This is abit of a puff piece, but the core premise is right. When I first posted on Vanadium redox acouple of years ago, it was still lacking the sort of sponsorship it needed. That is obviously changing and a drive fromthe mining industry is a good start.
I willnot explain the technical aspects as that is covered in earlier posts (googlevanadium on this blog). Its realstrength is that it cannot be depleted through many cycles and one pumpsworking fluids between reservoirs. Acapacity change is a matter of tankage.
Thatmeans that it can be used to effectively strip all the wastage out of our powergrid. A simple windmill could storepower for days, yet sell it on demand in minutes when convenient.
Vanadiumcost will be an issue, but the resource is actually rather common and will berediscovered as a byproduct by everyone. This report shows us that vanadium rich deposits will soon be on stream.
Vanadium: Energy's Holy Grail
Photograph Courtesy Cellstrom Gmbh
A vanadium redox battery powers a solar charging station forelectric vehicles at the Castello Montel Vibiano wine and olive farm near
. Perugia, Italy
TonySpencer, Financial Post ·Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010
How do you bottle sunlight?
It's the major hurdle preventing renewableenergy's acceptance into the mainstream.
The moment the sun sets or the wind drops,that energy source shuts down for business. You can hardly power a majorelectrical grid on such uncertainty.
Likewise, any surplus of wind or solar powerhas nowhere to go -- except to be either wasted or discharged back into theground.
The truth is renewable energy will neverrealize its full potential until we develop efficient ways to store and harnessthe energy it produces. So that when the source is either offline or producinga surplus, we can continue to draw power.
The solution lies in energy storage.
Influential energy industry analyst Nick Hodgeconcurs: "Energy storage is the Holy Grail of the energy market." Ina recent sector report, American investment bankers Piper Jaffray project theblue-sky potential of this emerging clean technology frontier: "Weestimate spending of $600-billion plus on energy storage solutions over thenext 10 to 12 years."
No wonder energy storage is the new globalgold rush.
One battery in particular, the vanadium redoxflow battery, already shows enormous potential as an energy storage solution.In fact, it's the only battery technology today capable of powering everythingfrom a single home right up to the storage demands of a power grid.
With the world now increasingly wireless, wedepend on batteries like never before to run our netbooks, power our smartphonesand soon, our vehicles. Battery technology continues to rapidly progress asconsumers, corporations and governments drive the cleantech sector to innovatebetter solutions.
The race is on to build a better battery.
A little-known metal called vanadium isbeginning to play a pivotal role in both battery power and energy storagetechnology. This is because vanadium makes highly powerful and efficientbatteries -- both in a stand-alone capacity for large-scale power grid usageand as an additive in small-scale battery applications.
So, what is vanadium? Why is it so special?And why have you likely never heard of it?
Vanadium is a strategic metal that isessential for engineering as well as for the automotive, shipping, andconstruction industries. It is irreplaceable for its role in aerospace. This isbecause vanadium possesses the remarkable ability to make steel alloys bothstronger and lighter. In fact, vanadium-titanium alloys have the beststrength-to-weight ratio of any engineered material.
With the boom in global infrastructuredevelopment, steel consumption is driving the market for vanadium. While thesteel industry currently uses 90% to 97% of the 60,000 tonnes of vanadiumproduced annually worldwide, its application in the growing trend toward batterypower and energy storage marks a significant tipping of the scales.
It turns out that renewable energy's greatestchallenge is vanadium's greatest opportunity.
The vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB),invented at the
University of New South Wales in , is a game-changer. Ithas a lifespan of tens of thousands of cycles, does not self-discharge whileidle or generate high amounts of heat when charging, and can absorb anddischarge huge amounts of electricity instantly--over and over again. Australia
VRFB technology not only provides the missinglink in scaling renewable energy to national levels but also in reducingdependence on fossil fuels. Safe and versatile, the VRFB is fast moving towardmainstream acceptance as a medium for grid-scaled energy storage by the globalgreen industry.
The signs are evident: China's Prudent Energy,a rising star and VRFB manufacturer based in Beijing and Washington, was namedto the 2010 Global Cleantech 100 as one of the most promising privatetechnology companies poised to make a significant market impact over the nextdecade. Prudent Energy was chosen from more than 5,000 firms from 14 countriesby an expert committee drawn from Fortune 500 titans including BASF, GE,Honeywell, IBM, Siemens and Proctor & Gamble.
"It's a matter of a better technologywinning the day," according to Prudent Energy president Tim Hennessy:"Our vanadium redox battery energy storage systems are unique in theirability to repeatedly deep cycle and rapidly recharge with little or no capacitychange. Our units have been independently tested, and the field results overthe last three years have shown a performance way in excess of any othertechnology currently in the field."
Prudent Energy has installed VRFB systems allaround the world and, unlike other flow battery systems, the energy-holdingelectrolyte in their systems operates at room temperature and never wears out.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the recent acquisitionof Cellstrom GmbH, another VRFB manufacturer based in
, byGerman conglomerate Gildemeister GmbH, underlines the recognition by globalcorporations of the growing importance of energy storage. Since 2008, Cellstromhas successfully marketed VRFBs throughout Europe and most recently in Austria , wherethey are installed as back-up systems for factories in regions frequently hitby power outages. India
Department of Energy (DoE) hasidentified VRFBs as a leading solution for storing renewable energy. They arecurrently conducting a smart grid regional demonstration program with field researchfor the VRFB in the city of U.S. Painesville, , in conjunctionwith state and local power authorities. "This project will help ensurethat residents and businesses in Ohio have access to a safe, secure and stable power supply," Ohio Gov. Ted Stricklandsaid. Painesville
Vanadium is also proving to be a highlyeffective additive to existing batteries in small-scale applications. In thecase of electric cars, vanadium is being combined with lithium to act as a"supercharger" that increases the battery's energy density and,hence, the distance a car can travel.
Clean technologies and materials analyst, JonHykawy of Byron Capital Markets, sees a new fork in the road: "Vanadium isthe best cathode material that can be used in these automobiles. And we'restarting to see that conjecture being borne out by the battery industry, whichis looking at lithium-vanadium-phosphate cathodes as one of the more importantdrivers for a higher-power, and, potentially, a much less expensive battery forthe automotive industry."
By comparison, the 2011 Chevy Volt can onlytravel 56 km on its lithium-ion battery alone until its range extender kicksin, with a 10-hour recharge cycle. Along with DBM, a host of other companiesincluding China's BYD Auto Co., Japan's GS Yuasa Corp.,
Japan's Subaru and U.S.A.'s Technologies, have vanadium-based batteries either in development or in plansfor production. Valence
The question is with growing acceptance forvanadium usage in cars and energy storage solutions, what is holding thetechnology back from mass adoption?
Martha Schreiber, chief operating officer ofCellstrom GmbH, pins it down to a combination of price and legal issues:"The highly volatile price of vanadium makes it very difficult tocalculate stable price conditions, not only for manufacturers but for the endconsumer as well. Moreover, this leads to a very conservative pricing policy bymanufacturers to the detriment of mass-market penetration. The technology forVRFBs has also been blocked by original patents dating back to 1987. It hasonly been since their expiry in 2007 that has allowed companies to openlydevelop the technology."
These emerging energy storage technologiesrequire a high-purity form of vanadium called V2O5 (vanadium pentoxide). Andthe amount a single VRFB requires is massive: anywhere from one to five tonneseach. Today, the current value of steel-grade V2O5 is around $7 per pound andexpected to increase, while battery manufacturers are paying anywhere between$10 to $30 per pound for battery-grade V2O5.
On the strength of the steel industry alone,vanadium demand is growing at 7% annually and predicted to outpace globalsupplies by 2012. Analysts firmly believe that vanadium demand willsignificantly increase over the coming years but they are less able toconfidently predict that supply can keep up with demand. China is currently theworld's largest exporter and consumer of vanadium, followed by
South Africa and . Russia
With very few primary mines coming on line inthe next decade, this leads to a delicate balancing act where supply can keeppace only if all junior projects reach market and none are delayed.
The crux is that the VRFB can only bedeveloped to its full potential once the global supply and pricing of V2O5 isstabilized.
One project is set to accomplish just that:The aptly named Green Giant vanadium project in
is an initiative of Toronto-basedmining companyEnergizerResources( TSX. V: EGZ) and is singularly positioned tosupply battery-grade V2O5 in sufficient quantity to meet the surge in demand. Madagascar
The Green Giant vanadium deposit is asedimentary-hosted deposit, allowing for relatively easy extraction, whichmakes it unique among the world's known deposits. The company just released anupdated and expanded National Instrument 43-101 compliant resource estimate of59 million tonnes, making it the third largest known vanadium deposit in theworld. And the resource has excellent potential to expand even further: 75% ofits 21-km (18-mile) vanadium trend remains open for drilling.
Energizer Resources has assembled a managementteam with the necessary experience and networks to develop the Green Giantproject. Led by president and chief operating officer, Julie Lee Harrs, aseasoned mining executive formerly with Vale Inco and Sherritt International,Energizer is at the cusp of playing an integral part in renewable energy'sstorage solution. Ms. Lee Harrs recognizes the scale of the opportunity:"Energizer is positioning itself to be the largest supplier ofbattery-grade V2O5 in the world -- while at the same time being able toaccommodate the growing demand from the steel market. The Green Giant hasincredible scalability to be able to meet the demands of both industries andramp up as necessary."
Energizer Resources is further supported by animpressive group of directors and consultants including Richard Quesnel, BrianTobin, Peter Harder and Howard Balloch, who offer extensive mining, politicaland governmental experience. Not to mention DRA Mineral Projects, a leadingmine engineering and construction company based in
, who will lead thedevelopment of the Green Giant project. South Africa
Energizer's Green Giant is positioned to bethe only mining operation capable of economically supplying battery-grade V2O5,while at the same time bringing the necessary stability of supply and price tothe vanadium market.
When Piper Jaffray projects a $600-billionmarket for energy storage solutions, there's little doubt the future will bebattery powered. Energy industry analyst Nick Hodge agrees: "With thatkind of anticipated spending, you should seriously start thinking aboutallocating a portion of your portfolio to energy storage companies."
In the race to build a better battery, itmakes equal sense to consider investing in the resource companies that willprovide the raw materials for these energy storage manufacturers.
In that respect, it's hard not to go with acompany like Energizer Resources -- because when it comes to vanadium and thepower to release its massive energy potential, Energizer holds the key.
To learn more about vanadium and the GreenGiant project, visit Energizer Resources at www.energizerresources.com sor call1-800-818-5442.