Is This Metal Destined to Replace Lithium and Transform Everything from the Mining Industry to Long Duration Energy Storage and Much More?
You probably have seen this happen repeatedly: A company comes out with a breakout product but then is quickly replaced by something even better. This process is now playing out in the renewable energy market, creating a unique investment opportunity for “in the know” investors.
Before we explain how this is happening today, let’s look to history to shine some context and nuance on the subject.
What We Can Learn from the Mining Industry
The advancement process that we just mentioned has repeatedly played out in the mining industry. In the early days of coal mining, the process was slow and often dangerous. Mines were dug by hand or with stone tools, a tedious and inefficient undertaking.
Eventually, these processes were replaced by something “better” — burning wood at the opening of a mine to weaken rocks made it easier to dig. Soon more advances came — black powder and dynamite were then used to clear mine shafts. Later on, big machinery was introduced, including steam pumps and drills.
Technological advances continue to the present day. Today, the mining industry is embracing renewable energy to reduce costs and improve efficiency, leading to a rise in lithium batteries as a replacement for fossil fuel.
Now experts believe that the industry is ready to make the next technological advancement: Lithium’s evolution to vanadium batteries is here!
What is Vanadium?
Vanadium is a semi-hard, steel blue metal that has the chemical symbol V. In the past, vanadium has been used to make powerful and durable car parts like automobile gears, crankshafts, piston rods, axles, and springs.
The metal was used to make armor plates and swords in some parts of the world, before the invention of the automobile. But these uses are not why vanadium is in the spotlight today.
Vanadium has gained recent attention because it also stores large amounts of electricity. This electricity could be fed into power grids when the need arises, for example.
Vanadium redox-flow, or V-flow, batteries promise to quickly transform the way energy is stored and generated in numerous industries — including the mining industry and power grids around the world.
Vanadium Flow Batteries are Able to Store Large Amounts of Electricity “Almost Indefinitely”!
The biggest challenge facing the renewable energy sector is being able to store that energy for use at a later time. The biggest issue with lithium, or Li-ion batteries, is that they degrade rapidly. Current information indicates that they last for just 3000 to 4000 charge/discharge cycles (which is around 5 to 10 years) before they need to be replaced. They also lose capacity quickly with use.
Whereas vanadium flow batteries have a typical life cycle of 15,000+ charge/discharge cycles or up to 25 years — the other parts wear out, but not the vanadium. While lithium only lasts 5 to 10 years, vanadium has the potential lifespan of 20 to 25 years!
No wonder experts are high on vanadium as the next step in energy storage.
For example, most solar energy is collected during the day from noon to 4 p.m. With a V flow battery, you could take the energy created during those hours and store it for use that night and later on. Plus, frequent battery replacements are unnecessary. In other words, vanadium is a much more efficient source of renewable energy storage.
Compared to Lithium
- Greater energy storage capacity. Vanadium stores energy in tanks compared to lithium batteries that store energy in cells. This difference in storage techniques allows better scaling in industrial-scale applications and in grid-scale storage systems. With vanadium, the “energy tank” can just be made larger to extend duration, instead of adding multiple batteries (as would be the case with lithium).
- Linear cost growth. As explained above, vanadium, or V Flow, batteries have a tank that can simply be made larger to expand energy storage; vanadium battery cost/kWh decreases as capacity is increased. With lithium, capacity is increased by purchasing additional batteries, thus the cost/kWh grows linearly.
For example, residential lithium batteries typically cost $520 to $900/kWh and last for 3,000 to 4,000 cycles. If you assumed $750/kWh, the cost per cycle would be an estimated $0.21. Assuming $520 for 4,000, you get $0.13/cycle.
The advantage of vanadium is that at a similar price point, it can complete 15,000 cycles, perhaps lowering its average cost to as low as $0.04 per cycle.
The above advantages make V flow batteries ideal for long-duration stationary energy storage applications!
Editor’s note: The above section on cost estimates has been updated since the article was first published.
But Wait, There are More Benefits!
- An abundance of resources. The Earth contains more vanadium than lithium, making it easier for miners to obtain. Battery makers are already experiencing lithium shortages and those shortages are expected to increase in the future, particularly as EVs will grow in popularity, increasing demand for lithium batteries.
- Manufacturing vanadium is ecologically safe and low cost. Not only does vanadium have a simpler mining process compared to lithium, but the vanadium electrolyte also lasts indefinitely. The electrolyte in vanadium batteries, unlike lithium, does not cross-contaminate, thus it never decays. In other words, the electrolyte can be reused forever and there is no need to mine fresh vanadium. Vanadium flow batteries have a Recyclability Index close to 100%!
The Time for Vanadium has Arrived …
The mining industry, developing countries, and communities worldwide are all taking note of the many benefits of vanadium. Energy storage is now more critical than ever, especially for developing countries.
For instance, Kenya is moving to 100% green energy and looking to triple the number of people reached by electricity.
Communities around the globe are looking to make similar advances. Leaders are looking at safety, cost, environmental impact, and end-of-life processing when it comes to energy storage and distribution. Vanadium stands above the competition in all of these areas.
It’s only a matter of time before more energy providers and investors catch on. Companies like StoreEnTech* are here to spark the renewable energy transition.
StorEnTech has developed evolutionary vanadium flow batteries. Incubated at the Clean Energy Business Incubator Program (CEBIP) within Stony Brook University in New York, we aim to build upon the strengths of vanadium flow batteries to revolutionize the world of residential and industrial energy storage.
StorEnTech batteries deliver superior performances at a lower cost and fulfill market demand for more efficient and cost-effective energy storage.
StorEnTech takes what vanadium batteries already promise — durability and sturdiness — and uses extensive R&D to focus on improving the electrical efficiency of the stack, the energy density of the electrolyte, and the module. Through these processes, the company creates efficient, powerful, environmentally friendly batteries.
The company has partnered with Ruralelec.org, an international business association that promotes a sustainable decentralized renewable energy industry for the 21st century, activating markets for affordable energy services, and creating local jobs and inclusive economies.
To learn more about StorEnTech and to invest in the future of energy storage, click here.
*This post is supported by StorEnTech.
Disclosure: CleanTechnica does not provide investment advice of any sort.