Battery storage is still a relatively young industry. While batteries have been around in various forms for centuries, their widespread deployment to support power grids has really only emerged over the course of the last decade, with a similar exponential growth pattern to solar technology.
As such, this is still a messy and quickly changing space, with many start-ups. And like any emerging industry the more promising ones are going to be snatched up sooner or later by established companies.
Along these lines, earlier this week Saft announced that it has acquired the entire share capital of Go Electric, a microgrid solutions provider based in Indiana that has a particularly strong presence in the military microgrid market. Saft notes that this provides it with both a broader suite of offerings as well as as geographic advantages.
“With this Go Electric acquisition, we are expanding our technology portfolio for distributed renewable solutions and reinforcing our footprint in North America” said Hervé Amossé, Saft Executive vice president transportation, telecom and grid.
Of course, Saft itself is owned by Total, as one of a number of clean energy companies that the French oil major has bought out, incuding SunPower. And so while the acquisition of Go Electric is positioning by Saft in the new markets, it is also part of a trend where some of the more forward-thinking oil giants are making strategic purchases in the clean energy sector.
“This acquisition is an important step in Saft’s strategy to accelerate the growth of its energy storage systems business: Saft is now able to expand its scope of expertise from battery design and manufacture to the deployment of integrated turnkey distributed renewable energy storage solutions that connect customer sites to the grid,” notes Philippe Sauquet, the president of gas, renewables and power at Total.
The military microgrid market
Go Electric supplies microgrid solutions combining battery storage with proprietary microgrid controls for commercial and industrial facilities, both to ensure that lights and critical processes don’t lose power in outages, as well as to optimize of on-site assets. However, its most interesting customers arrive in uniform.
There is perhaps no entity that prizes uninterrupted power more than the U.S. military, both for its domestic operations and overseas basis. But how this is achieved has come with its own set of issues, and the U.S. military’s dependence upon diesel fuel for generators was taken advantage of by Taliban fighters during the occupation of Afghanistan.
According to Navigant Research, Go Electric is one of the largest suppliers of microgrid solutions to the U.S. military, and in February secured $8 million in contracts to date including securing $900,000 in funding for a mobile, modular, self-forming microgrid platform for the United States Africa Command. Go Electric has also supplied batteries and microgrid solutions for a U.S. National Guard facility in Michigan and the Tooele Army Depot in Utah
Given the massive volume of electricity consumed by the U.S. military, this could provide big opportunities for Saft, and by extension for an oil company that knows how to be in the right place at the right time.