A123 Energy Solutions, previously a division of A123 Systems, has recently been acquired by NEC Corporation of Japan. The company develops and manufactures advanced battery systems for electric grid, backup power and lead-acid replacement applications. A123 Systems itself has narrowed its primary focus to the transportation market but also intends to expand its marketing and distribution of cell products for commercial and industrial applications. A123 already enjoys considerable brand strength with distributors, integrators and value-added resellers of lithium-ion battery cells and the company plans additional investments in this area.
A123 Energy Solutions is being incorporated into NEC’s Smart Energy Business Unit. A new company “NEC Energy Solutions” will begin operations in June under the direction of NEC and will greatly strengthen the energy storage portion of NEC’s smart energy business. The former A123 Energy Solutions facilities in Westborough, Massachusetts and Chesterfield, Missouri are included in the deal. However, as part of the transaction with NEC, A123 will retain all of its cell manufacturing locations globally including those in Michigan and China and in fact will become a key cell supplier to NEC.
The batteries for grid-scale stationary storage applications are based on A123 Systems Nanophosphate® lithium-ion technology. The company has deployed megawatt-scale grid storage systems (Grid Storage Solutions or GSSTM systems) in commercial revenue service since 2009 around the world. In total, A123 has delivered over 110MW of these systems, performing frequency regulation, spinning reserve, and T&D reinforcement. In addition, the company provides energy storage solutions to fit the needs for telecom, IT backup, datacenter, medical, lead-acid replacement and other industrial applications using its ALM 12V lithium ion battery products.
GSS is a flexible, fully integrated system that can be connected to the grid to enable generators, utilities and grid operators to reduce costs and increase plant efficiency. The system can be supplied with High-Rate (HR) and Long-Duration (LD) options and can be scaled from hundreds of kilowatts to hundreds of megawatts. As a modular system, GSS can be configured in multiple ways to accommodate a variety of sites and applications. The three main components of GSS are the Grid Battery SystemTM, the AEROSTM control system, and a power conversion system. The overall system achieves an overall AC-AC roundtrip efficiency rating of 90%.
With the A123 acquisition, NEC will become the world’s leading supplier of lithium-ion grid energy storage systems. The new company will continue to supply systems utilizing A123 Systems’ Nanophosphate cells and will support all existing installations. A123 Energy Solutions has supplied some of the world’s leading utility companies and independent power producers around the world including applications in North America, South America, Hawaii, Europe, the UK, and Asia, including recent 2MW and 500kW installations in China. NEC Energy Solutions will have the advantage of having access to NEC Corporation’s world-class information communications technology as well as to A123 Energy Solutions’ system integrations expertise. This will allow the new company to better address the increasing global need for energy storage. In addition, NEC’s own high quality, cost-effective lithium-ion technology will be added to the portfolio of energy storage technologies available for future use in storage applications.
NEC Energy Storage systems intends to provide turn-key energy storage solutions that range from utility-side and utility-scale systems down to behind-the-meter storage at the kilowatt scale for residential, commercial or industrial sites. NEC has ambitious plans for the new enterprise and will explore new business opportunities to promote the creation of next generation energy services, enabled by information communications technology, intelligent controls, and advanced energy storage systems.