Ex-First Solar CEO Hughes joins Eos Energy Storage

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First Solar thin-film PV panels. Image: First Solar.
Former First Solar CEO Jim Hughes has joined aqueous battery storage system maker Eos Energy Storage as chairman of its board of directors.

Hughes was CEO of the Texas-headquartered thin-film solar manufacturer and project developer until the first quarter of this year, when he stepped down and was replaced as CEO by the company’s CFO, Mark R Widmar. Hughes stayed on as an advisor to First Solar until September.

Eos, which makes its own proprietary brand of zinc-hybrid cathode battery, the Znyth, primarily for utility-scale applications, raised US$23 million in October in a private placement transaction to ramp up deployment of its systems. The company has also commenced volume production of its Aurora 1000|4000 DC battery product which uses Znyth batteries and claims it will be able to meet demand of more than 100MW per year.

Eos said Hughes’ appointment marks a significant step in the transition of the company from developing its technology to begin manufacturing at a commercial scale and seeing its systems deployed in the field.

Jim Hughes said dramatic cost reductions in energy storage have meant the industry looks similar to how solar did five years ago and praised Eos for looking to “outcompete” lithium-ion battery system makers on the lifetime cost of energy as well as on dollar per kilowatt-hour upfront capital cost. The firm offers its systems for US$160/kWh for volume purchases of 40MWh or more and US$200/kWh for orders less than 40MWh.

“The cost reductions have been so rapid that I don’t think the broader energy industry yet recognizes the value it will represent as part of the system and that the economics of energy storage are not only competitive but have the near term potential to be disruptive,” Hughes said, adding that he hoped Eos would be able to differentiate itself and do well in the same way that First Solar pursued thin-film solar against crystalline silicon PV rivals.

Michael Oster, Eos CEO said the company was “honoured” to work with Jim Hughes and looked forward to “benefiting from his guidance and experience as we ramp up into volume manufacturing and utility-scale deployment”.

In December 2015, developer Convergent Energy and Power selected Eos systems for a 10MW / 40MWh project in California for utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).

Image: Eos Energy Storage Facebook page.

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