Cheap, plentiful energy storage is the next domino to fall in the global transition to a low-carbon grid. As the cost of renewables comes down, electrical grids will start to absorb more of these low-carbon—but intermittent—energy sources. That’s where energy storage comes in. And MaRS companies are stepping up to the plate.

Temporal Power’s flywheels are stabilizing wind power in Ontario. eCAMION’s batteries provide neighborhood-scale solutions. And Hydrostor recently signed the world’s first commercial agreement to provide underwater compressed air energy storage (UWCAES) for a commercial utility.

WEB Aruba has partnered with Hydrostor to develop a storage facility just off the coast next to their Vader Piet wind farm. Vader Piet makes energy all day and all night; however, most of the energy created at night is wasted because it can’t be used. Hydrostor will run a compressor to fill underwater cavities with compressed air. When that air is released, it spins a turbine. Add some heat-exchangers to increase efficiency and voila—a low-cost grid-scale storage solution. The project is expected to start storing power in 2014.

Even before the WEB Aruba agreement, Hydrostor was doing well. They were on track to prove their technology with Toronto Hydro. Hydrostor CEO Curt Van Walleghem, however, wanted more than a demonstration. Aware that cleantech companies often get stuck in ‘demonstration-itus’—a critical condition known to take down even the best cleantech developers—Curt went out to find a commercial customer.

He knew the Caribbean has high electrical costs that come with diesel generation, so off he went to that part of the world. After some hard work, and a lot of negotiations, the partnership with WEB Aruba was born.

Curt showed that local markets can be stepping stones to global markets, where a strong commercial value proposition exists today.

Over the long term, Hydrostor will partner with solar and wind developers, especially off-shore wind developers, to create low-cost, zero-carbon, base-load power. That has the potential to fundamentally reshape global energy markets.

Energy storage technology companies aren’t competing with each other as much as they are working together to create a new market. When one does well, all benefit. I’m looking forward to many more MaRS energy storage success stories!

Tom Rand

Tom leads MaRS’ role in the Canadian cleantech ecosystem and works with our Advisory Services group to support our growing portfolio of cleantech ventures. See more…