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Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

Nomad’s mobile batteries deliver utility-scale power where it’s needed

The company sources lithium-ion batteries from parent Kore Power, then stacks them in reinforced truck beds for portable grid storage.
By Julian Spector

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A semi truck pulling a blue trailer that says nomad transportable power systems through a desert landscape
(Nomad Transportable Power Systems)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Electric mobility never looked quite like this.

While automakers toil to figure out trucks that run on batteries, Nomad Transportable Power Systems has designed a trailer that carries batteries. These power-supply trailers carry all the equipment and controls needed to operate a utility-scale grid battery, but unlike typical grid storage installations, these ones can be moved.

It’s not an entirely new idea. Various utilities have experimented with mobile storage as a disaster-preparedness tool: If the grid goes down, send in a bunch of fully charged batteries for emissions-free emergency power. But this concept never made it past scattered utility pilots, perhaps due to the scarcity of replicable products for customers to buy.

That’s what Nomad has made, and it drove one of its fully loaded 35-foot trailers from its hometown in Vermont to San Diego to show it off on the floor at the Distributech conference last week.

The product is fully commercialized, and now we’re really expanding the sales and delivering to customers,” General Manager Chris McKay told Canary Media.

The model on display at Distributech packed 500 kilowatts and a little over 1 megawatt-hour of storage capacity, housed in racks of nickel manganese cobalt oxide batteries provided by Kore Power. The battery manufacturer launched Nomad in 2021 as a joint venture with Northern Reliability, an energy storage integrator. (Kore Power acquired Northern Reliability in 2022 and subsequently launched a new business unit based on the latter’s IP, called Kore Solutions.)

The batteries sit on steel racks anchored to a chassis that’s supported by a beefy steel beam running under the trailer’s entire length. Thanks to air ride suspension and the extra-stiff cargo hold, the trailer doesn’t flex in transit, McKay said. It does clock in around 50,000 pounds, but McKay noted that similarly weighty vessels are used to transport heavy-duty equipment.

Currently, the mobile storage plant comes at a 20 to 30 percent premium over equivalent stationary storage, McKay said, though the team plans to bring the price down with experience and scale. That extra cost could be worth it for a customer who values flexibility.

The battery trailer can replace fuel-burning generators at work sites, oil and gas facilities, festivals and special events, McKay said. Utilities can use them for localized grid needs at specific times and places. If part of the grid needs to shut down for maintenance, a utility could send in a battery trailer to keep people’s lights on. If a fast-growing neighborhood needs more power than its substation can deliver, a battery trailer could meet the additional demand until the big-ticket substation upgrade came through — or potentially defer the upgrade indefinitely.

(Nomad Transportable Power Systems)

The grid has lots of cases where you need temporary power and you’d rather not install generators there,” McKay said.

Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s largest utility and a creative adopter of grid storage technologies, decided it had some of those cases. The utility bought Nomad’s first large-scale battery trailer, with 1 megawatt/​2 megawatt-hours of storage capacity. GMP currently controls the battery’s charging and discharging at Nomad’s corporate facility in Vermont, while its new home base” docking station gets built, said Josh Castonguay, GMP’s vice president and chief innovation officer. In the meantime, the utility brings out its Nomad unit to support electric-vehicle charging at special events.

Mobile storage can obviously do everything that stationary storage can, and most of the time, we will have it plugged in to the docking station providing all those typical grid benefits — lowering cost and carbon — by lowering peak demand [and] participating in certain markets,” Castonguay said. The benefit of mobility is, of course, we can move it when needed.”

The utility will build a mobile EV charging trailer that connects to the Nomad battery trailer to provide vehicle charging during grid outages, he added. Commercial customers with big seasonal demand spikes, like ski resorts or campgrounds, could make use of the storage during their busy seasons.

The electrification of buildings and transportation is a crucial step for decarbonization, but being completely dependent on electricity can exacerbate the severity and potential danger of grid outages for some households. Back in 2015, GMP pioneered a new type of program in which customers pay the utility a monthly rate to buy or lease home batteries; the households benefit from backup power in emergencies while the utility uses the batteries at other times to reduce the cost of electricity for all customers. Castonguay sees batteries on trailers as another tool in this ongoing effort to fortify Vermont’s electrical network against wintry ice storms and summer thunderstorms.

We need to leverage every tool we can, from traditional hardening of the transmission and distribution infrastructure, to storage in homes and businesses, and now utilizing mobile storage,” he said. I think it’s part of the resiliency toolkit that utilities should be looking at.”

Others have explored the concept. New York utility Con Ed tested out mobile batteries a few years ago, but the technology appears to have stayed in the unenviable category of early-stage utility pilots that don’t graduate to broader adoption. The company that supplied Con Ed’s mobile batteries, Power Edison, has continued to pitch its wares elsewhere, placing greater emphasis on EV charging projects, including a flagship charging mega-station at a New Jersey seaport.

Nomad and Power Edison sing a similar tune about the benefits of mobility for grid storage. Both are finding near-term traction by pitching their units’ ability to boost the power supply available for EV charging when and where it’s needed — an application driven by tangible customer needs. It may well be easier for the companies to get paid that way than by waiting for utilities to figure out when and where they could use mobile storage. As storage analyst Daniel Finn-Foley told Canary Media previously, I wouldn’t say that the locational value of storage has been fully recognized yet. […] If that happens, and when that happens, [that] will be the key.”

In GMP, at least, Nomad found a willing utility and a chance to prove the usefulness of mobile storage for EV charging support. Whether other utilities follow suit will spell the difference between a good idea on paper and a good idea to build a business around.

Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.