Imergy’s bet on vanadium batteries

Peter Kelly-Detwiler over at Forbes has a thorough look at vanadium battery storage startup Imergy. It seems that suddenly everyone is starting to take notice of the reality that the grid energy storage market is going be very real and that growth rates will move north considerably over the next 4-7 years as intermittent sources of energy like solar and wind come online. Such energy sources require grid storage for the times when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun’s not shining.

Imergy is interesting, however, in that it’s not initially focused on grid storage. Rather, it’s used its vanadium storage tech to tackle the Indian telecommunications market where cell towers are powered by backup fossil fuel sources and where there’s a good ROI from moving to batteries for that backup. The batteries store power when the grid is operational and discharge during problem periods. We’ve seen the same strategy in unreliable grid areas in Africa.

The advantage of vanadium is that it doesn’t wear out and thus has a market value which never erodes, making financing easier to come by since the underlying asset is more stable. Imergy’s next focus is micro grids, and in the U.S., places like Hawaii could be good potential places for delivering smaller 120KW and 30KW battery storage units. Most of the market in grid storage is focused on bigger storage sizes but Imergy sees that market as too lumpy right now.

The grid storage market will continue to see growth as multiple players, ranging from startups to Hitachi, vie for customers. Still, a strategy like Imergy’s, that focuses on the markets with the most potential for cost avoidance by installing battery storage, is a focused way to enter the market.