Rolls-Royce, which in January acquired a majority share in the energy storage provider Qinous, aims to move from a product supplier to an energy storage solutions provider, with a focus on microgrids.
Rolls-Royce acquired a 29.9% share in the company in October 2018, then in January boosted that to a 73.1% share.
Qinous now has about 50 storage projects operating mostly in the Caribbean, Sub Saharan Africa and Germany. They are small-to-medium projects for hotel resorts, hospitals and small industrial sites, said Cordelia Thielitz, vice president of business field microgrids, Rolls-Royce.
Among Qinous microgrid projects are a community electrification effort in Australia, a diesel-hybrid system for a Caribbean island and a diesel-hybrid project for a hospital in Haiti.
Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is working on numerous microgrids, mainly in the utility and commercial and industrial markets. They consist of solar PV, battery and diesel systems that aim to improve the impact of energy systems on the climate.
Microgrids strong in US, Europe rising
Roll-Royce sees the US — particularly California, Texas and the East Coast — as the leading microgrid markets, she said. The Caribbean region, Australia and Asia Pacific countries also hold potential.
In addition, in the wake of the European Green Deal, Rolls-Royce expects to see increasing demand in many European countries.
MTU America, a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce’s business unit Power Systems, has been involved in microgrids for many years, she noted. It provides diesel gensets and gas systems and combined heat and power (CHP) systems that support decentralized energy generation, she said.
“Due to our history we have long experience in controlling and managing and — even more — optimizing the operation of several energy generation assets,” she said. They include diesel gen sets and gas systems.
In recent years, Rolls-Royce has been working more on meeting the rising market for environmentally friendly solutions, she said. The company has focused on developing lower emission diesel and gas systems and — before acquiring Qinous — started developing its own energy storage system.
As part of that effort, Rolls-Royce tested the technical feasibilities and benefits of operating a microgrid consisting of a 2 MW/1MWh lithium-ion battery system, two gas systems, one diesel genset and 500 kWh of PV.
Ultimately, the company decided it made more sense to use Qinous’ battery technology.
“In general, taking over the majority of Qinous helps us to shortcut the technical development in house, as well as to gain market & customer access through new sales channels,” said Thielitz.
Since 2018, Rolls-Royce has supported Qinous as a shareholder while serving as a manufacturing partner.
Moving toward a stronger collaboration seemed like a natural next step, she said.
“In our attempt of being a solution provider, it is crucial for us to have the core components a microgrid is made of in house,” including diesel gensets, gas systems, battery systems and a microgrid controller, she said.
Qinous’ technology is solid, proven in the field and has been deployed in more than 50 projects worldwide, she said.
Resort microgrid by Qinous
One example of a Qinous project is a microgrid at Misool Eco Resort, a resort and conservation center in remote southern Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Qinois provided the energy storage system for an existing diesel microgrid, according to a company press release. Also added to the project was solar PV. The project is expected to reduce annual diesel consumption by 55%.
Qinous provided a battery solution that included a site controller and microgrid energy management system with a remote monitoring system for the off-grid system.
Next steps for Rolls-Royce
Moving forward, the company wants to focus on commercializing and serializing the energy storage product and microgrid controller. In addition, the goal is to improve the cost efficiency of these products.
“We can focus on raising synergies and combining the best of two worlds for decentralized and decarbonized energy solutions,” she said. One way to boost cost efficiency is to standardize as much as possible.
“In order to optimize cost-benefit of a decentralized energy solution, the system needs to be highly cost effective. Completely tailored solutions are barely economic,” she said.
As a result, the company is developing a modular battery system that ranges from 100 kW to several megawatts that’s based on Qinous’ existing design and concepts.
Rolls-Royce is also focusing on new business models. In addition to offering complete technical solutions, the company is concentrating on providing financial and service solutions.
“We will keep improving our technical solution, by focusing on cost effectiveness, but also on adding further technologies like fuel cells,” Thielitz said.
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