The US military is trialling iron flow battery technology to help boost the power efficiency of its advanced tactical bases and help them incorporate renewables.

US start-up ESS Tech announced the commissioning of one of its energy warehouse systems at a base operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers’ research and development division in the state of Missouri.

The new unit has been incorporated into a “tactical microgrid” at the base. ESS said it will “demonstrate the key role” that its iron-flow batteries can play in optimising energy usage at US military "contingency bases".

These contingency bases include forward operating bases, such as those deployed that the US has deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The bases can also be used to support humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.

ESS energy warehouse systems are deployed in shipping containers and the iron-flow batteries they contain can provide power for up to twelve hours.

ESS CEO Eric Dresselhuys, whose company has received backing from Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund among others, said the project will “demonstrate the critical role of energy storage for energy security in remote and challenging locations.”

Currently, ESS says that most contingency bases are powered by diesel generators that “continually adjust output to meet demand. Variation in output results in inefficient operation, increasing fuel consumption.”

It is expected that the addition of long-duration energy storage to microgrids at bases will enable generators to operate at peak efficiency and “could reduce diesel consumption by up to 40%,” said ESS.

In addition, the microgrid at the base in question “can be leveraged to test the incorporation of solar generation, further reducing the need for diesel fuel.”

Tom Decker, operational energy program manager at the Missouri base, said the ESS system can “dramatically reduce refuelling logistics requirements and has the potential to assist in [the] transition to renewable energy.”