Axion Power Supplies Energy Storage To Pennsylvania’s Largest Solar Farm

Axion Power will be the energy storage supplier for the 9.1MW Pennsylvania Solar Farm.
Published: Wed 12 Nov 2014

Axion Power, a developer of advanced lead-carbon PbC® batteries, energy storage systems and frequency regulation systems, will be the designated supplier of energy storage and frequency regulation for Pennsylvania’s largest solar farm.

Engerati wrote earlier this year about Axion’s powerCube energy storage solution which won a US$1,100,000 order from a New Jersey-based solar installer for commercial and residential markets. The order includes batteries, racks, wiring, a data communication system and the electronics coordination required to outfit and install the PowerCubes. [Engerati – More Orders for Lead-Carbon Energy Storage.]

Coatesville Solar Initiative

The Coatesville Solar Initiative (CSI) announced its choice of Axion Power and its PbC® technology and batteries for the 48-acre project. Axion Power PbC PowerCube™ technology has been admitted to connect with the 13-state PJM power grid, and brings that certification to the 9.1MW CSI project.

Phase one and two of the multi-phased project is comprised of two 2.4MW (DC) solar facilities, generating approximately 6.3 million kWh which CSI has contractually agreed to sell Coatesville Area School District (CASD) through a 25-year solar power purchase agreement (SPPA).

According to CSI, when completed, the 9.1MW solar farm will be the largest solar park facility in Pennsylvania.

Axion CEO David DiGiacinto commented, "As Axion emerges into full commercialization, the Coatesville Solar Initiative is a major milestone in industry acceptance. A solar farm that will generate more than 9MW of electricity is an important step for the renewable energy industry in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Axion has spent nearly a decade developing PbC batteries and technology, and we have 13 patents protecting our nearly 100% recyclable batteries. We are pleased and proud to have been designated for CSI, and believe that the PbC storage and frequency regulation capability will shorten the payback time for the entire installation significantly."

DiGiacinto says that if the CSI solar farm reaches its full potential over a multi-year span, the batteries to be used could total approximately in the 5,000 to 6,000 range based on the proposed size of the project.

Bob Keares, a Coatesville local is the managing partner and president of Keares Electrical Contracting, Inc. in Exton, a firm that has installed numerous commercial and residential solar projects in its 41 years in business. Keares Electrical Contracting has been impressed with the Axion PbC battery technology and management team since first being introduced to the company over two years ago; Keares toured the Axion New Castle, Pennsylvania manufacturing facility in January 2013.

"Axion has proven to be a significant resource to CSI, and Keares Electrical Contracting, the past two plus years," says Keares. "Axion technology, industry contacts, and knowledge will contribute significantly to the Coatesville farm coming to fruition. I believe all parties involved are looking forward to developing a long-term partnership. We look forward to developing not only this project, but also future renewable opportunities," stated Keares.

Construction work is expected to start before the end of 2014. Much of the local permitting and state regulatory approval process for the solar farm has been completed.

Lead acid battery vs lithium ion battery

While the majority of media coverage, and indeed deployment, of energy storage paired with solar in recent times has been focused on variations of lithium-ion battery chemistry, some makers remain bullish on the possibilities offered by advancements in lead acid battery technology.

Earlier this year Trojan Systems revealed its own proprietary ‘smart carbon’ lead acid batteries for off-grid and renewable energy storage. Trojan and Axion’s adaptations of the technology are expected to compensate to some degree for the less intensive cycling that lead acid can typically handle, compared to lithium-ion based systems.

Axion claims its batteries can be differentiated from conventional lead-acid systems due to their use of negative electrodes that are five-layer assemblies of a carbon electrode, a corrosion barrier, a current collector, a second corrosion barrier and a second carbon electrode. The electrode assemblies are then combined with separators and positive electrodes to make the battery, filled with an acid electrolyte, sealed and connected in series to the other cells. ‘Conventional’ lead-acid batteries simply use simple sponge lead plates.

The company claims that the batteries are tested to withstand 2,500 cycles of charge and discharge, as opposed to other lead acid batteries that can manage around 400 to 600 deep discharge cycles in their lifetime. Under Axion’s test procedure, the batteries go through a cycle of charging and discharging every seven hours to a full 100% depth of discharge.

DiGiacinto describes Axion’s batteries as “nearly 100% recyclable”. He says that Axion was “pleased and proud to have been designated for Coatesville Solar Initiative” and asserted the company’s belief that “the PbC storage and frequency regulation capability will shorten the payback time for the entire installation significantly”.