Can Flow Battery Project Add Microgrid Reliability With Zero Emissions?

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Two years ago, a new vanadium flow battery helped support California’s energy grid and keep it safe from additional wildfire outages. Now, the battery is making news at a San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) substation as the first of its kind to use the emerging flow technology with microgrids to power communities and critical facilities with zero-emissions energy during adverse weather and public safety power shutoffs.

vandium flow batteries

By TonelloPhotography/Shutterstock.com

The utility started research on the battery technology in 2017. Collaborating with partners from a Japanese technology and industry group, the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and Sumitomo Electric, they continue to evaluate the vanadium flow battery’s microgrid capabilities and study its ability to support the grid with other services such as voltage and frequency regulation. 

Unlike the more widely used lithium-ion batteries, vanadium flow batteries contain tanks of liquid electrolytes and pumps. They last longer and may degrade less from repeated charging cycles over time than other chemical battery technologies. 

The California Independent System Operator’s wholesale electricity markets used vanadium flow batteries in December 2018 and again in the summer of 2020 to help minimize the impact of rotating outages during a record heatwave.

The collaboration working with SDG&E is continuing its research to determine if flow battery technology can lower the delivery costs of reliable energy to customers, add more renewable energy to the mix and increase grid operation flexibility. The collaboration’s project extends until the end of 2021.

“Long-duration energy storage and microgrids are both key to helping California meet its clean energy, reliability and resiliency goals. We need breakthrough technologies to achieve 100% renewable energy on our grid and to power microgrids during emergencies,” said Caroline Winn, CEO of SDG&E. “SDG&E is proud to play a role in developing innovative solutions, like the flow battery technology, to help solve California’s climate-related challenges.”

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Comments

  1. “The collaboration working with SDG&E is continuing its research to determine if flow battery technology can lower the delivery costs of reliable energy to customers, add more renewable energy to the mix and increase grid operation flexibility. The collaboration’s project extends until the end of 2021.”

    In Riverside County California the 2014 McCoy solar PV farm was supposed to be built out to 1GWp. The first 250MWac phase was built and principle PPAs were signed by SCE and perhaps SDG&E. In the late winter and early spring months, this site has been operated in curtailment. What would be beneficial is to finish the build out of this solar PV farm to 1GWpdc and push any over generation into a 10GWh redox flow battery. This could be the proof of concept model of generate solar PV, store, time shift and dispatch at night or a combination of grid load service and energy storage to allow dispatchable power into the night time hours. With the price drop in solar PV panel prices since 2014, one could probably finish this site out by using new utility scale solar PV panel technology, installed on a single axis tracking mount that is oriented east to west travel. Keep hearing what economies of scale would do to get redox flow batteries down to $35/kWh installed and have a $2 billion dollar buildout of a generation system that could actually service the grid for 10 to 16 hours a day on average. (IF) battery technology becomes cheaper and more energy dense, almost unable to thermal run away doing away with complex BMS, temperature controlled, fire suppression systems, then one could do 10GWh on a 100 acre plot of land. Of all the promises and forward looking statements of these new technology sites, we should have a grasp of these claims by 2025.

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