Aquion ‘saltwater’ battery-powered nanogrid deployed for Chicago university

An innovative solar and salt-water battery storage powered AC/DC nanogrid has been installed at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, US.

The nanogrid, which will power the IIT’s ‘s Keating Sports Centre, has been put together by local outfit Azimuth Energy using their own solar hardware – a 180kW solar array – along with 350kWh of aqueous hybrid ion batteries from Aquion Energy and an energy management system Schneider Electric.

The project is interesting for a couple of reasons, not least of all for its alternative choice of battery storage chemistry.

While Aquion’s “salt water” battery technology is not as ubiquitous as its lithium-ion competitors, it has been used in a number of fascinating projects, including in Australia for this 140kWh installation, paired with a 30kW rooftop solar system at an inner Melbourne mansion.

The unique solar and storage system designed for IIT will use alternating and direct current loads while charging Aquion’s Aspen batteries at the same time, allowing the nanogrid to run independent of the rest of the IIT campus if necessary, as an islanded off-grid system.


Panoramic view of the system featuring the Schneider power electronics and a closeup of the power and communications wiring of the Aquion battery modules and their monitoring units.

This means that in cases of emergency, campus officials will be able to separate the Keating Center from the rest of IIT’s grid, while maintaining full power to the facility.

The technology is meant to demonstrate how solar and storage can provide electricity for critical building loads during power outages, such as police stations and hospitals.

“This is the future of distributed generation, where isolated loads powered by renewables combined with energy storage can stand alone and operate without the grid,” said Aquion chief commercial officer Tim Poor in a statement on Monday.

“Our safe and sustainable Aspen batteries are the optimal choice for long-duration storage and deep daily cycling, from nanogrids like this one at IIT to microgrids, island communities, and other nanogrids such as telecom base stations.”

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd