Ontario clean technology scoops US contract worth more than $1M
by Erika Beauchesne
Electrovaya battery system stores renewable energy
MISSISSAUGA, ONT—Electrovaya, a Mississauga-based battery-maker, has snagged a contract to provide a US utility with one of its battery storage systems.
The company’s Lithium Ion Battery Energy Storage System holds onto energy during off-peak periods and then distributes it during peak times. The US utility will use Electrovaya’s new technology to incorporate renewable energy into its supply mix.
Raj Shankar Dasgupta, Electrovaya CEO, said details of the deal can’t be disclosed until the utility makes its own announcement in the coming weeks, but he did say the contract is worth more than $1 million.
It’s Electrovaya’s first foray into the US utility market, but not the biggest accomplishment for the company, which started off manufacturing battery systems for the automotive sector.
Last year, it landed a deal with Chrysler Group LLC to make lithium-ion battery systems for 140 demonstration plug-in hybrid Dodge Rams.
The battery that the US utility will use is 1.5MWh—about the power of 125 vehicle batteries combined.
Dasgupta says the company is in discussions with Canadian utilities for similar contracts, but he also sees a growing global market for battery storage systems that can handle influxes of renewable energy.
Tom Levy, manager of technical and utility affairs at Canadian Wind Energy Association, agrees.
“If you ever want to cross the thresholds for renewable energy beyond what we have today, it is going to require batteries and storage mechanisms,” he says.
Levy says there will also be increasing demand for other technologies to support clean energy development.
“One of the big ones is Smart Grid, but also plug-in cars and operator tools, mechanisms that have the ability to forecast variable sources of energy,” he says.
While countries’ increasing renewable energy targets will provide opportunities for manufacturers, bringing clean technologies to scale can be tricky.
“We were lucky in that this product had a lot in common with our automotive product. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without that experience to act as a stepping stone,” Dasgupta says.
It’s also helped to have the company’s 155-square foot plant located in Mississauga.
“Being in Canada has been an asset because we had a good team of engineers available. Finding talented workers hasn’t been a problem,” he adds.” he adds.
There are about 70 employees at the facility, which makes a lithium-ion batteries for applications ranging from electric vehicles to health care and consumer products.
Most cells for lithium-ion batteries are made in China and Korea. Conventionally-manufactured cells use solvents that can be harmful to the environment or human health.
But Electrovaya makes its own cells at the Mississauga plant using what it calls an “emissions-free” manufacturing process that avoids the use of solvents.
Dagupta says it was an investment to adopt the solvent-free method, but he expects it will pay off.
“We should see costs going down output volume increases and ultimately our process will be significantly cheaper than the conventional process,” he says.