Funding Construction of New Energy Storage Projects
Headquartered in Alisa Viejo, California, esVolta develops, owns and operates utility-scale battery energy storage projects. The company was founded and established in 2017 by Randolph Mann, when battery storage was still considered a novelty market. Just three years later, the technology is helping to ensure the flexibility and reliability of the nation’s electrical grid and is a key solution to the integration of renewable energy.
esVolta partnered with CoBank and other financers in 2020 to secure funding for the construction and operation of eight new energy storage projects. Though esVolta was relatively new, the CoBank team had a long history of partnership with members of its leadership team.
“The company’s CEO, Randy Mann, has more than 25 years of experience in the energy business,” said Brian Goldstein, senior vice president, Project Finance for CoBank. “We had worked with Randy before, and with Krish Koomar, esVolta’s chief financial officer, for over two decades. They have a business model in a space we believe is growing and they have the experience and passion to pull it together successfully.”
“Battery storage has proven to be more than just a demonstration project,” said Koomar. “But the continued growth of the space is dependent on large, institutional capital. CoBank is part of a select group of smart, sophisticated energy financers who have put the energy and effort into understanding the technology and commercial aspects of the business.”
From the start, esVolta believed in lithium-ion-based technology and its ability to enhance the stability of the energy grid. They also believed the company could make a difference by enabling more efficient use of clean energy and complimenting the growing renewable sources in California.
“One of the challenges of renewable energy is that supply and demand are not always equal,” said Mann. “Solar and wind power are governed by natural conditions and power isn’t always generated at the exact time that consumers want to use it. This presents a challenge for utilities and CCAs (community choice aggregators). Public policy makers in states like California and Hawaii, responding to increasing consumer demand, have set goals to eventually reach 100% renewable power. However, as the percentage of renewables on the grid increases, so does the challenge of dealing with their intermittent nature. Battery storage has the potential to overcome these challenges and has started to do so.”
The integration of renewable energy is very important, but it is not the only benefit of energy storage. For this reason, esVolta’s projects are not directly connected to solar or wind generation. Instead, the stand-alone banks of lithium batteries are connected to electric power grids via transformers. In addition to having long-term capacity off-take agreements with utilities and CCAs, esVolta buys and sells power to the grid, increasing capacity and reliability at times of peak need, without the need to build new, large-scale power plants.
We appreciate our relationship with CoBank and their willingness to step up and invest in us now. It has been a very productive relationship for us, helping us to grow our business and do some good as we grow
“One of our goals is to ensure our projects fit within the surrounding environment,” said Mann. “Some facilities are located in warehouses; others can even be housed in shipping containers, so their footprint is relatively small. They don’t create the same ‘visual noise’ as other facilities or have significant impact on wildlife or other natural resources. In addition, our systems offer capacity and stabilization of the power grid while creating zero emissions. Essentially we are enabling the grid to be what everyone wants it to be: clean and reliable.”
Going forward, Mann and Koomar see utility-scale energy storage becoming a core part of the utility grid structure. They predict “massive improvements in technology” as well as improvements in the business models used to finance, develop, construct, and manage these projects.
“The industry is still new, so there is still a lot of change in terms of demand, technology and regulation,” said Mann. “But those things are already starting to create a tail wind that will allow the market to grow and scale. We appreciate our relationship with CoBank and their willingness to step up and invest in us now. It has been a very productive relationship for us, helping us to grow our business and do some good as we grow. We think there are a lot of exciting things to come and our relationship with CoBank will be a part of that.”