Lockheed Martin eyes solar partners for new flow battery

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Lockheed has been developing its flow battery system for four years. Source: Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin Energy is looking for development and manufacturing partners in the solar industry as it readies its long-duration flow battery at the end of the year.

The company has an established lithium-ion business but will add a flow battery to its line-up after several years of development.

“We’re in this market already with Li-ion, we know what investors expect so we’re fully prepared to offer long-term warranties, long-term performance guarantees, you have to,” said John Battaglini director of business development for Lockheed Martin Energy. “We know the requirements, the company has made a sizeable investment and we’re committed to this technology.”

Unlike many venture capital-backed start-ups in the flow battery sector, Lockheed Martin is also extremely bankable as a company with 97,000 employees and a market capitalisation of almost US$100 billion.

“The four primary applications we see for long-duration energy storage are wind and solar shifting, T&D deferral and microgrids,” said Battaglini. “As more renewables come online the first two will only increase. We’re targeting wind and solar developers directly but we also want to talk to solar and wind manufacturers, we’re seeing a lot more hybrid systems coming into the market. Not just sharing and interconnect but an integrated system. When you look at these four applications, there is clearly a lot of demand for long-duration storage in the next 5-10 years.”

“We acquired [MIT spin-out] Sun Catalytix in 2014 and we have been investing in that product for four years now. We have prototypes up and running at our Massachusetts facility and we are targeting a commercial launch of the product in late 2018,” Battaglini said on the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi.

Battaglini claimed its flow systems will be price competitive “right out of the gate” and expects that cost to continue to fall. But upfront costs alone don’t offer a fair comparison of storage technologies he warns.

“We’ve done a lot of education with customers about lifetime cost, not just looking at upfront cost. You have to take a 20-30 year view when comparing lithium and flow. Lithium batteries need replaced perhaps every seven years so you need to make sure you are comparing apples to apples,” he said.

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