VSUN edges closer to home storage market for vanadium batteries

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Australian Vanadium says VSUN subsidiary well advanced in negotiations to roll out residential vanadium redox flow battery.

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VSUN Energy, the vanadium redox flow battery storage offshoot of mining group Australian Vanadium, has firmed up plans to target Australia’s nascent home energy storage market – most likely with a base model of 15kWh – and to set up a local manufacturing base as it works to drive down battery costs and catch the wave of home solar and storage.

Australian Vanadium managing director Vincent Algar said on Friday that the company was “very well advanced” in negotiations with a number of international manufacturers of vanadium redox flow batteries, including the German based outfit, Schmid, which already makes a residential VRB system for the European market.

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Source: VSUN Energy

Algar said that the company was also working on meeting certain technical “tick the box” inverter compatibility requirements, necessary to the introduction of domestic-scale VRB into the the Australian market.

Australian Vandium this week revealed that it had terminated its exclusive dealership agreement with German vanadium flow battery maker, Gildemeister, on the basis it was too restrictive to VSUN Energy’s growth plans.

It will, however, continue to market the company’s CellCube battery stacks, on a non-exclusive basis, while it continues negotiations with a number of VRB makers.

In an interview with RenewEconomy on Friday, Algar said he was excited about the technology’s prospects in the Australian residential energy storage market, despite differences in cost, and a yet-to-take-off market already crowded with competitive li-ion options.

Currently, a 15kWh VRB system sits somewhere at the $25,000 mark, he said, but – as has happened with lithium-ion – he says projections are that VRB will start to come down the cost curve as the money and focus of the clean tech market turns more and more towards innovative stationery storage solutions.

“What we are absolutely trying to do is bring down the price, to compare with lithium-ion,” Aglar said.

But at the time, he added, it should be noted that the VRB systems serve a different purpose to other chemistries, being much more about “serious load shifting.”

“We know that the pricing will be slightly higher initially, but we’re comfortable,” he said. “It’s a bit of a trade off… between much longer life battery; much lower degradation cycle.

In an ASX announcement published on Thursday, Australian Vanadium said a recent strategic analysis had revealed a strong financial case for VSUN home battery systems, and “significant points of difference” to its main competitors, including lead-acid and lithium-ion battery systems.

“Increasing (electricity) network charges, up 200 per cent in the last 10 years, are a constant source of financial concern,” the update says.

“High cycle, multi-hour energy storage systems at the domestic and multi-residential level will have a part to play in the market.

The company, which has previously focused on larger systems in the commercial and industrial sector, said that while a home VRB system would have a “slightly higher upfront capex” that some other models on the market, it offered “much stronger” economics, overall.

“When analysed over their lifespan of 20-plus years and with unlimited cycling, the systems show themselves to be a much stronger economical solution for the householder,” the company said.

VSUN says the base model 5kW/15kWh unit the company is considering would supply 5kW of power, with 15kWh of energy storage, providing 3 hours of power at constant load of 5kW.

“In typical Australian residential environments, this system will provide 4-8 hours of energy,” the company said.

And – in a nod to recent controversy over the setting of Australian safety standards for home battery installation – VSUN notes that the low fire risk of VRB battery systems offer another key point of sale.

“The low-risk operation and longer life of VRB for energy storage is also likely to appeal to many residential customers.”

The report also claims that costs of VRB systems are expected to decline rapidly as mass production of core components ramps up.

Algar says it the VRB systems’ core components – the battery ‘stack’ – that are where the costs lie.

“But we’re reaching a turning point,” he adds, “where these costs are going to come down,” aided in no small part by an increasing scale of production.

On this front, VSUN has already flagged setting up a local manufacturing facility, to develop a residential VRB product in Australia, to reduce the cost of transportation and the overall cost of batteries to customers.

In its statement this week, the company said it was further researching this possibility, and was engaged in discussions with a number of manufacturers of VRB systems about introducing their products to the Australian energy storage market.

The other VRB models the company expects to make available to market include 5kW/25kWh, 5kW/30kWh and 5kW/45kWh systems for small-scale commercial and telecoms applications.

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12 Comments
  1. Joe 2 years ago

    Wow!

  2. Roger Franklin 2 years ago

    Now we are talking a RESU battery that is sized to cope with long term home energy demands – particularly when we begin to see EV’s becoming wide spread. And to top it off – moving to be Australian made in the near future – Excellent.

    • nakedChimp 2 years ago

      Depending on the tech they use a lot of stuff happens.
      If they use membranes, the power rating will go down.
      The liquids will (if they are dissimilar) intermix slowly and the capacity will go down.
      Who knows what else.. but it will start from day one.
      20 years is probably the mark where the bench-mark-ratings have reached 80% of their original values.
      I’m sure most of it is recyclable and if designed right can be maintenance friendly for fast swaps/repairs.

      • Ron Horgan 2 years ago

        VSun claim a 20 year life.From what I have read the electrolyte is stable. However most problems come from precipitation blocking the membrane. It may be that the sulphuric /hydrochloric mixture keeps the vanadium in solution and enables higher vanadium concentrations
        hence using three times the vanadium per battery.
        I can imagine modular design for membrane and pump replacement and mass manufacture. The simplicity of having one cell in effect as opposed to Tesla with about 7600 cells for the 100Kwh car battery is attractive.

  3. David M 2 years ago

    When are they available?

  4. Ron Horgan 2 years ago

    I have recently read that that adding hydrochloric acid to the sulphuric acid vanadium electrolyte solution will increase the storage capacity by a factor of three.
    If this is possible, then the cost per Mwh might be reduced in proportion given that other costs remain the same. If $25,000 for 15 Mwh storage becomes about $9,000 it would be competitive with Tesla etc.
    Again as noted ,if the costs of increasing storage capacity are simply the cost of increasing tank size additional capacity may be obtained quite cheaply.
    Further as costs reduce with manufacturing scale and experience Vanadium storage may become the least cost option.

    • Ron Horgan 2 years ago

      As a further thought, the domestic market may require larger storage than now.
      For example with a Tesla 100 Kwh car , domestic capacity in excess of this, with additional panels for supply, could become a common configuration.

  5. dono 2 years ago

    I recall that way back in the Howard government days the CSIRO had developed a vanadium flow battery in its early form and being Howard the technology was sold to the Japanese.

    • Alastair Leith 2 years ago

      I recall Howard saying Australians had to be more like Americans and hang onto the IP and not see every invention off-shored like the proverbial Black-Box. Pity he didnt get the role govt plays in the USA in commercialising technologies.

  6. nakedChimp 2 years ago

    15kWh just 4-8 hours?

    On a side note, long term storage with VRBs needs space, lot’s of space.

    2-3 years ago a Li-Ion battery solution was 3-4 times denser.
    Not many people will have space for 4 500L fridges to store like 30 kWh.
    Especially if the competition does the same in just one of them for less money.

    We’ll have to wait and see I guess.

    • Alastair Leith 2 years ago

      Especially with who knows what around the corner in battery technology in ten years time, who wants a battery that will last 20+ years in a rapidly maturing market if you can spend half the money for 10+ years? As long as what you buy is 99% reconditionable/reusable/recyclable/repairable then 20+ years sound like security for commercial buyers with high costs of failure.

      Exciting to see other chemistries advancing though.

  7. Ian 2 years ago

    Why do the makers of flow batteries try to compete with battery cells? These intrinsically can have far higher storage capacity to power output. In the home situation you need plenty of storage but you don’t need much power out put. 5KW should be fine but 30 or 40KWH would allow better energy independence.To get this sort of storage capacity all that is needed are large electrolyte tanks.

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