Battery project includes Minnesota flair

Great River Energy’s partner on its upcoming Cambridge Energy Storage Project, Form Energy, recently revealed long-awaited details about its technology. The primary component of Form Energy’s first-of-its-kind, multi-day battery is also a cornerstone of Minnesota’s economy: iron.

Form’s previously closely guarded technology is what sets it apart from other grid-scale batteries.

“While other battery technologies employ expensive and rare metals, iron is one of the safest, cheapest and most abundant minerals on Earth,” said Great River Energy President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau. “And, of course, our northern Minnesota member-owner cooperatives are located on one of the world’s richest iron ore reserves.”

The energy storage project is expected to be in operation at the end of 2023 in Cambridge, Minnesota. It will be the first commercial deployment of Form Energy’s proprietary multi-day energy storage technology.

The value of long duration

Energy storage has the potential to solve challenges posed by the variable nature of the most common types of renewable energy.

A rendering shows what the 1-megawatt Cambridge Energy Storage Project will look like once constructed and in operation.

When evening falls over solar panels, this technology could discharge electricity it stored during the day. If the breeze subsides at a wind farm for several days, stored energy could be used to serve Minnesotans. Expanding the use of storage from periods of hours to several days is what sets the Form technology apart.

The benefits of multi-day energy storage will only increase as utilities incorporate more renewable energy resources. Great River Energy plans to more than double the renewable energy in its portfolio by 2023 and reach 50% renewables by 2030.

The Cambridge Energy Storage Project will be a 1-megawatt, grid-connected storage system capable of delivering its rated power continuously for 150 hours — far longer than the four-hour usage period available from utility-scale lithium-ion batteries today.

“While this project will be a relatively small resource on the grid, it is a leap forward for long-duration storage,” said Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Power Supply Officer Jon Brekke. “We are optimistic that this type of resource could be very valuable as the electric system continues to evolve.”

Choosing the right technology

Form Energy Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Mateo Jaramillo said the use of iron was a critical decision to keep Form’s battery storage technology inexpensive and environmentally friendly.

“We conducted a broad review of available technologies and have reinvented the iron-air battery to optimize it for multi-day energy storage for the electric grid,” Jaramillo said. “With this technology, we are tackling the biggest barrier to deep decarbonization: making renewable energy available when and where it’s needed, even during multiple days of extreme weather or grid outages.”

Form Energy intends to source iron domestically and manufacture the battery systems near where they will be sited.

Form Energy also announced it is working with steel and mining company, ArcelorMittal, on the development of iron materials for battery systems. ArcelorMittal has two iron ore mining operations in northern Minnesota.