Northvolt and Vattenfall Launch Mobile Battery System Capable of Patching Up Grids

Swedish battery maker Northvolt and state-owned utility Vattenfall launched a new modular and fully mobile energy storage system on Friday, one they say will be able to patch up stressed grids during a period of rapid electrification.

While the system has a more obvious role to play in replacing diesel generators at mines, construction sites and live events, its size means the mobile battery can perform nonpermanent functions for grid-connected assets as well.

The Voltpack Mobile System comes in units of 250 kilowatt-hours, which can be packaged into hubs with about five times that capacity, complete with an inverter and other necessary equipment. Multiple hubs can be connected in parallel.

Northvolt, which counts Volkswagen, Siemens and Vestas among its backers, is currently building its first battery gigafactory in Sweden. It's been producing cells from its lab facility, but the Voltpack Mobile will be the first full-fledged system sold by the company.

Vattenfall sees a role for the Voltpack Mobile System in bridging the gap between Sweden’s rapid drive for electrification and the time it takes to get grid reinforcements through the red tape.

Sweden's grids are already getting clogged up, and strict permitting requirements mean it can take five years to get work on upgrades underway, even with immediate economic growth up for grabs. 

“There are technology companies in the north of Sweden that want to establish new data centers, for example,” Torbjörn Johansson, head of Vattenfall Network Solutions Sweden, said in an interview. "But it can take five, even 10 years for a grid connection to get up and running.”

In such cases, the Voltpack Mobile could be installed to perform peak-shaving for the local distribution company along with all the other grid-stability services a fully loaded containerized battery system can perform. Despite having just 10 million citizens, Sweden is home to more than 170 different distribution companies.

A rendering of the Northvolt Ett gigafactory, currently under construction in the north of Sweden. (Credit: Northvolt)

A startup company looking to trial contactless induction charging for electric vehicles is also interested in the mobile storage system, rather than waiting for a grid connection, Johansson said.

Emad Zand, Northvolt's president for battery systems, said the Voltpack Mobile could ease seasonal curtailment of renewables.

“If you have solar or wind that you know is going to be extremely active in certain periods of the year, you can have a battery asset there to even out the loads. You can optimize that asset,” Zand told GTM.

Sweden is aiming to have a net-zero economy by 2045, and by the end of this decade, it hopes to stop all sales of internal combustion engine cars. The biggest obstacle for those targets is the country’s power grid.

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