Navigant Research Blog

Applying Financing Innovation in Distributed Energy Storage to Make Battery Technology Bankable

William Tokash — March 20, 2017

In a recent blog, I took a look at the importance of proper evaluation of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of battery energy storage systems (BESSs) from both a power and energy performance standpoint. Such an analysis reveals how extended battery lifetime and other battery performance factors can reduce the ultimate costs BESS owners would pay over the life of the system. This type of revenue and cost predictability is key to unlocking energy storage financing innovation anticipated to drive new technology deployments.

The Bankable Battery Challenge

Today, equity and debt providers and project developers looking to finance BESS have a limited choice of battery technologies. NGK Insulators has a proven sodium sulfur (NaS) battery technology that plays a role in certain long duration, utility-scale energy storage or microgrid applications. For other applications, lithium ion (Li-ion) technology backed by warranties from large, multinational conglomerates like LG Chem, Samsung SDI, BYD, and Panasonic are among the few technologies determined to have bankable BESS technology from a financing standpoint to date. This remains to be the case even though few of these Li-ion BESS installations have been up and running for extended periods of time.

Financing Innovation Enabled by Contracting and Technology Advancements

Many developers, systems integrators, and technology providers are focusing on creative ways to make BESSs bankable from a financing standpoint. Powin Energy is an Oregon-based energy storage systems integrator that recently developed and commissioned a 2 MW, 8 MWh battery energy storage system in Irvine, California under Southern California Edison’s (SCE’s) Alison Canyon emergency procurement. But there is more behind Powin’s efforts than just project development/systems integration.

Powin’s patented Battery Pack Operating System (bp-OS) is designed to enhance the monitoring of battery performance. Its software claims to do this by tracking battery system functions and lifespan at the cell level using its proprietary Battery Odometer and Warranty Tracker products. The Battery Odometer reportedly measures degradation and calculates remaining battery lifetime based on voltage, temperature, state-of-charge, and charge and discharge durations on a cycle by cycle basis. And the Warranty Tracker claims to express that status of battery performance relative to the specific warranty status in real time.

A technology package that truly enhances and simplifies the approach battery warranty monitoring would be compelling. Such clarity and simplicity from a battery performance standpoint could open up opportunities to standardize battery performance warranty insurance coverages across a variety of battery cell technology manufacturers, which would lower costs and provide additional comfort to project finance investors, thereby driving more financing activity.

A Promising Sign for Energy Storage Financers?

A proper turnkey financial TCO analysis should look at the total cost of operation for power and energy. However, projecting the cost of operation of the BESS at year 3 or 4 of a 10-year financing is uncharted waters. Technology such as Powin’s bp-OS coupled with battery performance insurance underwriting merits a careful eye in the journey by project developers to develop and finance BESS projects. As discussed in previous blogs, lower costs coupled with more predictable project revenue feeds the growth financing innovation that will drive the deployment of stationary energy storage technology.

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