China commissions first phase of 200 MW ‘vanadium flow battery’ – scale dwarfs anything else in the world

Energy Storage News reports that China has commissioned a 100MW/400MWh vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) energy storage system in Dalian City’s Shahekou District, which is in Liaoning Province in northeastern China.

A vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) is a type of rechargeable flow battery is a type of electrochemical cell where chemical energy is provided by two chemical components dissolved in liquids, that are pumped through the system on separate sides of a membrane. Because of their relative bulkiness, vanadium batteries are typically used for grid energy storage, and are attached to power plants and electrical transmission grids.

The project is the biggest of its type in the world today. The VRFB project’s planning, design and construction has taken six years. It was connected to the Dalian grid in late May 2022, according to a report this week by the China Energy Storage Alliance (CNESA) industry group.

The Dalian system will contribute to lowering the peak load on the grid in Dalian City and could even play a role at provincial level, improving power supply and the capability to connect new generation sources like renewable energy to the grid.

VRFB energy storage system in Dalian City (Image: VRB Energy).

VRFB developer and manufacturer Rongke Power supplied the battery technology. The company is a spin-off from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the institute has overseen the project through doctoral supervisor and head of its energy storage department Li Xianfeng.

An update on the project’s progress which was issued in June by the trade group Zhongguancun Energy Storage Industry Alliance from Beijing said the VRFB technology was developed by the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics team.

Together, the academics have worked with Rongke Power on almost 40 commercial demonstration flow battery projects including projects both in China and overseas, such as a 10MW/50MWh system which was the world’s biggest when completed in 2013 and a 10MW/40MWh project at a wind farm.

Previously, the biggest flow battery installation in the world was a 15MW/60MWh system deployed in 2015 in northern Japan by Sumitomo Electric. Sumitomo Electric brought online a second, 51MWh large-scale system in April this year, but has so far largely been unable to scale up.

However, the Dalian project is, as well as being a demonstration project and part of a wave of large-scale VRFBs China is looking to deploy, only at its first phase of construction. A second phase will bring it up to 200MW/800MWh.

It was the first project to be approved under a national programme to build large-scale flow battery demonstrations around China in 2016 as the country’s launched an energy storage policy strategy. It is thought that various factors including unexpected volatility in the price of vanadium and demand for the metal in other industries like construction had slowed the programme.

Elsewhere, in China’s Hubei Province, another (very) large-scale VRFB is being built in phases that was approved through the same programme. Canada-based VRB Energy is constructing that 100MW/500MWh facility in Hubei.

VRB Energy and its local partners had already built a successful 3MW/12MWh demonstration project in Hubei and a VRFB factory with 1,000MWh annual production capacity could be built at the site at a later date too.

The Hubei project’s cost for 500MWh of VRFB, along with a combined 1GW of solar PV and wind generation from which it will charge, was cited as around US$1.44 billion.

The first phase of Rongke Power’s Dalian project meanwhile was given as RMB1.9 billion (US$298 million) in CNESA’s announcement, equivalent to RMB4.75/Wh (US$0.7/Wh).

Although not on the scale individually of either Chinese project, some megawatt-scale flow battery projects have been completed, announced or begun construction in recent months around the world.

In the UK, the world’s largest battery storage system to hybridise lithium-ion and vanadium flow went officially into commercial operation this summer, pairing 50MW/50MWh of lithium with a 2MW/5MWh VRFB system.

One thing limiting the size and scale of flow batteries today is access to vanadium pentoxide, which is used in their electrolytes. While vanadium itself is abundant in both its raw primary form and as a secondary byproduct of steel production, not many facilities exist to process it into electrolyte.

Source: Energy Storage News, July 21, 2022.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply