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Australia's first commercial vanadium-flow battery storage completed in South Australia

Christian Cominos

Jun 22, 2023

Australia's first commercial vanadium-flow battery has been completed in South Australia's mid north and is expected to be running and exporting power by August.

Yadlamalka Energy has been undertaking the Spencer Energy Project at Bungama, outside of Port Pirie, where the 2-megawatt/8MW-hour battery is connected to a grid of solar panels.

The battery will store around 10 gigawatts of dispatchable solar power each year and charge from excess electricity produced by the solar panels when the sun is at its peak.

The power will be delivered to households at night when the grid loads are high from demand and when no solar generation is available.

Five people wearing high-visibility vests in front of a red ribbon outside in the rain for an opening ceremony

Andrew Doman (second from left) says the battery should be storing power by August.(Supplied: Yadlamalka Energy)

Yadlamalka Energy chairman Andrew Doman said this would also be the first commercial use of the battery in the Southern Hemisphere.

"This is a battery that has significant advantages over lithium-ion ones; the most important one is the duration of this battery is four hours, unlike lithium batteries which typically last half-an-hour or two hours," he said.

The 'forever' battery invented in Australia

A type of battery invented by an Australian professor in the 1980s is being touted as the next big technology for grid energy storage.

A vanadium flow battery installation

"Introducing vanadium batteries will reduce peak energy prices in Australia.

"When electricity prices are negative, we'll be buying the electricity and that will help stabilise the grid, and when prices are high, we'll be selling power into the grid — that margin will have the effect to reduce prices.

"We're on the verge of a vanadium revolution."

The vanadium-flow battery was invented at the University of New South Wales during the 1980s.

Mr Doman said vanadium was ethically sourced as it was more widely abundant in Australia than other critical minerals like copper, nickel and cobalt.

The vanadium is then converted into an electrolyte which holds the ions and stores the electricity inside the battery.

Orange and grey rectangular boxes

The battery will be able to store 10 gigawatts of energy per year.(Supplied: Yadlamalka Energy)

Vanadium vs lithium

University of Adelaide associate professor Nesimi Ertugrul will be monitoring the battery's performance and said the main difference between vanadium and lithium batteries was that the electrolyte could be replaced in a vanadium battery.

"That replacement simply makes them last longer," he said.

"Companies claim different life cycles for lithium batteries, but those life spans depend on environmental conditions as well as operating patterns.

"Lithium batteries last five to 10 years and vanadium batteries claim to last up to 20 years."

Associate Professor Ertugrul said lithium batteries were better for mobile objects like vehicles whereas vanadium was better suited to stationary conditions.

The vanadium-flow batteries are also non-flammable and are almost completely recyclable.

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