Hitachi’s CrystEna Energy Storage System

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Who knows how economical it might be, but the Japanese electronics and industrial giant Hitachi is moving toward marketing an energy storage system that could be a companion piece to renewable power generation — another sign of the growing interest in such products.

The company said a system called CrystEna (that’s “crystal” and “energy” shortened and squished together; maybe it sounds better in Japanese) will use lithium-ion battery technology in a 1-megawatt container-like package. At that size, this isn’t for home storage — nor is it the sort of storage thatSolarCity has begun promoting for large business solar systems to cut peak demand.

Instead, this looks like a utility-scale application, the kind of thing that would be used in a fashion similar to the 4-megawatt sodium-sulfur battery system from NGK Insulators that the Northern California utility Pacific Gas & Electric is testing in San Jose.

But while Hitachi was announcing CrystEna, it was a bit unclear about exactly when and how it might come to market:

In the beginning of 2014, Hitachi plans to begin a demonstration test of this energy storage system in North America. Plans call for Hitachi to reflect the results of this testing in a commercial product after verifying the commercial viability and performance of the system in the electricity trading market, or the so-called ancillary market connected with maintaining the electricity supply-demand balance. Furthermore, Hitachi will examine whether to promote the system, to be named “CrystEna” (Crystal+Energy), as one of its solution businesses for expanding the transmission & distribution business in the global market.

While storing massive amounts of energy isn’t anywhere near economically feasible yet, utilities are looking for solutions that can help ensure grid stability as variable wind and solar become bigger players, and perhaps to help take a bite out of peak load. This is especially true in California, where state law requires 33 percent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2020 — and where regulators recently ordered Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to “procure energy storage resources” totaling 1,325 megawatts by 2020 and have it installed by the end of 2024.

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