Altech and Fraunhofer finalise plans for 100MWh sodium solid state ESS battery plant in Germany

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ASX-listed Altech Chemicals and research institute Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have progressed plans for a 100MWh plant in Germany to produce the latter’s energy storage-focused sodium solid state battery technology.

The pair executed a joint venture agreement in September 2022 to commercialised Fraunhofer’s ‘CERENERGY’ sodium alumina solid state battery, which has been designed for the renewable energy and grid storage market.

The joint team headed by Altech’s MD Iggy Tan have now finalised the design basis for the 100MWh plant in Saxony, which would produce 1,600 60kWh battery packs a year.

A preliminary plant and site layout have been completed and key equipment suppliers have been finalised, with integration planning now underway. Civil engineering firm Arikon Infrastruktur has been appointed to manage the approval process, site infrastructure requirements, and balance of plant for the site.

A definitive feasibility study (DFS) is also being prepared by Altech, which will seek to confirm the firms’ claim that CERENERGY batteries will be around 40% cheaper than lithium-ion ones, mainly due to not containing lithium, graphite, copper or cobalt.

Fraunhofer says that the battery has an energy density of 130Wh/kg at the cell level. This is at the lower end of the Clean Energy Institutes’ range for lithium-ion batteries of between 100-265Wh/kg, which means CERENERGY would be more suitable for the energy storage system (ESS) sector.

The battery pack is called ABS60, and Altech claimed that a ‘leading German energy producer’ has expressed interest in the product. Altech is exploring state and federal-level grant schemes in Germany as well as the EU to support the financing of the project, as well as banks for commercial financing.

Solid state batteries have a non-porous solid state ceramic separator instead of a permanent, electrolyte-filled anode and porous separator between cathode and anode as with conventional batteries. As the ions, whether lithium, sodium, or any other metal, pass from the cathode through the separator, they form a pure metal-ion anode. This enables a higher energy density, faster charging and safer operation, companies in the space claim.

Fraunhofer is primarily a research institute but it also works in commercialising its own technologies and those of outside firms too. It has equity stakes in 86 companies totalling €9.1 million (US$10 million) according to its website.

Altech Chemicals is a firm listed in Australia which has mostly focused on producing high-grade alumina and other materials for lithium-ion battery technology. However, it appears to have now made the joint venture with Fraunhofer to commercialise the sodium solid state batteries its priority.

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