WA to trial vanadium battery utility storage

Brandon How

Horizon Power in Western Australia will be the first utility company in Australia to begin trialling the use of a vanadium redox flow battery.

The state-owned energy company has announced it has purchased a 78kw/220kWh battery and will test its storage capabilities through a long-duration energy storage pilot in Kununurra, northern Western Australia.

Some of the advantages of vanadium redox flow batteries are their more than 20-year lifespan and suitability for off-grid connections, according to Australian Vanadium.

The battery was purchased from Australian firm VSUN Energy, which will also oversee installation, commissioning, and maintenance of the battery. It is being manufactured by United States-based Invinity Energy Systems and will be delivered and installed in 2024.

VSUN is the battery storage technology subsidiary of Perth-based Australian Vanadium, which is aiming to be one of a handful of vanadium producers worldwide.

An Invinity Energy Systems vanadium redox flow battery in California, United States.

Western Australian Energy minister Bill Johnston said the pilot was an example of how Horizon Power is leading the adoption of “cutting-edge, clean energy technology”, and could be expanded in the future.

“If the pilot is successful, there is potential to expand the use of long-duration, 100 per cent renewable energy across Horizon Power’s 2.3 million square-kilometre network,” he said.

Horizon Power chief executive Stephanie Unwin said the “exciting trial” would provide greater insight into the use of vanadium redox flow batteries in a regional energy system.

“The VFB is specifically designed to deliver large amounts of energy over a long period of time and is temperature resilient – which is critical for our unique regional and remote networks,” she said.

While there are no fully operation vanadium mines in Australia, seven were reportedly being developed in 2022, the majority of which are in Western Australia. There are two developments underway in Queensland and one in the Northern Territory.

Vanadium is one of the 26 minerals on the federal government’s critical minerals list, which is in the process of being updated.

Australian Vanadium chief executive Graham Arvidson said his company was an early-mover on supporting vanadium flow battery deployment.

“Horizon Power’s support of the VFB technology will also assist AVL and VSUN Energy’s planned vertical integration ‘pit to battery’ strategy,” he said.

“Future VFB projects in Australia will not only be deployed locally, but have significant local content, including AVL’s vanadium electrolyte from its plant which is currently under construction in Wangara, Western Australia.”

Australian Vanadium’s Wanagara facility will produce 33MWh per year of vanadium redox flow battery high purity vanadium pentoxide electrolyte. The federal government provided a $3.69 million grant to support the facility in 2021.

The firm will also received a $49 million grant through the Coalition initiated Modern Manufacturing Initiative to support the Australian Vanadium Project, which includes a mine, a crushing, milling and benefication plant, and a vanadium pentoxide processing plant.

InnovationAus.com will host a half-day Capability Papers Showcase forum at Parliament House in Canberra on August 3, highlighting innovation and funding pathways for local dual-use technology providers. Limited seating is available – reserve your place here.

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