At the beginning of the year, the California Energy Commission announced that it would be setting aside $20 million to be used to finance research projects for long-duration energy storage. The aim was to establish a clear understanding of the part long-duration energy storage could play in meeting the mandates to decarbonize the state’s electricity sector in 20 years. The solicitation didn’t include lithium-ion batteries.
The commission chose a quartet of energy storage projects from Invinity Energy Systems Plc, which is based in the United Kingdom and North America. The projects had integrated vanadium flow batteries. All the sites chosen are industrial or commercial facilities that can operate off-grid and would like to self-generate power.
So, what is a vanadium flow battery?
This battery, which is also called a VFB, is made of an element known as vanadium that commonly exists in four states of oxidation. Vanadium can exist as an ion with different charges, which is what allows VFBs to discharge and charge.
Unlike VFBs, Li-ion batteries discharge and charge by de-plating and plating lithium metal on the cathode. While this reaction is reversible, performance will decline, and degradation will occur after a number of cycles.
Additionally, a VFB is also made of a pair of tanks of vanadium-based electrolyte that are separated using a proton exchange membrane. As the battery is discharged and charged, its ions move between the oxidation states. Invinity CCO Matt Harper explained that this is what makes VFBs so valuable as their ability to hold a charge does not decline even after thousands of charging cycles over a few decades.
The company speculates that every one to two decades, the proton exchange membrane may need to be replaced, even though the battery would still be functioning. This differs from the Li-ion battery where the entire battery would have to be replaced.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t advantages of the Li-ion battery. For instance, lithium ion batteries have an advantage over VFBs when it comes to energy density, which explains why the latter is more suited for stationary applications. However, while vanadium flow batteries can be packed tighter than lithium, lithium ion batteries require sufficient fire suppression or to be spaced farther apart.
Harper noted that while lithium ion batteries had shown that they can store two to four hours of energy 50 times annually, vanadium flow batteries would be better equipped in long-duration storage where energy was needed daily.
Fortunately, many companies, such as StorEn Technologies Inc., are investing in manufacturing vanadium batteries, so it may not be long before this type of energy storage battery is widely available.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to StorEn Technologies Inc. are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/StorEn
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