Columbia Falls Company to Ship Largest Flow Battery in North America

ViZn Energy to supply zinc-iron battery to Ontario grid by 2016

By Dillon Tabish
The ViZn battery that is installed at Dominion Utility Demonstration facility at Randolph Macon college solar project in Virginia during an Earth Day celebration. Courtesy Photo

ViZn Energy Systems, a technology company in Columbia Falls, was awarded a contract to build the largest flow battery in North America and Europe, the company announced last week.

ViZn Energy, an innovator of large-scale energy storage systems formerly known as Zinc Air on U.S. Highway 2 West, will build a zinc-iron redox flow battery system for grid-balancing ancillary services in Ontario, Canada. The battery will have 2MW/ 6 MWh power and energy capabilities, respectively, according to the company.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the battery will be the largest in North America and Europe when it ships in 2016. Hecate Energy, a leading developer of solar power plants and other power projects, awarded the contract to ViZn Energy.

“We selected ViZn for this project because we had to ensure that the energy storage component was both safe and robust,” Chris Bullinger, president and CEO of Hecate Energy, said in a statement. “ ViZn’s system possesses the necessary capabilities for both power and energy services that this project requires. We also believe that, over the life of the battery, it will provide a very favorable payback.”

The contract represents the latest step forward for a local company seeking to place itself at the forefront of the world’s energy industry. Scientists, engineers and others at the Columbia Falls site have spent the last six years developing state-of-the-art technology that could provide an environmentally safe solution to vast inefficiencies and imbalances within the energy grid. The company has opened its headquarters in Austin, Texas, but maintains its Columbia Falls facility as the primary developmental site.

In June, CEO Ron Van Dell told the Beacon the company was preparing to move into production.

Last week’s announcement marked the latest progress.

“Utility-scale projects like this one will be increasingly important for the energy storage industry moving forward. Utilities are now working to figure out how to maximize the potential of their existing generation capacity,” Van Dell said in a statement. “We’re proud to have been chosen by Hecate for this project, and we expect it to serve as a model for utilities that wish to deploy energy storage in the future.”

Ontario established a long-term energy plan in 2013, identifying the need for increased renewable energy to back up its primary source, nuclear. The plan aimed at identifying large-scale battery technologies that could store unused power for extended periods of time, something that is severely lacking in the market.

ViZn has spent the last year testing its batteries in the field, including deploying one system that Flathead Electric Cooperative is using.

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