Vanadium: Eskom to test utility-scale vanadium redox flow battery

Further to news announced in November last year, Bushveld Energy’s CEO has confirmed that the company will commission a utility-scale vanadium redox flow battery (VRB) for testing by Eskom in May 2018. The company, 84% owned by Bushveld Minerals, has been developing the battery with US-based technology partner, UniEnergy Technologies (UET).

Roskill view: Eskom, South Africa’s electricity public utility, will test the battery at its testing and development centre in Rosherville, Gauteng Province. The trial will be completed in 2019 according to news announced by Mining Weekly. The VRB will have a peak power of 120kW and peak energy storage of 450kWh.

VRBs have reached a stage of larger-scale commercialisation, as demonstrated by Rongke Power’s Dalian project. While the technology is becoming increasingly mature, it remains highly price-sensitive. Roskill also regards the availability of vanadium as a major constraint. Nevertheless, Roskill is optimistic about the outlook for VRBs but maintains more conservative estimates for the growth outlook of batteries and VRBs in energy storage than some of the estimates mentioned in industry news.

As an emerging technology, VRBs face considerable challenges and their successful commercialisation and larger-scale roll-out is not yet guaranteed, particularly as costs of competing technologies such as lithium-ion are decreasing, and have an advantage in terms of technological maturity and economies of scale, especially with respect to manufacturing.

One advantage of VRBs is that during their usage, the vanadium electrolyte is not spent, and can be regenerated, with little loss of vanadium. As the vanadium is not ‘consumed’ during the process, it has been proposed that it may be possible for the vanadium electrolyte to be ‘leased’ rather than purchased, which may improve the economics of the battery. As such, financing schemes and ‘electrolyte leasing’ could affect the outlook and uptake of VRBs in the future.

Roskill’s Vanadium: Global Industry, Markets and Outlook report was published in December 2017. Click here to download the brochure or sample pages or access further information.