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Patrick McGarry's picture
Senior Director / Customer Success, PCI

Patrick recently joined PCI as a Senior Director in May, 2019. He owns over 32 years of experience in commodity trading and owns an extensive record working closely with energy market...

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  • Jul 26, 2021

This technology could be a game changer....


The work of the Somerville, Mass., company has long been shrouded in secrecy and nondisclosure agreements. It recently shared its progress with The Wall Street Journal, saying it wants to make regulators and utilities aware that if all continues to go according to plan, its iron-air batteries will be capable of affordable, long-duration power storage by 2025.


Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 26, 2021

This could indeed be one of those moonshots we're always looking for that opens up new possibilities. As with any big release of that type of implication, though, it seems just as important to remain skeptical and wait to make sure the proof is in the pudding. Do you see any particular red flags at this stage, Patrick? 

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 27, 2021

Assuming that these work at the price point advertised I think the biggest red flag will be - how do these batteries break into the current market?

Thousands of these batteries will be strung together, filling entire warehouses and storing weeks’ worth of electricity. It could take days to fully charge these battery systems, but the batteries can discharge electricity for 150 hours at a stretch.

In other words, say I have one of these systems and I charge it up with electricity from the grid like current lithium-ion batteries are currently doing.    Lithium-ion batteries are currently "getting paid" by charging during cheap time periods(high solar on grid) and getting paid during more expensive time periods (early evening).

When do I discharge this long-duration battery and how do I get paid?

I think markets may need to change to come up with a new "requirement"  which can be compensated - maybe via auction?


Patrick McGarry's picture
Patrick McGarry on Jul 29, 2021



I could not agree more with your point. Did you read Tony Clark's white paper a few weeks ago on that very topic? How the current RTO/ISO model doesn't really work anymore?


Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 30, 2021


Thanks - added to weekend reading list.

Meanwhile in CA - battery discharge on grid yesterday was 3,720 MWh between 17:00 and 24:00

Equal to more than eighteen 50MW peaker plants running for 4 hours.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Aug 6, 2021

Well, I just read the white paper. 17 pages of not exactly light reading. Whew! I can't find fault with its conclusions or with anything it says. I'm not sure how much it will mean, however, to anyone who doesn't already know quite a lot about the RTO model, wholesale auction rules, and market clearing algorithms. Written by wonks for an audience of fellow wonks?

In the end, the problems of intermittency cannot be adequately addressed by the market mechanisms we have available. It's worth noting that in the studies by Jacobson et. al. touting the feasibility of 100% renewables + storage, the models relied on virtually free long distance transmission and omniscient central control to optimize system operation. Omniscient central control is the antithesis of a competitive market-based approach.


Patrick McGarry's picture
Patrick McGarry on Jul 29, 2021


I researched the company during the past few days. While there are no guarantees in life, they definitely have serious money behind them and a solid forecast from folks like Goldman. This looks to be the real deal Holyfield. the biggest risks just might be the ability of the current RTO/ISO model to accommodate this new technology. Tony Clark just issued a great white paper on that very topic last month that should be required reading for many in our industry.



Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 27, 2021

This opinions expressed in this comment on WSJ are akin to mine:

"If this works, we need to pair such storage with nuclear power generation.
But Oops!  If we had more nuclear power, we wouldn't need all this storage, and we could also get rid of ugly windmills and low-density solar farms.
Nuclear is the way to go.  I'm not clear why this is not being promoted more.  Is it because of who has invested their money in bad methods of generation?  People like Gates, Buffet and a bunch of others?"

Unfortunately, "James", there's a lot more money to be made investing in bad methods of generation. With nuclear energy there isn't enough stuff to sell.

Patrick McGarry's picture
Thank Patrick for the Post!
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