Ambri, an energy storage developer behind a liquid metal battery system, has signed its first agreement with a utility provider, which the company says is the next step toward commercialization.

The liquid metal battery system is meant to serve as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries, which degrade over time, and pumped-hydropower storage systems, which are reliant on the local geography. The battery is composed of calcium alloy and antimony separated by molten salt, allowing the batteries to operate at high temperatures as the calcium and salt liquify. This liquid-based system, Ambri says, reduces degradation compared to lithium-ion batteries and gives the battery a 20-year operating lifetime. The insulated battery system is self-heated and cycles daily.

Xcel Energy and Ambri will jointly test a 300-kWh system at SolarTAC in Aurora, Colorado, for 12 months, enabling an evaluation of its capabilities and performance. Installation of the system is expected to begin in early 2024, with the system fully operational later that year. The system will use the GridNXT Microgrid Platform at SolarTAC to integrate multiple generation sources, such as solar and wind, along with inverters, load banks, and 3-phase distribution connections and communications.

This collaboration is the first field-deployed utility pilot system for Ambri, showcasing its liquid metal batteries in a real-world setting. It also marks the initial evaluation and demonstration of these batteries by a major U.S. utility. Throughout the demonstration period, Xcel Energy and Ambri will test various use cases, including solar and wind integration, capacity management, arbitrage, and ancillary services, among others.

In 2021, Ambri announced a $144 million financing round, backed by India’s Reliance New Energy Solar Ltd, Paulson & Co. Inc, and the company’s largest shareholder, Bill Gates. Those funds were intended to be used for financing and commercializing Ambri’s daily cycling, long-duration system technology and to build a domestic manufacturing facility, the company said.

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