Vanadium has soared more than 130 percent in the past year, outperforming better-known battery components like cobalt, lithium and nickel as Vanadium redox flow batteries are a third the cost of lithium ion batteries.

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.

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.

What’s driving prices is the tightening supply and strong orders from the steel industry, and increase in demand for vanadium redox flow batteries, which help to even out daily peaks and troughs from renewables like wind and solar energy. The move to green energy could create a new market and start a scramble for supply, according to BMO capital Markets.

In China, vanadium-flow batteries are emerging as an alternative to lithium-ion, according to Gary Yang, founder of UniEnergy Technologies, a maker of vanadium batteries in Mukilteo, Washington. The government is promoting the technology and among the projects under construction is a backup power facility in Dalian that will be twice the size of Tesla’s plant in Australia.

United Battery Metals strives to be a leader and an eventual producer of the revolutionary metal.

Infographic below highlights vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) – which are a breakthrough that some experts say may be the future of grid-scale energy storage.