SustainX Finalizes $5.4M of Funding From U.S. DOE

Jun 22, 2010, 14:56 ET from SustainX, Inc.

WEST LEBANON, N.H., June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- SustainX, Inc., a New Hampshire-based startup developing  a utility-scale energy storage technology based on compressed air, has finalized a $5.4 million award by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under a federal program to demonstrate new Smart Grid technologies.  

The DOE considers energy storage a crucial technology for the Smart Grid, the more efficient national electric-supply system that will be built within the next decade or two.  The traditional grid stores almost no energy: when demand rises suddenly, so-called "peaking" turbines, most fired by natural gas, must rapidly come on-line.  Since such plants are idle most of the time, they are an expensive source of power.  With storage units scattered at strategic points throughout a Smart Grid, shifts in demand could be met more flexibly, lowering transmission and generation costs.

The funds will enable SustainX to accelerate its technology development and ultimately deploy a full-scale demonstration unit in 2012.  That technology, which the company calls ICAES™ (Isothermal Compressed-Air Energy Storage), uses electrical energy to compress air near-isothermally (i.e., at approximately constant temperature), stores it aboveground in commercial gas storage containers, and expands it near-isothermally to generate electricity. No fuel is involved.

Under this award SustainX has committed to three project phases.  Phase I is construction of a Pilot system capable of 50 kilowatts (kW) of electric output, Phase II is construction of a 250 kW Demo system, and Phase III is construction of a one-megawatt,  four megawatt-hour (1 MW, 4 MWh) energy-storage system to be demonstrated at an AES Energy Storage, LLC affiliated site.  The latter will be capable of storing enough energy to power 1,000 typical U.S. homes for approximately 4 hours.  

To date, the company has already achieved six of its eight Phase I technical milestones under the terms of the DOE award, including demonstration of its isothermal heat-transfer approach at scale where high power compressions and expansions are being performed at 95% efficiency.  According to SustainX's chief technical officer and co-founder, Troy McBride, "We are very excited to be working with the DOE on this Smart Grid project.  Our Pilot ICAES™ system is undergoing final assembly right now and will showcase our high efficiency isothermal cycling as a continuous process." 

To achieve its ambitious goals, SustainX is collaborating closely with top-tier technology companies including Creare, Parker Hannifin, the Hope Group, Kingsbury, Greenerd, MTechnology, and KEMA.  The company has grown to 12 full-time employees and has landed financial support from the National Science Foundation and major venture-capital firms, Polaris Venture Partners and Rockport Capital Partners.  

Mr. Dhiraj Malkani, a Principal with Rockport Capital Partners, states that "We are thrilled to partner with the DOE to develop a next generation compressed air energy storage technology. This is the catalyst that the industry needed to get these technologies to market."  Dr. Imre Gyuk, Program Manager of Energy Storage Research at DOE, remarks that "a successful isothermal CAES technology will become a valuable tool in renewable integration, peak shaving, and energy management. Eliminating the gas fueled turbine of traditional CAES makes it a green technology with negligible carbon footprint."

The DOE award, selected in late 2009, is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

SOURCE SustainX, Inc.