Israeli firm Nation-E unveiled a new battery system that stores, manages and distributes energy, potentially cutting consumers' electricity costs and allowing solar and wind power to be used more effectively.
The battery functions like a self-contained "smart grid" that knows how to store energy when electricity is cheap and demand is low and then give it back during peak hours when tariffs are high, the company said on Monday.
A 6.7 kilowatt-hour unit, which is about half the size of a refrigerator, can supplement energy to a house for a few hours each charge, while a container-sized 1 megawatt-hour unit can handle an entire neighborhood, said Nation-E (Herzliya, Israel) President Daniel Jammer.
Utilities see efficient energy storage as a vital element of future power grids by helping enable a steady flow of power despite the growth in renewable energy from wind and solar generation, which varies with the weather.
German-born Jammer, who worked in a variety of fields from real estate to aerospace to owning two soccer clubs before founding Nation-E, said he could picture battery systems of different sizes scattered around the country communicating with each other to optimize energy use.
The U.S. Department of Energy said the energy storage industry is poised to grow from $1.5 billion in 2010 to $35 billion by 2020. To be effective, the DOE said, systems need to last at least 10 years and more than 4,000 charging cycles, standards Nation-E says its units pass.
In Arizona, the state's largest electric utility launched in February a two-year test of a 1.5 megawatt-hour energy storage device developed by Electrovaya.
The Israeli device differs from others currently on the market, because Nation-E's system is able to communicate and, therefore, optimize, said Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a Washington-based think-tank focused on energy security.
"What is new here is not the concept of the battery. What is new is the ability of the battery to communicate with the grid, with renewable energy, with other elements of the electrical system," he said. "That opens a lot of new opportunities."
Still, bigger challenges remain for the mass deployment of energy storage systems, the DOE said, such as the differing structures within the electric industry, market regulation and the simple lack of experience in using them.
Nation-E said its 6.7 KWh system costs around $25,000 and its 1 MWh unit $3.5 million.
The amount consumers save with the household unit depends tariff levels, but in Germany families can save 18% to 20% on their electric bills, the company said. That number jumps if a renewable energy source is added.
(editing by Jane Baird)