This week NAATBatt International held its most recent NAATBatt Members Site Visit meeting in Seattle, hosted by members 1Energy Systems and UniEnergy Technologies. The meeting included visits to the Everett and Hardeson substations, where co-host Snohomish County PUD is deploying an energy storage resource to help it manage its distribution system.
The meeting started off with a presentation in the offices of 1Energy Systems on Wednesday afternoon. 1Energy Systems makes software control programs that permit utilities to integrate and control storage and other resources on the grid. 1Energy System CEO Dave Kaplan explained the premise on which 1Energy Systems was founded: that electricity storage on the grid cannot succeed unless it is engineered for mass production. 1Energy Systems has been a leading force in the MESA Alliance, an effort among battery manufacturers, systems integrators and utilities to ensure that there is a common and consistent interface between battery management systems and utility SCADA systems, which will allow utilities to integrate seamlessly and efficiently into their electricity systems a wide variety of storage resources using a common set of communications protocols.
On Thursday, participating NAATBatt members visited NAATBatt member UniEnergy Technologies in Everett, Washington, just north of Seattle. UniEnergy Technologies manufactures Third Generation vanadium flow batteries, based on technology licensed from PNNL. Those who believed that flow batteries are still largely a pre-commercial technology were quickly disabused of that notion by a look around the UniEnergy plant, which is rapidly expanding to service incoming orders. CEO Gary Yang and COO Rick Winter explained the development of the company and the design of its flow battery product. Chief Development Officer Russ Weed discussed the capabilities of UniEnergy’s flow battery and its very favorable installed costs.
But the most noteworthy thing about the visit was seeing the high degree of commitment to storage in the Pacific Northwest coupled with an intense cooperation among those working in the field. While California and New York garner much of the attention in the industry, it is apparent that there is a concerted regional effort underway to turn the Pacific Northwest region and the companies based in it into a major force in the storage industry. Local governments, utilities, and research institutions are going “all in” on storage technology in a way that many outside the region may not yet fully appreciate. That degree of cooperation stands somewhat in contrast to the highly competitive and intensely proprietary approach to storage technology that seems to dominate the culture in some other regions better known for their storage projects.
What dividends this culture of cooperation will ultimately pay has yet to be determined. But the Pacific Northwest is a place that all who are interested in storage technology should keep a close eye on. NAATBatt members were lucky this week to get an early look.