Battery trends: Innovative rent model for vanadium electrolyte

By Babalwa Bungane for ESI Africa

Global flow battery company Invinity Energy Systems, has partnered with integrated vanadium producer Bushveld Minerals, to offer an electrolyte rental option for Invinity’s Vanadium Flow Batteries (VFBs).

VFBs is a form of heavy-duty, stationary energy storage, which is deployed in high-utilization, industrial applications such as grid balancing, renewable ‘firming’, and electric vehicle integration projects.

Vanadium Electrolyte Rental Limited (VERL) has been formed as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) by Invinity Energy Systems and Bushveld Minerals to give Invinity’s customers the option to rent vanadium electrolyte – a key component in Invinity’s non-degrading energy storage modules – over the life of a project instead of purchasing it upfront.

This means that customers can offset a significant portion of their initial capital outlay in favour of a long term rental option.

Matt Harper, chief commercial officer at Invinity said: “This is a major step forward for the energy storage industry, as this unique model allows our customers’ to deploy Invinity’s durable, high-throughput energy storage technology at the significantly reduced initial cost.

“Flexibility is key to enabling the renewable energy transition; that flexibility cannot be delivered by lithium-ion batteries alone. Our products take flexibility above and beyond what lithium solutions offer by providing hours of clean energy, dispatched on-demand multiple times per day, over decades of service.

Combining energy storage with electric transport

VERL has also concluded its first rental contract with Pivot Power, part of EDF Renewables, which will see VERL rent electrolyte for ten years to the 5MWh flow battery being supplied by Invinity as part of the groundbreaking Energy Superhub Oxford (ESO) project.

ESO is pioneering an integrated approach to urban decarbonization, combining energy storage with electric transport and heat to create a zero-carbon city and provide a blueprint for other cities in the UK and worldwide to follow.

This rental arrangement takes advantage of a key technical characteristic of Invinity’s Vanadium Flow Batteries (VFB), namely that the vanadium electrolyte in the system does not degrade with use; the electrolyte thus retains its value and usefulness almost indefinitely and can be reused or repurposed at the end of a project.

This venture represents a significant supply chain partnership between two industry front runners and further enhances VFB’s competitive position in the market as a mature, sustainable, and robust alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

“Pivot Power is the first company to take advantage of this new model, showing major players in the energy industry are awakening to the huge potential of flow storage as a key component of a future zero-carbon system,” stated Harper.

Matthew Boulton, chief commercial officer at Pivot Power commented: “We are creating an innovative hybrid battery that will combine the advantages of lithium-ion and flow technology to maximize performance and enable greater use of low carbon energy sources. We are delighted to be working with Invinity Energy Systems to deliver this project as part of Energy Superhub Oxford and demonstrate the potential for hybrid battery systems to support the  UK’s net-zero transition.”

Vanadium flow batteries are a form of heavy-duty, stationary energy storage, designed for high-utilization, industrial applications such as load-shifting, electric vehicle integration, and grid balancing activities.

Unlike lithium-ion battery technologies, they do not degrade with use, allowing them to deliver durable, low-cost performance for decades.

Fortune Mojapelo, CEO of Bushveld Minerals, commented: “Since setting up Bushveld Energy in 2016 we have said that the metal’s unique characteristics will give it certain advantages in the energy storage sector.

“In this case, it is the lack of degradation, even after years of charging and discharging cycles, that allows for us to loan the metal into a battery, thereby removing a significant portion of the upfront cost of the battery and ensuring the reusability of its electrolyte.”

Mojapelo added: “This partnership, puts the rental model into a specific business unit, formalizing a commercial partnership and ringfencing the vanadium rental sub-entity.

“We anticipate adding other rental agreements and VRFB companies to the partnership in growing the electrolyte rental model, ensuring that the VRFB is affordable and the most sustainable battery technology.”

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