Lithium leader S Korea funds 4MWh vanadium trial that targets doubled energy density


Protean/KORID’s V-KOR vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) stack. Image: Protean Energy.

With a view to creating a mass market design for vanadium flow batteries, Australia’s Protean Energy will deploy a 4MWh battery energy storage project in South Korea that will be researched over eight years of operation.

The ASX-listed company is involved both with vanadium resources as well as creating energy storage systems using vanadium pentoxide electrolyte, producing its own stack technology, V-KOR.

V-KOR ‘stacks’ individual vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) cells within a main system stack, unlike most vanadium flow battery designs in which the whole system is one large ‘cell’. Protean claims this lowers manufacturing costs and improves battery performance. The company connected its first project to the grid in Australia in August, a 100kWh system in Western Australia.

Protean, via its’ 50%-owned Korean subsidiary, KORID ENERGY, has been awarded AU$3 Million in funding towards a trial 1MW/4MWh system by the Korean Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP).

KETEP’s various areas of research and development include extensive focus on renewables and advancing energy technologies overall including the Energy Storage System (ESS) Technology Development Program.

The award to Protean is part of a wider AU$9 million project in this area.

The institute selected the provider through a competitive process for the project, which is anticipated to run for 96 months. It is hoped the trial will double the energy density of vanadium electrolyte, in turn reducing the physical footprint of Protean’s V-KOR battery.

South Korea is best known as home to some of the world’s biggest lithium battery suppliers including Samsung SDI, LG Chem and SK Innovation but this project aims to develop a mass production VRFB through lowering costs and improving manufacturing processes for Protean’s 25kW V-KOR stack.

Protean said KORID’s commercialisation strategy will include targeting the market for large-scale commercial and industrial (C&I) projects.

South Korean chemical company Chemtros will manufacture and supply electrolytes, while other partners are:

Electrolyte chemistry – UniPlus

Power conditioning equipment – EKOS

System development – H2

Sungkyunkwan University

Read Long Time Coming, a feature article published across two quarterly editions of PV Tech Power, looking at the tech, the ambitions and strategies of four flow battery makers, here on the site, or download it as a free PDF from ‘Resources’ to keep and carry (subscription details required).

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Rechargeable Flow Batteries: Solution to Cheap Renewable Energy Storage


imagesCAMR5BLR Einstein Judging a FishResearchers at MIT have developed a battery that could bring us reliable and cheap large scale energy storage. Based on flow battery technology, the researchers took out the costly membrane and created a battery that has a power density that is an order of magnitude higher than lithium-ion batteries and three times greater than other membrane-less systems.

 

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MIT reports, “The device stores and releases energy in a device that relies on a phenomenon called laminar flow: Two liquids are pumped through a channel, undergoing electrochemical reactions between two electrodes to store or release energy. Under the right conditions, the solutions stream through in parallel, with very little mixing. The flow naturally separates the liquids, without requiring a costly membrane.”

The reactants used are liquid bromine and hydrogen fuel, which is cheap, but also has had issues with breaking down the membrane in other flow batteries. By taking out the membrane they were able to speed up energy storage and extend the life of the battery.

“Here, we have a system where performance is just as good as previous systems, and now we don’t have to worry about issues of the membrane,” says Martin Bazant, a professor of chemical engineering. “This is something that can be a quantum leap in energy-storage technology.”

As we bring more renewable technologies like wind and solar into the grid, affordable and reliable energy storage is increasingly important. While solar and wind energy output varies based on weather conditions, large scale energy storage systems can smooth out the power delivery from those technologies by storing any excess energy when it’s produced and using it when the output is lower or demand is higher.

Energy storage is the key enabling technology for renewables,” says Cullen Buie, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “Until you can make [energy storage] reliable and affordable, it doesn’t matter how cheap and efficient you can make wind and solar, because our grid can’t handle the intermittency of those renewable technologies.”

MIT says, “Braff built a prototype of a flow battery with a small channel between two electrodes. Through the channel, the group pumped liquid bromine over a graphite cathode and hydrobromic acid under a porous anode. At the same time, the researchers flowed hydrogen gas across the anode. The resulting reactions between hydrogen and bromine produced energy in the form of free electrons that can be discharged or released.

The researchers were also able to reverse the chemical reaction within the channel to capture electrons and store energy — a first for any membraneless design.”

Now that the team’s experiments have lined up with their computer models, they’re focused on scaling up the technology and seeing how it performs. They predict that the technology will be able to produce energy costing as little as $100/kWh, which would make it the cheapest large scale energy storage system built yet.