Sumitomo Invests in U.S. Renewable Energy Infrastucture

April 20, 2015 by Jeff Shepard

Sumitomo Corporation together with Sumitomo Corporation of Americas (collectively "Sumitomo Corporation Group") announced their investment in an innovative battery power storage system which will provide a reliable and stable supply-demand balancing service for the frequency regulation market operated by PJM, the largest independent service operator of wholesale electricity in the U.S.

Sumitomo acquired an interest in Willey Battery Utility, LLC (WBU) from Renewable Energy Systems Americas (RES), a part of the RES Group, the U.S. renewable energy developer and constructor, through Perennial Power Holdings, a U.S.-based subsidiary of the Sumitomo Corporation Group. WBU will own this battery power storage system (maximum output: 6 MW, capacity: 2 MWh) manufactured by Toshiba Corporation. This is the Company’s first investment in a large-scale stand-alone battery storage facility in the United States.

With the increase in the percentage of electricity generated from renewable resources with high output fluctuation, such as wind and solar energy, it is becoming increasingly important to balance and manage any difference between actual and forecast electricity demand and stabilize the output of electricty to consumers. Storage batteries like the one WBU will have at its facility in Ohio will provide the frequency regulation market an automated mechanism to supply regulated power.

Such power has conventionally been supplied by thermal and hydraulic power generation. In the United States, however, it is believed that the introduction of battery storage systems along with other new technologies will provide promising alternatives, as they can respond quickly to demand variations and enable fine-tuned adjustment.

PJM currently operates power grids in 13 states in the northeastern U.S. with a total electric power generation capacity of approximately 185,600 MW which is comparable to the total capacity of 230,000 MW for all of Japan (excluding nuclear power generation capacity).

With this project, the battery power storage system will be delivered and maintained by Toshiba, while auxiliary machinery will be supplied and installed by RES. The monitoring, dispatch and control of the system will be handled by the RESolve energy storage platform, a proprietary technology developed and managed by RES. Construction work will begin in Hamilton County, Ohio in April 2015, and the operation is planned to commence in December 2015.

According to Mr. Nick Hagiwara, Director, Power and Infrastucture Group, Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, “Sumitomo plans to expand beyond the PJM frequency regulation market with entry into potential marketplaces such as Texas and California. This team brings strong expertise to future projects through the integration of technical strength of Toshiba, the manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries, the development, engineering, and construction capabilities of RES which has constructed/has under construction over 7,700MW of renewable energy projects in North America, and the knowhow of the Sumitomo Corporation Group with regard to electricity business operation, including renewable energy.”

As a developer and owner of large solar and wind farms in the U.S., SC understands the growing need to stabilize the renewable energy flow going into the electric power grids around the country. Sumitomo Corporation Group has identified this need, and is focused on providing these stand-alone commercial power storage systems for independent providers. In cooperation with its operating company, 4R Energy Corporation, the Group has been engaged in pilot projects in Japan, namely, those involving reused batteries from electric vehicles on Yumeshima Island, Osaka and the Koshiki Islands, Kagoshima, which began in 2013 and 2014, respectively. During these pilot operations both in and outside Japan, the Sumitomo Corporation Group aims to establish the effectiveness of battery power storage systems and will also explore the possibilities of generating future synergies from collaborations between existing power plants it operates in the United States.