This battery is currently the largest planned chemical battery in the world, and part of Chinese government investment meant to spur the technology.
The battery’s purposes are to provide power during peak hours of demand, enhance grid stability, and deliver juice during black-start conditions, in emergencies. The system is expected to peak-shave about 8% of Dalian’s load when it comes online in 2020.
The vertically-integrated battery manufacturer has deployed almost 30 similar projects, some attached to operating wind farms in the Liaoning province of China. The Rongke Giga Factory opened in early 2017 with a phase 1 capacity of 300MW/year. Phases 2 and 3 have goals of 1 and 3 GW/year of production.
The battery is part of a push from the China National Development and Reform Commission to develop and deploy energy storage technology.
The most recent program from the commission awarded competitor Pu Neng, among others, more vanadium battery projects.
Pu Neng, the leading provider of vanadium flow battery technology in the world, has been awarded a contract for a 3-megawatt (MW) 12-megawatt-hour (MWh) VRB as Phase 1 of the Hubei Zaoyang 10MW 40MWh Storage Integration Demonstration Project. This first phase will be installed in Zaoyang, Hubei and integrate a large solar photovoltaic system into the grid. Following this 10MW 40MWh project, there will be a larger, 100MW 500MWh, energy storage project that will be the cornerstone of a new smart-energy grid in Hubei Province.
Electrek said vanadium flow batteries already cost well below $500/kWh – and some hope to see $150/kWh by 2020. That’s a competitive product. And if utilities like it better because it scales easier and has a longer lifetime, renewables will benefit.
Indeed, grid scale vanadium battery deployment is making global inroads. Utility scaled batteries are in operation in the US (in the states of California, Washington, Hawaii), China, Singapore, and Japan. The last of these countries has had a 60 MWh vanadium battery in operation since 2015.
Lithium batteries’ parasitic load factor and scalability may hamper future growth. Vanadium batteries could start dominating the utility energy storage sector in 2018 due to their proven reliability and longer battery life.
While lithium and vanadium grid batteries are popular choices for large-scale energy storage applications, a GreeTechMedia article by Jason Deign (November 30, 2017) highlighted a potentially major problem for the lithium-ion battery industry.
Lazard’s latest levelized cost of storage (LCOS) report downgraded its estimates for lithium-ion round-trip efficiency to account for parasitic losses, GTM has discovered.
“The round-trip efficiencies for the electrical energy storage systems have been calculated as between 83 percent and 86 percent, falling to between 41 percent and 69 percent where parasitic loads are included,” the study concluded.”
Parasitic load refers to the cooling requirement for lithium batteries to operate efficiently and safely under the sun, in high temperatures.
Indeed, there are problems with lithium batteries other than the parasitic load factor. Lithium-ion or lead-acid also begin degrading after a couple of years. Their life is exhausted after about 1,000 charges. Those batteries become environmental hazard with little residual value. This is hardly compatible with the lifecycle of a wind farm, which can last 10 to 20 years. Scalability is also an issue as batteries require a delicate maintenance circuitry and must be daisy chained to grow beyond 50 MWh
James Conca described vanadium battery well in a Forbes article (December 13, 2016). The latest, greatest utility-scale battery storage technology to emerge on the commercial market is the vanadium redox battery, also known as the vanadium flow battery.
Vanadium flow batteries are nonflammable, compact, fully containerizable. They are reusable over semi-infinite cycles, discharge 100% of the stored energy, and do not degrade for more than 20 years.
Vanadium flow batteries use the multiple valence states of vanadium to store and release charges. Energy is stored by providing electrons making V(2+,3+), and energy is released by losing electrons to form V(4+,5+). Source: UET
Flow batteries consist of two tanks of liquid, which simply sit there until needed. When pumped into a reactor, the two solutions flow adjacent to each other past a membrane and generate a charge by moving electrons back and forth during charging and discharging.
This type of battery can offer almost unlimited energy capacity simply by using larger electrolyte storage tanks. It can be left completely discharged for long periods with no ill effects, making maintenance simpler than with other batteries. Because of these unique properties, the new V-flow batteries reduce the cost of storage to about 5¢/kWh. For utility-scale applications, V-flow battery outcompetes Li-ion and any other solid battery. They’re safer, more scalable, longer-lasting, and cheaper — less than half the per kWh cost.
Unlike solid batteries, like lithium-ion or lead-acid, which begin to degrade after a couple of years, V-flow batteries are fully reusable over semi-infinite cycles and do not degrade. This gives them a very, very long life.