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In it for the duration – the International Flow Battery Forum

Flow batteries are quickly finding their feet in long duration applications, including solar-linked-microgrids. Image: Imergy.
Ask about the economics of electricity storage, and soon the discussion will revolve around two key parameters, the power rating and the energy storage content.  It will be the megawatts that deliver the power, but the energy storage content that determines how long the power can be provided.  Is that important? Well of course it is!

Some applications for storage can work very well with a short duration storage system, but in the real world, it will be necessary to have several hours of storage capacity if we are to gain the benefit of moving energy from one time of the day to another. Widespread deployment of lithium ion batteries, especially to provide frequency response services, has demonstrated the reality of battery energy storage, but where do we go next?  For that, we must enter the world of long duration energy storage.

One key long duration energy storage technology is the flow battery. First proposed by Charles Renard in 1884 and used on his airship, flow battery technology has come a long way in the past ten years.  Trienergie installed a flow battery on a farm in Vierakker in the Netherlands in 2010 to maximise the self-consumption of PV power.  The flow battery, made by Cellstrom, now part of Gildemeister energy storage GmbH, has provided useful results, both technically and economically.  More recently, other projects include a 15MW, 60MWh flow battery installed by Sumitomo Electric Industries for Hokkaido Power Company in Japan and a 5MW, 10MWh battery installed by Rongke Power in China.

The need for long duration energy storage continues to grow, and that is why 200 delegates from across the world are gathering, 7-9 June in Karlsruhe, Germany, to discuss the development of flow batteries and how this industry will impact on the electricity storage market.  While many will be interested in the fine technical aspects of electrolyte management, others will be studying the need for adequate supply of raw materials, the need for an effective manufacturing strategy and most importantly, why and how the industry can market itself to its customers. 

An international gathering for an international market

Bruce Eberzy of Redflow, a manufacturer of packaged flow battery systems believes that partnerships between manufacturers and developers are essential if the industry is to grow in an increasingly competitive market space. Redflow is preparing to take on the world, and is using the partnership model to build its customer base internationally. 

The international theme is picked up by other manufacturers, UET, based in Washington, USA has a subsidiary, Vanadis Power in Germany, where they have delivered a number of projects based on their fully containerised advanced vanadium electrolyte system. RedT, a British company, is not only building its first large scale battery on a Scottish Island, but it has secured projects elsewhere in Britain, as well as in Portugal and Germany. While these projects could be considered market seeding exercises, that underestimates the impact that flow batteries are making worldwide. Take for example Vizn, who having established manufacturing with Jabil, are delivering their product range into applications from microgrids to industrial applications, or Enstorage, active in Europe and America with a hydrogen bromide system. 

Flow battery manufacturers face tough competition, not necessarily amongst themselves, but from an energy industry that has not yet seen the value of long duration energy storage.  There is a clear benefit for long duration storage, and flow batteries are a low cost way to achieve that. Can the flow battery industry deliver? I believe it can.

The International Flow Battery Forum takes place in Karlsruhe, 7 – 9 June 2016.

This chart from manufacturer redT shows a schematic of battery applications. Image: redT.

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