INTERVIEW: CADENZA CEO SAYS LI-ION BATTERY INNOVATION IS “DISRUPTIVE” MODEL FOR FUTURE ENERGY STORAGENew Project Media
A breakthrough innovation in lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology has captured the imagination of the energy storage sector.
Located at the New York Power Authority (NYPA) in White Plains and funded in part by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the USD 3m battery project was developed by Cadenza Innovation to showcase energy storage’s role in demand management that could enable more integration of renewable energy resources onto the grid.
The project will further the state’s clean energy agenda, which includes the nation’s most ambitious climate protection legislation and one of the largest energy storage targets of 3 GW by 2030.
“It’s super disruptive, but with humility, because it takes all of the lessons learned in the industry,” Christina Lampe-Onnerud, Cadenza Innovation Founder and CEO, told New Project Media. “We had every best practice on materials, on safety testing, on deployment. We will need better, larger blocks of energy, so we said, let’s do a Lego block of energy. If we make it so obvious that you can just stack them yourselves and all of the features you want are inside, how cool would that be? So, we would lower cost, we would increase reliability, and we would take advantage of all these scientific breakthroughs that are happening. And they are typically on the active materials or mechanical solutions, so what if we put together an architecture for lithium-ion to just be super safe, where we lower costs by having less components, and we simplify it to truly a Lego block?”
The technology is based on Cadenza’s supercell battery architecture, which combines properties from wound jelly rolls and large prismatic cells, allowing for high energy density solutions for EV, PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), energy storage, telecom and other specialty markets.
“When we shared this idea with the industry, everyone said, ‘You can’t have all three. You can only have cost and performance, or safety and performance, but you could never have those three,’” Lampe-Onnerud said. “Then we went to DOE (Department of Energy) and they said, ‘Why don’t you try it?’ It was really hard to get there, but we found a pathway to create this Lego block of energy that is safer and that has less parts in it and, frankly, that will not blow up. And then when you scale it up to the demonstration project like we’re doing at NYPA, we just put lots of Lego blocks together, and you now have peak shaving. So that is the promise delivered at this time.”
As part of the project, NYPA will investigate the effectiveness of the energy storage system at reducing the peak load typical of a commercial building. Once demonstrated, the system could be replicated at other businesses across the state and beyond.
“If we accept that climate change is a real issue and none of us are going to be heroes in this, we’re all going to move together,” Lampe-Onnerud said. “That’s how a movement begins. You have megatrends where you have something that matures and you simplify it so it’s easy to deploy, and that’s kind of what we’ve done. And the other side is it has to be reliable, so we just moved the level of safety up a notch. I’m proud of my team because the way that we thought about safety is, if we have this triumvirate of safety, performance and cost, cost still rules the market entry. If it’s too expensive, it doesn’t matter how good it is–none of us can afford it.”
Lithium-ion is expected to account for 85 percent of newly installed energy storage capacity and is projected to remain the market share leader due to a combination of advancements in performance, design and materials, established global supply chains, and expanding manufacturing facilities.
“Because it’s so simple to stack, you literally can go into old buildings and use the attics and the basements and forgotten closets and just put that into the infrastructure,” Lampe-Onnerud said. “And with that, when you distribute the entry storage, you bring a point place of load. When your building is using more electricity than the grid is currently providing, the electricity bill basically skyrockets, so the gap between peak and off-peak is pretty high. In New York, it’s about USD 30c to USD 1c, depending on what region you’re in, so it’s real money. If I own the battery bank and I never tap into that USD 30c that I sell when other people need it, then I make money. If I use it for my own investment, then I save money, so it’s interesting for both the owner and the user of the battery bank. This is win-win economics, and at the same time we cut down on carbon emissions, so this is kind of the Triple Crown at this point.”
New York’s Public Service Commission recently approved an expansion of the Clean Energy Standard (CES) to better align the state’s existing regulatory and procurement structure on goals laid out in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).
The CLCPA established a 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030 mandate, setting the state on an ambitious trajectory to a zero-emission power sector by 2040. The expanded CES gives the state the authority to issue a Request for Proposals for the renewable power generation needed to implement the plan.
“New York has a mandate to explore ways to combat climate change and that is nice as a big statement, but there is also this reality that they actually have to upgrade the electricity system,” Lampe-Onnerud said. “So, either we invest in the old paradigm or we allow new technology, and new technology will bring a whole new labor opportunity to the region, as well as efficiencies and climate gains, so it’s a little bit of a no brainer. When you get information, you change your behavior, but you need the information. Today we are starting decentralization. We have broken up how energy and electricity can be traded, who can own a part of the ecosystem and, as we go into batteries, it is one of the facilitating catalysts to make that even faster.”
Cadenza is now exploring licensing of the technology to enable widespread deployment in global markets.
“That changes the conversation,” Lampe-Onnerud said. “I think that’s what NYPA is so interested in–the fact that we are in some ways changing the business environment for a big invention. I am very hopeful that this architecture cracks the problems of today. The architecture is engineered to be a sustaining platform for 30, 50 years at least because you have new innovators coming with new materials, and with that you can shape the performance. What is specific for batteries is the thermal, so if you were in a hot climate, you would put slightly different chemicals inside than if you were in a climate that risks freezing. That opens up a whole new paradigm where you can have a common platform, and with very small differences you can make adjustments to the local market.”
Image courtesy of NYPA/Supercell Architecture