Claim: Expensive Vanadium Flow Batteries will Make Renewable Energy Viable

Vanadium is expensive, though the price fluctuates wildly – currently $11K to $15K / tonne of Vanadium Pentoxide. But advocates claim Vanadium flow batteries have the potential to solve the intermittency of renewable energy.

StorEn Tech Provides First Of Its Kind Vanadium Flow Battery To Australia

December 19th, 2020

Australia has taken another step toward greater use of battery energy storage thanks to a new 30 kWh StorEn vanadium flow battery that was installed for use in a renewable hydrogen plant at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The battery, which was provided through a partnership between StorEn Technologies Inc.* and Multicom Resources Limited, will allow researchers in Australia to develop safety standards for the future use of vanadium flow batteries as well as  helping to bring the technology to Australia.

The many features of vanadium flow batteries could make them ideal for grid-scale energy storage, which is something that Australia is looking to expand in the coming years. 

Peter Talbot, a professor at QUT, said about the new battery — “vanadium flow battery technology promises safe, affordable and long-lasting energy storage for both households and industry.”

Vanadium has an energy density of 15-25Wh / L, so to provide backup for a 1GW renewable plant for a day, you would need:

24 x 1GW = 24GWh of storage, or 24,000,000,000 Wh / 25 Wh / L = 960 million litres of Vanadium electrolyte – say a couple of billion dollars worth.

An expensive battery, but not an unimaginable expense.

Of course a single day of backup capacity is not nearly enough. Wind droughts can last weeks or even months. So if your goal is to match the reliability of fossil fuel generators, you are going to need a lot more than a couple of billion dollars worth of electrolyte.

You might find that the electrolyte gets a lot more expensive over the course of negotiating your battery purchase agreement. The global Vanadium market is small, around 80,000 tons per year. So an attempt to purchase several hundred thousand tons of Vanadium to build a 1GW battery would have a substantial impact on global prices.

Assuming you somehow obtain enough Vanadium for your battery, your Vanadium Flow battery electrolyte cannot be allowed to overheat or freeze. So your new battery complex will need substantial air-conditioning, which will eat into its storage efficiency.

Vanadium has other important industrial uses. Vanadium is used as a steel additive to produce high strength structural steel, and is also an important component of military grade steel alloys, and critical steel components subject to high stress, such as automobile crank shafts. China is a substantial buyer in the global Vanadium market.

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December 21, 2020 10:13 pm

No practical hurdle or expense is any sort of barrier or hindrance to the true believers in the Global Warming -Climate Change cult. They know that mere pursuit of their goals is sufficient, in itself, to sweep aside all the difficulties that reality can generate.

Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
December 21, 2020 11:14 pm

An interesting thought is consider the environment damage of that much vanadium being spilled in a rupture or accident 🙂

December 21, 2020 11:06 pm

The calculation is naive it’s a flow battery the ions have to move AKA they have real world speed limits. So you have to section them up as small “cells or units” and the cost increases exponentially as the unit blocks have to at some point be paralleled up.

December 21, 2020 11:13 pm

<i>”You might find that the electrolyte gets a lot more expensive over the course of negotiating your battery purchase agreement.”</i>

Vnadium is not a rare element. It is rated <a href=””>here</a> as 20th in the Earth’s crust, ahead of chromium, nickel, zinc and copper. The market is presently thin, because of limited need. But there are a <a href=””>range</a> of potential sources.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
December 21, 2020 11:21 pm

It won’t in the end be cheaper than say surrounding a bay with a land barrier, and pumping it dry in the day with solar power and letting it fill again at night…shame about the marine life of course, but then the whole point of renewable energy is to make a massive impact on the environment, isn’t it?

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Leo Smith
December 22, 2020 7:41 am

Vanadium very rarely occurs in stand alone deposits. It is essentially all byproduct to other types of deposits. Its tenor is highest in magnetite-titanium ores and Uranium ores. It occurs with chromite – relatively thin layers in the Bushvelt Complex where the prime product is the platinum group metals. It also is in coal, petroleum and bauxite.

Don’t use crustal abundance as a guide!! Geochemically, the elements are classified under three categories: 1) lithophile – chemically associated with the major rock-forming elements of the crust. 2) chalcophile- elements that tend to form sulphides which are immiscible in the crust (i.e. form veins and magmatic, and volcanic metal sulphide segregations) and 3) siderophile elements – chemically ‘iron loving’ elements.

Vanadium is listed as a lithophile element (it does also have siderophile tendency) which means it easily is widely associated with and diluted in the mass of common crustal rock-forming elements, thereby having a low tendancy to form concentrations.

Look up crustal abundance and you will be surprized to see rare earths, lithium, vanadium tungsten, gallium, scandium and other ‘uncommon’ metals notably much more abundant than garden variety lead which is immiscible in crustal rocks but readily concentrates by reacting with abundant sulphur and filling fractures and forming massive sulphide segregations with its friends copper and zinc often measured in millions to billions of ton ore bodies.

I love the USGS and I love my professors but I don’t go to them for advice on resources and mineral economics when real dollars are involved. I’m here to say that Vanadium has basically already struck out for use on the scale we are talking about

Ron Long
Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 22, 2020 4:19 am

Right about the volatile vanadium market, Eric. In Argentina I drilled several fences of shallow holes across a large redbed mineralized zone with uranium, copper, and vanadium. Turns out we discovered a vanadium-dominated deposit. If the looney tunes crowd goes forward with the vanadium battery nonsense, save up some of your lunch money and come on down and we can go and stand on the deposit (maybe even eat some asado and drink malbec?).

Reply to  Nick Stokes
December 22, 2020 7:44 am

Vanadium is not a rare element…but that is completely beside the point. Commercial viability is not governed by availability, but by the cost of mining it, and, in the case of Vanadium, the cost of processing the Vanadium bearing raw material into a usable material. Vanadium processing is very complicated and expensive (think ion exchange).
Ironically, almost all Vanadium production in the US is from fossil fuels…i.e. from residues left from the burning/refining of oil, tar sands, coal (historically).
Most production in China and Russia is from slags generated in the production of steel from Vanadium-bearing iron ore…such steel production being a significant CO2 generator! (doubly ironic!).

Reply to  Nick Stokes
December 22, 2020 7:57 am

And Nick demonstrates yet another subject about which he knows nothing, but is willing to pontificate on.
If vanadium was easy to get, then a price of $15K per ton would have providers falling over each other to mine and sell the stuff.

John Endicott
Reply to  Nick Stokes
December 22, 2020 9:04 am

Rarity isn’t the only (or even the most important factor) in determining how expensive it would be to produce the quantity required. Something can be abundant yet expensive to mine/refine into a usable end product, such is the case with Vanadium.

Reply to  John Endicott
December 22, 2020 1:45 pm

It may be expensive to mine etc. The point is that if it has high crustal abundance, more demand from a new use is not likely to critically reduce amount available.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
December 22, 2020 6:52 pm

I’m beginning to wonder if Nick is even half as smart as he thinks he is.

As has been pointed out to you several times, it’s not the amount in the crust that determines price. It’s how much effort has to be gone through to extract it. Beyond that, even you should be able to understand, it’s not the average amount of a material in the crust that matters, it’s the total amount that is recoverable that matters.

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  Nick Stokes
December 22, 2020 6:55 pm

Cost is a sign of energy usage – high cost to refine means a lot of energy went into it. This is why aluminum costs more than steel although they are both abundant. The point is that mining it may do more damage to the environment than just using reliable power sources.

Gunga Din
Reply to  John Endicott
December 23, 2020 6:37 am

At the very tip of the Washington Monument (If the usual suspects haven’t torn it down yet.) is a pyramid of aluminum.
Because at time it was built it was more valuable than gold.
Because of the expense to mine and refine it.
Cheaper methods (that use a lot of energy) came along and now we wrap our leftovers in it.
Until a cheaper way to mine and refine vanadium these batteries to back the grid are just another part of the green dream.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
December 22, 2020 12:34 pm

Just so you know, citing crustal abundance is the easy way to spot armchair experts that don’t know what they’re talking about.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
December 22, 2020 12:40 pm

Efficiency in spotting BS is the name of the game in the internet era. There should be a rating system and ‘crustal abundance’ would get a high efficiency score.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
December 22, 2020 12:58 pm

Hydrogen is a very plentiful atom on this planet. Every molecule of water has two of them.
Therefor hydrogen ought to be dirt cheap, right?

Last edited 2 years ago by MarkW
Reply to  MarkW
December 22, 2020 8:26 pm

Oxygen is the most abundant element, by far, in the Earth’s crust. Nearly half of it (~45%).

So, the next dust storm that comes by, we should all go out and breathe deep! According to Stokes Science, that is. (He’s branching out from Stokes Mathematics now.)

Gunga Din
Reply to  ResourceGuy
December 23, 2020 6:42 am

And why stop at crustal abundance?
How many minerals are dissolved in the oceans or settled out on the oceans’ floor?
There’s plenty of everything everywhere! /sarc

Michael S. Kelly
December 21, 2020 11:15 pm

This is an intriguing battery technology, where the oxidation/reduction reaction is between two oxidation states of the same element! That’s interesting by itself, though it isn’t encouraging from an energetics point of view. The energy associated with chemical reactions is due to the change in potential of electron states associated with oxidizers and fuels. One of the most energetic such pair is oxygen and hydrogen, with about a 2.6 electron volt energy release per reaction. Vanadium has several oxidization states, and can thus serve as its own “fuel” and “oxidizer.” But the potential differences are not that great, and given vanadium’s atomic mass (50.94), the specific reaction energy is quite a bit smaller than for oxygen/hydrogen. The cell does have some advantages, but for grid scale, its specific energy is far too low to make it practical.

Once again, I thought this ( started strong, but then petered out. Liquid metal reusable cells certainly seem more practical than the vanadium batteries, but apparently they are also a pipe dream.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
December 21, 2020 11:54 pm

I covered all this in late 2014 ebook Blowing Smoke. See essay California Dreaming. Not much has changed since.

michael hart
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
December 22, 2020 12:36 am

Yes. Further to my first comment above, if one is going to build grid-scale energy storage facilities in this way then they are presumably going to be gargantuan multiples of Olympic swimming pools in volume. So why not just electrolyze water and store the hydrogen on site to regenerate electricity via a catalytic fuel cell? No need to build a hydrogen infrastructure because it is produced at the same site where it is consumed. Electricity does the energy transport. Scare stories about Zeppelins going down in flames are irrelevant if you don’t have anybody living on the site. More dangerous things than hydrogen are managed today.

I don’t know what the current electro-catalytic efficiency is for the round trip of water-to-hydrogen-to-water again, but I would guess it is above 80%. When so much wind-generated electricity is, and would be, effectively thrown away on a vast scale, then this looks pretty attractive to me.

Reply to  michael hart
December 22, 2020 8:08 am

You might guess 80%, but you would be to optimistic by a fair margin. You also have to include the efficiencies of the AC/DC and DC/AC conversions in your calculations.
You also have to include the cost of compressing the hydrogen so that it can be stored, and no, you don’t get most of that energy back when the compressed gas is released.

Last edited 2 years ago by MarkW
It doesn't add up...
Reply to  michael hart
December 26, 2020 5:17 am

Actually, going from electricity via hydrogen back to electricity based on intermittent renewables has more like a 25-30% round trip efficiency. That’s why there are proposals instead to use the hydrogen as a methane replacement. But the intermittent electrolysis route makes energy that is roughly 10 times the cost of methane, even if having made it, it burns reasonably efficiently. The costs associated with dealing with the hydrogen are of course not to be trivialised either. It is in vogue simply because greenies now recognise that batteries will never solve the intermittency problems at economic cost. In theory, hydrogen might have the physical potential if you don’t mind the cost, inefficiency and safety risks.

December 22, 2020 12:10 am

These people are insane. Logic and proportion and normal criteria for investment and planning decisions gone out the window.

We have to accept that no amount of rational assessment or argument is going to put a stop to these constant crazy schemes.

There would be an interesting post for Watts if anyone can find the time to take up the task: not simply a list of all the global warming hysterical scary predictions that have failed to materialize.

Also a list of all the no-hoper hare-brained schemes that have been floated as viable ways of reducing CO2 emissions. As a for instance, the idea that everyone should turn off standby appliances. Or the insane European idea that we should all move to diesel cars, which failed to reduce emissions and increased air pollution. Or maybe the latest British idea, installing 600,000 air source heat pumps a year. Wind and solar, also. What country has ever reduced its emissions by installing them?

Who thinks all these mad ideas up? Media Studies graduates? And why on earth do serious engineers get caught up in trying to make these insanities work?

Reply to  michel
December 22, 2020 1:19 am

Because the money is good?

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  Keitho
December 22, 2020 8:33 am

Yep, boondoggles are good for the bank account. The new Energy Department Secretary Granholm funded a lot of them at the expense of MI tax payers; all failed. Can’t wait to see what she can do with the unlimited Monopoly money of the federal Treasury.

Jan de Jong
Reply to  Keitho
December 22, 2020 8:40 am

And useless projects can be very technically interesting…

Wil Pretty
Reply to  michel
December 22, 2020 1:31 am

The UK government is hosting the COP26 Climate talkfest this year. It has to “talk the talk” and be seen to be “doing something”.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  michel
December 26, 2020 5:47 am

Well, actually diesel cars did help reduce emissions, especially once add-ons like particulate filters and AdBlue systems were added: diesel vehicles are now cleaner than petrol ones. It’s just that the reductions were greatest in test lab conditions, where engines could be optimised, and not quite as good in real life driving conditions. But overall, emissions have fallen rapidly. Roadside particulates emissions are now dominated by tyre, break and roadway wear (which will likely get worse as heavy EVs increase in number), and traffic NO2 emissions are now minor except in the most congested conditions, dominated by methane combustion in domestic boilers.

Erik Magnuson
December 22, 2020 12:12 am

Few battery chemistries can beat sodium sulfur for the price and availability of the active ingredients. Making Na-S batteries work reliably is another story.

Vanadium flow batteries have been hyped for more than a decade and there’s yet ri be a significant commercial installation.

michael hart
December 22, 2020 12:14 am

I’m all for using these things if they can be made to work economically. But Vanadium-based electrolyte in flow cells has been around as a concept for grid-scale storage for many years now, so what has changed? The thermodynamics of the chemistry almost certainly hasn’t.

December 22, 2020 12:16 am

All these articles about how to make unreliable energy reliable using batteries leads me back to the question why are we not investing in nuclear power? Where is the innovation?

I listened to an old Power Hour podcast from Alex Epstein and he wondered if government control of nuclear has held back innovation in nuclear power. He said after the Navy figured out how to power submarines innovation has basically stopped.

Reply to  Derg
December 22, 2020 1:38 am
Reply to  commieBob
December 22, 2020 2:45 am

Thanks Commie. We will see. All I see are more stupid windmills going up and land cleared for even more stupid of solar panels 😔

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Derg
December 22, 2020 5:50 pm

Agreed, too many idiots in the Trudeau govt mouthing the net zero idiocy, dead set against hydro, natural gas, nuclear, anything that might actually work to produce usable energy instead of govt supplied paychecks

Curious George
Reply to  commieBob
December 22, 2020 8:04 am

ANEEL is a new thorium-based fuel for existing CANDU reactors. It promises to increase fuel efficiency dramatically.

Reply to  Derg
December 22, 2020 7:13 am

Interestingly, the innovation continues, but not in the USA. A consortium of Thorium MSR advocates has designed, and apparently is building a modular system prototype in Indonesia, using factory techniques at shipyards. The self contained barges can be towed to estuaries near the towns that need the power and hooked up.

John Endicott
Reply to  Kpar
December 22, 2020 9:07 am

As with most vaporware, I’ll believe it when I see it in commercial operation.

Reply to  John Endicott
December 22, 2020 7:10 pm

I’ve followed a few promising energy technologies over the years. They were all technically feasible and made it past the pilot plant stage. The place they came a cropper was early commercialization. So, even if it isn’t vaporware, its success is by no means assured.

John Endicott
Reply to  commieBob
December 23, 2020 1:55 am

Such technologies *are* vaporware. Vaporware doesn’t mean “not technically feasible” it means “promised but never actually manufactured/produced” (IE never commercially available). Lots of vaporware products are actually feasible but for whatever reason never materialize commercially.

Reply to  John Endicott
December 23, 2020 8:58 am

It depends on your definition. In its vile form it’s a deliberate strategy.

Reply to  John Endicott
December 23, 2020 11:16 am

In the electronics/software world, vaporware is a term meaning not in production yet. It’s a fairly common strategy for companies to start talking about products that they are working on, in an effort to keep their customers from buying someone else’s products.

Mike Lowe
December 22, 2020 12:37 am

I find it interesting that the alarmist supporters of unreliable “renewables” are always talking about the new development in battery technology which is “just around the corner”. Considering how large the rewards would be for such a success, and how it would immediately be adopted by the followers of Saint Greta, I think it most unlikely that such a development will occur. So, for this one, I’ll believe it when I see it!

Peta of Newark
December 22, 2020 1:31 am

It’s a feature of our Modern Times and if you think (dangerous) is at odds with ‘most everything inside Climate Science and modern politics.

So, The Little Boy in *me* would say that the construction of a safety test installation is brilliant. It’s *exactly* the sort of thing I would do and have done all my life. Rather amazing I’m still here. if you think too much
But that is what’s happening here – it is the Show Me Pictures or It Didn’t Happen mentality

But, what about the Settled Science, Peer Reviewing, Consensus Consensus that is supposed to exist inside the science that promoting this pile. Even before we get onto the cloud cuckoo land of socialism.

Thus, why don’t they take heed of all the previous experiments there’ll have been showing that these piles (haha geddit?) are inefficient and potentially very dirty
Plus, expensive to start with and once Government mandates them, the sky’s the limit for what they’ll cost.

Again, that is why I say ‘We’re Doomed’ as a civilisation. The very people demanding compliance, trust and everybody be nice to each other, patently don’t exercise those traits even amongst themselves.They keep re-inventing the wheel – at huuuuge cost to somebody.

Nobody Trusts Anybody Any More, especially the peeps demanding almost exactly that.

Just an aside and from the little renewable energy forum I watch.
They’ve discussed batteries endlessly.
a) Flow batteries = too big expensive and inefficient. Possibly very dirty

b) Lead acids for stationary high grunt situations, e.g. Off grid living. High maintenance though. Do Not install a large pile within 50yards of your house

c) Lithium. The battery of choice for thrusting young things, twice the price of lead- acid even in the UK, where battery prices are just insane. UK prices are twice the price of continental Europe *AND* Health & Safety Concerns mean nobody wants to ship them around. Unless at epic cost
Is installing Lithiums in your home a Good Idea? Even LAs make good bombs.
Complicated technically

d) Nickel Iron. Very heavy weight-wise, OK for stationary installs. Their favoured battery if it could be made more efficient. Completely bomb-proof, very long life (decades+) even with deep cycling.
But high internal leakage and poor charging efficiency

Last edited 2 years ago by Peta of Newark
December 22, 2020 1:52 am

One of the changes in thinking is that a grid scale batteries are driven more by life cycle cost that specific energy.

It appears that sulphur flow batteries are now getting interest because the cost of materials work out at $1/kWh. Proponents are forecasting capital cost of $20/kWh.

This is not much more than an idea at MIT so maybe 10years before something is working and 20 years before it looks a game changer.

Even low density electrochemical storage is orders of magnitude better than pumped storage and can be located conveniently near existing infrastructure.

December 22, 2020 2:01 am

I posted this yesterday but it is worth another look on a grid battery page.

In just 2 weeks this year, the battery at the Hornsdale Power Reserve went close to recovering its full capital cost primarily through FCAS payments. This is how important battery storage is in a network with high penetration of WDGs and high cost gas plant as rotating inertia.

The two week period followed the disconnection of the SA network from the rest of the NEM in the first quarter 2020. The fast response of the battery for stability purpose was essentially priceless for that period. It effectively doubled the wholesale price for the period but is levied outside the settlement process so does not show up in the wholesale price.

Screen Shot 2020-12-21 at 12.21.04 pm.png
Steve Case
Reply to  RickWill
December 22, 2020 2:47 am

FCAS, WDGs, SA, NEM I just don’t feel like looking them all up.

Reply to  Steve Case
December 22, 2020 4:28 pm

The fact that you do not know what these acronyms mean highlights the general lack of knowledge of the costs imposed by intermittent power generators on an electrical network.

Reply to  Steve Case
December 22, 2020 7:50 pm

Rick is recommending that we all need to look behind the curtain of renewables costings and on-charging to consumers.

Or, you can just cut to the chase and call BULLSHIT! about the way renewables costings omit the costs of reliable backup generation.

December 22, 2020 5:22 am

Would like to see a comparison of costs with cryogenic storage systems.

Bro. Steve
December 22, 2020 5:36 am

In order to provide genuine grid-sized storage, electro-chemical batteries will need a technological advance akin to changing from hot air balloons to jets. It might happen someday, but the idea that could make it happen hasn’t occurred to anybody yet.

With apologies for being a bit repetitive about this comment, the power being delivered by the grid is just far, far beyond the imagination of the people hawking this battery stuff. They’re bringing rolls of pennies to pay off the national debt. They’re bringing a shopping cart load of AA batteries to pull a freight train. They’re putting a bass boat trolling motor on an aircraft carrier. You get the idea. They’re just not working in the real world.

December 22, 2020 6:22 am

And then there is always the problem of how to both generate grid power and simultaneously recharge discharged storage batteries. Fossil fuel back up required, which makes you wonder why they don’t just toss the batteries altogether.

Reply to  ColMosby
December 22, 2020 8:17 am

The only possible benefit of grid scale batteries is that it allows you to keep your fossil fuel generators in warm standby instead of hot standby.

The idea that we could build enough batteries to provide enough standby power for a windless, heavily overcast week is beyond ludicrous.

Curious George
December 22, 2020 7:48 am

30 kWh grid battery? That would be nice for my home grid.
But it is not for my home grid, it is for a “renewable hydrogen plant”, which is itself a storage of excess unreliable energy. They want it to be absolutely foolproof. But nothing is foolproof, because fools are so ingenious. A two-level storage …

December 22, 2020 7:55 am

The solution to this problem is obvious, we need to reduce world wide demand for electricity.
99% should be a good start.

Reply to  MarkW
December 22, 2020 11:54 am

I am a tad surprised at you.
Surely the reduction, at first, should be 97%.


December 22, 2020 8:18 am

High doses of vanadium are toxic to humans, but scientists think we may need the element in very small amounts for normal bone growth. Vanadium can be found in trace amounts in many types of food, including mushrooms, black pepper, parsley, dill weed, shellfish, beer, wine and grain. When we eat a balanced diet, we consume just 0.01 milligrams per day, and this is more than enough for our biological needs, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.

December 22, 2020 8:38 am

An expensive battery, but not an unimaginable expense.

Let’s put things into perspective:

An all ‘green’ US will require at least 1500 GW of power generation (currently it is 1200, with out including transportation and electric heat).

5 days of battery storage will require 180000GWH of storage.

At a ‘couple of billion dollars worth’ worth of vanadium for 24GWH, this represents $15 trillion, or 2/3 of US annual GDP just for the vanadium.

I am afraid it is in unimaginable expense!

willem post
December 22, 2020 9:10 am

Li-ion batteries add about 20 c/kWh to the cost of electricity passing through them.

If that electricity is solar, it likely was charged to the utility rate base at about 11 to 22 c/kWh, in NEW ENGLAND, elsewhere it likely is less because of better solar conditions.

How that is economical is a complete mystery to me.


Solar systems have their highest electricity production around midday.

The surge of production from near-zero to maximum causes disturbances on the grid, aka DUCK-curves.

Southern California and Southern Germany, with high MW of installed solar, have major DUCK-curves on sunny days.

At present, mostly gas-fired, combined-cycle gas-turbine (CCGT) power plants are used to counteract the DUCK-curve surges. 

In California, the shutdowns of 15 of 19 coastal, CCGT plants led to rolling blackouts during a multi-day heat wave covering a large area of the US southwest, followed by forest fires. 

Climate fighters want to shut down the CCGT plants and replace them with utility-scale battery systems.

Climate fighters accused the plants of heating the Pacific Ocean!

Beta Blocker
December 22, 2020 9:19 am

Some number of proposals have been floated over the last forty years to cover one-quarter of the surface area of the Canadian province of Ontario with hydropower / hydropeaking water storage reservoirs.

As the argument goes for doing this, these water storage impoundments would serve Ontario’s own growing energy needs while also serving the lucrative power export market to the United States.

An Analysis of the Threat of Ontario’s Hydroelectric Dams on its River Ecosystems By Nicholas Scrivens, Center for Development and Strategy, 2016

To keep the lights on in the US Northeast after eliminating coal, natural gas, and nuclear from the region’s energy mix, which policy would inflict more ecological damage: a) covering one quarter of Ontario with with energy storage reservoirs, or b) covering one quarter of the US Northeast with wind mills, solar farms, and grid-scale battery facilities?

December 22, 2020 9:50 am

Funny how things go, the oil sands of Athabasca are rich in vanadium. Our company once worked out that a byproduct extraction plant would reduce the world price and make itself uneconomic, but that was before vanadium batteries. Plus all the acid needed to hold vanadium in solution is a good use of those piles of yellow Sulphur that oil and gas extraction tends to build up…..

Kevin kilty
December 22, 2020 10:11 am

A leading source of vanadium is…drum roll…. petroleum refining. Most comes from South Africa as a by product of magnetite mined for iron. I suppose the typical deposit has a few percent V2O5. Arriving at one million cubic meters of electrolyte is going to require a lot of moving other materials.

Gary Pearse
December 22, 2020 10:31 am

There is nothing that shouts No Go louder than when you take a project tech that has failed miserably and invest your dreams, hopes and money on an add-on fix. Shoring up something that doesn’t work with a technology that you think will soon be developed means that no real engineers were inconvenienced in this fool’s errand.

Robert of Texas
December 22, 2020 10:42 am

I just love the way the greenies think (oops, that an oxymoron).

>Build wind turbines that take up lots of land cutting away forests if necessary. Build wind turbines uses tons of cement and releases tons of carbon it its production, all to reduce releasing carbon, but killing birds and bats by the thousands but who needs those? Then build new power distribution systems to get this rural power to where it is needed no matter how bad the eye-sore. Then build systems to turn DC power into AC power so you can actually use the power. Then build huge systems of batteries based on costly elements and components to store energy when the wind is not blowing, but only for so long and then blackouts occur. Then force everyone to have “smart meters” so the we can see when and how they use power, and then raise the cost of power when they most want it, or better yet ration electricity.<

Or invest in advanced nuclear power – stable highly reliable very energy dense base power and ignore all of the above. Produce as much cheap electrical energy as anyone wants day-in and day-out.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
December 22, 2020 4:09 pm

Putting it in those terms makes it obvious which option governments will choose. It won’t be nuclear.

D. Anderson
December 22, 2020 10:44 am

Vanadium is why the Model Ts didn’t all rust away and why there are still millions out there,

Last edited 2 years ago by D. Anderson
December 22, 2020 10:49 am

new 30 kWh StorEn vanadium flow battery that was installed for use in a renewable hydrogen plant

A long-winded phrase simply meaning a boondoggle.

John Dueker
December 22, 2020 11:14 am

I have experience with vanadium and its a great poison.

So how do you maintain the system with a couple billion dollars worth of vanadium?

Logically build a nuke and avoid the problem.

December 22, 2020 12:32 pm

But hey, it beats rhodium prices for enviro purposes.

Emissions Clampdown Sends Rhodium Prices on Explosive RallyNovember 30, 2020

December 22, 2020 2:52 pm

The reason that Capitalism always out performs socialism is that people suddenly get very shrewd when it is their own money.

John Endicott
Reply to  starman
December 23, 2020 1:58 am

indeed. the tragedy of the commons is real.

Nick Schroeder
December 22, 2020 3:03 pm

Vanadium is bad news environmentally.
Had to dispose of a vanadium catalyst.
What a headache.

December 22, 2020 4:06 pm

Vanadium is toxic.
Vanadium particles in vehicle brake dust are reported to be an environmental health problem comparable with all other vehicle emissions. And it won’t be changed by electrification of cars.

John Bruce
December 22, 2020 10:59 pm

this technology was invented at University of New South Wales 20 years ago
It will always be 20 years away and may be better than Lithium Batteries as in principle the Vanadium has an infinite life
Many companies are again chasing the unicorn

December 23, 2020 5:30 am

I wonder how they have improved the lifespan over the one that was installed at King Island back in 2003. That failed after only a few years and was replaced by a large bank of lead acid cells (repair of the Vanadium Redox Flow battery was deemed too expensive)

Information about this battery is difficult to find – it’s as if no one wants to be associated with the expensive failure of the ballyhooed technology

December 23, 2020 11:43 am

A 1GW renewable source requires an additional GW source to refill the battery when it is exhausted. That cost needs o be included.

Willem post
December 23, 2020 11:46 am

Reality check about batteries.

According to weather data, the US has multi-day, wind/solar lulls covering at least 25% of the land area, which occur at random times throughout the year.

A lull is defined at 15% of normal for that time of year.

The US generators feed about 4000 TWh/y into the US grid, which would become at least 6000 TWh/y, after widespread use of EVs and heat pumps.

About 1500 TWh/y would be used by 25% of the land area, if the US were to have 100% of its electricity from wind and solar.

The shortfall would be about 85% of 1500 TWh/y = 1275 TWh/y, or about 1275/365 = 3.5 TWh/d

The capacity of any storage systems would need to be much larger than the discharge, because when a multi-day lull occurs, the system likely would not be fully charged.

If we assume it would be 50% charged, the minimum capacity would have to be 7 TWh to have a discharge of 3.5 TWh, for a one-day event, plus have enough reserve, just in case another such event would occur.

In case of batteries, any electricity flowing through them would have an A-to-Z loss of about 20%, which means, the discharge would be about 3.5/0.9 = 4 TWh, for a one-day event, and the capacity would need to be 8 TWh, just in case of another such event.

The turnkey cost of such systems, for a one-day event, would be about $500/kWh x 8 billion kWh = $4 TRILLION, WHICH, IN CASE OF BATTERIES, WOULD LAST ABOUT 15 YEARS.

December 23, 2020 4:12 pm

Ugh, I can see it now. Someone will propose having enough of these batteries to take care of x% of the outages without having to use fossil fuels, then have a stand-by fossil-fuel plant that kicks in for the y% of the outages that exceed the batteries’ capabilities.

All of this leading to the most expensive power ever produced.

Doug Jones
December 24, 2020 11:08 am

A much more promising large-scale energy storage technique is the Liquid Metal Battery system invented by Donald Sadoway at Ambri. Made of inexpensive, readily available elements from the low-Z end of the periodic table, it is inherently scalable, modular, and maintenance-free.

Calcium and Antimony are essentially inexhaustible and already produced by the megaton and kiloton, respectively (not including reduction to metal). Antimony seems to be the long pole in the tent, with global 2019 production of 160,000 tons.

Each GWh of Ambri batteries requires less than 1% of current annual production of these anode and cathode materials.


Last edited 2 years ago by Doug Jones
willem post
December 25, 2020 11:38 am

I have expanded on my earlier comment regarding the cost of utility-scale battery systems to cover a widespread, ONE-DAY wind/solar lull.
Here is a more realistic version.

Reality Check Regarding Utility-Scale Battery Systems.

According to weather data, the US has multi-day, wind/solar lulls covering at least 25% of the land area, which occur at random times throughout the year.

A lull is defined at 15% of normal for that time of year.

The US generators feed about 4000 TWh/y into the US grid, which would become at least 6000 TWh/y, after widespread use of EVs and heat pumps.

About 1500 TWh/y would be used by 25% of the land area
Assume, for calculation purposes, the US has 100% of its electricity from wind and solar.

The shortfall would be about (100 – 15) x 1500 TWh/y = 1275 TWh/y, or about 1275/365 = 3.49 TWh/d

The capacity of any storage systems would need to be much larger than the discharge, because when a multi-day lull occurs, the system likely would not be fully charged.

Assume battery maximum charge is 16 TWh, DC
Assume battery partially charge at start of lull is 50%
Battery available charge is 8 TWh, DC

Charge required for one-day lull is 4 TWh/d, DC
Charge remaining for another one-day event is 4 TWh, DC
Discharge loss, A-to-Z basis is 10%
Electricity for one-day event, delivered as AC to HV grid is 3.60 TWh, which is ample and allows for degradation.

Battery turnkey unit cost is $500/kWh, AC
Battery charge available, as AC is 16 TWh DC x 0.9, discharge loss = 14.4 TWh, AC
CAPEX, turnkey, would be about $500/kWh, Ac x 14.4 TWh, AC = $7.2 TRILLION 
Battery life is about 15 years  

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