outage such as in the event of an impending storm
  • Dark-start Capability, with the ability for Pika smart batteries to commission without the grid and restart using only solar power should the batteries exhaust their reserve energy; as compared to other solar storage systems that require on-site service from a technician to jump-start dead batteries.

For more info on the newest inverters on the market download our free 2018 Inverter Buyer’s Guide

— Solar Builder magazine

Battery chemistry matters: What to know before installing solar + storage systems

battery

The days when a residential or commercial solar installer did not need to know the difference in performance between lead-acid and lithium-based batteries are over. Battery storage has emerged as an unavoidable complement to solar, slashing peak charges and outwitting utility time-of-use charge games, not to mention saving microgrids from outages.

Recommending battery chemistry to a customer is no less complicated than recommending a particular solar array solution. Depending on customer goals of low initial cost, ease of maintenance, frequency of use, depth of discharge, source of recharge energy, longevity and warranty, however, choices narrow down rapidly. Lowest life-cycle cost, or total cost of ownership calculations, performed for site-specific use, also help customers understand the variations in side-by-side options.

“There are some applications where lead-acid still presents the lowest cost of ownership, so if you are just doing peak shaving or off-grid backup, you can use lead-acid as long as your usage is tightly controlled and meets the requirements of a lead-acid system,” says Jason Zerbe, the systems marketing manager at Enersys. “In other cases the most important function of the battery is that it has 100 percent up-time. There, lithium starts to make sense because it can do more in a partial state of charge and because it is not necessary to fully recharge the battery periodically without affecting the lifetime of the battery, unlike with lead-acid.”

Historic leader: Lead-acid

Lead-acid battery solutions are far from antiquated, still capturing over a third of the global battery market. While it is true that lead-acid batteries are heavier than alternatives, charge more slowly and generate hydrogen gas as they age, lead-acid still provides a solid value at a low cost, and can disprove criticism of poor longevity in some configurations.

Deep-cycle lead-acid batteries can last as long as a solar array, with designed use. Trojan Battery recently branded a line of batteries specifically for the solar industry to prove this point. At the high end, Trojan’s Industrial grade lead-acid batteries can last up to 17 years, delivering 3,600 charge/discharge cycles at an average 50 percent depth of discharge (DOD). In comparison, Trojan’s solar absorbed glass mat (AGM) lead-acid battery lasts eight years, delivering 1,700 cycles at a 50 percent DOD.

Top 5 battery installation issues for solar installers

You need to consider how much your customer wants to participate in the storage process. Less-expensive flooded lead-acid batteries — costing from $100/kWh to $200/kWh — provide between 600 and 1,200 cycles and require water refilling maintenance, but AGM or gel chemistry lead-acid batteries, which are 20 percent more expensive, can provide about 1,700 cycles without requiring the extra maintenance, according to Erguen Oezcan, senior sales director for renewable energy at Trojan Battery.

The safety and environmental story of lead-acid is tricky. On the one hand, flooded batteries carry the extra costs of a venting system needed to draw off the hydrogen gas that is formed over time as well as a containment basin to guard against spills (a code requirement). But, on the plus-side, lead-acid batteries are 99 percent recycled — one of the most recycled products in industry today. Lithium batteries are not yet recyclable.

There are some relatively new additions to basic lead-acid chemistry to consider. Carbon-enhanced anodes limit the formation of sulfate deposits, which hamper performance and decrease battery life. Other innovations include the use of metallic agents to enhance the electrolyte, layered insulating wrappings for AGM mesh and so-called moss shields that limit internal shorts.

JLM Energy

JLM Energy recently installed more than a dozen residential Phazr MicroStorage plus solar projects in locations throughout the greater Phoenix metropolitan area to shave peaks when demand spikes.

Up and comer: Lithium-iron phosphate

When lithium-ion batteries came into common use, they seemed destined to capture the bulk of the battery market. But high prices — which thankfully are falling rapidly — combined with fire concerns have encouraged manufacturers to experiment with a variety of other lithium chemistry variations. One that’s emerging is lithium-iron phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP), which exhibits fast discharge, long life and greater operating safety than other variations.

LFP is a nontoxic, thermally stable material and is much safer — from fires and explosions — than the standard cobalt-containing lithium-ion (LiCoO2) chemistry. The difference in chemistry also makes the LFP less expensive than the lithium-ion battery.

The cost of LFP batteries is down to about $400 per MWh and should drop further as more large-scale production comes onto the market. “LFP battery costs have dropped 25 to 30 percent over the last two years,” says Catherine Von Burg, the CEO of SimpliPhi.

Still, commercial and industrial customers are seeing a return on investment for LFP in four years or less, when targeting problems like peak shaving, says Von Burg. Her company routinely installs LFP battery banks on C&I rooftops.

A host of local regulations have arisen to mitigate the fire risk from lithium-ion, which adds cost to both residential and commercial applications installed indoors. This is where LFP’s chemistry can make a difference — at the point of installation completion.

LFP performance can beat lithium-ion, with LFP batteries generally providing about 2,000 charge/discharge cycles, compared to about 1,000 for lithium-ion batteries, according to one industry source.

Because of its safety, rooftop battery solution provider JLM Energy also uses LFP in its Phazr battery system, which is mounted underneath each panel in a rooftop solar array.

One forward-looking advantage of using LFP battery systems is the growth of community solar, microgrids and other aggregated forms of distributed energy resources. As utilities become more capable of interacting with these DER systems, more smart, fast battery systems will be called upon to support the grid, if not also enabling some form of private-sector energy arbitrage, suggests Von Burg.

New standards

Comparing battery lifetime has become more standardized with the advent of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s (IEC) standard 61427 test, which provides performance criteria that all batteries for PV applications should be measured against. It offers a common, internationally accepted platform to compare and contrast batteries from different manufacturers.

Warranties are also widely variable, so trust in solid companies unless a reliable third-party warranty policy has been issued on the product. “There is a trend among battery companies with a limited reputation to give unbelievable warranty terms. Then the owner has to prove a lot of things to collect on the warranty, which is really tricky and in-transparent,” Oezcan says.

Battery showcase: Four solar + storage solutions for your next project

To aid in the information battle, independent energy certification body DNV GL just developed Battery XT, the first testing-based verification of battery lifetime for lithium-ion batteries. The independent verification tool compiles battery lifecycle data and predicts battery degradation under different conditions and duty cycles, providing renewables stakeholders with an objective way to compare the value and reliability of types and brands of energy storage technology as well as provide consulting on battery size and chemistry selection.

“As the storage market continues to expand, the ability to manage risk at the point of purchase is becoming increasingly important,” says Rich Barnes, executive vice president and regional manager for DNV GL Energy in North America. “Battery XT will empower stakeholders to make better purchasing decisions based on objective, third-party testing.”

This section was featured in the January/February 2018 issue of Solar Builder magazine. Sign up for a FREE subscription here.

 

— Solar Builder magazine