Renewable energy supplies such as wind and solar continue to emerge while meeting an increasing percentage of today's electricity demands.1
But yesterday's grid was never designed to handle the intermittent power supplies these clean energies represent; simply put, we can't expect the wind to blow or the sun to shine based on when or how much electricity we need.
The easiest and most cost-effective solution is to store whatever renewable energy is created, and then release it to the grid at the optimum time to avoid both shortfalls and overloads.
Fortunately, the unique properties of vanadium make this, and other critical energy storage solutions, possible through Vanadium Flow Batteries (VFBs). As VFB solutions continue to be developed and implemented, new demand for vanadium is expected to raise the overall consumption of this critical element.2
The Type of Storage Needed
Multiple energy storage market segments exist – load leveling, peak shaving, uninterruptable power supply (UPS) for hospitals and nuclear reactors, remote/off-grid power systems, and more – each with its own set of requirements.3
At a high level, however, some common requirements for mass energy storage batteries include:
- ability to scale large enough to pull a given power supply through a rough patch
- ability to be charged and discharged repeatedly over a very long period
- ability to release large amounts of electricity rapidly
Unlike lithium-ion batteries, VFBs meet all these requirements. By combining VFBs with renewables such as wind and solar, the goal is to convert an inherently intermittent energy supply into what the industry refers to as 'dispatchable' electricity.
Dispatchable electricity – such as that from fossil fuel or nuclear power plants – can be regulated from moment to moment, allowing the grid to balance the amount of energy being put into the wires with the demand arising from consumers.4
– Imre Gyuk, manager of energy systems research
at the U.S. Department of Energy 4
1. U.S. Energy Information Administration website, Jan. 17, 2011
2. Vanadium: The Supercharger. Byron Capital Markets report, Nov. 12, 2009
3. Vanadium Market Fundamentals and Implications (Terry Perles/TTP Squared, Inc. presentation), Nov. 16, 2010
4. The Element That Could Change the World. Discover Magazine, Sept. 29, 2008