Recent Advancements in VFBs – The Tipping Point
Vanadium for Batteries and Energy Storage
The Vanadium Flow Battery (VFB) is a leading energy storage system which requires large amounts of high purity (greater than 98.4%), battery-grade vanadium. This type of vanadium is not readily available today. The increasing evidence in the marketplace of key developments in VFB technology is expected to result in the acceleration of commercial applications of vanadium-based battery technologies.
A great opportunity exists for vanadium producers who can provide the necessary high purity, battery-grade vanadium required by the VFBs. Energizer Resources (TSX:EGZ) is uniquely positioning itself to meet the new anticipated demand for high purity, battery-grade vanadium with its Green Giant project.
More and More Evidence of VFBs in the Marketplace
Every week, there is more and more evidence of the growing prominence of vanadium-based technologies in the marketplace, including news that General Electric has agreed to acquire Converteam, a world leader in power conversion technologies, which is collaborating with Prudent Energy to design and install VFBs for power grids in both China and the USA this year.
As mentioned in the Company’s previous press releases, there have been considerable developments in the advancement of vanadium flow battery technology in recent months. Three laboratories on three different continents have announced advancements in the development of VFBs for grid storage applications. These advancements are expected to both reduce the size and cost of the VFB, and in turn, accelerate their implementation on a commercial level:
- The United States Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) announced the ability to increase the energy storage capacity of the VFB by 70% and to expand the temperature range in which they operate by modifying the battery’s electrolyte solution. This advancement will allow the size of the VFB to be reduced, while generating the same amount of power storage and output, and will allow the VFB to work in a wider temperature range while maintaining its high (approximately 87%) efficiency.
PNNL’s announcement can be read in its entirety at http://www.pnl.gov/news/release.aspx?id=855
Through the PNNL, the United States Department of Energy has committed millions of research dollars towards further advancement and development of the vanadium flow battery. As mentioned in President Obama’s speech at the Forum for Small Business in Cleveland, Ohio, the Department of Energy is helping fund the installation of the largest VFB in North America at a municipal power plant in Painesville, Ohio.
- Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, the German government’s research organization that employs around 18,000 scientists and engineers, announced on March 31, 2011 that they are working to expedite the development of vanadium flow batteries.
Researchers demonstrated the operation of a VFB at the Hanover Fair (Hannover Messe), the world’s foremost technology and energy event, which is held in Hanover, Germany each year. The Fraunhofer Institute announced their goal to build a 20 MWh capacity VFB installation, which would represent the world’s largest VFB. A VFB this size would utilize approximately 33 tonnes of battery-grade vanadium (V2O5) and would provide enough energy to supply power to roughly 2000 households for an entire day.
The full text of this announcement can be read at http://www.fraunhofer.de/en/
The Fraunhofer Institute has a proven history of success in its hundreds of commercial enterprises, inventions and patents, including the MP3 audio and the H264/MPEG-4 video compression algorithms.
- The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China’s largest and state-owned science and research institute, have discovered a new nanofiltration membrane material that enhances the efficiency of VFBs making them a more viable tool for large-scale energy storage. Researchers found that by utilizing a new material, they could lower the cost of the membrane without sacrificing the performance or efficiency of the VFB.
The membrane serves as the facilitator of energy transfer in a VFB, allowing energy in the form of ions to pass from one side of the battery to the other during charge-discharge cycles, which enables the VFB to release power.
The CAS announcement can be read in its entirety at http://rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2011/April/13041101.asp.
The CAS has created hundreds of commercial enterprises, including with Lenovo Corporation (which purchased IBM’s PC Division).
Vanadium Flow Batteries – Nearing the Tipping Point
The vanadium electrolyte and the membrane are the two most expensive components in a VFB. Together they represent approximately 50% of the cost of the battery. The advancements in the development of the VFBs by the leading research institutes of PNNL, Fraunhofer, and CAS are expected to both reduce the size and cost of the VFB, and in turn, accelerate their implementation on a commercial level.
The increasing evidence in the marketplace of key developments in VFB technology is expected to result in the acceleration of commercial applications of vanadium-based battery technologies and in turn, may signal that the tipping point for vanadium flow batteries is near.
Off Take Potential
Everyone is talking about vanadium – even U.S. President Barack Obama. At a Presidential roundtable discussion at Cleveland State University, President Obama commented on the efforts of Painesville, Ohio’s power system and its partners in building a massive energy storage system for the city, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Smart Grid Program, using vanadium flow battery technology. President Obama joked that “vanadium redox fuel cells is one of the coolest things I’ve ever said out loud”. President Obama continued to say that this “next generation energy storage system will help families and businesses cut down on energy waste, save money and reduce dangerous carbon emissions”.
Vanadium is becoming one of the most sought after metals in the world. China recently announced that the development of the country’s vanadium industry will be a top priority in the next 5 years. Approximately 48%of the world’s vanadium supply comes from China. China has gone from being the world’s largest exporter of vanadium to the world’s largest consumer. As China’s urbanization expansion continues, the country’s demand for vanadium for steel use alone is expected to remain strong for the next 10 to 20 years. Vanadium is attracting the attention of more and more investors, analysts and the mining industry in general. Two prominent Canadian mining publications, The Northern Miner and Resource World Magazine, are profiling vanadium as lead stories. The Northern Miner’s February 29 to March 6, 2011 edition leads with a feature entitled, “Spotlight on Vanadium”, while Resource World Magazine’s April Issue focused on vanadium with a special industry feature.
Within 10 Years...
Energy storage is predicted to be a $600 billion industry (Source: Piper Jaffray Energy Report 2009).
Lithium Batteries in Electric Vehicles
- Industry analysts forecast 250 million electric cars by 2020
- 10% of that = 25 million cars x 23kg V2O5 per battery = 575,000 tonnes V2O5
- 575M x .023 tonnes V2O5 or 54% of the current annual world supply each year, for 10 years (575K ÷ 107K ÷ 10 years) (Valence Technologies)
. Residential Applications of VFBs
- An average home uses approx. 25-35 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day.
- A 100kWh VFB can supply an average home with power for 2-3 days.
- Each 100kWh VFB requires ~800kg (1760 lbs.) of V2O5. There are approximately 675 million households in North America, EU and China
- If 3% of those households (20 million households) used a 100KWh VFB = 16.2 million tonnes V2O5 (20.25M x .8 tonnes V2O5) or 15 times the current annual world supply each year, for 10 years (20.25M ÷ 107K ÷ 10 years)
Commercial Applications of VFBs
- Each 1 megawatt hour (MWh) VFB requires ~ 10 tonnes of V2O5
- 2 million commercial locations worldwide utilize a 1MWh VFB = 20 million tonnes V2O5 (2M locations x 10 tonnes V2O5 each) or 18.7 times the current annual world supply each year, for 10 years (20M ÷ 107K ÷ 10 years)
US Energy Consumption
- The United States’ energy consumption in 2008 was 3.74 billion MWh.
- The Obama Administration's energy mandate is to have 20% of the power grid consumption (or 748 million MWh) be sourced from renewable energy.
- If just 0.5% of the 748 million MWh was stored in a 8MWh capacity VFB, you would have 467,500 8MWh VFBs = 37.4 million tonnes V2O5 (748M x 0.5% = 3.74M MWh x 10 tonnes V2O5 each) or 35 times the current annual world supply each year, for 10 years (37.4M ÷ 107K ÷ 10 years)
Overall Vanadium Demand
74,175,000 tonnes V2O5 /yr
With the current annual worldwide supply sitting at 107,000 tonnes V2O5 and 7.4 million tonnes V2O5 required each year, over the next 10 years the world will demand 69.3 times the annual world supply of V2O5, per year.
Supply of Raw Material
As VFBs come into mainstream production, the commercial success of vanadium technologies will be hinged on the sureness of supply of the raw material, (high battery grade (>98.4%) vanadium) and the sureness of its price. In a report published in Chemical Reviews, PNNL researchers say “future batteries used by the energy grid to store power from the wind and the sun must be reliable, durable and safe, but affordability is the key to wide-spread market deployment.”.
Currently, the supply for VFBs is merely a by-product due to its low demand. A great opportunity exists for vanadium producers who can provide the necessary high purity battery-grade vanadium required by the VFBs.
Energizer Resources (TSX:EGZ) is uniquely positioning itself to meet the new anticipated demand for high purity, battery-grade vanadium, as well as the anticipated 7% annual growth in demand for vanadium expected from the steel industry. Energizer Resources’ sedimentary-hosted deposit, one of the largest and purest in the world, is targeted to produce 890 million pounds of battery-grade V2O5 for these technologies in order to deliver the sureness of supply and price that is being demanded by these markets.