Pennsylvania recycling firm launches microgrid with solar and long-duration iron flow battery

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ESS has completed a microgrid installation at Sycamore International, a technology recycling company in West Grove, Pennsylvania. The new microgrid, which was developed by TerraSol Energies includes a 115-kW direct current solar array and an ESS Energy Warehouse, which is a long-duration iron flow battery system. 

iron flow battery

Visitors viewing the ESS Energy Warehouse long-duration storage system during a ribbon-cutting event at Sycamore International in Pennsylvania, Aug. 25. Photo by Business Wire 

According to Sycamore International CEO Steve Figgatt, the solar and energy storage microgrid will provide backup power to keep its suburban Philadelphia recycling facility fully operational during outages. He said it also “has a very reasonable return on the capital investment through both electricity production and peak load shaving, and enables our facility to operate comfortably with a net-zero carbon footprint.” 

Dave Santoleri, president of TerraSol Energies, the project’s developer, added that with the use of a long-duration iron flow battery, the microgrid is an environmentally friendly solution.

How long-duration iron flow batteries work

A long-duration iron flow battery stores energy in tanks of liquid electrolytes. To increase the capacity, you don’t need to add additional batteries, you only need to increase the size of the storage tanks.

ESS said its iron flow battery technology is safe and nontoxic, as it’s made from iron, salt and water, all basic earth elements.

Eric Dresselhuys, CEO of ESS, said that the “technology will play a critical role in building a resilient and decarbonized energy system, and this project demonstrates the value that iron flow technology can deliver.”

The company also said that its long-duration iron flow batteries are cheaper than other storage alternatives, in part because of their long life cycle. According to ESS, the iron flow battery in its Energy Warehouse will last for more than 20,000 cycles — or more than 20 years — without any capacity degradation.

Conventional battery chemistries typically only have a seven- to 10-year life span, according to ESS.

Expect more to come with the passage of the IRA

Pennsylvania is already home to cutting edge and notable microgrids, including those found at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia and at the Pittsburgh International Airport. It was recently named as a top Tier 2 microgrid friendly state by Think Microgrid, a coalition affiliated with Microgrid Knowledge that educates regulatory and political leaders about the technology.

US Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., said that with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) we can expect to see more paid-for investment projects such as the Sycamore International microgrid come online in Pennsylvania. She said that the microgrid “represents the kind of forward-thinking solution we need to build a decarbonized, resilient energy system.”

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