October 05, 2015 – by Jason Deign
A look at some smaller tech companies building on the back of the state’s strong storage policies.
As California strengthens its policy environment for storage, the range of companies in the state doing business in the sector continues to grow.
For many, the first California-based storage firm that comes to mind may be Tesla. But there are many other smaller technology companies in the state looking to ride the surge of interest (some say hype) after Tesla’s big marketing push around stationary storage.
Here are six early-stage storage tech firms, culled from GTM’s collective consciousness, that are building their business in California.
Clean Energy Storage
Clean Energy Storage is small, with just 10 staff members, but it makes big claims. “We have the only lithium-based battery that will never catch fire under any extreme conditions, such as puncture, bullet piercing, short circuiting, vibration, crushing [and] extreme heat, even at 600 degrees F,” said CEO Ted Thomas.
The company has facilities in Oceanside and developed its third-generation lithium-iron-phosphate-manganese chemistry at a research and innovation center in Temecula. The batteries perform 8,000 cycles at an 80 percent depth of discharge, and are compatible with any inverter in the world, said Thomas.
They can also take a nominal continuous charge of 460 amps or more. “Most competitors, such as NEC or A123, can only do a maximum of 100 amps,” said Thomas.
Rocklin-based JLM Energy has been around since 2007, but has been growing steadily since 2011, with a current headcount of 50 split between California and Arizona. “We are a technology company offering a full portfolio of advanced energy solutions,” said Farid Dibachi, founder and CEO. That includes both battery systems and control systems for demand management.
“We are unique in that we control the product from start to finish. We develop our own technology, manufacture all of our products, develop software and user interactivity, and even deploy our own construction crew to install and commission our systems.”
JLM Energy serves residential and commercial clients, and is possibly the first company in the world to have installed a renewable energy microgrid for a Native American tribe, in Bear River.
JuiceBox Energy has built an 8.6-kilowatt-hour residential storage unit and is in the early deployment phase. Greg Maguire, vice president of sales and marketing at JuiceBox in Milpitas, said his company has already overcome inverter limitations that are one of the biggest challenges facing all-renewable microgrids. “Our system controller overwrites the required inverter controls,” he said.
To do so, JuiceBox has integrated its solar-tied systems with Schneider Electric Conext XW+ inverters and is ready to tackle international markets “where that unit is available.” For now, the 10-person business has installed systems in California and Hawaii, and its “backlog is building,” Maguire said.
“Our systems incorporate a JuiceBox Energy-designed battery management system and overlay a system controller that directly controls the bidirectional inverter/charger in order to maximize the safety, reliability and performance of the lithium cells,” he explained.
With offices in Palo Alto and Brussels, Belgium, Nomadic Power is aiming to tap into major energy-storage markets wherever it can. The company’s star product is a towable battery pack that can give electric-car owners an easy way of extending the range of their vehicles.
The battery pack can also be used for residential applications such as PV power storage or energy management, according to Nomadic Power’s website. In June, the European Commission awarded the company a $2.2 million grant to develop its mobile battery project.
Octillion Power Systems
Octillion claims to be one of the world’s leading suppliers of electric-drive energy storage systems, with a portfolio that has clocked 1 million miles in the field. Founded in Sunnyvale in 2009 by Tesla Motors alumni, the company now has more than 350 employees around the world.
Besides drive trains, Octillion says it offers “custom and standardized energy storage products utilizing commercial-grade Li-ion cells” and is targeting industrial applications for storage.
San Diego startup Orison Energy has developed a living-room-friendly 2-kilowatt-hour battery pack with an inverter that “you simply plug in to install.”
Other reported benefits of the system include wireless controls and smartphone-connected software. Orison has been in existence for two years and has two types of battery pack: a flatscreen-like wall-mounted product and one that is free-standing, like a lamp.
If experience in the solar industry is any indication, many storage startups won’t make it the market. But there is certainly a lot of storage innovation in California — potentially making it as important to the state as computer technologies were in the ’80s.