The Vanadium Redox Flow Battery

The Vanadium Redox Flow Battery or ‘VRB’ as it is becoming increasingly known, is revolutionising the energy storage industry the world over.

The concept of the VRB is not a new one, but only since the 1980’s did the technology become proven.

The VRB technology has come a long way – so much so that it has finally answered the problem faced by the renewable and sustainable energy sector – how to store the energy generated for use when it is needed most.

Vanadium Redox Batteries (VRB’s) are rapidly becoming the battery of choice for efficient large-scale renewable energy storage. VRB’s have been proven to provide reliable storage of large quantities of renewable generated energy.

Key aspects of the Vanadium Redox Battery include:

  • a lifespan of 20 years with up to 20,000 cycles and no capacity loss
  • proven scalability use in large MW applications
  • high long-term charge retention
  • excellent safety rating and non-flammable
  • can discharge to 100% with no impact on performance or components.

Renewable Energy Storage

Renewable Energy Storage

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Avaiation and Aerospace

Avaiation and Aerospace

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Buildings, bridges, tunnels

Buildings, bridges, tunnels

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Automotive parts

Automotive parts

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Rebar for construction

Rebar for construction

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What is Vanadium and how is it Used

For decades Vanadium’s primary use was as a strengthening additive in manufacture of rebar, structural steel and titanium alloys. In recent times vanadium’s use has expanded to include vanadium redox batteries (VRB’s), automotive and aircraft parts. 

High-Strength Low-Alloy Steel with vanadium is the steel of choice for infrastructure projects. As the global infrastructure boom continues to expand, strong demand for these steels and vanadium will continue. 

Vanadium is a hard, silvery grey, ductile and malleable speciality metal with a resistance to corrosion, high structural strength and resistance against alkalis, acids and salt water – making this one of the most special and sort after minerals in the world.

Vanadium vs Lithium

We field a lot of questions relating to the difference between lithium batteries and vanadium redox batteries, and rightly so, lithium has been in the spotlight over the past few years, yet vanadium redox batteries have a lower profile.

In short, they are very different. Both are great for their application – but what is there application?

Lithium batteries are a cell design energy storage unit of all shapes, relatively small, self-contained devices that can become very hot. They are used in everyday electrical goods like our mobile phones and computers.

Vanadium Redox Batteries, or VRB’s, store their energy in a tank, relying on fluid transfer from the tank, through the system and back to the tank – VRB's provide reliable, large scale, base load power for commercial and industrial applications.

Scalability
As lithium batteries are little self-contained units, for application as a grid scale storage system, you would require hundreds of thousands of them. With Vanadium Redox Batteries, to adapt to an industrial scale, you simply increase the size of the tank, making their scalability infinite.
Cost
By 2020, it has been touted that lithium batteries could cost approx. $500 per megawatt hour. Vanadium Redox Batteries are already approx. $300 per megawatt hour with this figure dropping to $150 per megawatt hour by 2020.
Lifetime
Lithium batteries have a cycle generally around the 1,200 – 1,500 range, with performance degrading over time due to heat, operating conditions and how deep and often they have been discharged. Vanadium redox batteries can cycle generally around the 20,000 range and can also be easily upgraded.
Overview
In short, what we are trying to demonstrate is that each have their place – lithium in small electronic devices and Vanadium in large scale, regular and variable grid storage applications – such as, for the storage of energy generated from renewable and sustainable sources.

Steel Alloy Manufacturing

Historically, 90% of vanadium produced has gone into the steel making process.

A small amount of vanadium added during the steel making process greatly increases the strength of steel – even by up to 100%. So important is the use of vanadium in the steel making process, in recent months Governments have mandated an increase in the amount of vanadium to be included in rebar to increase strength in areas of high seismic activity.

With the ever increasing demand for steel in the building and industrial industries, demand will remain high for vanadium in this original marketplace.

Shipping, Aviation and Aerospace Applications

Due to the amazing qualities of vanadium, it is the mineral of choice in manufacturing of jet engines and high-speed airframes in the aerospace industry.

Vanadium titanium alloy is non-replaceable in this application.

The future of Vanadium

Vanadium is the little known mineral with a massive future. As we focus our energy into the production of vanadium for large scale industrial applications, we can facilitate the development of large renewable energy projects the world over. The issue with solar and wind energy projects is the unreliability of power supply due to weather conditions, a commercial scale storage solution changes the energy mix, and makes renewables a large part of a lower carbon future.

The emerging renewable energy storage industry (VRB’s) and expanding global infrastructure spending will see the demand for vanadium continue to significantly grow over the coming years.

There are already concerns over vanadium supply availability for the growing VRB industry. For example, the VRB installation in Dalian, China was approximately 3.8% of current global demand.

Vanadium Market

The vanadium price has recently experienced a significant rise due to increased demand from vanadium redox batteries and increased requirements for hardening rebar. The future significant demand growth will be driven by VRB’s resulting in price increases as seen in other battery metals.

Recent installations in China demonstrate the application of vanadium redox batteries for commercial and industrial scale applications.

An example, the Rongke Power development in Dalian, China:

  • a 200MW/800MWh battery
  • used ~6,960 tonnes V2O5 – The V2O5 usage for this one battery equates to 3.8% of the current global demand.
  • The VRB battery has a lifespan of over 20+ years with very high cycle life and no capacity loss.
  • can discharge to 100% with no loss or reduction in performance
  • excellent long-term charge retention
  • Rapid recharge and discharge, fast response time <70ms