How energy-deprived areas benefit from vanadium redox batteries

The CellCube system stores energy from a 15kW solar photovoltaic system. Photo by VSUN Energy.

Vanadium redox flow batteries or VRFB are capable of providing free energy to power-deprived communities for more than to two years without hitches, a brief issued by VSUN Energy states.

The Perth-based company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Australian Vanadium (ASX: AVL), followed up with one of its first customers, the Stuart family from a farming town in Western Australia, and learned that for the past 30 months their electricity didn’t fail once and, on top of that, they didn’t pay a dime for it.

The Stuarts were pioneers in acquiring a vanadium redox flow cell in the country. They have been using it for a native tree nursery they own in the southwestern part of the state where they needed three-phase power instead of the provided single-phase power.

Farmer Lucy Stuart, a pioneer in acquiring a vanadium redox battery in Australia. Photo by VSUN Energy.

According to VSUN, the CellCube system they installed stores energy from a 15kW solar photovoltaic system, enough to run for 10 hours at maximum output.

“They also wanted the ability to boost the power supply, should they further expand the nursery. With VRFBs, increasing the power supply simply requires another vanadium electrolyte tank,” the renewable energy firm said in the press release.

By relying on a vanadium electrolyte solution held in storage tanks, vanadium redox flow batteries can store energy from renewable sources, including solar, wind or wave power, and release it when required.

VSUN’s documentation states that the batteries can be charged and discharged at the same time and can be cycled often and deeply. They are also supposed to have a lower risk of fire than lithium batteries.

Vanadium occurs naturally in about 65 minerals and in fossil fuel deposits. It is produced from steel smelter slag, from flue dust of heavy oil, as a byproduct of uranium mining or directly from magnetite. The latter is the most common method.

Around 98% of the vanadium ore that is mined is mined in South Africa, Russia, China, and Brazil, and most of it is used in steel manufacturing applications. Yet, the silvery metal’s importance to the energy sector is also growing rapidly, with more than 5% of global output used in energy storage.

This growing interest from the battery sector has led to a rise in vanadium prices, which grew by 450% in the past three years and more than doubled in 2018.