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Energy ‘game changer’ comes to Turlock

POSTED May 29, 2014 9:22 p.m.

Being deemed a “game changer” by many energy experts, Silicon Valley startup company EnerVault has built the world’s largest iron-chromium redox flow battery and storage facility in a Turlock orchard.

With its large scale storage capacity, the revolutionary “battery” could help stabilize California’s electrical grid.

“It’s big, it matters, and it’s going to be very, very important,” said Jim Pape, chief executive officer of EnerVault.

Built by Turlock based JKB Energy, the battery stores energy received from the sun using an array of solar panels, then stores it in tanks full of 95 percent salt water. According to EnerVault, the stored energy can be kept for long durations and used at any time it is needed — a feature that makes the facility a real game changer in the solar power industry as traditionally, solar generated energy must be used quickly.

But with the recent development and technology of EnerVault Turlock, such energy can now be stored for long periods of time, catching the attention of top industry experts.

““The trick is being able to store electricity when the sun is not shining,” California Energy Commission Chair Robert Weisenmiller said. “This storage is a real game changer. What EnerVault Turlock is doing is bottling sunshine and that is something we really need now.”

According to EnerVault, the battery can currently hold up to 250 kilowatts for four hours. Although that is enough electricity to power 50 to 100 homes, EnerVault says the energy will be used primarily for agricultural purposes for the time being. But as both EnerVault and JKB Energy planning to install additional batteries around the Central Valley, the scale of the batteries and technology could soon increase dramatically.

“California is poised to be overproducing energy in the middle of the day from solar, wind and other renewable sources,” said Matt Roberts of the U.S. Energy Storage Association. “That’s why an electric storage solution is so important. What they’re doing here today is being watched around the world.”

Recognizing the possibilities with EnerVaults’ technology, U.S. Department of Energy contributed $5 million to fund the battery’s development.

“EnerVault Turlock has demonstrated that our technology in inherently safe, reliable and cost effective. We can manufacture large-scale systems quickly and reliably,” said EnerVault CEO Pape.

As EnerVault and JKB Energy plan to build additional energy storage facilities throughout the Valley, the two hope to create local jobs for contractors, electricians, plumbers, local suppliers and other related trades.

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