Sumitomo taps RES, Toshiba for major US energy storage project


Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation and U.S. subsidiary Sumitomo Corporation of Americas are developing an innovative battery power storage system to 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 United States.

Developed and constructed by Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. (RES) and employing Toshiba lithium ion batteries, the new storage system will be owned and operated by Sumitomo’s U.S. company Willey Battery Utility (WBU), which the group recently acquired from RES.

The storage system, to be located at WBU’s facility in Hamilton, Ohio, will have a maximum output of 6 MW and capacity of 2 megawatt hours. The project will include three containers of Toshiba lithium ion batteries and three inverter units manufactured by Parker Hannifin. Construction of the project will begin this month, with operation scheduled to begin in December. Toshiba will maintain the battery power storage system, which will use the RESolve energy storage platform, a proprietary technology developed and managed by RES, to handle monitoring, dispatch and control of the system.

The project marks Sumitomo’s first investment in a large-scale stand-alone battery storage facility in the U.S., underscoring the growing importance of the sector.

"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 electricity to consumers," Sumitomo said in a statement.

Storage batteries will provide the frequency regulation market an automated mechanism to supply regulated power, which has conventionally been supplied by thermal and hydraulic power generation. Battery storage systems, along with other new technologies, are expected to soon provide promising alternatives in the U.S. 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 185.6 GW — comparable to the total capacity of 230 GW for all of Japan (excluding nuclear power generation capacity).

Nick Hagiwara, director of Power and Infrastucture Group at Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, said Sumitomo planned to expand beyond the PJM frequency regulation market with entry into other potential U.S. markets like 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 7,700 MW 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., Sumitomo said it was well aware of the growing need to stabilize the renewable energy flow going into the electric power grids around the country. The group will provide the stand-alone commercial power storage systems to independent providers. In cooperation with its operating company, 4R Energy Corporation, the Sumitomo has been engaged in pilot projects in Japan, namely, those involving reused batteries from electric vehicles on Yumeshima Island, Osaka and the Koshiki Islands in Kagoshima.

Sumitomo said that during these pilot operations both in and outside Japan, it aimed to establish “the effectiveness of battery power storage systems” and also explore the possibilities of generating future synergies from collaborations between existing power plants it operates in the United States.