Natrion: Creating a Safer and Affordable Battery for Solar Power

   Alex Kosyakov, Co-Founder of Natrion

One knocked-down tree can cause a widespread power outage in the Northeast, leaving thousands without power. New York natives Alex Kosyakov and Tom Rouffiac experienced just that in high school. Their neighborhoods didn’t have electricity for days after hurricanes Sandy and Irene.

After the storms passed, Alex started to see solar panels and energy storage systems (ESSs) being installed onto people’s roofs. This wasn’t just for saving the planet. Solar panels and ESSs allowed his neighbors to have an independent power supply. Their power would not be at the mercy of a tree or fixed prices from a centralized utility company.

Solar implementation still has a long way to be developed. Efficient solar power requires the integration of ESSs composed of large battery packs. Right now, ESSs are too expensive for mass implementation because of the lithium batteries in the ESSs. The lithium batteries require an external cooling system because they combust at elevated temperatures. “The cooling system inflates costs and diminishes efficiency with increasing scale,” stated Alex.

The widespread inaccessibility to solar power led Alex and Tom to build Natrion with the goal to commercialize a new safer, more affordable battery technology to facilitate the use of solar power for more people than ever before. 

“For most people right now, it is far easier to continue paying their utilities than dropping big money on a system that’ll only yield net savings after more than a decade,” said Alex. With the inflated cost of the lithium battery, installing solar panels and ESSs can cost $20,000 or more per household and take up to 14 years to break even on the purchase. Solar panels only have a 25-year life span, giving households 11 years to earn a return-on-investment. 

System6, Natrion’s new battery, will tip the scales in solar’s favor. Alex explained, “we’ve replaced lithium with far more abundant metal sodium and developed a new ceramic solid electrolyte that’s stable to beyond 2,000°.” This stabilizes the battery and eliminates external cooling systems. The solution is 40% cheaper to manufacture than lithium batteries and lets Illinois households, farms, and businesses breakeven on their solar and energy storage investments in 8 years or less for net ROIs totaling 200% or more.

What I wish I had known

Through Alex’s startup journey, he realized the importance of soft skills and networking. “You have to be your venture’s best promoter because you’re the only one who can get someone else — whether an investor, potential employee, or customer — as excited about it as you are,” said Alex, while discussing the role as a founder.

Alex’s advice to anyone new to the startup life is to step far outside of their comfort zone. “It can be a really tough thing to do, but finding people facing similar challenges can make it a little easier,” he said.

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