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Sunday, September 13, 2015
Kahuku Windfarm Batteries Fail Before They Are Installed
By Andrew Walden @ 2:28 PM :: 4195 Views :: Energy

by Andrew Walden

Remember the Kahuku Windfarm Fires? 

After the third Kahuku Windfarm Fire, in August, 2012, burned the Kahuku battery storage facility to the ground over the course of three days, Kahuku developers FirstWind, now part of SunEdison, came up with a ‘bright’ new idea—batteries from Ambri Inc, that are already on fire because they are powered by molten magnesium and molten antimony. 

Ambri announced its ‘red hot’ scheme in November, 2013.  The Hawaii Energy Excelerator then wasted money ‘investing’ in Ambri, on the condition “that it must lead to an actual Hawaii-based project.”  Hawai’i Free Press mocked them for once again embracing a plan which was doomed to failure in a November, 2013 article: “Playing with Fire: Kahuku Windfarm to Install Molten Magnesium Batteries”.  Notably, Hawai’i Free Press also mocked the original Kahuku Windfarm battery plan when it was announced in November, 2010: “Xtreme Power: A Pig-in-a-poke For Hawaii Wind Farm.”

Now Ambri has crashed and burned—precisely as we predicted.  Here are the details from the Boston Globe, September 10, 2015:

Ambri Inc., an MIT spinout that has spent years creating efficient batteries that use liquid metal electrodes, will cut a quarter of its workforce because of developmental delays.

The company cut 14 workers as a result of the slowdown, according to an e-mail from Phil Giudice, Ambri’s chief executive. Despite promising results in tests over the past year, the company’s high-temperature seal for its liquid metal battery “did not perform sufficiently well” under tests conducted this summer.

“Ambri’s board and investors share our disappointment that progress has not happened more quickly or easily, but fully understands the accomplishments we have achieved, the challenges we face and Ambri‘s potential,” Giudice said. “The market opportunity for grid-scale energy storage is large, growing and global. Bringing new scientific discoveries in the physical sciences to commercial success is hard; the process is not entirely knowable or amenable to predictable timelines.”

Words to the wise: “Not entirely knowable.”  The unknowability of their success translates into the knowability of their failure.  Research does not equal production.

Kahuku has been back up and running with a DVAR voltage-smoothing system since February, 2014.  Will they now seek out a new battery scheme to funnel more Hawaii taxpayer dollars?

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