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Infographic: Vanadium, the energy storage metal

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | October 5, 2017

The world is moving to a renewable energy economy.

Solar use is growing at exponential rates and countries like the UK, France and India are planning to ban gas-powered vehicles in the coming years. Even the world’s largest auto market in China is under duress from mounting pollution and the country has ambitious plans to build up world-class renewable capacity while ditching gas-powered vehicles.

The energy storage question

As the world shifts to renewables, one question remains up in the air: how will we store all this energy?

This infographic comes to us from VanadiumCorp TSXV:VRB and it highlights vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs)—which are a breakthrough that some experts say may be the future of grid-scale energy storage.


Infographic: Vanadium, the energy storage metal


Vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) are distinctive in the battery world.

They work by taking advantage of the natural properties of vanadium, a metal with four different oxidation states. But rather than using the metal in a solid state, vanadium electrolyte (a liquid solution) is used for both half cells and the configuration is divided by a proton exchange membrane. Typically, massive tanks filled with vanadium electrolyte are connected, pumping the solution through at high volumes to charge or discharge.

The benefits of VRFBs

This unique setup gives VRFBs a few interesting advantages for something like grid-scale energy storage:

  • Extremely scalable

  • Can rapidly release large amounts of energy

  • Vanadium electrolyte is reusable and recyclable, with a battery lifespan of over 25 years

  • No cross-contamination of metals, since only one metal (vanadium) is used

  • Cycle life is theoretically unlimited

  • Can maintain ready state for long periods of time

  • Can be charged and discharged at same time

  • Non-flammable

As a result, VRFBs can be used in a variety of energy storage applications such as peak-shaving, load levelling, microgrids, wind and solar, off-grid power supplies and uninterruptible power supplies.

Vanadium outlook

VRFBs are getting more attention from utility companies and large battery projects have already been announced.

The most notable vanadium-flow battery is probably a 200 MW system being built on the Dalian peninsula in China, which will serve seven million residents. Costing $500 million, it’ll be used to peak-shave approximately 8% of Dalian’s expected load by 2020. This battery system will be the world’s largest and it will single-handedly triple China’s grid-connected battery storage capacity.

According to the Chinese firm Azure International, the market projection for VRFB demand (by MW) in the top 10 countries will grow at an 80% CAGR from 2013 to 2020, ultimately culminating in more than 7,000 MW of vanadium-flow capacity needed in 2020.

This demand could become even more substantial if the price of vanadium electrolyte were to be reduced—it makes up about 30% to 50% of the cost of each battery alone.

(Interested in more content on the green revolution? Visual Capitalist has launched a funding campaign for its first book through Kickstarter.)

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

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