tirsdag 2. mars 2010

Prudent scores $22M to rival EnerVault in grid-scale storage

Prudent Energy, a Beijing-based maker of large-capacity flow batteries, has raised a $22 million third round of venture funding. Its products may be too heavy for use in plug-in vehicles, but the company could very likely become a key player in grid storage, both in China and the U.S.
A truly international affair, its batteries were actually designed by a Canadian startup VRB Power Systems, which Prudent acquired in 2009. Because its manufacturing operations are based entirely in China, substantially lowering costs, the company could give U.S.-based competitor EnerVault a real run for its money. Also planning to churn out flow batteries, EnerVault recently raised its own multi-million funding round.
Prudent plans to use its new financing to build out its manufacturing capacity. This will in turn drive growth in U.S. markets. CEO Johnson Chiang said in a statement that the company has already delivered 20-kilowatt flow batteries this year. Its largest customers are telecommunications and utility companies. But really any organization or energy vendor that can’t afford a power outage is a potential customer for flow batteries.
An alternate solution set apart from lithium-ion batteries, flywheels and fuel cells, flow batteries are comprised of huge storage tanks containing positive and negative electrodes that are continuously pumped through an AC/DC converter. This structure allows a battery to continue recirculating and generating power long after most competing storage systems are depleted.
As it stands, Prudent and EnerVault seem to be headed for a showdown. The latter is claiming that it can provide storage at $100 per kilowatt-hour (compare that to $500 to $1,000 per kilowatt hour for lithium-ion rivals). Prudent will not only have to match this price — it will have to beat it if it wants to be a contender in the U.S. market. It will be interesting to see who pulls ahead as demand for grid-scale storage continues to grow, and states begin to pass legislation mandating grid storage to buffer peak periods. California has one such bill pending in the Assembly right now.
The majority of Prudent’s recent round of funding came from Northern Light Venture Capital, a leading Chinese venture firm. Sunnyvale, Calif.-based EnerVault, on the other hand, is backed by U.S. Invest and Oceanshore Ventures. It also scored a $650,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency last year.
Companies: EnerVault, Northern Light Venture Capital, Oceanshore Ventures, Prudent Energy, U.S. Invest

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