May 29, 2018
Matthew joined Highview in 2012 from GE Energy, where he worked as Business Development Manager, focusing on the commercialization and market development of its novel Waste Heat to Power (WH2P) technology in both Europe and the United States. The business was acquired by GE in 2010 from a Californian based technology company, where Matthew led the transition into its European business. With a background in electronic and mechanical engineering, Matthew started his career in energy within the Oil & Gas industry as a Manufacturing Engineer on subsea control systems and top-side hydraulic power units for ABB Vetco Grey. He worked on the first deep water project for its client Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company amongst other oil majors including Statoil on its first offshore LNG development on the Norwegian continental shelf. Matthew has a broad technical and commercial background in technology, project and business development with technology start-ups, including a top 10 Fast Track 100 UK Company based in Central London, as well as with blue chip organizations in the energy and power sectors.
Vishal Sapru (VS), Research Manager for Energy Storage & Critical Power Group had an opportunity to conduct a Movers & Shakers interview with Matthew Barnett (MB), Business Development Director with Highview Power.
VS: Can you start by providing our readers a brief overview of Highview Power?
MB: We need true long-duration energy storage to balance the grid and strengthen our power networks. Highview Power’s proprietary liquid air systems are available at sizes which can dispatch enough electricity to power more than 200,000 homes for 12 hours for a 2-week period. We can do this at half the cost of lithium-ion batteries and release zero emissions in the process. Our reliable solution is based on proven technology with a system lifespan of over 30 years. Highview Power is the only company in the world deploying this technology and we have the experience of building and running our own plants in the United Kingdom. With our global engineering partners, we support our customers from scoping and planning through to build and operation.
VS: Please, describe your product/technology/solution for our readers? How different is it from what is already available in the market?
MB: Highview’s liquid-air energy storage (LAES) system is based on the principle of air liquefaction, which facilitates the storage of gaseous air in cryogenic liquid form– similar to liquifying natural gas. It takes electricity to do this using readily available large industrial equipment. Our energy store is the liquid air held in low-pressure, low-cost tanks. When electricity is needed by the grid, the stored energy is released in a process that involves a 700-fold expansion of the liquid back into gaseous air, which powers non-combusting turbines and generates electricity. This enables Highview’s system to store energy in increments measured in days rather than hours, at half the cost of lithium-ion batteries, while releasing zero emissions. This is what makes it the cheapest, longest life, and freely locatable true long-duration energy storage technology available in the world.
VS: What are Highview Power’s greatest challenges and what strategy is in place to overcome them?
MB: One of the greatest challenges is introducing an emerging large-scale technology into a risk averse market that is still in the early stages of development. Due to a lack of commercially available alternatives, lithium-ion batteries have gained an early lead by supplying predominantly short duration services. Our challenge is to demonstrate to customers that LAES offers a more appropriate and effective solution for utility scale, long duration energy storage applications that also need to be freely locatable than batteries. We are overcoming this with the performance data from two operational plants in the United Kingdom, including the demonstrator commissioned in March 2018. Commercial engagements with blue-chip global corporations to supply the hardware provide warranties and performance guarantees and provide long-term operation, and maintenance services lend further credibility to our offering.
Earlier this year, we set up our first U.S. office in New York City and now we are in the midst of 20 concrete project discussions in the country. We think the U.S. market is poised to grow to become the largest market for LAES in the world. Commercial orders will be announced this year.
VS: What is the unique value proposition of Highview Power and what are your key competitive differentiators?
MB: LAES is easily and cost effectively scaled up because power and energy are separated, so for more storage capacity, the user simply requires to build larger tanks. This gives the lowest cost $/MWh available for a locatable long duration energy storage solution. The plants have an operational lifetime of 30 years and experience zero degradation (unlike batteries), so the lifetime LCOS is extremely attractive. LAES also uses large-scale rotating equipment which lends itself to being built big and it is well understood and desirable to have on an electrical network to overcome some of the problems caused by renewables. One key technological differentiator is that the LAES system that can provide synchronous inertia much in the same way a traditional power plant does because it uses these large turbines to generate electricity. This is critical for helping maintain grid stabilityLithium-ion or flow batteries are not as effective at acting as shock absorbers because they are not mechanically synchronized to the grid.
LAES plants can also utilize industrial waste heat and/or cold, and this characteristic means that Highview’s technology has a wider scope of applications than just large-scale energy storage. For example, the technology can integrate industrial waste heat/cold from thermal generation plants, steel mills, and LNG terminals, making better use of existing fossil fuel processes by simply making them more efficient by using their waste thermal energy.
VS: What is your strategy in regards to offering best value to customer for the price, compared to similar offerings from competitors, if any?
MB: LAES is a 30 year asset with zero degradation that comes at half the cost of lithium-ion batteries.
VS: Continued innovation is the key to success in this growing industry. How is the process of innovation managed at Highview Power?
MB: Innovation is at the heart of our business. We have developed a broad family of patents and continue to deepen our intellectual property and know how to deliver LAES solutions with a compelling economic useful life. We are working with key partners to be able to bring this to market effectively and continue to optimize the technology in response to the market. We have recently been awarded further funding to hybridize our demonstration facility in the United Kingdom to provide frequency response services in conjunction with the ancillary services already offered by the LAES system. We are also working in close partnerships with leading engineering companies to be able to deliver large-scale energy storage plants with a reduced lead-time, cheaper cost, and better performance.
VS: What do you want the company to accomplish in the next couple of years and how would you define success for Highview Power?
MB: In the next couple of years, the United Kingdom is going to be the early leader in LAES adoption. That is simply from discussions and engagements we have had with customers. They have the ability to sign up fastest and in the United Kingdom we also have the great fortune of the Government being extremely supportive of us with a series of support grants and project funding. That said, the U.S. market has tremendous potential for LAES, as increasing number of states set very aggressive renewables and energy storage targets. Success will be securing that first U.S. project, shortly followed by other regions.
VS: Could you elaborate on the acceptance or adoption of your product/solution in the marketplace and are there any positive client testimonials that can be shared with us?
MB: We have installed an advanced long-duration energy storage system alongside a landfill gas generation plant in Bury, Greater Manchester, that uses an innovative technology to create a double dose of environmental benefits. The clean-energy system is not only providing long-duration energy storage to the UK grid that balances out the variability of renewable generation, but it is also converting low-grade waste heat from the landfill’s gas engines into power – making sure that the heat energy does not go to waste.
We also recently completed a feasibility study for the U.S. Navy, which is reviewing the LAES technology alongside other types of energy storage. The benefits of having a large scale and locatable energy storage device where additional energy could be added at very low cost to provide security of supply with a benign, safe and sustainable offering continue to be of interest.
VS: Do you foresee the acceptance of your product/technology/solution in the marketplace to have an influence on the direction of the overall market going forward?
MB: The market for utility-scale energy storage is growing rapidly and is on track to be worth almost $4 billion by 2025. LAES is uniquely situated to take a hearty share of that market.
Once customers and regulators become fully aware of the potential of LAES to provide cost-effective true long-duration energy storage as well as the other essential ancillary services electrochemical systems cannot, we believe that long duration systems will make up the majority of the market. The recent de-rating by the U.K. regulator of short duration energy storage facilities for the capacity market is a sign that there is recognition that for certain applications, short duration systems are less valuable to a network.
LAES is an enabling technology to deploy and use more renewable power generation, you need true long-duration to achieve that and as such it will have an influence on the direction of the market over time.
VS: As a general conclusion, what do you think the future holds for such solutions and, more specifically, what role can we expect Highview Power to play in shaping the future of the industry?
MB: The global potential for grid scale energy storage is massive. The percentage of renewables in our global power generation mix will only continue to grow – and rapidly. LAES will not only help smooth that integration to maintain balance on the grid, but will also be able to ease the transition by providing services for existing gas peaker plants before eventually replacing them. As the only locatable, large scale, long duration energy storage solution that is commercially available, LAES can rapidly be deployed at scale anywhere in the world to help meet the demands of a wide range of markets and applications.
VS: What are your company’s marketing and product positioning strategies? Do you plan to form any strategic alliances / partnerships?
MB: Highview is collaborating with the global engineering, procurement, and construction management company SNC-Lavalin. Together, we will develop and execute LAES projects in the United States and Canada that satisfy long duration energy storage requirements for utilities, independent power producers (IPP), and other energy companies. GE Oil & Gas has also licensed Highview’s LAES technology for potential use in combination with its gas turbines and engines. We continue to develop further strategic alliances with large global and regional organizations both exclusively and non-exclusively where appropriate to bring LAES to market.
VS: What is unique about your company in regards to offering the best and differentiated service experience to customers?
MB: The market needs a true long-duration storage technology other than pumped hydro or underground compressed air cavern (CAES) plants as these are geographically constrained. Using batteries or exotic chemistries such as flow batteries is not at all sustainable. There are many cases in Europe where utilities are experiencing problems with such technologies. This is one of the reasons why they have entered into discussions with us, engaging in feasibility and techno-economic studies to support a commercial development. The fact LAES can provide services for many decades with no degradation, zero emissions, and minimal end-of-life recycling is highly attractive and offers the best match to clients’ other long-lived utility-scale infrastructure.
VS: Please describe the importance and focus of your company towards building and strengthening the brand equity of your offering?
MB: Highview Power is technology developers. We are recognized as specialists, expert in our field, in which we are the leading worldwide authority. Our brand equity will be further strengthened by our complete devotion to delivery on time and to specification equipment that will last for 30 to 40 years.
VS: What kind of customer feedback mechanism do you have in place to ensure that the product development and innovation matches market and customer needs?
MB: Highview has established an experienced and proven team that designs and delivers reliable projects. We work closely with customers, developers, and government institutions to ensure that the design and function of their LAES facility is tailored to meet their unique needs.
VS: How do you compare yourself with top competitors in regards to offering Best-in-Class solution, with a full complement of features and functionality?
MB: Our ambition and determination to be best-in-class is underpinned by many years of head start over any potential competitor in LAES. The very high percentage of expert engineers at Highview and our nimble and flexible approach to customer response are a considerable advantage against larger organizations lacking our specific experience. Our own skills are supported by a ready-made global supply chain with decades of knowledge, capital, and a strong support network. Working together with our global partners in an environmentally sound and sustainable way, and at scale, will ensure that as the need for true long-duration energy storage evolves, our solution will be the best long-term answer at providing all of the features and functionality a changing electricity network needs without mining rare-earth materials, using dangerous chemistries, or creating future recycling problemsall of which are damaging for our environment and contradictory to enabling the better and greater use of renewables.
VS: What is/are unique features of your product/technology that address unmet customer needs and competitors are unable to replicate and replace?
MB: LAES has several advantages over traditional power storage mediums, including:
- It is a freely-locatable system that has no geographic constraints (unlike pumped hydro or compressed air).
- It uses long-proven components from mature industries with established supply chains.
- There are no toxic chemicals and there’s no fire risk.
- Unlike lithium ion batteries, it can provide synchronous inertia to keep the grid balanced.
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