An innovative battery energy storage project, using a non-lithium technology, will be deployed at a research center in Arizona.
Salt River Project (SRP), the state’s community-based, not-for-profit public power utility, and Germany’s CMBlu Energy, which designs and manufactures energy storage systems, on August 31 announced a pilot project for a 5-MW, 10-hour, long duration energy storage system (LDES). The project, called Desert Blume, will use CMBlu’s technology known as Organic SolidFlow.
That technology uses a non-flammable proprietary mixture of solid electrolyte and water-based electrolytes with high energy density and performance. CMBlu has said the non-lithium systems are fully recyclable and free of rare metals. Construction of the project is scheduled to begin in early 2025. SRP and CMBlu expect the pilot to begin operating in December 2025.
“Global supply chain challenges and geopolitical pressures of recent times have highlighted the importance of resilience and local production options, including batteries and energy storage,” said Ben Kaun, president of CMBlu’s U.S. division. Kaun told POWER his company’s battery energy storage product will be manufactured in the U.S. “and wherever the demand is located, using abundant carbon-based materials.” Kaun said the Inflation Reduction Act “has further accelerated CMBlu’s plans to base our manufacturing in the U.S. by 2025.”
CMBlu officials said the battery system can cost-effectively store and deliver energy for two to three times longer per cycle than traditional lithium-ion technology, which usually targets a four-hour duration. CMBlu will build, own, and operate the batteries on behalf of SRP at the utility’s Copper Crossing Energy and Research Center in Florence, Arizona. SRP is the first U.S. electric utility to implement CMBlu’s batteries at this scale.
Kaun told POWER, “The Desert Blume project with SRP is our largest deployment in the United States to date and will help provide sustainable energy to SRP’s customers in metropolitan Phoenix. Constructed using racked modules in a warehouse form factor, the 5 MW/50MWh of Organic SolidFlow batteries will be deployed in an ideal application for our batteries: utility-scale storage for long durations, in this case 10 hours. With a large solar installation planned for the site as well, SRP’s Copper Crossing Energy and Research Center and Desert Blume aim to prove the technology and use cases at scale, for high utilization of renewable energy without supply chain constraints.”
The project is expected to store energy for SRP’s customers during daylight hours, primarily from the region’s abundant solar power resources. The system will send the energy to the power grid during the night. Kaun noted that the system should store enough energy to provide customers with power for as much as 10 hours.
“We are privileged to work with CMBlu and gain experience with their extremely innovative technology,” said Jim Pratt, CEO of SRP, the largest power provider in the Phoenix area. “This resource will supplement SRP’s power system helping provide stored power for longer periods, especially in times of fluctuating, high energy demand from customers in the Valley. It will be a helpful addition to SRP’s significant number of renewable resources and storage projects, which generally only store energy for up to four hours.”
“Desert Blume is a critical project to validate Organic SolidFlow batteries at scale and promote safe, sustainable, and secure long-duration energy storage built in the United States,” said Kaun. “We’re thrilled to collaborate with SRP to support their rapid clean energy transition, as well as have the opportunity to demonstrate our technology in the southwestern U.S. Phoenix anchors one of the country’s fastest-growing metro areas, with abundant solar potential, making it an ideal environment for the next generation of LDES.”
Three-Phase Project at Research Center
The energy storage project is part of an approved third phase of continued development at the Florence research center. The first phase will add two flexible natural gas turbines with a total output of less than 100 MW, and the second phase will add a utility-scale advanced solar generation facility capable of generating up to 55 MW of solar energy.
SRP officials said the utility selected CMBlu after issuing a request for long-duration storage project proposals from energy storage companies. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will support performance monitoring of the pilot project. EPRI will help validate the real-world performance of the technology in Arizona’s hot and dry climate.
The pilot project at the SRP research center represents the latest application of CMBlu’s technology. The company announced other projects earlier this year, including the first customer deployment of its battery with Burgenland Energie in Austria. The group also said it will provide LDES systems for a pilot in Milwaukee with WEC Energy.
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).