Energy storage systems are emerging as one of the key solutions to effectively integrate high shares of solar and wind renewables in power systems worldwide. (Image Source: Shutterstock)
Reliance Industries will invest $50 million in Ambri Inc., a US company that has developed and is commercialising a new, long-duration energy storage technology that is cheaper and safer than lithium-ion batteries used for such purposes.
This is Reliance’s first significant announcement after it unveiled a $10 billion investment plan for the renewable energy sector at its annual general meeting on June 24.
Subsidiary Reliance New Energy Solar Ltd. joins strategic investors Bill Gates and private investment management firm Paulson & Co. to pump in cash in Ambri to commercialise its liquid metal battery-based low-cost technology for long-duration energy storage for large projects by 2023.
Energy storage systems are emerging as one of the key solutions to effectively integrate electricity generated by solar and wind in power systems worldwide. Renewable energy storage is critical for wider usage and acceptability of green fuel as the world moves towards clean sources of power.
According to Ambri, its long-duration battery systems are a fraction of the cost of lithium-ion when comparing 20-year, eight-hour-duration systems.
Also Read | Reliance New Energy Solar to invest $50 million in energy storage company Ambri
“It is a game-changer as it enables a low-cost storage solution, which does not use a rare metal like lithium, is non-flammable and has a long life, to provide round-the-clock solar electricity,” Ajay Mathur, director-general of the International Solar Alliance, told Moneycontrol.
Reliance’s larger play in energy storage
Reliance is also in exclusive talks with Ambri to collaborate on setting up a large battery manufacturing, distribution and sales facility in India. This will add scale to the conglomerate’s new energy plans and lower costs. It also ties in with Reliance’s move to set up an advanced energy storage giga factory, one of four that it has planned.
“The challenge of liquid metal batteries – like that of Ambri – is its high first cost, though operating costs are low. The Reliance partnership brings in commercial experience at scale in providing cost-effective solutions to users,” Mathur added.
“Solar energy is available only during the day, while power is needed round the clock. Therefore, storage is an important piece of the puzzle to solve,” Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani had said at the AGM.
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Technological breakthrough in low-cost energy storage
Ambri is a technology company working on long-duration energy storage applications that provide access to grid-scale energy and cost-efficient storage.
“Based on patented technology and designed to last between four and 24 hours, Ambri’s long-duration energy storage systems will break through the cost, longevity and safety barriers associated with lithium-ion batteries used in grid-scale stationary storage applications. They will enable a crucial energy storage solution capable of supporting the increasing amounts of renewable energy being integrated into electric power grids,” Reliance said.
Ambri’s energy storage application targets high-usage requirements such as grid-connected renewable projects and data centres. Ambri can cater to projects that require energy storage systems from 10 MWh to over 2 GWh.
The company will manufacture calcium and antimony electrode-based cells and containerised systems that are more economical than lithium-ion batteries, capable of operating safely in any climatic condition without requiring supplemental air-conditioning and meant to last for over 20 years with minimal degradation.
Ambri’s systems are suited for high-usage applications such as shifting energy from daytime solar generation to evening and morning peak load times. The company is securing customers for large-scale projects with commercial operations in 2023 and beyond.
Ambri was founded in 2010 by Donald Sadoway, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and David Bradwell. The liquid metal battery project started in Sadoway’s MIT lab. Ambri has a portfolio of 94 patents out of which 72 are issued, 22 are pending and 28 licensed from MIT.
RIL’s new energy plan
Reliance’s next phase of growth, spelt out at the AGM, envisions it metamorphosising into a new-age company, committing $10 billion for developing renewable energy as a business vertical.
The conglomerate plans to produce 100 GW of solar energy by 2030 with an investment of Rs 75,000 crore ($10 billion) in three years – Rs 60,000 crore in green energy and Rs 15,000 crore in value-chain partnership. It plans to build four giga-factories – for photovoltaics, advanced energy storage, electrolysers and fuel cells.
Ambani said Jamnagar, the cradle of its legacy energy venture, will transform into the cradle of its new energy business.
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