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27 February 2020

Highview fills out global storage plans with Sumitomo deal

It is always interesting how a good idea makes its way in the world and the Cryobattery technology of UK business Highview Power took a bold step into Asia by signing up Sumitomo Heavy Industries as a partner to cover the region. It probably only needs a deal in China now to have a full set.

We have seen very little real progress from Highview in the way of operating installations, since its first proof of concept installation came to life in April 2018 at Pilsworth Landfill facility in Bury, Greater Manchester, in the UK. It was a demonstrator of just a 5MW/15MWh battery to show how cryogenic storage can provide balancing services, including Short Term Operating Reserve and support the grid during winter peaks. This deal was developed in partnership with recycling and renewable energy company, Viridor, and was backed by UK government funding of £8 million and used heat from waste to convert the liquid air into gas once more.

The company has since talked of building a series of larger systems across the UK approaching 200 MW peak for over 12 hours and the company has since said that it is installing its first CryoBattery at an unidentified decommissioned thermal power station in Northern England – there are many candidates. And in March last year it signed up with Spanish TSK engineering group to co-develop gigawatt scale, long duration, energy stores.

That deal talked up locations pre-identified in Spain, the middle East and South Africa and Highview said it had discovered around €1 billion of deals operating in 1 GWh chunks for installation by 2021. TSK confirmed it had previously completed 10 separate energy storage projects, so it understood how the technology worked. And July last year Highview then signed a distribution deal for the US with Tenaska Power Services.

And yet there are no announcements quite yet that suggest that one of these projects is close to being completed. What Highview has said is that the idea of using frozen liquid air, which is then re-heated, and its expansion used to drive a turbine, and this technology manages to reach a new benchmark for a levelized cost of storage (LCOS) of $140/MWh for a 10-hour, 200 MW/2 GWh system. That’s certainly impressive if true.

And we suspect that it must be true, if it has managed to grab one of the leading steam turbine manufacturers as its Asian distributor. Sumitomo SHI is a world leader in combustion and steam generation technology and has over 500 clients for what is likely to be a declining market – and the Liquid Air storage could provide it a next step for such clients. Sumitomo will put in $46 million and look for opportunities among its many clients.

While we have worries that converting thermal energy into electricity is a thankless task, unlikely to be more than 50% efficient at best, it still makes a great partner for renewables which can be curtailed for long periods of time, and by storing spare energy, and converting it back into energy at key moments in a monthly or quarterly cycle, that electricity can often be sold at more than twice the price.

With this partnership, Highview Power will accelerate its global growth initiatives. SHI’s fully owned daughter company Sumitomo SHI FW (SFW) will become SHI’s technology center and hub for the CRYOBattery business, thereby expanding the technology’s geographical footprint in Europe, Asia, and Americas. Two men from Sumitomo will go onto the Highview board.

It looks very much like Highview has been quietly building projects as it gathers funding, and partners, and more or less now has global coverage.

It says its systems can run anywhere from 20 MW/100 MWh to more than 200 MW/2 GWh and the technology has a lifespan of 30 years.