Australian miner tests vanadium redox flow battery technology


From pv magazine Australia

VSUN Energy, the renewable energy generation and storage subsidiary of Perth-based miner Australian Vanadium Limited (AVL), will install a standalone power system based on vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) energy storage technology at IGO’s nickel operation in Western Australia’s remote Fraser Range region.

The standalone power system will be based around a 300 kWh VRFB supplied by Spanish battery manufacturer E22, a subsidiary of global solar and battery specialist Gransolar Group. The companies did not disclose any other details, but the VRFB-based standalone power system will likely be paired with a ground-mounted solar PV array, with a diesel-fueled generator serving as backup.

The VRFB-based standalone power system will complement the 6.7 MW solar PV array that has been helping to power operations at the nickel-copper-cobalt mine site since 2019.

AVL said the new standalone power system, which will be used to power a bore pump on-site, has been designed to provide a 100% renewable energy supply for much of the year. However, the initial 12-month trial will target a total renewable penetration of 85% to 90%.

The VRFB system will be initially issued free to IGO with ownership or rental options commencing after the 12-month trial period.

AVL Managing Director Vincent Algar said the initiative is part of the company’s strategy to further develop the market for the battery storage technology in Australia with the optimisation of power for pumps a key area of focus for VSUN across mining and agricultural markets.

“Working with IGO on this project will accelerate the objectives of the companies and broader mining industry towards carbon neutrality,” he said. “The robustness of VRFB energy storage makes it perfectly suited to the tough environments found on many Australian mine sites.”

AVL, which is developing the Australian Vanadium Project south of Meekatharra in Western Australia, said vanadium flow batteries offer heavy-duty energy storage and are designed for use in high-utilisation applications such as being coupled with industrial-scale solar PV generation for distributed, low-emissions energy projects.

Energy is stored in a non-flammable, liquid electrolyte and the batteries can be cycled tens of thousands of times with virtually no degradation in capacity. With a lifespan exceeding 20 years, VRFB technology has longevity that matches renewable energy generation sources such as solar PV. The technology has a wide operating temperature range, giving it the ability to be deployed in all regions of Australia.

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Algar said VSUN is in discussions with other mining companies and customers in the agricultural sector and will be able to share the findings from the IGO project with them.

“The installation of an SPS based on vanadium technology for pumping applications enables diesel to be almost entirely eliminated, helping reduce overall carbon emissions and providing reliable green power,” he said. “We look forward to trialling and then duplicating this system based on an Australian invention and with Australian-made vanadium electrolyte from AVL.”

The installation of the VRFB-based SPS at IGO’s Nova site, about 360 kilometers southeast of Kalgoorlie, is expected to reduce energy costs and offer substantial reductions in operating hours for service personnel.

IGO Chief Operating Officer Matt Dusci said it would also aid the company’s emission reduction ambitions.

“IGO’s strategic focus is on those products that are critical to enabling clean energy solutions, to create a better planet,” he said. “We aspire to be carbon neutral across our business and to do this, in part, by leveraging renewable energy solutions and innovation to reduce emissions at our remote exploration and mining operations.”

The announcement of the SPS trial comes just 24 hours after AVL revealed it had signed an MOU with E22 with the intention of supplying vanadium for the manufacture of the Spanish company’s next-generation VRFBs. The MOU also includes an agreement with VSUN for the sale of E22’s VRFBs in Australia.

Algar said E22 manufactures small to large-size VRFBs, with the VCUBE50 well suited to the development of VSUN’s standalone power system. The smallest in E22’s VCUBE series, the 50 kW battery offers four hours of energy storage.

“What attracted us to E22, in particular, was the midsize VRFB that they are able to supply and the credibility offered through their parent company,” he said. “Small to medium-sized commercial applications, in addition to mining and agricultural industries, require a system that is smaller than the majority of the VRFB manufacturers currently supply. The requirement is for a robust and reliable system that can be increased in size and redeployed as needed.”

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