Claim: Expensive Vanadium Flow Batteries will Make Renewable Energy Viable

Vanadium is expensive, though the price fluctuates wildly – currently $11K to $15K / tonne of Vanadium Pentoxide. But advocates claim Vanadium flow batteries have the potential to solve the intermittency of renewable energy.

StorEn Tech Provides First Of Its Kind Vanadium Flow Battery To Australia

December 19th, 2020

Australia has taken another step toward greater use of battery energy storage thanks to a new 30 kWh StorEn vanadium flow battery that was installed for use in a renewable hydrogen plant at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The battery, which was provided through a partnership between StorEn Technologies Inc.* and Multicom Resources Limited, will allow researchers in Australia to develop safety standards for the future use of vanadium flow batteries as well as  helping to bring the technology to Australia.

The many features of vanadium flow batteries could make them ideal for grid-scale energy storage, which is something that Australia is looking to expand in the coming years. 

Peter Talbot, a professor at QUT, said about the new battery — “vanadium flow battery technology promises safe, affordable and long-lasting energy storage for both households and industry.”

Vanadium has an energy density of 15-25Wh / L, so to provide backup for a 1GW renewable plant for a day, you would need:

24 x 1GW = 24GWh of storage, or 24,000,000,000 Wh / 25 Wh / L = 960 million litres of Vanadium electrolyte – say a couple of billion dollars worth.

An expensive battery, but not an unimaginable expense.

Of course a single day of backup capacity is not nearly enough. Wind droughts can last weeks or even months. So if your goal is to match the reliability of fossil fuel generators, you are going to need a lot more than a couple of billion dollars worth of electrolyte.

You might find that the electrolyte gets a lot more expensive over the course of negotiating your battery purchase agreement. The global Vanadium market is small, around 80,000 tons per year. So an attempt to purchase several hundred thousand tons of Vanadium to build a 1GW battery would have a substantial impact on global prices.

Assuming you somehow obtain enough Vanadium for your battery, your Vanadium Flow battery electrolyte cannot be allowed to overheat or freeze. So your new battery complex will need substantial air-conditioning, which will eat into its storage efficiency.

Vanadium has other important industrial uses. Vanadium is used as a steel additive to produce high strength structural steel, and is also an important component of military grade steel alloys, and critical steel components subject to high stress, such as automobile crank shafts. China is a substantial buyer in the global Vanadium market.

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December 22, 2020 at 12:23AM

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