Grid-scale battery makers Vizn and Younicos make operational expansions

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Two providers of large-scale battery systems for energy storage have announced expansion plans this month, with Vizn Energy opening new headquarters in Texas, and Younicos forming three separate new business units to address “rapid growth” in the market.

Younicos, which sees its core business as the integration of energy storage, including software and energy management, has hit energy storage industry headlines a couple of times recently with notable projects. These include the trial of Europe’s largest battery project, a 6MW/10MWh lithium-ion based energy storage system in Leighton Buzzard, England and grid-stabilising 5MW/5MWh system in northern Germany. The Leighton Buzzard project was switched on a few weeks ago to trial the suitability of such systems to provide grid services, while the 5MW/5MWh system in West Meklenberg is already operating on the commercial market, providing frequency regulation services.  

Early this month, Younicos announced that it will now deal with the different aspects of its business through three separate, newly created units. The company will now deal with software and system integration for grid-scale projects through its 'Technology business unit', while it will act as developer of power purchase agreements (PPAs) for island, microgrid and grid-scale projects through the ‘Development company business unit’.

The latter will deal mostly with helping customers “save operating and capital expenses by replacing fossil-fueled peaker plants and diesel generators”, Younicos said. The economics for diesel replacement in particular have already been viewed as a compelling driver for energy storage in regions including Australia and Latin America. The third, and final, piece of the reconstituted Younicos will be a division offering consultation services (‘Consulting company business unit’).

Software and integration services are increasingly viewed as a vital, core, part of the energy storage industry, with many systems defined as much by the software and its interaction with the rest of the energy networks they are connected to as by the batteries themselves. Korean battery maker Samsung SDI supplied Younicos with batteries for its recent large-scale projects and also signed a deal in September last year to supply Green Charge Networks, a maker of customer-sited storage products for markets including solar and electric vehicles (EVs), with up to 25MWh of batteries. Samsung’s targeting of the North American market also includes a separate focus on batteries for EVs.

UK politician Amber Rudd is shown around at the opening of the large-scale battery trial for which Younicos is a partner in Leighton Buzzard, England. Image: Younicos.

As well as its involvement in grid-scale storage in North America, Samsung SDI is also targeting the region's EV market with its lithium-ion batteries. Image: Samsung SDI.
Younicos claims its large-scale systems can be competitive for grid-balancing with gas turbine generation, while a recent whitepaper examining zinc redox flow batteries made by Vizn Energy said Vizn’s batteries could cost essentially the same in terms of installed kilowatt-hours as many simple cycle gas-fired combustion turbine peaking plants. Chet Lyons of Energy Strategies Group (ESG), who authored the paper, said at the time that energy storage was “challenging the power grid’s long love affair with gas-fired combustion turbines”. Lyons said the batteries were an economically attractive substitute, “especially when deployed on a distributed basis and owned and operated by the electric utility”.

Vizn has just announced an expansion of its existing operations in Montana, which include design centre, engineering and operations staff. The company claims that it expects to deliver 1MWh of zinc-iron flow battery systems in the first half of this year. The company will also open executive team headquarters in Austin, Texas and said that it raised US$7 million in funds during 2014 from a total of US$24 million to date. Vizn's board of advisors include former employees of Lockheed Martin and McDonalds, as well as SunEdison founder Jigar Shah.

Younicos founder Clemens Triebel is now the company's 'chief visionary officer'. Image: Younicos.

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