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Primus Power grid-scale storage secures US$20 million in venture capital funding

Grid-scale electrical energy storage (EES) company Primus Power announced that a Series C funding round has secured US$20 million worth of investment, including a “major contribution” from Anglo American Platinum.

The company will deploy two demonstration systems for its EnergyPod containerised storage array product this year. One will be deployed at an investor-owned utility in the US, the other to a micro-grid at a US military base in San Diego, California.

EnergyPod uses a zinc-based flow battery system and is capable of providing storage for up to six hours, according to company CEO Tom Stepien. Research laboratory Sandia carried out third-party testing on the product.

Speaking to PV Tech via telephone, Stepien said the funding round marked the beginning of an important year for California-based Primus Power.

“This is a breakout year for us,” Stepien said. “This where we are going to be putting [our product] on the grid – it’s what every young company wants to do, to perfect the technology and get it out there in the hands of customers.”

Primus Power was particularly pleased with the involvement of Anglo American Platinum in the latest funding round.

“The big news is Anglo-American Platinum joining and leading this round. They are the world’s leading primary producer of platinum group metals (PGM). They are a mining company basically. We use a small amount of the platinum group metals as a catalyst on our high power metal electrodes. So it’s a nice marriage. They (AAP) are interested in a customer like Primus to pull and use their PGM and we are interested in a large parent like AAP to provide us a stable, low cost supply of the PGMs. It’s very synergistic. They’re investing in downstream use, we have an investor that provides the upstream to us. We were very fortunate to be introduced to these folks.”

Primus Power has been in existence since 2009 and has raised US$35 million equity to date. The company has also received around US$20 million worth of grants from institutions including the California Energy Commission, the US Department of Energy, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy and the Bonneville Power Administration.

Stepien explained the four main use cases for EnergyPod: the integration of renewable energy onto grids, to manage disturbances on electrical distribution grids, for use in micro-grids to provide energy security and surety and finally in avoiding or reducing peak demand charges.

Targeting the global market as an ultimate goal, Stepien said Primus will compete by transitioning the company’s manufacturing to a contract manufacturer: “That way we can scale worldwide quickly. Some battery companies have chosen to vertically integrate. We are going to have a large contract manufacturer assemble and test our products. That way when we go to Europe, Asia or other parts of the US we can do that using existing factories these [contractors] have, versus building another one.”

The forthcoming volume of Solar Business Focus will include a feature article on the outlook for energy storage and PV, in 2014 and beyond.

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