Interest Grows in Going With The Vanadium Flow

on November 24, 2020

VSUN Energy, an organisation formed with the express intent of increasing awareness of the benefits of vanadium-redox flow batteries (VRFB) has taken to selling systems using the technology; its first residential case study came about because equipping a new farmhouse with a VRFB-based standalone power system was cheaper than connecting that rural home to the grid — never mind the savings that will ensue as the farm lives through its first quarter without receiving a power bill.

The standalone power system (SPS) tailored for this property consists of 12 kW of solar PV, a 5 kW/30 kWh VRFB with a maximum discharge of 7 kW; an Australian-made Selectronic inverter and an 18 KVa diesel redundancy back-up system. The SPS is designed to provide an uninterrupted, clean, safe source of energy, primarily generated by direct and stored solar energy.

VSUN business development manager Zamien Sumich tells pv magazine the system is currently more than adequate to supply a self-sufficient household, with a cool room to sustain the family in between visits to distant shops, and some farming machinery.

But there are other aspects of vanadium-flow batteries that make them suited to remote or rural life in Australia. For example, says Surich, they can operate in a wide range of temperatures without the need for heating or cooling.

Charging with positives

They’re non-flammable, so cannot start a house fire, or a bushfire. In this regard they’re also a step up from poles-and-wires grid connection — even accumulated dust when mixed with rain water on electricity wires can cause pole-top fires that may spark bigger conflagrations or cause loss of power.

VRFBs also offer virtually unlimited cycling, which makes them ideal for mining applications where constant electricity supply is crucial and variable renewable generation may require frequent fast battery response; and for VPPs where the operator wants to participate in FCAS or arbitrage markets, and may want to cycle its fleet of residential batteries a couple of times a day — such use would radically shorten the life of currently more popular battery technologies.

In addition, says Sumich, “The internal electrolyte solution in VRFB batteries doesn’t degrade,” so they can can continue to provide storage long after the common warranty period of 20 years. Of course, he adds, that because the battery is a machine, some moving parts such as pumps that move the electrolytes through a core of positive and negative electrodes may need to be replaced, but remote monitoring and annual maintenance checks can ensure continuous operation. A VRFB shifts vanadium ions between different oxidation states to store and release chemical energy.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsInterest Grows in Going With The Vanadium Flow

A World First: Combining Flow Batteries with Tidal Power to Create Hydrogen

on November 20, 2020

In November, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Scotland announced it would be installing a 1.8-MWh flow battery at the organization’s tidal energy pilot site on the Scottish island of Eday.

This novel blend of tidal power technology and flow battery technology powers EMEC’s on-site hydrogen production facility. The setup will allow for continuous green hydrogen production from a variable renewable energy source. Produced by the UK-based Invinity Energy Systems, the flow battery system to be utilized at the EMEC tidal facility will be assembled from eight separate modules. The project is expected to go live by the end of 2021.

Dependent upon rising or falling tides, tidal power is predictable yet highly variable. There are four inherent cycles to tidal energy each day. By comparison, solar energy has just one charge and discharge cycle per day.

Due to this variability, power storage is necessary to properly regulate tidal power technology as an energy source. With conventional lithium-ion batteries degrading significantly over time, flow battery technology has emerged as a promising alternative. After a technical review of its system, the EMEC established that flow batteries would be ideal for its use of tidal power for hydrogen production.

At the EMEC’s facility, the flow battery will capture electricity generated during periods of high-power generation so it can be discharged during low power periods, creating on-demand electricity to make hydrogen through the use of a 670-kW electrolyzer.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsA World First: Combining Flow Batteries with Tidal Power to Create Hydrogen

Residential Vanadium Flow Battery Systems Under Development For Australia’s Solar-Storage Market

on September 18, 2020

Energy storage systems based around vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) are being developed for residential use in Australia by partners Australian Vanadium (AVL) and Gui Zhou Collect Energy Century Science and Technology.

AVL made an announcement of the news to the Australian Securities Exchange yesterday. While the vast majority of new household battery systems are based around lithium-ion, an AVL representative told that the advantages of a flow battery could include the ability to “store a lot more energy”, while the product is “inherently non-flammable”. The spokesperson also pointed out that the vanadium electrolyte can be reused at the end of the battery’s mechanical lifetime.

A 5kW / 30kWh system will be installed in Perth, Western Australia, to test out the technology and concept and provide feedback for product development. The system is being connected to the grid using an inverter approved by the national Clean Energy Council, which means it can be connected to a solar PV system and used to store energy for self-consumption at the site or for export.

With household lithium-ion systems generally in the range of about 7kWh to 15kWh in Australia, AVL believes that as well as simply enabling more self-generated power to be used onsite, VRFBs could be an answer to flattening Australia’s ‘duck curve’, enabling households to sell their energy back to the grid much further into the peak after solar generation drops off.

“VSUN Energy has seen a significant number of inbound enquiries for a grid connected, long duration residential VRFB to fill a space that is currently met by short life, short duration, less flexible and less safe energy storage solutions. Using solar energy at a time that suits the householder is the ideal application for VRFB energy storage,” AVL managing director Vincent Algar said.

Australian Vanadium’s battery integrator subsidiary VSUN Energy has ordered the system from Gui Zhou Collect Energy, which is a flow battery R&D and industrialisation company headquartered in Guizhou, China, and trading under the name CEC VRFB Co.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsResidential Vanadium Flow Battery Systems Under Development For Australia’s Solar-Storage Market

VRB Energy Claims to be ‘Leading Contender’ For Massive Flow Battery Projects in China

on August 27, 2020

The new CEO at VRB Energy, a maker of vanadium redox flow battery energy storage devices, claims that ongoing improvements to its technologies will allow it to outcompete lithium-ion energy storage in the coming years.

VRB Energy said this week that Dr Mianyan Huang, a leading expert on vanadium flow battery technology and chief technology officer (CTO) and president of its China-based subsidiary has been promoted to chief executive officer (CEO).

Huang – who VRB said has 12 “key” flow battery material and system design patents to his name – actually took over on 1 July from previous CEO John Wang, but the announcement has been left until now. Wang had been in the role since late 2017 and came from a management consulting and technology background.

Additionally, the company announced that Dr Huang has been overseeing testing for the company’s forthcoming Gen3 cell stack design. VRB claimed that it enables a 30% increase in energy density, based on proprietary components developed in-house by the company including membrane and bipole materials. It also features improvements in electrode and cell frame design, the company said.

“This testing shows that our Gen3 technology will be able to achieve a 10% improvement in overall efficiency while simultaneously reducing battery size and lowering cost for our customers. This is just one of many improvements that will enable us to deliver a complete energy storage system for less than forecasted lithium-ion battery pricing, and with 15-40% better levelised cost of energy (LCOE) performance,” the CEO said.

Redox flow batteries allow for the decoupling of energy and power within the cell stack, meaning that to increase capacity and storage duration the tanks of electrolyte that store energy simply need to be scaled up and that repeated cycling does not cause degradation of cells. Meanwhile the technology’s proponents claim it poses less fire risk and features more easily recyclable components than lithium-ion.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsVRB Energy Claims to be ‘Leading Contender’ For Massive Flow Battery Projects in China

Solar Flow Battery Efficiently Stores Renewable Energy in Liquid Form

on July 15, 2020

Capturing energy from the Sun with solar panels is only half the story – that energy needs to be stored somewhere for later use. In the case of flow batteries, storage is relegated to vats of liquid. Now, an international team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists has created a new version of these solar flow batteries that’s efficient and long-lasting.

To make the new device, the team combined several existing technologies. It’s a silicon/perovskite tandem solar cell, paired with a redox flow battery, which the team says will allow people to harvest and store renewable energy in one device. Not only is it efficient, but it should be inexpensive and simple enough to scale up for home use.

The energy-harvesting part of the equation combines the long-time industry-leading material – silicon – with a promising young upstart called perovskite. These tandem solar cells have proved better than either material alone, since the two materials capture different wavelengths of light.

For storage, the team turned to a flow battery. Traditionally, these devices contain two liquids, housed in separate tanks, that function as the electrolytes. Electricity from the solar cell charges one of the liquids, where it can sit more or less indefinitely. When the power is needed, the two liquids interact in a middle chamber, creating a chemical reaction that produces electricity.

The team used a theoretical modeling method to determine which chemicals would operate at the ideal voltage, to maximize efficiency. They settled on two organic compounds dissolved in saltwater, and tests with the final physical device confirmed that it was a good match.

The team recorded 20 percent efficiency, which is up there with the best. The device was able to maintain a high efficiency, and most of its capacity, over hundreds of hours and charge-discharge cycles. That gives it a much longer life than other flow batteries, whose acidic electrolytes tend to corrode the tanks.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsSolar Flow Battery Efficiently Stores Renewable Energy in Liquid Form

Flow Battery Could Make Renewable Energy Storage Economically Viable

on April 15, 2020

Researchers at the University of Southern California looking to crack the renewable energy storage problem have developed a new version of a redox flow battery from inexpensive and readily-available materials.

Though there are huge lithium-ion battery installations from the likes of Tesla that can store energy harvested from renewables like wind and solar, they’re not exactly cheap. The USC researchers looked to an existing design that stores energy in liquid form.

In the so-called redox flow battery, a positive chemical and a negative chemical are stored in separate tanks. The chemicals are pumped in and out of a chamber where they exchange ions across a membrane – flowing one way to charge and the other to discharge.

Though such systems have previously used expensive, dangerous and toxic vanadium and bromine dissolved in acid for their electrolytes in the past, we have seen recent designs that replace those with organic or more environment-friendly alternatives.

For its design, the USC team used a waste product of the mining industry and an organic material that can be made from carbon-based feedstocks, including carbon dioxide, and is already used in other redox flow batteries.

In tests, the iron sulfate solution and Anthraquinone disulfonic acid (AQDS) battery was found able to charge and discharge hundreds of times with “virtually no loss of power.” The researchers say that the inexpensive nature of the materials used could also lead to significant electricity cost savings compared to redox flow batteries using venadium, if manufactured at scale.

“To date there has been no economically viable, eco-friendly solution to energy storage that can last for 25 years,” said lead author on the study Sri Narayan. “Lithium-ion batteries do not have the long-life and vanadium-based batteries uses expensive, relatively toxic materials limiting large-scale use. Our system is the answer to this challenge. We foresee these batteries used in residential, commercial and industrial buildings to capture renewable energy.”

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsFlow Battery Could Make Renewable Energy Storage Economically Viable

Energy Storage Merger to Drive Vanadium Flow Battery Market

on March 17, 2020

UK-based redT energy and US-based Avalon Battery Corporation have announced that they will merge, subject to shareholder approval, to become a global leader in vanadium flow batteries.

They aim to become key competitors to existing lithium-ion technology in the rapidly growing global energy storage market.

The merger unites the companies under a new name, Invinity Energy Systems (Invinity), and combines the existing strengths of both companies with the scale and market presence to compete with the major players in a global energy storage market, forecast for £55bn ($67bn) of new investment by 2024.

Vanadium flow batteries are a form of heavy-duty, stationary energy storage, used primarily in high-utilisation applications such as being coupled with industrial scale solar generation for distributed, low-carbon energy projects. This sort of application requires daily, heavy use and is well suited to flow battery technology, which is expected to become a £3.5bn market by 2028.

Larry Zulch, CEO of Invinity said: “The merged company will be a world leader in flow batteries. This gives us the platform to compete head-to-head against incumbent lithium-ion giants, and in so doing prove that our robust, safe, non-degrading energy storage solutions are the best solution for delivering the world’s ambitious decarbonisation targets.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsEnergy Storage Merger to Drive Vanadium Flow Battery Market

PV Tech Power 21: Flow in Focus, Long-Duration Contenders And The ESA

on December 18, 2019

The latest volume of PV Tech Power, Solar Media’s quarterly technical journal for the downstream sector, is now available to download free of charge.

This edition’s cover story comes from the deserts of the Middle East, where researchers are getting to grips with the issue of soiling and what can be done to prevent it.

We also take an extensive look at how solar is making great strides in the Middle East, and SolarPower Europe provides a glimpse at how digitalisation is taking over the solar ecosystem.

As always, ‘Storage & Smart Power’, the dedicated section curated and created by, also returns as part of the magazine. This quarter, we look at:

Contenders: Long-duration technologies and who’s behind them

Some of the promising long-duration energy storage technologies – and their champions. While lithium-ion batteries get most of the headlines, long-duration energy storage solutions are gaining ground. We’ve profiled some of established and emerging concepts in this increasingly important class of storage technologies.

Redox flow batteries for renewable energy storage

A team from CENELEST, a joint research venture between the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology and the University of New South Wales, charts the rise of redox flow batteries. A truly deep dive, the article is a thorough examination of various types of flow energy storage and what stands between them and greater success.

Taking charge: Energy Storage Association CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman

Despite making huge strides forward, the energy storage industry is far from done with its work in helping stakeholders across the value chain understand the technologies and the roles they can play in a renewable energy future. Former regional utilities’ commissioner Kelly Speakes-Backman is one of the people working to make that happen every day. With more than 180 member organisations, ESA is speaking up for a big wedge of stakeholders in the energy sector that see renewables and energy storage as a day-to-day business as well as an aspiration and social good.

Many thanks to all that downloaded the PV Tech Power Volume 20 including the Energy Storage Special Report 2019, which is also still available as a standalone PDF from the ‘Resources’ section of this site.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsPV Tech Power 21: Flow in Focus, Long-Duration Contenders And The ESA

Flow Batteries: Leaders Starting To Live Up To Promise, Says Navigant

on December 10, 2019

Flow batteries have so far, failed to live up to the disruptive potential they promise, a new report says, but authors Alex Eller and William Tokash at Navigant Research have identified 12 leading vendors in the nascent field, based on metrics of strategy and execution.

In an industry (sub)segment that has already undergone rapid consolidation and seen some of those considered early leaders such as VIZn and Immergy fall by the wayside in the past three or four years, Navigant names Cellcube – which itself once had a rollercoaster journey of changing hands and investors – as top in the chart.

In the preamble to a 2018 interview with Cellcube president Stefan Schauss on this site in 2018, I wrote that the fortunes of Cellcube’s redox flow battery energy storage, spun out of technology developed at Gildemeister, “have been an interesting mirror to those of the overall technology class”.

Owned by junior mining entity Stina Resources, Cellcube Stefan Schauss told the company had ambitions to realise full vertical integration, with the company seeing progressive shifts to longer durations of energy storage already seen in the energy market in places such as California as “just the tip of the peaking iceberg”.

Leaders, contenders alike are waiting for opportunity to scale up production

Joining Cellcube in a category of two marked ‘Leaders’ in the Navigant report (all 10 other companies named are described as ‘Contenders’) is Japan’s Sumitomo Electric, perhaps largely by virtue of deploying a 60MWh flow battery on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido a few years back.

More recently, towards the end of 2017 the company said it would take its flow systems into the international market, beginning with a large commercial pilot project in Belgium. Then, at the end of 2018, Sumitomo also said it would connect a 2MW / 8MWh demonstration into the California wholesale market to provide frequency regulation and trade-based supply.

The potential advantages of flow batteries – and the challenges faced by providers of the various different flow technologies and sub-chemistries – are examined in great depth, in a feature article to be included in the forthcoming edition of our quarterly technical journal, PV Tech Power (vol.21). Co-authors Jens Noack, Nataliya Roznyatovskaya, Chris Menictas and Maria Skyllas-Kazacos from CENELEST, a joint research venture between the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology and the University of New South Wales chart a deep dive into everything from how redox flow batteries work, to the supply chain and sustainability of materials, to the challenges still ahead for commercialisation.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsFlow Batteries: Leaders Starting To Live Up To Promise, Says Navigant

Lockheed Martin Locked Onto 2020 Flow Battery Launch

on November 27, 2019

Defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin wants to be the first disruptive company of the flow battery era, with the expectation that its first devices will go into series production before the end of this year. met earlier this year with company VP for business development Dan Norton, who said that Lockheed Martin’s own coordination chemistry flow battery (CCFB) had neared the end of its development and test programme, which had gone “swimmingly and as planned”. The product has been some time in development, originally teased as expected to hit the market before the end of 2018, although this target was always understood to be flexible.

“We begin serial production on our unit number 1 towards the end of the year and we’ll go for full launch in the market some time next year,” Norton said, in an interview taped at this year’s Solar Power International in late September but only cleared for publication approval later.

That in itself is an indication of Lockheed Martin’s focus. The flow batteries are being developed within Lockheed’s Missiles and Fire Control division, and Norton said that as an energy security asset, the technology and market is “the next logical progression” for the company.

While Lockheed has already launched GridStar lithium and seen successful deployments of over 100 units in North America, as the market moves from shorter to longer duration energy storage, Norton said, it identified a further opportunity.

“So we invested in (Sun Catalyx), a technology that’s a spinout of MIT, to create a co-ordinated compound chemistry flow battery, that is human- and environmentally-safe, that is balance-of-plant cost-effective and that is deployable worldwide,” Dan Norton said.

Projects could be ‘multiple megawatts to hundreds of megawatts’
Long-duration flow batteries offer a potential to decouple energy and power, meaning that while they tend to cost more upfront than lithium-ion batteries, they can effectively scale up fairly easily, simply by increasing the capacity of the tanks the electrolyte is pumped through. While the small handful of flow battery companies already out there in the market tend to favour either vanadium or zinc bromine, Lockheed is keeping tight-lipped still on the makeup of the proprietary electrolyte its GridStar Flow products will use.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsLockheed Martin Locked Onto 2020 Flow Battery Launch