Honeywell is moving into the energy storage market with the announcement of a flow battery technology that can store and dispatch electricity for up to 12 hours.
Honeywell will test a 400 kWh unit at Duke Energy's Mount Holly microgrid test bed facility in North Carolina in 2022. If successful, Honeywell says it aims to deploy a utility-scale pilot project of 60 MWh in 2023.
The flow battery has a non-flammable electrolyte designed with recyclable components, according to Honeywell. The battery could have a lifespan of up to 20 years with little degradation, the company said.
Honeywell's entry into the energy storage market sidesteps lithium-ion battery chemistry, the dominant technology on the market today. Instead, the company is relying on a technology that "looks more like a chemical plant," in line with the industrial giant's materials background, said Ben Owens, vice president and general manager of Honeywell Sustainable Technology Solutions.
"We're interested in the long-duration space, storage of between four to 12 hours," Owens said. "We see this as a unique opportunity to combine our experience in materials science and chemicals with the energy transition."
While lithium-ion batteries are effective in storing wind and solar energy for hours and distributing it during peak times of the day, experts say it will be necessary to incorporate long-duration storage that can weather day-to-day and seasonal variability in renewable production. Flow batteries use a liquid electrolyte as a source of electricity, have more longevity and storage capacity than lithium-ion, while also carrying less safety risk. However, they also have a higher up-front cost and are less proven on the market.
Tom Fenimore, director of smart grid emerging technology and operations for Duke Energy, said the utility has been eager to get its hands on a flow battery to test its viability.
"This concept is a bit different than other batteries. It's a vastly different process than what takes place in lithium-ion batteries," Fenimore said. "There are several advantages to this … and testing early on will give us the ability to understand the behavioral characteristics and maintenance requirements of this technology."
Fenimore said Duke has tested more than 15 battery technologies in the past decade and currently has six utility-scale technologies being tested at the Mount Holly facility. The goal, he said, is to take early stage equipment and assess whether it is a "financially viable option" as part of Duke's goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Flow battery technology is achieving more viability, with several high-profile launches in recent months. In July, Massachusetts-based startup Form Energy said it had an iron-air-exchange battery capable of delivering up to 100 hours of electricity at less than $20/kWh. Earlier this month, SB Energy agreed to purchase 2 GWh of flow batteries from Oregon startup ESS for deployment with solar in California and Texas. A June 2021 study from Global Industry Analysts projected that the worldwide flow battery market would grow from $290.5 million in 2020 to $962 million by 2026 with a boost from the utility market.
"Wind and solar is on a tremendous curve up, but modeling shows that curve stops if you don't get storage at a large scale," said Honeywell's Owens. "Over the last 100 years, Honeywell has always been involved in the energy transition and we see this as the next major evolution of the energy sector."