300 MW liquid metal battery storage offer and VRFB mini-grid

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US startup Ambri has received a customer order in South Africa for a 300 MW/1,400 MWh energy storage system based on its proprietary liquid metal battery technology.

The company touts its battery as inexpensive, durable, and safe, as well as suitable for large-scale, long-duration energy storage applications.

Ambri has signed the deal with South African renewable energy producer and retailer, Earth & Wind, to deploy the technology at a combined wind and solar PV generation plant in the Eastern Cape region of the country.

Earth & Wind has yet to start generating and selling electricity – the company is developing an extensive portfolio of wind, solar, hydro and biomass power, with partnership agreements and land deals in place in five provinces from South Africa for more than 15 GW of electricity.

On this pipeline, 2 GW of wind and solar energy have passed the stage of environmental approval and the company is preparing to inaugurate its first 19 MW solar plant this year.

The network in South Africa suffers from frequent outages and network operator Eskom regularly organizes load shedding events to try to manage the system.

Solutions to the problems have included targeted purchases of dispatchable power, including a major Eskom tender in which solar-plus-storage projects were eligible and won – alongside gas-fired power stations.

This need, coupled with national climate and renewable energy policy goals, will continue to be a driver for energy storage technologies, Ambri said of the customer’s order.

Ambri’s battery cells use liquid calcium alloy anodes with molten salt electrolyte and solid antimony particles in the cathodes. These are arranged in stainless steel containers and integrated as containerized DC-coupled battery energy storage systems (BESS).

Although the batteries operate at a temperature of 500°C, they are safe to operate and are not subject to some of the same safety or technical issues with lithium-ion batteries that can be caused by thermal runaway, electrolyte breakdown and gassing, claims the company.

This week, June 21, Ambri founder and now Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Donald Sadoway, won a European Inventor Award for his work on batteries. The company grew out of lab work at MIT, where Sadoway is still a professor of materials chemistry in its materials science and engineering department.

Sadoway won in an international category at the awards, organized by the European Patent Office.

“When I look at all the patented technologies that are represented at this event, I see an abundance of excellence, all solutions to pressing problems. I wonder if the judges are evaluating not only the degrees of excellence but also the degrees of ’emergency,’ Sadoway said as he accepted the award.

“The liquid metal battery addresses an existential threat to the health of our atmosphere that is linked to climate change.”

Founded in 2010, Ambri’s marketing activities have accelerated over the past two years. Last year, it secured US$144 million in a Series A funding round, while securing a long-term supply deal for the antimony used in its cathode.

Earlier this month, Energy-Storage.news announced that the company would triple the footprint of its manufacturing plant in Massachusetts and add an innovation center to the complex. Ambri said yesterday that it would begin shipping batteries to the Earth & Wire project in 2024 and expects the project to be commissioned in 2026.

South African vanadium producer Bushveld could put 180 MWh of storage in its own facilities

In a similar vein, vanadium producer Bushveld Minerals has secured funding for a hybrid mini-grid project at its mine in South Africa’s North West Province.

The project, at the Vametco Alloy mine in Bushveld, will combine 3.5 MW of photovoltaic solar panels with a 1 MW/4 MWh vanadium redox flow (VRFB) battery system.

It will cover approximately 10.7% of the mine’s energy needs and will serve as a demonstration and test of the technology’s suitability for mining applications.

At the end of 2020, it was announced that the Spaniard Abengoa had been appointed to the post of EPC. However, Abengoa is no longer associated with the project, a source familiar with the matter said. Energy-Storage.news.

The flow battery system will be supplied by CellCube, a manufacturer in which Bushveld has a 25.25% stake and the vanadium used in the electrolyte is already extracted from the Vametco facility.

Regular readers of this site and our review PV technology power will know that Bushveld is aiming for a high level of vertical integration within the VRFB industry: in addition to investing in manufacturers, the company is building an electrolyte processing plant and has launched a subsidiary, Bushveld Energy, which is actively advance VRFB projects, including the Vametco hybrid mini-grid project.

It is expected to cost around 113 million rand ($7.1 million) and Bushveld Energy has provided 40% of the capital, alongside South African investment firm NESA Investment Holdings, which has invested the remaining 60%. Bushveld and NESA have formed a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company for this.

The ABSA banking group has also approved a loan of ZAR 64 million for the construction. A 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is in place.

Bushveld Energy noted that it will save R5.6 million in its own revenue from the project, while its parent company’s mining and processing facilities could potentially house a total of 120 MW of solar energy and 180 MWh battery storage.

“This VRFB mini-grid project is a useful proof of concept of the greater technological qualities of long-lasting VRFB systems when used in conjunction with renewable energy,” said Fortune Mojapelo, Group CEO of Bushveld Minerals.

“At a fundamental level, the project also perfectly demonstrates the sustainable uses of vanadium and positions it as a key metal in the green energy transition.”

Site preparation for construction of the mini-grid began in the first quarter of this year and, with the project now fully funded, is expected to be completed in the first half of next year.

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