movers shakers mike grunow.pngMike Grunow is a seasoned commercial executive whose career encompasses over 15 years of commercial sales and marketing experience in the global wind, solar, and energy storage markets. He joined ViZn Energy Systems in February of 2016 and prior to that served as the Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Moventas, where he worked with the world’s largest utilities to enhance the profitability of their existing wind energy fleets. Grunow previously served as the Vice President of Marketing for the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer, Trina Solar. Early in his career, Grunow was a Product Line Manager for General Electric’s renewable energy power generation division.

Vishal Sapru (VS), Research Manager for Energy & Power Systems Group had an opportunity to conduct a Movers & Shakers interview with Mike Grunow (MG), VP of Marketing at ViZn.

VS: Since the last time we spoke what are the changes / developments / innovations that have taken place at ViZn?

MG: November 2015 was the last time we spoke, so since then:

  • We won a contract from Idaho National Laboratory
  • We hired a new VP of Marketing
  • ViZn received recognition from leading energy and business publications such as Energy CIO Insights, the Austin Business Journal, and Energy Storage News
  • We brought in industry studs Kent Williams and Joshua Bar-Lev to our Board of Directors and Advisory Board
  • We announced a partnership with Alpha Energy to use our Zinc Redox technology for turnkey Energy Storage Solutions
  • Black & Veatch conducted an independent assessment of our Z20 and GS200 redox flow energy storage systems

VS: Please describe your product/technology/solution for our readers?

MG: ViZn’s flow batteries are designed for large-scale (grid, utility, O&M, microgrid) energy storage applications and use a safe, non-toxic zinc-iron chemistry and a proprietary cell stack design to enable both high-power and long-duration capabilities. ViZn’s systems offer low O&M and a 20-year operating life, allowing end users to incorporate multiple value streams and realize more favorable payback periods than other energy storage technologies. ViZn’s stationary storage systems do not require HVAC or fire suppression equipment and are capable of operating normally at wide temperature extremes.

VS: What are ViZn’s greatest challenge and what strategy is in place to overcome it?

MG: The misconception in the marketplace about lithium-ion based storage systems being a solution for all large-scale storage applications and much of the mythology surrounding the costs of lithium/storage and a supposed correlation to silicon/solar panels. The plan is to educate the market on the advantages of flow batteries in general and our non-toxic zinc-redox chemistry in particular.

VS: What is the unique value proposition of ViZn and what are your key competitive differentiators?

MG: The ViZn solution is safe, reliable, cost effective, and scalable to meet the needs of today’s ever-changing energy landscape

  • Safest chemistry compared to lithium-ion or other flow battery chemistries like vanadium
  • Capable of performing both Long duration High power applications
  • Can perform multiple daily cycles for 20 years without any cell replacements
  • 100% useful State of Charge unlike Li-ion solutions that get 80% max
  • Scales from 100kW to 100MW without having to also scale BOS
  • No HVAC or fire suppression equipment is required
  • Stacked Behind and In Front Of Meter Services

VS: What is your strategy in regards to offering best value to customer for the price, compared to similar offerings from competitors? if any?

MG: When the total system cost over the lifetime of our system (20 years) is taken into account, ViZn’s systems offer incredible value compared to a lithium-ion system that would be expected to last seven years at most and even then would require multiple cell replacements during that timeframe.

VS: Continued innovation is the key to success in this growing industry. How is the process of innovation managed at ViZn?

MG: ViZn was created by a visionary team of scientists, engineers, and business leaders who are passionate about creating and commercializing a revolutionary energy storage solution. Before ViZn was founded in 2009, a decade’s worth of fundamental research and development was conducted in a joint partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy Sandia National Laboratories and U.S. aerospace company Lockheed Martin. Our design and testing facility in Montana is focused exclusively on R&D and is constantly searching for ways to improve our system.

VS: What do you want the company to accomplish in the next couple of years and how would you define success for ViZN?

MG: We have a pipeline of XXMW of projects going into 2017, so the number one goal is to get those projects commissioned and online as we continue to build our pipeline. Success will be defined as getting another round of funding, commissioning projects and realizing more mainstream acceptance of the idea that flow batteries are far better suited to large-scale storage applications than Li-Ion

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?

MG:

  • A 128 kW/320 kWh system is in the process of being commissioned at Idaho National Labs.
  • Hecate Energy selected ViZn for a 2 MW / 6 MWh flow battery to be installed in Ontario, Canada, that will be the largest flow battery in North America once commissioned.
  • Multiple other orders to be announced in the short term, including one that will be the largest flow battery in the world

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?

MG: Absolutely. Especially if the price of lithium continues to fluctuate wildly, utilities and developers will begin to explore other alternatives.

VS: As a general conclusion, what do you think the future holds for such solutions and, more specifically, what role can we expect ViZn to play in shaping the future of the industry?

MG: Once we have a few more systems in place and have more positive stories to tell, zinc-redox flow batteries will come to be known as the optimal solution for multi-use applications.

VS: What are your company’s marketing and product positioning strategies? Do you plan to form any strategic alliances / partnerships?

MG: Our marketing/PR budget is limited, so we stay very focused on reaching high-value B2B targets in the most economic way possible. We speak at conferences, hold webinars, we author articles and/or give industry insight to media outlets, and we engage with industry analysts such as yourself.

We have announced partnerships with some of the biggest names in the industry, such as: Jabil, Schneider Electric, and Alpha Energy, but there are more we are working on.

About Frost & Sullivan

For six decades, Frost & Sullivan has been world-renowned for its role in helping investors, corporate leaders and governments navigate economic changes and identify disruptive technologies, Mega Trends, new business models and companies to action, resulting in a continuous flow of growth opportunities to drive future success.

Frost & Sullivan

For six decades, Frost & Sullivan has been world-renowned for its role in helping investors, corporate leaders and governments navigate economic changes and identify disruptive technologies, Mega Trends, new business models and companies to action, resulting in a continuous flow of growth opportunities to drive future success.

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