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Ontario gets Europe and North America’s biggest flow battery – for now

Ontario's other big storage projects include flywheel-based mechanical storage by Temporal Power. This and cover Image: Temporal Power.
The latest claimant to the crown of ‘largest flow battery installation in North America and Europe’ has emerged, with the award of a 2MW project in Canada to US manufacturer Vizn Energy.

Vizn’s zinc-iron redox flow battery will have 2MW/6MWh power and energy capabilities respectively and will be used to provide grid-balancing ancillary services. The battery was selected by US developer Hecate Energy, and will serve Ontario’s electrical grid, which is operated by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

Ontario has in place a “Long Term Energy Plan”. In a foreword to the document, published in late 2013, although committing the region to see nuclear as the “backbone” of supply, Ontario’s energy minister Bob Chiarelli promised to increase deployment of renewable energy and “explore flexible options such as storage technologies by applying balanced planning principles in a measured and sustainable way”.

The plan also contained a promise from the government to prioritise the removal of regulatory barriers that allow energy storage to compete in electricity markets. As such, the government committed to procuring an initial 50MW of storage, as well as initiating a competitive procurement process for renewable energy projects over 0.5MW that would give special consideration to proposals including energy storage.

Other big energy storage projects using modern technologies built or approved in Ontario include a 4MW lithium battery project by Canadian Solar and a 2MW mechanical storage flywheel developed by storage specialist start-up NRStor and built by Temporal Power.

There are of course various other large-scale battery projects of comparable size to Vizn’s latest announcement, but this is thought to be the largest in North America or Europe to rely on scalable flow battery technology. The previous holder of the title was a 1MW/4MWh system commissioned in June by UniEnergy Technologies, for utility company Avista Utilities in the city of Pullman, Washington.

In terms of competition between flow batteries and its rivals for providing large-scale storage, makers of flow batteries have been bullish on the fact that while lithium can come at a cheaper cost, the overall economics of flow batteries can, in theory, work better. In an interview with PV Tech Storage in June, Vizn Energy vice president of sales said the fact that his company’s devices can withstand more frequent and deeper cycling than lithium-ion was among the advantages.

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