Thursday, May 10, 2012

Battery could give boost to clean energy

For all the clamor over solar and wind energy, making best use of its on-and-off nature is a problem yet to be solved. No one's come up with a viable way of storing the energy on a large scale.

Potential investors and energy engineers at an uptown Charlotte lunch meeting the other day heard about a potential solution: vanadium. The metal is used in high-strength steel and lightweight aircraft frames. It's also the focus of growing interest in 25-year-old technology called vanadium flow batteries.

The main appeal of these batteries is that they can easily be scaled, from small applications for a single household or ones large enough to serve whole grids.

American Vanadium Corp., one of two Canadian companies presenting (the other, Crosshair Energy Corp., mines uranium for nuclear fuel) at the Charlotte lunch, is developing what it says is the only vanadium mine in the United States.

The United States imports virtually all its vanadium from China and Russia. American Vanadium says its Nevada site will produce high-purity vanadium at low cost.

"Energy storage is the holy grail for renewables," said CEO Bill Radvak. "We'd like to be the company that creates battery storage." The company is seeking partners in the solar, wind and grid-scale battery manufacturing industries.

The Energy Department has invested millions of dollars in vanadium storage technology, including a demonstration project at a municipal coal-fired power plant in Painesville, Ohio. The world's largest vanadium flow battery will soon begin serving an onion-processing plant in California, storing energy when electric rates are lowest for use during peak demand times.

"Once permitting is in place, financing remains the main hurdle and an off-take agreement with a battery
manufacturer ... would do a lot to rebrand American Vanadium as cutting edge in alternative energy," said a research report Wednesday from natural resources research firm Hallgarten & Co.


Anonymous said...

Pretty cool!

Flow batteries have one drawback and it is the high percentage of parasitic burden caused by the pumps and such to run the battery.

An additional drawback is the energy conversion of DC to AC of the soalr or wind power to be sent to the battery from AC to DC and then when needed, converted from DC to AC to get it back on the grid. said...

Anything we can do to reduce our carbon footprint sounds good to me!

Energy management system said...

There's nothing arbitrary with making something cost closer to their real costs. The government picks up the tab and the people lose a lot of resources for the sake of fossil fuels. You think cities breathing in soot costs nothing? It's energy that's dug out of the ground that got trapped for various reasons, the idea that we deserve that energy is absurd

CoronaAdvances said...

We need clean energy for our children and future.

Anonymous said...

This could be a critical breakthrough. I hope there will be more study of it.

A couple of points, however:
1. Even without storage, solar power will reduce the use of coal while the sun is shining. Until we reach the point (and we are not close) that solar power will equal all of our coal generation capacity, storage is not that important.

2. In the mountainous western area of NC, the power companies store power in pumped storage hydro lakes (e.g. Dukes Jocasse and Bad Creek). Now they pump water uphill at night when they have excess capacity and generate power during the day when it is needed. That may be reversed, pumping when there is excess solar and generating when the sun isn't shining.

John Shaw