British-American flow battery supplier Invinity Energy’s recent achievement of key safety certification will open doors for its technology and streamline complex project development steps.
Although projects can be done without them, being certified to standards such as UL1973 and NFPA855 makes the process “numbing” of going through licensing, commissioning and other development stages at the site level. much shorter sites,” said Matt Harper, chief commercial officer of Invinity.
Harper spoke to Energy-Storage.news at last week’s RE+ 2022 industry event in California, days after vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) supplier Invinity announced that its third-generation battery modules, VS3, had achieved UL1973 certification .
UL1973 relates to the safe operation of stationary battery energy storage systems, evaluating their ability to withstand simulated abuse conditions within the charge and discharge parameters specified by the manufacturer.
As such, it has become the major standard for battery storage system safety, alongside the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard NFPA855, which covers safe installation practices, UL9540, UL’s installation safety guidelines and UL9540A, the famous test for inducing thermal runaway. and assess the likelihood of fire spreading or spreading from one cell to others.
Unlike lithium-ion batteries which store energy inside the cells, VRFBs store energy in liquid electrolyte reservoirs separate from the cell stack. They don’t go into thermal runaway, which means it could be assumed that going through safety testing would be relatively easy for a flow battery supplier.
“They’re pretty easy to pass, but that doesn’t mean the tests themselves don’t have this huge amount of stuff wrapped around them,” Harper said.
While UL9540 and specifically UL9540A focus directly on fire safety, UL1973 is a “much broader” standard and required the Invinity team to spend a lot of time preparing for a test that examines “all aspects of fire safety batteries”.
In some ways, the company therefore benefited from the fact that its technology had some key differences from lithium-ion, but also meant that various aspects of the technology had to be explained to testers less familiar with flow battery technology.
In other words, much of the work behind achieving certification “is less standard than what’s done by a lot of other battery manufacturers,” Harper said.
“But it allows us to really emphasize some of the unique benefits of the technology, particularly when it comes to fire safety.”
Having the right certifications is important for bankability, which makes it much easier for developers to obtain project funding and therefore plays a vital role in their decision-making process on selecting technologies and technology vendors.
According to Matt Harper, certifications are important end-to-end throughout the development process.
“Before we even get to the bankability issues, if you’re trying to put a battery in the grid that doesn’t have those sorts of certifications, you can do it and we’ve done it, but it’s just numbness It takes a lot longer to go through site-level permissions, go through the go-live process, to get everything approved.
“Whereas if you have UL1973 or UL9540, then the local electrical inspector will look and say, ‘Okay, you’ve met that, you’ve met the national standard, go ahead’.”
Important evidence point for bankability
To think about the broader issue of bankability, vendors need to be able to show customers that their technology will do what it claims it can do for the life of the project. For companies working in less mature technology like VRFBs, as opposed to lithium-ion batteries, there is no “silver bullet” that will make a system bankable.
However, alongside third-party audits of system performance or various aspects of system performance, security standards and certifications are “starting to build a case” for bankability.
Fluence, a battery storage system integrator and technology provider, which typically works with lithium-ion batteries, recently announced the results of its UL9540A burn testas reported by Energy-Storage.news a few days ago.
Also speaking to the RE+ site last week, Kiran Kumaraswamy, Vice President of Growth and Chief Commercial Officer of Fluence, also highlighted the various ways in which testing, standards and certification are important.
Being able to point to verified test results helps build industry confidence around “many aspects of technology,” Kumaraswamy said.
“From a funding perspective, from an insurance perspective, from so many dimensions, this conclusively proves what technology can do for you, in a safe way and I would also say in a very differentiated way compared to competition and provide benefits to customers.”
Recent updates have been made to UL1973. This week, we’ll learn more about them and have a discussion on various aspects of the standard with experts from CSA Group, which performs testing and helps industry stakeholders understand the process.
Our webinar with CSA Group will be live on Thursday September 29th and you can register to attend for free (no pun intended) here.