Abengoa to Build Microgrid with Vanadium Flow Batteries at South African Mine

By Yasmin Ali for Micro Grid Knowledge
Rendering of the planned microgrid. Image courtesy of Abengoa.

Bushveld Energy, a vanadium energy storage solutions provider, has selected Abengoa to construct Africa’s first-megawatt scale hybrid microgrid with flow batteries for the Vametco mine in South Africa.

Abengoa, a Spanish multinational company in the infrastructure, energy, and water sectors, will engineer, supply, and construct a 3.5 MW solar PV plant and a 1 MW/4 MWh energy storage system using vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB). The microgrid will supply just under 10% of the mine’s electrical energy consumption at any one time.

According to Dominic Goncalves, vice president of business development for decarbonization at Abengoa, the vanadium redox flow batteries can play a key role in energy storage applications of over four hours.

“To our knowledge, this is the largest hybrid microgrid in the world that is incorporating solar with VRFB…it’s a flagship project,” Goncalves told Microgrid Knowledge.

The project is part of a strategy by Bushveld Energy, a subsidiary of Bushveld Minerals, to demonstrate the technical merits of long duration VRFB systems integrated with renewable energy. The Vametco mine, which will host the microgrid, is located in the North West Province of South Africa and comprises a vanadium ore mine and processing plant. The project will use locally mined vanadium, creating value for the area.

Commercial viability of vanadium batteries

“The project demonstrates the commercial viability of solar plus VRFB storage solutions for commercial and industrial-scale applications,” Fortune Mojapelo, CEO of Bushveld Minerals commented in a statement.

“This is occurring at a time when stationary storage deployments are gathering momentum and when in South Africa the government is making concerted efforts to lower regulatory hurdles for self-generation for commercial and industrial applications.”

The construction project recently received environmental authorization from South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

This project marks Abengoa’s fourth solar plus storage project in South Africa, with previous commissions in the country totaling 250 MW. Abengoa’s Energy Management System, AEMS, will allow grid-connected as well as standalone operation.

“The energy management system will help the mine to increase their autonomy from the grid, it will improve its security of supply, and decreases electricity cost,” Goncalves said.

The microgrid is projected to reduce emissions by over 114,000 tons of carbon dioxide over its 20-year lifetime, contributing to South Africa’s low emissions strategy.

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