Operational Excellence
May 1, 2023

New grant funds critical exploration into energy storage technology

Funding will lower cost of iron-air battery demonstration projects in Minnesota, Colorado

Xcel Energy announced today that Breakthrough Energy Catalyst has agreed to commit $20 million in grant funding to support two multi-day energy storage projects designed to maximize the use of renewable energy while maintaining the reliability of the grid. 


The grant would provide $10 million each for two 10 MW/1,000 MWh iron-air battery systems, subject to the satisfaction of certain funding conditions. Xcel Energy and Massachusetts-based Form Energy announced in January an agreement to construct the batteries at the sites of retiring coal plants: the Sherburne County Generating Station in Becker, Minnesota, and the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo, Colorado. The batteries will allow Xcel Energy to store renewable energy such as solar and wind when it is being produced and then later distribute the energy during periods of lower production. 


“Innovative long-duration energy storage technologies are crucial to achieving 100% carbon-free electricity,” said Bob Frenzel, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. “This Catalyst grant will accelerate adoption of this promising new technology, which allows us to provide higher percentages of renewable energy while still providing affordable electric service to our customers.” 


Breakthrough Energy Catalyst funds and invests in projects that use emerging climate technologies to reduce emissions and accelerate the clean energy transition. The grant represents Catalyst’s first partnership with a utility, demonstrating the strong alignment between the mission of Catalyst and Xcel Energy’s innovative approach to demonstrating new clean technologies at utility scale to enhance commercialization and adoption 


“Long-duration storage will be a critical part of creating a clean, affordable and reliable grid, so we’re proud to play a role making these groundbreaking, first-of-a-kind utility-scale projects possible,” said Mario Fernandez, head of Breakthrough Energy Catalyst. “By investing in clean energy storage solutions, Xcel Energy is laying the groundwork for a net-zero future that’s affordable and keeps the lights on regardless of the weather, and these projects will help accelerate our journey there.” 


While most existing battery technologies provide less than eight hours of energy storage, Form Energy’s iron-air batteries could deliver electricity for 100 hours at costs competitive with conventional power plants. The batteries, which rely on a reversible rusting process, will allow Xcel Energy to integrate more low-cost, renewable energy into its system and maintain the reliability of the grid as it retires all of its coal plants by 2030. The multi-day energy storage systems will strengthen the grid against normal day-to-day, week-to-week, and season-to-season weather variability, as well as to extreme weather events such as severe winter storms and polar vortex events. 


In addition to the grant funding, Xcel Energy plans to use provisions in the federal Inflation Reduction Act, such as renewable energy tax credits, to further lower the cost of the iron-air batteries. The projects are expected to come online as early as 2025 and are subject to regulatory approvals in their respective states.  


Learn more about Xcel Energy’s clean energy plans.