Dutch electricity storage company Elestor achieved a double victory at the latest Offshore Wind Innovators Awards. Its revolutionary long-duration flow battery technology, which facilitates safe large-scale electricity storage at a fraction of the cost of traditional batteries, secured the winning votes from both the awards audience and the official jury of leading industry professionals.
Wowed by Elestor’s vision and ambition, as well as by its unique ability to help deliver a much-needed energy transition away from polluting fossils fuel power plants, the two juries at the Offshore Wind Innovators Awards 2022 were in full agreement. Elestor has developed a praiseworthy electricity storage solution that will help deliver a new, clean energy system.
“Elestor convinces with feasibility and entrepreneurship,” the jury stated, describing Elestor as ‘the most credible entry’.
“The organisation is already robust, and Elestor is well advanced in the development of the flow battery with bromine and hydrogen and the practical applicability has been proven.
“This is an innovative application of the flow battery, which can help accelerate offshore wind extraction.”
The juries agreed that what Elestor has created is nothing less than the enabling technology for a 100% clean energy system, explains CEO Guido Dalessi. “There was little doubt in their minds when they awarded us both the awards.”
This new energy system will be powered by renewables and supported by storage that balances supply with demand. It is closer to becoming reality than one might think. “The sun and the wind are powerful enough, and so are the technologies to harvest their energy. All we need to complete the puzzle is low-cost electricity storage,” says Dalessi.
To reach climate targets and to reduce pollution more broadly, fossil-fuel power plants will progressively be shut down in the years and decades ahead. As a consequence, society’s dependency on intermittent energy sources, such as solar and wind power, will dramatically increase – unless we can find a robust and affordable way to deliver electricity to users even when it is dark and the weather is calm.
“Long-duration electricity storage offers the solution everyone is looking for, as it guarantees continuous availability of electricity, irrespective of when the electrical energy is generated,” says Dalessi.
Elestor’s breakthrough flow battery stores electricity safely and affordably. Unlike conventional batteries, it can do this for days rather than just hours. And, crucially, it does so at highly competitive levelized costs.
“Cutting the cost of electricity storage is our mission,” says Dalessi. “Only the storage technology that offers operational costs low enough to create an attractive return on investment has sufficient leverage to facilitate and drive the energy transition.”
Both the wind and the solar power sectors are crying out for affordable electricity storage solutions. To meet this challenge, Elestor has developed a triple cost reduction strategy that delivers unrivalled levelized costs. “This changes storage from a pure cost factor into viable business cases that have the potential to deliver significant profits to operators,” observes Dalessi.
One clear business case is based around battery-charging when there is a surplus of wind or solar energy. During such energy generation peaks, electricity prices are low. Indeed, sometimes the electricity is free, sometimes the solar and wind companies pay to get rid of it, so the price is negative.
The electricity that is stored during these peaks can then be returned to the power grid when demand exceeds generation capacity and prices are high.
Instances when generation capacity exceeds demand will become more frequent as the offshore energy sector approaches its goal of generating 21 GW of offshore wind energy from the North Sea by 2030, and as the solar panel boom continues unabated.
Elestor’s secret sauce is made up of low-cost and abundant active materials, namely hydrogen and bromine, a compact cell that is easily manufactured, and a patented, simplified system design.
“We have chosen hydrogen and bromine in part because it enabled us to build a storage system with the lowest possible storage costs per kWh,” explains Dalessi.
Both are plentiful elements readily available around the world, and their deployment results in significant savings over the likes of lithium, cobalt, or vanadium. Through a bromine and hydrogen chemical reaction within a membrane stack, flow batteries can produce mass output with little or no degradation.
“We also chose these materials because their abundance and low cost make it possible and affordable to scale incredibly quickly, which will be essential as we begin to speed up the energy transition.” According to the Offshore Wind Innovators Awards jury: “that scalability is a big plus.”
The increasing focus on hydrogen as a clean energy carrier has been well publicised and is widely supported by both governments and the corporate sector, but the role bromine will play in the energy transition is only now becoming clear.
“Our expertise in bromine handling is already being used by developers of bromine-based energy storage systems around the globe,” according to Dr. Alfred Grissinger, Sales & Market Development Manager of ICL Industrial Products, the world’s largest producer of elemental bromine. The pair now form a formidable partnership to work in close cooperation to advance innovation in the energy storage market.
That demand is set to rise sharply in years to come, not least because both policy makers and companies, wherever they are in the world, appreciate the fact that bromine is extracted from sea water. In other words, bromine is available everywhere, which in turn means no country will depend on another, whether economically or politically, to secure supplies.
The pill is further sweetened by the volume of global bromine reserves, estimated to be about 100 trillion tons, and by the fact that bromine extraction is both eco-friendly with zero ground water pollution, and human-friendly as there are no harsh labour conditions involved in its extraction.
Innovation is at the core and in the blood of Elestor, dating right back to its provision of the first hydrogen bromine cell in June 2014, observes Wiebrand Kout, Founder and CTO.
By way of an example, consider how Elestor developed a system where the heat generated during the flow battery’s charge and discharge processes can be captured and used for other purposes. “By recovering this energy, the overall efficiency of Elestor’s flow battery is significantly increased,” Kout explains.
Equally important is the grand vision. “When we think about batteries, we think big, in every sense of the word,” he declares. “Not only have we designed our batteries to be as big as or even larger than houses, indeed, greater than warehouses, in order to deal with vast loads of electricity. We have also designed them to have a tremendous impact.”
Elestor firmly believes that its technology has enormous potential and that it will revolutionise the entire energy system.
“Elestor’s large-scale, low-cost, robust and scalable electricity storage technology will make it both affordable and technically possible to quickly decarbonise our economy,” Dalessi says.
“In turn, then, as the energy system is at the core of pretty much everything we do in modern society, this transition will affect all industries and everyone’s lives.
“The energy transition will see Elestor and other climate technology companies create new jobs, deliver economic growth and generate financial returns for investors.”
As an example of this, Elestor aims to create dozens of new jobs by the end of 2024 as it trebles its current staff count to more than 100 people.
“Moreover,” adds Elestor’s Chief Operational Officer Hylke van Bennekom, “these are exactly the kind of jobs that many people want.
“We have the wind in our sails because we make a climate-friendly product and because we as a team can play an important role in the energy transition,” he says.
“It comes as no surprise, therefore, that we are approached by a lot of people who currently work in the fossil fuel sector and who are now looking for a job with more meaning. We believe that our batteries will completely replace fossil power stations. That vision is appealing to many of them.”
But beyond the creation of the green jobs society wants, the broader impact will be greater still, Dalessi predicts. “With a new, clean energy system, we can tackle the impending climate crisis, deliver clean air in our cities, and reduce our dependency on Russian oil and gas,” he says.
“The energy transition is therefore about much more than a hugely important environmental journey. We are also creating an energy system that is robust and resilient, that in addition to reducing the impact of harmful events in nature also insulates us from harmful geopolitical forces.
“We are taking part in the development of a new, clean energy system that will be democratic, inclusive and people-focused. It will curb volatile market forces and bring stability to both companies and households. In the end, this will make it possible for us all to pull together and create a better world for everyone.”