Vanadium Batteries Keeps Energy Flowing For Telecommunications Industry

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The United States Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced last year that vanadium flow batteries are “good for grid storage.” There are few places where that may be more evident than in the telecommunications industry.

Currently, most telecommunications systems worldwide rely on lead/acid batteries for backup power or to bridge to a much longer running backup system such as a diesel generator.

However, vanadium flow batteries can economically store and supply large amounts of electrical energy on demand while, at the same time, incorporating longer life, low maintenance costs, and scalability from both a power and storage capacity perspective.

Not only that, but vanadium flow batteries are also safer than other energy sources like lead/acid and even lithium batteries, which may present a fire hazard.

Industry expert Dr. Ted Roberts, who earned his Ph.D. at Cambridge University, saysVanadium flow batteries are safer, as the energy is stored in water, and so there is no fire risk. In addition, the reliability and stable performance, including deep discharge is another advantage.”

StorEn Tech’s 5KW Cell Stack; image credit: StorEn Tech

So How Can Vanadium Flow Batteries Positively Impact the Telecommunications Industry Going Forward?

In North America and other locations, the typical specifications for backup battery power are to operate up to 4 hours continuously on lead/acid batteries allowing for continued emergency communications during the outage.

In off-grid telecom sites, diesel generators provide the primary power source; lead/acid batteries are used as a backup if the on-site generator fails to operate. 

The number of discharge cycles and discharge depth during these cycles give lead/acid batteries a short life span. Therefore, they are designed for infrequent use and shallow depths of discharge.

Battery life is also controlled by operating temperatures and by the charging voltages used during the charge cycle. Recharge times are often 5 times that of the discharge cycle, thus making lead/acid batteries very inefficient to operate during frequent outages.

For instance, four hours of discharge could take up to 20 hours to recharge with lead/acid batteries!

Image courtesy StorEn Tech

Vanadium Flow Battery Technology Eliminates Frustrating Issues

Vanadium flow batteries cycle between charge and discharge in an unlimited number of times with no ill effect on the battery.

The batteries also allow for complete discharge every time with no downside.

 And there’s another highly beneficial feature of vanadium flow batteries – they can rapidly charge and approach a 1 to 1 charge/discharge ratio allowing for rapid response to multiple power outage scenarios.

These frequent outages stress the capacities of traditional backup power systems and require continuous replacement of lead/acid battery systems.

Vanadium Flow Batteries Also Reduce Diesel Engine Runtime

Integrating vanadium flow battery technology into Remote Area Power Systems (RAPS) can reduce diesel engine runtime, increase efficiency, reduce fuel consumption and costs, and minimize pollutions emissions from carbon-based fuels. 

Integrating the technology within a hybrid system, such as wind or solar, can also enhance efficiencies and improve reliability.

A significant number of applications exist for vanadium flow batteries in “off-grid” RAPS applications where the escalating costs of fuel and maintenance are critical drivers for the use of energy storage.

The fuel savings produced by vanadium flow batteries easily justify their use on a large scale.

Plus, these batteries are fully recyclable and deliver multiple environmental advantages compared to alternative energy storage technologies. Some of those advantages include: 

  • All major components are made of fully recyclable plastic and metals with a recyclability factor close to 100%.
  • The batteries’ electrolytes can be processed and reused, or if desired 100% of the vanadium can be extracted and reused for other applications with no impact on primary mining.

In its lifespan, one vanadium flow battery avoids the disposal, processing or landfill of eighty lead-acid batteries or forty lithium-ion batteries.

What Exactly is a Vanadium Flow Battery?

Image courtesy StoreEn Tech

A vanadium Flow Battery is a rechargeable battery in which the energy is stored chemically in liquid electrolytes. Unlike conventional batteries that store their reactive materials within the cells, a flow battery “stores” [ja1] the electrolyte in tanks. 

The electrolyte is then pumped through the cells and electric energy is generated by a chemical reaction as the electrolyte passes through the cell stack. The liquid is then returned into the tanks. 

How Vanadium Flow Batteries Improve Backup Reliability While Lowering Cost

Installation of vanadium flow batteries improves the reliability of the telecom network by lengthening the operational runtime of the backup power system.

At the same time, the batteries reduce the replacement and disposal costs for lead-acid batteries.

In addition, these unique batteries also decrease the amount of time a system would need to recover from an extended outage as they recharge much more quickly than lead-acid batteries.

Energy Shifting Using the VFB

This battery technology could also shift the load from the grid to the batteries during the hours in the day that the utility company is experiencing peak demands, based on the Time-of-Use (TOU) tariffs in place in many states in the U.S.  Power delivered to the telecom transmission equipment could be supplied during peak load times and the vanadium flow batteries could then be recharged during off peak times.

Here’s how it would work: In many places across the U.S., power companies charge their customers a higher rate during high demand times during the day.  These rates can be as much as double the lower rate and can include additional Demand Charges.  It is possible to use the VFB to store energy in the battery during the lowest rate period and then power the telecom equipment using the energy in the battery during the highest rate times. This is called “energy shifting.”

This extended use of the batteries has no detrimental effect allowing the telecom service provider to continue to use the batteries in their primary role as backup power devices.

For instance, leading vanadium flow batteries are designed to supply up to 6 hours of peak load shifting power and an additional 2 hour of backup energy power for a total of 8 hours of energy storage capacity.

To learn much more about vanadium flow batteries and a leading producer of these next-generation batteries, StorEn Technologies, you can subscribe to their newsletter here and also follow the company on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


This article is supported by StorEn Technologies.

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