Northvolt and Vattenfall Launch Mobile Battery System Capable of Patching Up Grids

Swedish battery makerNorthvolt and state-owned utility
Vattenfall launched a new modular and fully mobile energy storage
system on Friday, one they say will be able to patch up stressed
grids during a period of rapid electrification.

While the system has a more obvious role to play in replacing
diesel generators at mines, construction sites and live events,
its size means the mobile battery can perform nonpermanent
functions for grid-connected assets as well.

The Voltpack Mobile System comes in units of 250 kilowatt-hours,
which can be packaged into hubs with about five times that
capacity, complete with an inverter and other necessary equipment.
Multiple hubs can be connected in parallel.

Northvolt, which counts Volkswagen, Siemens and Vestas among its
backers, is currently building its first battery gigafactory in
Sweden. It’s been producing cells from its lab facility, but the
Voltpack Mobile will be the first full-fledged system sold by the
company.

Vattenfall sees a role for the Voltpack Mobile System in
bridging the gap between Sweden’s rapid drive for electrification
and the time it takes to get grid reinforcements through the red
tape.

Sweden’s grids are already getting clogged up, and strict
permitting requirements mean it can take five years to get work on
upgrades underway, even with immediate economic growth up for
grabs. 

“There are technology companies in the north of Sweden that
want to establish new data centers, for example,†Torbjörn
Johansson, head of Vattenfall Network Solutions Sweden, said in an
interview. “But it can take five, even 10 years for a grid
connection to get up and running.â€

In such cases, the Voltpack Mobile could be installed to perform
peak-shaving for the local distribution company along with all the
other grid-stability services a fully loaded containerized battery
system can perform. Despite having just 10 million citizens, Sweden
is home to more than 170 different distribution companies.

A
rendering of the Northvolt Ett gigafactory, currently under
construction in the north of Sweden. (Credit: Northvolt)

A startup company looking to trial contactless induction
charging for electric vehicles is also interested in the mobile
storage system, rather than waiting for a grid connection,
Johansson said.

Emad Zand, Northvolt’s president for battery systems, said the
Voltpack Mobile could ease seasonal curtailment of renewables.

“If you have solar or wind that you know is going to be
extremely active in certain periods of the year, you can have a
battery asset there to even out the loads. You can optimize that
asset,†Zand told GTM.

Sweden is aiming to have a net-zero economy by 2045, and by the
end of this decade, it hopes to stop all sales of internal
combustion engine cars. The biggest obstacle for those targets is
the country’s power grid.

How Northvolt breezed through the valley of death

The energy storage sector is littered with companies that made
bold promises but showed little progress. Northvolt, in contrast,
is currently building a huge battery factory in Sweden and working
on permitting a second factory in Germany.

The company has benefited from the backing of Vattenfall, which
ranks among Europe’s largest utilities. Vattenfall was an early
supporter of Northvolt’s bold ambition to build a
multibillion-dollar gigafactory in Sweden. The firm is one of
several potential customers Northvolt partnered with in the early
days of its development.

“It’s very seldom you can sit with a [Global] Fortune 500
company and have the expertise on your side that informs how they
should proceed in the future,†Zand said. “So we’re not only
asking them for funding and purchase orders, we were actually
advising them on what the future strategy on batteries could look
like. And that became a very fruitful collaboration.â€

After a career at consulting firm McKinsey and some success as
an entrepreneur, Zand was looking for his next focus when he met
Northvolt’s CEO, Peter Carlsson.

“When Peter explained his ideas to me, it was like talking to
someone who had been to the future and come back,†said Zand.
Carlsson was quick to spot that batteries would be a major part of
the automotive supply chain and Europe’s carmakers would need
some regionalization. Plans for the first factory, known as
NorthVolt Ett, were announced in 2017.

Northvolt has benefited from the EU’s decision to make
battery manufacturing a strategic priority. The European Investment
Bank gave Northvolt a €350 million ($380 million) loan. German
automaker Volkswagen paid €900 million for a 20 percent stake in
June last year. ABB, Siemens and Vestas are among its other
backers.

Northvolt Ett (that’s “One” in Swedish) will complete the first
quarter of production capacity this year. Zand said the project is
on time and on budget. When fully ramped, the facility will have an
annual capacity of 40 gigawatt-hours, making batteries suitable for
both automotive and stationary applications.

Northvolt Zwei, in Germany, will be a joint venture with VW.

This story has been updated. A previous version stated the final
capacity of the Northvolt Ett gigafactory was 32 gigawatt-hours.
That initial maximum design capacity has been raised to 40
gigawatt-hours.

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
Northvolt and Vattenfall Launch Mobile Battery System
Capable of Patching Up Grids