Energy storage has become talk of the town with new technologies and approaches coming from every direction. Tesla has been working on the Powerwall Storage systems which are powered by lithium ion. There have been rumors of significant improvements accomplished so far. However, Tesla will now have to speed up its processes to compete with another rival.
Imergy is working on vanadium redox flow batteries. Although vanadium is costlier ingredient when compared to lithium, especially once sourced from fly ash and also obtained as byproduct during the process of making steel. But the company has instead opted to buy it from the market at half the price.
Vanadium batteries use liquids with electrolytes. Lithium ion batteries on contrary are in solid form. The different combinations in which these electrolytes are used include Iron Chromium, Zinc Bromine and Zinc Iron. Lithium ion batteries have a fixed capacity in terms of kilowatts of energy made available. However, vanadium batteries’ energy to capacity ratio can be easily altered by adding more electrolytes in liquid tanks. Therefore, industries which are energy intensive (without any problems in terms of storage space available) are ideal consumers of vanadium having the ability to increase electricity within a short period of time. Lithium ion batteries with the capacity to pack dense amounts of energy make it an ideal competitor for the automotive industry. Vanadium batteries have longer duration with multiple cycles.
Some of the important reasons why Imergy considered vanadium include.
- There is no possibility of cross-contamination of chemicals.
- Even after 20 years of use you can still extract vanadium from the batteries.
- And lastly, it consists 40% of the total system, it is collateral that can still be cashed after batteries have fully exhausted.
Imergy has been testing vanadium for the past many years in harsher and driest environments of India by supporting the country’s telecom industry. The company had fair amount of success, it has recently made changes to its product’s platform design in order to capitalize on business opportunities available overseas. Imergy has recently introduced three new products to cater to demands of the energy sector.
- A 5kWh DC-only system which can scale up its energy output to 30kWh. (An inverter can change the output to AC current).
- A mid range product with a starting energy generation capacity of 30kWh can turnout powers of up to 200kWh.
- The highest energy generating product developed by Imergy has starting energy generation capacity of 250kWh that can be increase by four times to 1MWh.
There have been commercial gains and interests shown by large-scale-customers in Imerge’s products. SunEdison will buy 1000 units which it plans to use for storage of solar generated electricity from its rural electrification projects.
There are many aspects of this project which would make Tesla rethink its strategy about lithium batteries. The first is the re-usability of vanadium. Secondly, and most importantly the ability to scale up energy to cater to changing power demands is something that a lot of existing power solutions have failed to address. Lastly, Imergy has already started seeing commercial success. Let’s see how Tesla responds to this competitor which has matured its product over the period of time.