Last May, Johnson Controls filed a petition to dissolve its joint venture with French battery-maker Saft. But Saft opposed JCI’s pressure to move the JV outside the original scope of automotive battery applications and into the energy-storage market*.Saft’s resistance appeared to be vindicated in late July, with the announcement of two grid-storage projects in France totaling nearly 6 MWh of advanced lithium-ion storage.
In the first, Saft will deploy 500 Li-ion storage units of 4 to 8 kWh for the Millener Project to smooth out energy supply generated from photovoltaic installations being rolled out across several of France’s island territories. In the second, Saft announcedits listing as first-rank partner for 2.7 MWh of energy storage in mainland France’s Nice Grid project, which covers storage applications at origination and distribution substations as well as residential storage. Though energy storage and renewables are typically more cost-effective for island applications such as the Millener Project where a region lacks a robust centralized grid, the Nice Grid project provides evidence that the time is approaching for larger mainland grid storage projects. Both projects not only offer Saft the opportunity to further test and demonstrate the effectiveness of its technology, they also allow it to cultivate relationships with the numerous other project partners, including BPL Global*, Delta Dore, Edelia, Schneider Electric,Tenesol*, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Alstom Grid, and EDF.
Despite its emotionally tarnished relationship with JCI, Saft made the correct tactical move to isolate its strong position in the energy storage market from JCI’s reach into the energy storage arena, which already includes a memorandum of understanding with Hitachi and an endowment for an energy storage program at the University of Wisconsin. It is important to note that, similar to its microgrid project in San Francisco*,Saft’s projects in France are subsidized by government funds, which indicates indicating that in many applications grid energy storage is not yet market-ready on its own. Nonetheless, if Saft succeeds with its several ongoing energy storage demonstration projects, it should remain a leader in this market over the mid- to long-term.
* Client registration required.