Southern Research, energy companies, researchers join to open Energy Storage Research Center

Southern Research, energy companies, researchers join to open Energy Storage Research Center
Southern Research is opening its Energy Storage Research Center as an industrywide resource for testing and validating energy storage technologies. The center is on Southern Research’s Oxmoor campus. (Jo Alice Driggers)

Industry leaders joined Southern Research officials to formally open the Energy Storage Research Center (ESRC), a facility on Southern Research’s engineering campus where collaborative efforts will aim to accelerate the development and deployment of next-generation energy storage technologies.

Southern Research collaborated with Southern Company and its Alabama Power subsidiary, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the state of Alabama to develop the ESRC.

The center will focus on grid-scale energy storage applications in combination with renewables in the Southeast through the development of joint energy storage research, demonstration and test projects.

Additionally, the ESRC will serve as an industry-wide resource to evaluate the emerging energy storage technologies needed to fully realize the potential of renewable energy sources such as solar generation, and to improve the reliability and resiliency of the power grid.

“The energy storage industry is experiencing ever-increasing growth, but not all installations are successful in running effectively and providing economic return,” said Imre Gyuk, Ph.D., director of Energy Storage Research at DOE’s Office of Electricity.

“A regional test center can provide needed validation of storage technologies as well as validation of business cases and benefit streams.”

Officials attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Southern Research’s Energy Storage Research Center. (Ashley Fulmer-Foster)

Independent research

Representatives from DOE, EPRI, Southern Company and the Alabama Department of Commerce spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the ESRC, underscoring the new facility’s significance in the field of energy storage.

The ESRC will serve as an independent research facility to provide third-party services on energy storage systems for technology vendors and users as well as other stakeholder groups.

The center’s overall goal is to facilitate technical and economic growth and development in the emerging energy storage market through joint research.

“As a leader in research and development, Southern Company is committed to advancing technologies that can help us continue to meet customers’ needs as the energy industry rapidly evolves,” said Roxann Walsh, Southern Company research and development director. “The Energy Storage Research Center will broaden our work with stakeholders and technology developers from across the industry to better understand energy storage systems and how to fully use this technology to build the future of energy.”

“Energy storage is a critical technology to enable electric power strategies for decarbonization and resilience,” said Mark McGranaghan, vice president, Integrated Grid, EPRI. “Objective research into energy storage can help realize the environmental, economic and societal benefits of further renewable energy integration, electric transportation and other emerging energy technologies. We are pleased to be part of ESRC’s collaborative energy storage testing and analysis effort.”

The Energy Storage Research Center features a flow battery system developed by Oakland, California-based Avalon Battery. (Jo Alice Driggers)

Avalon Battery

The ESRC currently features a flow battery system developed by Oakland, California-based Avalon Battery. A rechargeable flow battery stores energy directly in the electrolyte solution for longer cycle life and quick response times.

Matt Harper, co-founder and chief product officer at Avalon Battery, said he is pleased to support the ESRC in the mission to promote innovation in grid-scale energy storage systems.

“It was a great honor to have Avalon’s product, the result of years of dedicated work by a team with decades of flow battery experience, selected by the ESRC for evaluation. We look forward to working closely with Southern Research and the ESRC as they help build a clean energy future,” Harper said.

Bert Taube, Ph.D., energy storage and renewables program manager in Southern Research’s Energy & Environment division, said a well-defined portfolio of validated, evaluated and demonstrated energy storage system technologies is critical to enable a variety of energy storage plus renewables use cases necessary to optimize the energy mix, increase grid resilience and power quality while minimizing the carbon footprint inherent in the power generation and delivery process.

“The ESRC represents a critical step of de-risking energy storage system deployments between the factory and the field through testing a range of technologies, systems and levels of integration applying a comprehensive staged test approach leveraging the unique ESRC software infrastructure with a platform for large-scale data collection and analysis to benchmark system functionality, safety and performance,” Taube said.

Advancing new technologies

Experts say there is considerable potential for these technologies.

The Energy Storage Association says market research shows the global energy storage market is growing exponentially to an annual installation size of 40 gigawatts (GW) by 2022, up from an initial base of only 0.34 GW installed in 2012 and 2013.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the ESRC is an impressive technological accomplishment for Southern Research and its collaborators.

“This is another example of the cutting-edge technology development taking place right here in Birmingham at Southern Research,” Canfield said.

“The Energy Storage Research Center has the potential to help advance new clean-energy approaches that will allow utilities to create a more efficient and resilient energy infrastructure and to bring cost savings to consumers.”

This story originally appeared on Southern Research’s website.

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