ReJoule, CleanSpark Win Award to Power Buildings With Second-Life Batteries

By Battery Power Online Staff

July 13, 2020 | The California Energy Commission has awarded a $2.9 million grant over the next 30 months to ReJoule, a battery diagnostics and optimization company, and CleanSpark, a diversified software and services company, to validate the capability of second-life batteries to cost-effectively integrate solar power in small-medium commercial buildings.

The grant is one of four winning proposals submitted to the California Energy Commission. The goal of the grant is to deploy second life batteries from electric vehicles for use in a microgrid application.

As the primary grant recipient, ReJoule will develop a battery grading process and degradation model. They will then collaborate with the other partners—CleanSpark along with Ford Motor Company, BigBattery, and GRID Alternatives—to validate the feasibility of repurposing EV batteries for storage paired with solar Photovoltaic systems to provide building resiliency and load shifting services for small and medium-sized commercial buildings.

CleanSpark expects to receive approximately $470,000 of the grant funding for its microgrid design and mVSO software services and follow-on deployment of its mPulse software and controls. CleanSpark will also provide over $88,000 in matched funding.

Second Life for Batteries

As electric vehicles (EV) reach their end-of-life, batteries often retain from 70-90% of their original capacity. This presents opportunities for repurposing EV batteries as low-cost stationary storage in a second-life application. Extending the life of used EV batteries further lessens the need for mining of rare earth minerals, thereby making batteries as an energy storage solution more sustainable.

The largest barriers to repurposing used EV batteries are the cost of disassembly, long test times, and uncertainty of the remaining useful life. While there are a variety of tests and grading methods, there has been limited success to reliably and cost-effectively test and grade used batteries for second-life applications.

The grant is funding a pilot program to explore if second-life EV batteries could be used to meet the operational needs of commercial buildings no larger than 30,000 sq ft (for example, grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores, small/locally-owned businesses, strip malls, etc) and assess the technology’s path to market.

The systems covered by the grant will be deployed at two locations, Lucky Cat Labs, an artist’s studio located in Los Angeles, California, and a Housing and Training center for the Homeless, located in Santa Ana, California. They will both incorporate solar and second-generation energy storage batteries controlled by CleanSpark’s mPulse software and controls platform and ReJoule’s battery management system.

The batteries themselves will come from Ford. Ford Motor Company will donate used EV battery modules and provide the ReJoule team with technical support from Ford’s Greenfield Labs based in Palo Alto, California. Last year, Ford agreed to a framework with the California Air Resources Board to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its vehicles as part of Ford’s long-term sustainability strategy to achieve carbon neutrality globally by 2050.

Steven Chung and Zora Chung, Co-Founders of ReJoule stated in a press release: “This is a big step towards our goal of enabling the circular economy for EV batteries. This project will address the technical challenges associated with repurposing used EV batteries and demonstrate our technology in a commercial setting. We are excited to work with our partners composed of companies and nonprofits dedicated to combating climate change through the deployment of clean energy solutions.”

In the same statement, Zach Bradford CEO of CleanSpark added, “This is an exciting opportunity for CleanSpark, we recognize the need in the market to extend the life of battery energy storage solutions. Electric Vehicle batteries are an ideal candidate to provide not only long-term value for deployment in residential and commercial applications, but repurposing used EV batteries can greatly assist in the avoidance of potentially substantial disposal and recycling costs. We have found that cost is generally the single largest factor that is considered by an end user. The ability to effectively offer lower cost solutions using second life batteries not only increases sustainability but it could potentially open up an entirely new market to those who find new energy storage systems cost prohibitive.”