Invinity: ‘Flow batteries suitable for opportunities lithium cannot reach’

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Avalon Battery units at a solar-plus-storage microgrid installed for a commercial customer in California, USA. Image: Avalon Battery.

While energy storage is currently “synonymous with lithium-ion”, there exist opportunities for flow batteries to target areas of the market lithium-ion “can’t provide in an economically justifiable way” ‘ the chief commercial officer (CCO) of Invinity Energy Systems has said.

Matt Harper, CCO of Invinity, the new ‘Transatlantic’ flow battery company created by the merger of UK-headquartered redT and US player Avalon Battery, both vanadium redox flow energy storage specialists, spoke this week with our sister site Solar Power Portal.

From the announcement of the intended merger in July 2019 to its launch last month has been an interesting road in itself. Strategic investor Bushveld Minerals apparently suggested to Avalon – where Matt Harper was president and chief product officer – that rather than “just putting money into the company and watching it grow,” Bushveld suggested combining the capabilities and broadly separate geographical market reach of the two companies to scale up towards commercial viability.

Harper said redT provides a “solutions engineering group” for downstream deployment, while the Avalon portion of the company focuses on the core technology of engineering cell stacks. In other words each had “different pieces of the puzzle” to bring to a merged entity.

‘A battery with the same degradation profile as a solar panel’

On the first inklings of the merger taking place in 2019, interviewed Matt Harper along with then-redT CEO Scott McGregor as well as Avalon customer NEXTracker’s CTO Alex Au. Alex Au was taking part as an enthusiastic third party voice, revealing that the prolific solar tracking company believed the durability of flow battery technology in combination with solar PV made it a viable option for creating four-hour duration, firm power plant – something equivalent to the “baseload” energy resource that it is often argued solar alone is not.

“The flow battery is an actual product that can really just get beat up and handle those cycles. If I come to you and say, 'hey, I just ran this test, I’ve had a really aggressive 0-100% to 50% to 0 to 25% to 0% and so on and I cannot show any degradation on the electrolyte and it’s been 20 years,' I’d have just told you that I have a battery that has a better degradation profile than a solar panel,” Alex Au said in that interview.

In this week’s conversation with Solar Power Portal reporter Alice Grundy, Invinity CCO Matt Harper said that at the moment, the biggest challenge the company faces is that in terms of market positioning, “for a lot of people out there right now energy storage is synonymous with lithium-ion batteries”.

“There's a tremendous amount of opportunity, we believe, in the market to take the foundation that lithium products have developed in the marketplace and expand from there into opportunities that lithium can't provide in an economically justifiable way. I'm thinking about, for example, long term energy shifting or storage applications that require many, many cycles per day in order to be economically viable,” Matt Harper said.

Read the full Q&A over at Solar Power Portal.


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