Vanadium could have its ‘Elon Musk’ moment as it powers 25pc of ‘stationary’ batteries

By Reuben Adams for Stockhead

That’s the view of Benchmark Minerals Intelligence boss Simon Moores, who spoke at the battery metals research firm’s conference in Perth on Monday.

Stationary storage systems are big batteries often designed to store excess power from the power grid — including from renewable sources — for use during expensive peak demand periods.

While the EV space is firmly dominated by lithium-ion, stationary storage is more diverse.

By 2028 Benchmark predicts 50 percent of the burgeoning stationary storage market will be lithium-ion, and 25 percent vanadium flow batteries — also known as vanadium redox flow batteries (or VRFBs).

“The rate of stationary storage is going to grow exponentially,” Tesla’s Elon Musk said at a shareholder meeting earlier this year.

“For many years to come each incremental year will be about as much as all of the preceding years, which is a crazy, crazy growth rate,” Musk said.

VRFBs are regarded as a safer alternative to lithium-ion and better suited to large-scale applications.

They come at a higher upfront cost but have a far longer life compared to lithium-ion batteries.

“The potential for vanadium flow is absolutely significant,” Mr. Moores said at the conference.

“If the vanadium market gets a number of key [mines] up and running quickly, vanadium flow could have its ‘lithium-ion battery moment’ — its Elon Musk moment.”

In 2017, vanadium demand outstripped supply by 10,000 tonnes – about two mines worth, with about 90 percent of vanadium going into steel production.

This has pushed vanadium to its highest price in more than ten years. 

In response, producers of vanadium flow batteries have been forced to constantly improve battery hardware technology to keep costs lower, Vanadium Australia chief Vince Algar told Stockhead at Monday’s conference.

Australian Vanadium is fast-tracking its Gabanintha vanadium deposit in Western Australia into production.

“The higher price of vanadium is forcing flow battery makers to innovate on the cost of their hardware,” Mr. Algar said.

“If hardware cost come down, it means vanadium flow batteries are very cost effective with lithium-ion.”

 

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