, a Watertown, Massachusetts company, is a venture that was spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). Recently, A123 Systems has signed up electricity utilities to use A123 lithium-ion batteries for their short-term energy storage needs.
A123 Systems has been working with tool companies and General Motors for battery storage, plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars for some time. Now it is working with General Electric to use A123 batteries for “grid stabilization” when utility companies need power for short periods of time.
When utilities need this power, they need it right away, even though it may be only for a few seconds or minutes. If the power grid is already at capacity there is a risk of overloading it, which is when A123 batteries come into play.
Likewise, when the grid has excess power available there are currently not many storage devices that can store excess power for any significant periods of time. The A123 batteries also offer a solution for storage and later availability for use of excess power.
Ric Fulop, A123 Systems founder and Vice President of Business Development, was speaking to a panel of energy storage experts organized by the New England Clean Energy Council. "(Our customers) take our batteries and make the grid a hybrid similar to what we do in a car," Fulop told the Council. “The technology can do it. Now it’s a question of building the systems. Megawatt-level systems are all about systems integration.” Fulop also said that beyond batteries, utility-ready energy storage systems require electronics and thermal management systems. Other alternatives to these could be the use of flywheels and different types of batteries.
Fulop noted that utilities are hesitant to work with technology that does not have a long-term track record of at least fifteen years, due to reliability concerns. This explains why a lot of start-ups have not so far been successful in working with existing utilities, and is also why A123 Systems is partnering with General Electric.
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