Northvolt and Vattenfall launch mobile battery system capable of repairing grids
Swedish battery maker Northvolt and state-owned Vattenfall on Friday launched a new modular, fully mobile energy storage system, which they say will be able to repair stressed grids during a period of rapid electrification.
While the system has a more obvious role to play in replacing diesel generators in mines, construction sites and live events, its size means that the mobile battery can also perform non-permanent functions for assets connected to the grid. network.
The Voltpack mobile system is available in 250 kilowatt-hour units, which can be packed into concentrators of about five times the capacity, along with an inverter and other necessary equipment. Several hubs can be connected in parallel.
Northvolt, which counts Volkswagen, Siemens and Vestas among its backers, is currently building its first battery gigafactory in Sweden. It produces cells from its lab, but the Voltpack Mobile will be the first full-fledged system sold by the company.
Vattenfall sees a role for the Voltpack mobile system in bridging the gap between Sweden’s rapid push for electrification and the time it takes to get network reinforcements through bureaucracy.
Swedish grids are already congested, and stringent licensing requirements mean it can take five years to get the upgrade work underway, even with immediate economic growth to be gained.
“There are tech companies in northern Sweden who want to establish new data centers, for example,” Torbjörn Johansson, director of Vattenfall Network Solutions Sweden, said in an interview. “But it can take five or even 10 years for a connection to the grid to be operational.”
In such cases, the Voltpack Mobile could be installed to perform peak shaving for the local distribution company as well as any other network stability services that a fully charged containerized battery system can provide. Despite having only 10 million citizens, Sweden is home to more than 170 different distribution companies.
A rendering of the Northvolt Ett gigafactory, currently under construction in northern Sweden. (Credit: Northvolt)
Emad Zand, Northvolt president for battery systems, said the Voltpack Mobile could facilitate seasonal downsizing of renewables.
“If you have solar or wind power that you know will be extremely active at certain times of the year, you can have a battery in there to balance the loads. You can optimize this asset, ”Zand told GTM.
Sweden is aiming for a net-to-zero economy by 2045, and by the end of this decade, it hopes to stop all sales of internal combustion engine cars. The biggest obstacle for these targets is the country’s electricity grid.
How Northvolt Crossed the Valley of Death
The energy storage industry is full of companies that have made bold promises but have shown little progress. Northvolt, on the other hand, is currently building a huge battery plant in Sweden and is working on licensing a second plant in Germany.
The company has benefited from the support of Vattenfall, which is one of the largest utilities in Europe. Vattenfall was an early supporter of Northvolt’s bold ambition to build a multibillion-dollar gigafactory. The company is one of many potential clients that Northvolt partnered with early in its development.
“It is very rare that you can sit down with a [Global] Fortune 500 and have the expertise on your side that will tell you what to do in the future, ”Zand said. “So we don’t just ask them for funding and purchase orders, we actually advise them on what the future battery strategy might look like. And it has become a very fruitful collaboration.
After a career at consulting firm McKinsey and some success as an entrepreneur, Zand was looking for his next goal when he met Northvolt CEO Peter Carlsson.
“When Peter explained his ideas to me, it was like talking to someone who had gone to the future and came back,” Zand said. Carlsson quickly noticed that batteries would be a major part of the automotive supply chain and that European automakers would need some regionalization. Plans for the first plant, known as NorthVolt Ett, were announced in 2017.
Northvolt benefited from the EU’s decision to make battery manufacturing a strategic priority. The European Investment Bank has granted Northvolt a loan of 350 million euros ($ 380 million). German automaker Volkswagen paid 900 million euros for a 20% stake in June last year. ABB, Siemens and Vestas are among its other funders.
Northvolt Ett (it’s “One” in Swedish) will complete the first quarter of its production capacity this year. Zand said the project is on time and on budget. When fully ramped up, the facility will have an annual capacity of 40 gigawatt hours, making the batteries suitable for automotive and stationary applications.
Northvolt Zwei, in Germany, will be a joint venture with VW.
This story has been updated. A previous version indicated that the final capacity of the Northvolt Ett gigafactory was 32 gigawatt hours. This initial maximum design capacity has been increased to 40 gigawatt hours.