Solar Thermal and Vanadium Flow Storage is Scaling Up

Abengoa is a world leader in solar thermal technology and is making the largest hybrid solar plant incorporating vanadium redox flow storage. They have already developed, designed, built and/or operated solar thermal plants in four continents, with a total capacity of 1.9 GW, representing approximately 30% of capacity worldwide. They are is currently participating in 52% of solar thermal capacity under construction.

They are deploying a 3.5 MW solar micro-grid linked to a 1 MW/4 MWh vanadium redox flow storage unit at Vametco Alloys mine in South Africa.

Vanadium Flow Batteries

Vanadium is an element that can commonly exist in four different oxidation states. Vanadium ions in the flow battery can change from V2+ to V5+.

Vanadium flow batteries (VFB) have two tanks of electrolytes dissolved in water and separated by a proton exchange membrane. Both electrolytes are based on vanadium. VFB can be charged and discharged tens of thousands of times over decades. The VFB charge levels do not degrade. Every 10-20 years, the membrane that the ionic species crosses over will need to be replaced. A lithium-ion battery would have to replace the entire battery after it has degraded over time.

Li-ion batteries have higher energy density. Costs are similar between lithium-ion and VFB for fixed storage. VFB has no risk of fires.

Abengoa is a World Leader With Solar Thermal

Abengoa develops the two most widely used commercial solar thermal technologies:

Towers produce electricity from concentrating solar energy and a field of heliostats. The receiver point is on the upper part of a tower. Abengoa has over 130 MW solar towers in operation and 110 MW under construction.

Parabolic trough captures solar energy through a parabolic trough collector that allows the heating of a heat transfer fluid for the use of the heat in a conventional thermal cycle. Abengoa has built more than 1,600 MW in operation and 650 MW under construction.

SOURCES – Abengoa
Written By Brian Wang,

29 thoughts on “Solar Thermal and Vanadium Flow Storage is Scaling Up”

  1. It wouldn't be one track. It would be as many tracks as you can fit on one mountain side, hundreds or thousands. The only important thing is would it be cheaper that batteries.

  2. Maybe I should look up a real data point.

    Vanadium Pentoxide 98% is US$7.37/lb in the Rotterdam metal exchange.

    By comparison, LITHIUM HYDROXIDE MONOHYDRATE US$9/kg in London.

    I could look to see if I could compare the two in the same units at the same place and time, but that's close enough to say that the raw price of the element isn't going to make one battery much more expensive than the other.

  3. The libertarians were probably going to lose again, you could tell. So the question of whether we get left or right socialism is all that was left. Good news is that both H and power beaming limit the need for batteries, and both are coming on strong.

  4. No, you get the battery material from the best asteroids, perhaps in lunar craters, and build in orbit where everything is, as I said, easier, esp the power distribution, than on a planet, such as Earth, or Mars, or the Moon. edit: the solar thermal probably works better in orbit, for some reason, don't you think? And the batteries are heavy, so 0 g helps there too, altho the power beaming may make the need for any battery far less.

  5. Yeah, because it makes any sense to send all those tons in orbit instead of building the flaw battery on the ground. /s

  6. Good point. That said, Vanadium is still a rare earth metal and not inexpensive. Aluminum is far more common and hence less expensive.

  7. We are decades away from being to lift that kind of mass to orbit or manufacture using ISRU in space at that kind of scale.

  8. I guess I read this wrong, I thought they were somehow storing thermal energy in the flow electrolytes. This is Just a standalone solar thermal complex that has tacked on large capacity electric storage.

    Could you store a reasonable amount of heat in the flow reactants though, without degrading them?

  9. It is being done, sort of

    ARES originally were trying to use conventional electric railroad hardware moving large concrete blocks, preferably on disused mountain railroad lines (former Milwaukee Road pacific division lines would have been a good candidate). Unfortunately their initial demo plans got curtailed, so now they are doing a big demo using a mine pit area and lots of parallel tracks hauling cars full of rock(looks like a chain conveyor system now?)

    There were previous attempts by others to use long range bucket conveyor systems hauling sand/pebbles as a reversible energy storage system, with mass stored in piles at the top and bottom

  10. Socialist? I thought people like you didn’t hang out on science and technology sites. We might discuss evolution. Oh no.

  11. Assuming, of course, that you have resources laying around unused. Otherwise, changing to a scheme that costs a lot more means that something else has to be cut. Whoever was relying on that "something else" doesn't think that the new scheme "works".

  12. Telling me I'm wrong doesn't really contribute.

    SHOWING me I'm wrong is just making the whole conversation more factual. So did I stuff my units up or something?

  13. Economic efficiency of installing roof top solar is on par with nuclear, that doesn't stop people from installing it. Something doesn't have to be the cheapest to work, the most expensive can work if you can break it into small enough manageable pieces that can be financed.

  14. I see you are very skilled in your math DrPat but what if i had told you your wrong,
    enjoy reading.
    love Hamo Clarqe

  15. Now that the Socialist likely won, it appears we will see many square miles of land turned into giant solar parking lots, millions of tons of material used, and new back up fossil fuel plants because most storage options are even more pricey than the solar… All because it's green energy

  16. A heavy train runs up to a 100 thousand tonnes.

    Stored potential energy = M.g.h.

    So a 1000 m tall mountain slope (and that's a big slope) with a 100 000 tonne train gives 1000m x 100 000 000kg x 9.8 = 980 GJ

    = 272 MW hours.

    Minus inefficiencies and you might store 15 minutes of a 1 GW power station.

    Nice for load balancing, not sufficient for timeshifting renewable energy.

    And, as cheap as it might be (I've got no idea how much a huge train would cost) I think you would very rapidly run out of suitable locations.

  17. Sapphires consist of crystalized aluminium oxide. Does this mean that an aluminium frypan costs the same as a giant sapphire?

  18. There are various flow battery technologies. I would love to see more commercial units.
    Then there is train cars full of rocks going up an hill and rolling back down. Simple, easy. Don't understand why it is not been done.

    Storing energy will be feasibility as long a $/MWhr is cheaper than the price of energy during peak demand and the price of energy at low demand.

  19. Vanadium is the element that gives Columbian Emeralds their mint green color. I wonder how much this Vanadium based storage system is going to cost. Will it come with a gold plated toilet seat and a $300 hammer?

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