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Altair Nanotechnologies Completes Validation of 2MW Li-ion Battery System Grid Interconnection and Operation

8 July 2008

Altair Nanotechnologies Inc. has successfully completed a demonstration and validation program for a two-megawatt, 500 kWh battery system purchased by AES Corporation. The program was developed and validated by KEMA, Inc. and executed by AES personnel and subcontractors.

KEMA’s testing showed the battery system successfully met the program’s milestones, which was conducted to demonstrate the applicability of Altair’s large platform technology to frequency regulation, a key service currently provided by power plants to the electric grid. This demonstration also suggests that the technology could be used for several other utility applications.

The two-megawatt battery system was installed and operated at a substation owned by Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL), an AES company. The system contained two one-megawatt battery storage units each consisting of one Altairnano 250 kWh lithium titanate battery stack, AC-to-DC power conversion system, HVAC units, a control system and transformers to connect to the IPL grid.

During the validation exercise the capacity of each unit was tested by repeatedly charging and discharging at one megawatt for 15 minutes. In a second test, two megawatts of power from each of the units were used to show the capability of paralleling two separate systems. Additional testing included simulated frequency regulation, which involved switching the units from charge to discharge at up to one megawatt of power every four seconds for several hours.

Battery stack efficiency measured using cyclic charge/discharge tests (at 50% state of charge) varied from 97% at 250 kW dispatch to 91% at 1000 kW dispatch. Efficiency drops off with the power dispatch level due to internal losses that are proportional to the current squared as expected. Factoring in the DC-to-AC power conversion system, then average conversion efficiency measured varied between 93% at 250 kW dispatch to 86% at 1000 kW dispatch. This does not include HVAC or trailer auxiliary load. However, it is noted that efficiency numbers are highly dependent on the dispatch duty cycle, and need to be re-evaluated for each type of field application.

—KEMA report

We are pleased with the results of the Altairnano units. This two megawatt validation project is one of the final steps in our move towards commercial deployment of grid-scale energy storage. Fast-responding, high-efficiency energy storage systems such as these will create a more resilient grid and allow for increased use of variable generating sources such as wind and solar.

—Chris Shelton, Director of Energy Storage Development at AES

In March 2007, AES made a $3-million strategic investment in Altair Nanotechnologies. (Earlier post.) In August 2007, AES Corporation and Altair Nanotechnologies announced a joint development and equipment purchase agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the companies will develop a suite of energy storage solutions. This first solution is a modular unit designed to deliver in excess of one megawatt of power and 250 kilowatt-hours of energy per unit. Multiple units can be linked together in systems to provide both more power and more energy storage.

Altair and AES are working together toward utilization of these systems to provide more efficient management of energy quality, frequency control, and real-time energy fluctuations in milliseconds at grid level.

AES is one of the world’s largest global power companies, with 2007 revenues of $13.6 billion. With operations in 29 countries on five continents, AES's generation and distribution facilities have the capacity to serve 100 million people worldwide.

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I want one of these in my car. 1,000 kW output would be satisfactory.

Some Lexus models now have 168 kW motors (and inverters) that are the same size as the Prius equivalent items, so one of these per wheel should do the trick. Think I'll cancel my order for a Veyron....

with the workout it's getting at the utility level, you could make a claim that this is a 100 year battery!!!

It amazes me that this company is not entertaining a wardroom of offers/buyers. They have performed admirably since the early days of EV battery development and by all appearances should be well rewarded for their leadership. A great company.

gr: I have stock in Altairnano. It was always a 100% risk. At times it looked great, currently it is dismal.

I must guess they cannot fabricate the batteries in an automated, highly consistent, manner. That would keep projections of future cost unattractive.

(High costs today aren't all that important. Customers want to know what costs will be for high volumes after 2010.)

The Altair deal with Phoenix hasn't helped much either. Phoenix was offering a pure EV in light truck form for local tradesman and retailers who could tolerate a short range. It was a good plan.

Then, while still struggling to get EVs on the road, Phoenix announced they would develop hybrids too. IMO this is a disastrous move, they don't have the resources, and in the hybrid market they will compete with huge experienced companies.

Other battery makers will, or perhaps already have, developed ways to negate Altair's technical advantages. I think time is running out. We shall see.

You are right, Altair's technology has (or had?) a lot to offer but major customers evaluate carefully and they went elsewhere.


This is definitely not a product that can fit in a car.

Note: 2MW / 500kWh. Lithium ion batteries at about 200Wh/kg would mean about 2500kg of batteries. And with at 500Wh/l, that would be 1000 liters of volume.

Also 0.5MWh/2MW = 0.25 Hrs. This means it can only sustain full power for 15 minutes before it runs out of juice. And that OKAY because it is meant to provide a service called Regulation (sometimes called Frequency Regulation).

This service stabilizes the energy grid by balancing the load with the generation on a short term scale. Traditionally this is done by ramping generators up and down but energy storage technologies such as batteries (Altair) and flywheels (Beacon Power) are trying to do the same thing. The hope is that these storage technologies do it more efficiently and with greater efficacy than a generator leading to a more stable and less carbon-intensive grid.

The reason they don't have customers lining up is that this is not a product one would sell to a company. It is a service that gets paid for by the energy markets (via the Independent Service Operators or ISOs).

And it is this type of service that is going to be increasingly important as we move forward due to higher penetration of renewables and the decreasing frequency bias of our grid. So hopefully we'll see Altair or Beacon with a plant up and running soon.

This sort of thing on steroids will be what US needs to balance out the fluctuations from wind and solar energy and potentially other renewable sources with the base load that is provided by wave, hydro and geothermal sources. I'd also welcome large flywheel research as well for this purpose.

Altairnano probably realized that despite all their initial claim of fast recharging etc., their battery technology likeley cannot compete with more standard Li-ion technologyies in car application for whatever reason. Otherwise they would be more agressive just like EESTOR.

By the way EESTOR made some announcemnent very recently. Apparently their device has been successfully tested by a third party and they confirmed that they will show something very soon, like a 15KWh module that weight a 100pounds...

Congratulations to the people involved. Sodium Sulphur batteries are being used in several installations that can do the same thing and have a great deal more energy storage. A few years ago VRB installed a similar system near the end of a long power line in Utah using its vanadium flow battery. It takes up a lot of space and weighs a lot but its energy capacity can be extended with more liquid tanks. The capital costs of the system is what is important. A power plant consisting of a dozen plus natural gas powered generators was built a few years ago but makes most of its money selling its capacity for frequency regulation backup and hardly generates any percentage of its power capacity. This is indeed an area for the use of very large cheap flywheels or a big number of cheap small ones. Rotating coil transformers can tie them into the grid at variable frequencies. Syncronous Condensors are large motors without loads that can put very large amounts of reactive power into the grid but they are being replaced with electronically switched units. Every home should have its own frequency regulation battery pack, perhaps in the electric car which sits mostly in the garage. ..HG..

I want one of these in my car.

Hope you have a big trunk, these batteries fill a semi trailer.

ALTI is flaky. They have promising technology but no clue how to build a company. An exclusive deal with a non-player like Phoenix? Sheesh. Phoenix planned to qualify for CARB ZEV III credits and offer car companies the chance to pay them $200k to avoid building million dollar fuel cell vehicles. Nice plan, except CARB backed away from the requirements at the last minute like they always do.

Now other companies offer lithium-titanate anodes not to mention other chemistries which are leaving ALTI in the dust. Too bad, they coulda been a contender.

Treehugger, do you have a link to recent EEStor announcements? I have not seen anything from them. Their exclusive partner Zenn has said some stuff, but they're just going by what their contract says. They haven't seen a working device or, as far as I can tell, even spoken to someone who has seen a working device.

This technology apparently is applicable to stationary power plants and has almost as little application to cars as the Bolder Dam generators do.
I assume the "regulation" also helps prevent rolling black-outs.

@Todd,

Certainly the utility size Altair battery would not fit in my car! But the chemistry is easily capable of dishing out 5 kW per kg. 1,000 kW (or 1,350 bhp) peak could easily be drawn from a 200 kg Altair battery pack, and that would easily fit in a car. Add two rasertech motors and we're laughing all the way up the dragstrip....

doggydog...

look here

http://gm-volt.com/2008/06/27/eestor-about-to-release-public-data-on-its-energy-storage-units-eesus/

I think the Lightning GT is still planning on using Altairnano. At least, they haven't announced otherwise.We'll know for sure soon.

http://www.autobloggreen.com/2008/07/09/lightning-gt-to-make-debut-at-british-international-motor-show/

Treehugger, that's just the Zenn guy spouting off again. EEStor still hasn't said anything as far as I can tell.

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