There is a fundamental engineering challenge that comes with building a power grid based on wind or solar energy: Where does the power come from after the sun goes down? To keep the lights on at night or on cloudy or calm days, any energy grid needs a way to store the electricity that is created when conditions are ideal.

Building a battery that is up to that demanding task has been a goal for energy companies almost since the invention of electricity, but batteries have yet to reach the point where they are large, reliable, and durable enough to fill that need. A common solution for smaller green energy systems has been to either have a backup fossil fuel-based generator, or to tie into the main electrical grid.

Now, Princeton Power Systems, a Princeton Pike-based company that makes power control and converter systems, has teamed up with an Allentown, Pennsylvania-based company to build a power grid that uses an entirely new kind of battery technology. With better batteries, green power microgrids would have less need to rely on generators or other power sources.

The most common kinds of battery right now are lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries. Laptops, cell phones, and electric cars use the latter type.

Princeton Power Systems and Aquion Energy are building a battery backup system that combines Aquion’s aqueous hybrid ion (AHI) batteries combined with a DRI-10 control system made by PPS, at Aquion’s main laboratory. Each of the microgrid’s 14 battery modules will store 270 kilowatt-hours of electricity, or enough to power four houses for an hour and a half. The system will be tested to simulate real-world conditions found in the kind of small power grid that PPS currently installs around the world for islands, resorts, and other places.

“Bringing Aquion and Princeton Power Systems together to create the largest AHI battery system is an exciting and rewarding opportunity,” said Darren Hammell, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Princeton Power Systems. “We are confident that the combination of our DRI-10 and Aquion’s AHI storage system will serve as a powerful platform to demonstrate a commercially available and robust microgrid solution.”

Princeton Power Systems Inc., 3175 Princeton Pike, Lawrenceville 08640; 609-955-5390; fax, 609-751-9225. Ken McCauley, CEO.

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