AVL Vanadium Redox Flow Battery Project Update

VSUN E22 vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB)

A 300 kWh vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) earmarked for an Australian miner should be making its journey across the ocean soon – and a residential VRFB solution is still in the works.

VRFBs use a circulating electrolyte solution of vanadium pentoxide to store charge. Among the claimed advantages of VRFBs (and flow batteries generally), is they are non-flammable, have a high cycle life and a wider operating temperature range compared to lithium-ion batteries.

In November last year, Australian Vanadium Limited (AVL) announced its subsidiary VSUN Energy had inked an agreement with IGO Limited for a project involving a standalone power system. Based on VRFB energy storage technology, the system is to be installed at IGO’s nickel, copper and cobalt operation approximately 360km southeast of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.

The VRFB for this project (pictured above during construction) will be utilised to power a mine process water bore pump, with a target of 100% renewable energy use in combination with a ground-mount solar power system. However, a backup diesel generator will be installed as well, just in case that goal doesn’t pan out. Previously the aim was for 85 – 90% renewables-based operation overall.

According to AVL, the finishing touches are being put on the VRFB in preparation for shipping by Spanish manufacturer E22.  AVL Managing Director Vincent Algar says the company is looking forward to receiving the battery in Australia, where it will first undergo testing in Perth before installation and commissioning.

“VSUN Energy and E22 have worked together to develop a unique solution that we see as being able to satisfy a large demand in the local market, to supply a truly long duration renewable energy and energy storage solution for off-grid, diesel dependent customers,” stated Mr. Algar.

The project has been partly funded by a $3.69M Australian Government manufacturing grant awarded to AVL last year under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative.

The arrangement with AVL is a pretty good deal for IGO, with it having use of the VRFB at no cost for the initial 12 months, then options of ownership or rental after that period – an extended test-drive of sorts.

Home VRFB (Still) In The Pipeline

The potential for vanadium redox flow batteries isn’t confined to bigger projects such as this. VSUN also has a grid-connect VRFB for home energy storage in the works – a 5kW/30kWh flow battery that the company says it hopes to make available sometime this year. But don’t hold your breath as new product releases are invariably hit by delays; particularly at the moment.

Not only big on capacity (more than double that of the Tesla Powerwall‘s 13.5kWh), the initial concept design indicated the VSUN home battery will be very big in terms of physical size.

VSUN says the company already offers compact VRFBs for off-grid households, but it’s a “contact us for more details” situation – there’s no other information publicly available on the VSUN Energy web site that I could find.

Trivia: VRFB technology was originally invented in Australia in 1983 at the University of New South Wales by Maria Skyllas- Kazacos and her team.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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