Vanadium flow batteries or more accurately Vanadium redox (and redox flow) battery (VRB) are just one of a number of rechargeable flow batteries that are currently available for Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS). They were first successfully demonstrated in the 1980’s and since then have been used worldwide in a number of Energy Storage Systems.
Vanadium flow batteries use vanadium ions in different states of oxidation to store chemical potential energy. Vanadium is able to exist in solution in four different oxidation states meaning that the battery has just one electroactive element instead of two.
Cellcube Vanadium Flow Battery
The main advantages and disadvantages of vanadium flow batteries are:
Almost unlimited capacity (by using larger storage tanks)
Can be completely discharged for long periods of time without any adverse effects
Longevity of cycles
Ability to recharge by replacing the electrolyte (if no power source was available to charge it)
No permanent damage would be caused if the electrolytes were accidentally mixed
High initial cost
Lower energy-to-volume ratio
Complex system compared to VRLA and Lithium ion batteries
It remains to be seen what share of the Energy Storage System market that Vanadium flow batteries are able to achieve. Much will depend on technological advances, which will hopefully increase the power density and reduce the cost. The fact that Billionaire and Philantropist Bill Gates has put his money behind flow batteries must count for something. Without a doubt, the next few years are interesting times for battery storage systems.
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