Climate Confident

Beyond Lithium: The Rise of Vanadium Flow Batteries in Renewable Energy

November 15, 2023 Tom Raftery / Matt Harper Season 1 Episode 145
Beyond Lithium: The Rise of Vanadium Flow Batteries in Renewable Energy
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Climate Confident
Beyond Lithium: The Rise of Vanadium Flow Batteries in Renewable Energy
Nov 15, 2023 Season 1 Episode 145
Tom Raftery / Matt Harper

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In this episode of the Climate Confident podcast, I talked energy storage with Matt Harper, the Chief Commercial Officer at Invinity Energy Systems, who explained vanadium flow batteries—and their implications for renewable energy.

We started with a 'Battery 101' comparing the familiar lithium-ion to vanadium flow batteries.

Matt shared fascinating insights into the modular nature of these batteries, how they differ in their response to the degradation issues plaguing conventional batteries, and their non-flammability—a significant safety advantage.

We discussed the role of vanadium flow batteries in supporting infrastructure rather than powering EVs, given their weight. But where they truly shine is in the realm of grid energy storage.

Looking at the bigger picture, Matt highlighted the economic shifts towards longer-duration storage, driven by the ever-decreasing costs of solar and wind power. Our conversation touched upon the broader market dynamics and the critical role of energy storage in achieving a net-zero future.

The episode closed with Matt's passionate perspective on the necessity of supportive industrial policies for renewable technologies, ensuring a robust and sustainable energy sector.

Do not miss this enlightening conversation on 'Climate Confident,' where we continue to unravel the innovations steering us towards a cleaner, more resilient energy future. And don't forget to check out the video version on YouTube.


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  • Roger Arnold

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Credits
Music credits - Intro by Joseph McDade, and Outro music for this podcast was composed, played, and produced by my daughter Luna Juniper

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Send me a message

In this episode of the Climate Confident podcast, I talked energy storage with Matt Harper, the Chief Commercial Officer at Invinity Energy Systems, who explained vanadium flow batteries—and their implications for renewable energy.

We started with a 'Battery 101' comparing the familiar lithium-ion to vanadium flow batteries.

Matt shared fascinating insights into the modular nature of these batteries, how they differ in their response to the degradation issues plaguing conventional batteries, and their non-flammability—a significant safety advantage.

We discussed the role of vanadium flow batteries in supporting infrastructure rather than powering EVs, given their weight. But where they truly shine is in the realm of grid energy storage.

Looking at the bigger picture, Matt highlighted the economic shifts towards longer-duration storage, driven by the ever-decreasing costs of solar and wind power. Our conversation touched upon the broader market dynamics and the critical role of energy storage in achieving a net-zero future.

The episode closed with Matt's passionate perspective on the necessity of supportive industrial policies for renewable technologies, ensuring a robust and sustainable energy sector.

Do not miss this enlightening conversation on 'Climate Confident,' where we continue to unravel the innovations steering us towards a cleaner, more resilient energy future. And don't forget to check out the video version on YouTube.


Stay Climate Confident!



What If? So What?
We discover what’s possible with digital and make it real in your business

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the Show.

Podcast supporters
I'd like to sincerely thank this podcast's amazing supporters:

  • Lorcan Sheehan
  • Hal Good
  • Jerry Sweeney
  • Andreas Werner
  • Devaang Bhatt
  • Stephen Carroll
  • Marcel Roquette
  • Roger Arnold

And remember you too can Support the Podcast - it is really easy and hugely important as it will enable me to continue to create more excellent Climate Confident episodes like this one.

Contact
If you have any comments/suggestions or questions for the podcast - get in touch via direct message on Twitter/LinkedIn.

If you liked this show, please don't forget to rate and/or review it. It makes a big difference to help new people discover the show.

Credits
Music credits - Intro by Joseph McDade, and Outro music for this podcast was composed, played, and produced by my daughter Luna Juniper

Matt Harper:

What that separation of those two things allows us to do is it allows us to architect from the ground up a battery that has some really unique and interesting characteristics. The most important one being that we can go to very long durations of storage at comparatively low incremental cost.

MattHarper:

If we want to go from a two hour to a four hour battery, for example, really, we're just increasing the volume of liquid that is inside one of those batteries

Tom Raftery:

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, wherever you are in the world. This is the Climate Confident podcast, the number one podcast showcasing best practices in climate emission reductions and removals, and I'm your host, Tom Raftery. Don't forget to click follow on this podcast in your podcast app of choice to be sure you don't miss any episodes. Hi everyone and welcome to episode 145 of the Climate Confident podcast. My name is Tom Raftery and before we kick off today's show, I just want to let you know about a new feature that I've rolled out in the podcast. For now, it's just available on the podcast website and one or two podcast apps, but it'll roll out to more soon enough. It's called a Podroll. If anyone remembers, Blog rolls from blogs back in the early to mid two thousands. It's a similar idea. It's where I list on the podcast website, similar podcasts to this one, ones that I like and that I recommend. So for example, if you go to the podcast website, go into any of the episodes. The podcast website is climate confident podcast.com. At the end of the show notes, you'll see links to other podcasts that I think are pretty cool. So obviously, I have a link to my digital supply chain podcast. I have a link as well to Buzzcast, which is the podcast hosting company for this podcast. The hosting company's name is Buzzsprout, but they have a podcast called Buzzcast, which I enjoy listening to because I'm into podcasts. But I also have links to other climate related ones. I have one to Richard Delavan's Wicked Problems, for example, the Yale Climate Connections, Climate Connections podcast, the Climate Pod, the Climate Action Show, the Climate Question from the BBC World Service, the Energy Gang, Climate Positive, and Climate One. Those are the ones I have there for now. If there are any other podcasts that you think I should add to the pod roll, get in touch. Hit me up on LinkedIn or Twitter or drop me an email to tomraftery at outlook. com and I'll be happy to add them to the pod roll. Okay, now, with that out of the way, without further ado, with me on the show today, I have my special guest, Matt. Matt, welcome to the podcast. Would you like to introduce yourself?

MattHarper:

Absolutely. Thanks, Tom. I'm Matt Harper Chief Commercial Officer and one of the Co Founders at Invinity Energy Systems. Invinity make vanadium flow batteries for long duration storage. And we're looking forward to telling you all about what that means.

Tom Raftery:

Fantastic. So let's start off with a quick battery 101, Matt, because most people here would be familiar with lithium ion batteries. They're in our phones. For some of us, they're in our cars, you know, but vanadium flow batteries. Not so, not so common, I gotta think. So, what is a vanadium flow battery and how does it differ from a lithium ion battery?

MattHarper:

So great question. So fundamentally what a vanadium flow battery does or what, there are a number of different classes of flow batteries, but what a vanadium flow battery does is it takes the portion of a battery that generates power. And the portion of a battery that stores energy and separates it from one another. So those two things are conjoined inside a lithium ion cell. We construct them separately from one another. So, the power generation in one of our batteries is in a device called a cell stack, which is a series of electrochemical cells that allow the battery to charge and discharge. Whereas the energy inside the battery is stored in a liquid electrolyte. That liquid is it's fundamentally it's battery acid with dissolved vanadium in it, hence the vanadium part of the name. And in order to help that charge and discharge reaction happen, the liquid electrolyte it flows through that cell stack, hence the flow battery portion, as a way of fueling in effect that charge and discharge reaction.

Matt Harper:

What that separation of those two things allows us to do is it allows us to architect from the ground up a battery that has some really unique and interesting characteristics. The most important one being that we can go to very long durations of storage at comparatively low incremental cost.

MattHarper:

If we want to go from a two hour to a four hour battery, for example, really, we're just increasing the volume of liquid that is inside one of those batteries. That means that as we, as the grid needs longer and longer duration storage, we can provide that comparatively inexpensively. The other benefit is that in one of our batteries, the charge and discharge reaction happens exclusively in that vanadium liquid. And what that means is that if you look at the, if you look at the charge and discharge mode inside a lithium ion battery, and you look at how those batteries degrade over time, fundamentally, in a lithium battery, what you're doing is you're plating material onto an electrode and then tearing it off again, every time you charge and discharge. With one of our batteries, because that charge and discharge happens totally in a liquid, we don't get that very small degradation over time. Over a cycle or two, you would never notice those changes, but over a thousand cycles or over 10, 000 cycles it means that while other battery technologies are going to degrade, we don't see that sort of degradation mechanism inside one of our batteries. So, for example installing our batteries alongside, for example, a solar plant where, you know, if you're going to absorb solar energy and deploy it on the grid, when it's most valuable, you know, you're going to do that over the 25 to 30 year asset life of a solar plant. You're going to be doing that 365 days a year. You're probably going to be doing some ancillary services on top of that. It allows us to do 10, 15, 20,000 charge and discharge cycles without fundamental degradation of the batteries performance. So very much an asset that is developed from the ground up to be fit for purpose for standing alongside renewable power generation.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, that was gonna be my next question actually. I assume them being, you know, you having liquid as part of the flow battery, not that suitable for cars.

MattHarper:

No, and that is one of the, one of the downsides of the technology. It is comparatively heavy. So not something you're likely to see in a car anytime soon, not likely something you're going to see in a mobile device anytime soon. With that said if you, if you look at you know, the number of charge and discharge cycles that a typical vehicle will go through over its life, you don't necessarily need the ultra high throughput, ultra high charge and discharge cycle count that we're able to achieve. And so. When we look at the future of mobility and the role that we can play, it's very much more on the infrastructure side. You know, how can we put a battery alongside an EV charging station that, you know, in the morning and evening rush hour is going to be able to supply power to vehicles that are in transit rather than actually providing power to the vehicles themselves.

Tom Raftery:

Interesting, yeah. That's a nice use case because a lot of people mightn't realise that in these charging stations where you can have multiple chargers together and multiple cars plugged in, you can either have a big fat cable going into the back of the charging station to make sure that all chargers can discharge fully at the same time, Or you can have a smaller cable and a big battery there to supply the power as well. So I can see how the the Vanadium Flow battery would suit that that installation beautifully.

MattHarper:

Look, it's absolutely true. And the reality is that those big cables into fueling stations today simply don't exist. And if you look at what's happening in the renewable space in general, I think we see all around the world that the biggest hurdle to delivering more renewable power under the grid in many jurisdictions is the time it takes to make an interconnection into the electric grid. Trying to build those same sort of interconnections on the load side, i. e. into, you know, a new and expanded you know, electric fueling stations is something that is going to be a massive drain on the electric grid. And I don't think something that we're going to see anytime soon, unless we have batteries on site, supporting that fueling infrastructure.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, because you can trickle fill those batteries in times when there isn't a lot of demand and then just discharge them as there is the demand. No, it's a, it's a, it's a beautiful use case. I, I've heard of a use case for rail as well for similar kind of things. But that, that, that's a whole nother thing. And we would, don't, don't want to go down that railway track. Ha, ha, ha,

MattHarper:

Lest we get off the rails

Tom Raftery:

ha, ha, ha, ha. Nice. Ha, ha, ha, ha. The other, one of the other limitations of lithium ion batteries is there is a fear of fire with those. Is, I've read, so you correct me if I'm wrong, but I've read that that isn't as big an issue with vanadium flow batteries.

MattHarper:

I would say it's a near zero issue with the batteries themselves. I mean, look, any, any electrical infrastructure has some fire risk associated with with it just because of the nature of, you know, passing a lot of energy through wires and such. But when you look at the battery itself, our batteries are fundamentally non flammable. You know, there's a, there's a regulatory test in in the U. S. called UL 9540A, where you basically need to try and prove that that the, the batteries are not going to, at the very least, start, if not propagate, a fire. And, you know, we submitted our batteries to that test and they essentially weren't even, they didn't even need to run the test because they weren't able to ignite the electrolyte inside the battery in any way, shape, or form. So, you know, we, we, we got a pretty easy pass there, but look, it's absolutely true. And it really depends on, on, on the application. I mean, look, everything is nothing in the world is without risk. And I, I have seen a lot of people talk about how, oh, you know, there's a lot of risk with electric vehicle batteries. I mean, it's true, but there's also a lot of risk with, with, with, with. You know, diesel and petrol. Exactly. Exactly. Now, where I think that there is, I think that there is, you know, from, from our perspective, we see a lot of pushback for battery installations in urban and industrial areas because of the fire risk. You know, if you're building a solar farm in the middle of nowhere, you know, do you, does it, does it matter if your battery has some risk associated with it? Probably not. But if you are in, you know, an urban area, you know, you've got batteries at a, at a substation looking to regulate load into a residential neighborhood, you need to be absolutely certain that there's no risk of, of, of fire. There's no risk of toxic fumes being you know, clouding the neighborhood. And so for applications like that, we are increasingly seeing that we've got a tremendous leg up on on, on, on the lithium ion incumbents.

Tom Raftery:

What about size? I can imagine there's a weight differential in favor of lithium ion, but in terms of size, and if I'm, if I'm thinking about a use case here, it's for home energy storage. So, you know, the likes of the Tesla Powerwall 14. 3, I think it is kilowatt hours sticks on the side of the wall of the house. But to your point, it's a lithium ion battery. There's a, there's a negligible, but there is a risk of fire there and there's a lesser risk of a fire with a vanadium battery. So in terms of size, would it be significantly larger for the same kind of storage capacity? And also, would there be a significant price differential between the two? And in which direction would that go?

MattHarper:

Great question. So, in terms of the, in terms of the size and we don't do work today in residential. So, so I don't have a, I don't have a comparison directly at hand, but if you look at you know, industrial energy storage, for example you know, the amount of energy storage that we put into a, a 20 foot shipping container as a form factor, for example yeah, is, is significant, is less than you would see with a comparable lithium array. Now, the benefit, though, is because of that lack of fire risk, there's no need for spacing those containers out vis a vis one another, so we can take these battery containers and stack them up so that they look a lot like a shipping port. Directly on top of one another, directly alongside one another, and therefore the absolute, the absolute size of one of these installations, depending on how you want to measure that we benchmark at, you know, a meter squared per megawatt hour of installed capacity, we are, you know, at least as dense, if not denser than the leading, leading lithium ion solutions out there today.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. And in terms of cost?

MattHarper:

Oh as it stands today, we're probably, look, there's a, there's a big range of lithium costs out there. For the projects that we're currently serving, which are sort of the large commercial and industrial and small distributed scale we're, we're roughly on par. When you get into the, the lithium-ion mega projects that are being built out, you know, at the hundreds of mega, the hundreds of megawatt hours north of that you know, we, we are, we are more expensive. We do see that changing over the next couple of years. We are engaged in a joint development agreement with the folks over at Siemens Gamesa to build our, our sort of our next generation product that is going to put us directly competitive with with, with lithium ion batteries in in the majority of applications. Now, with all of that said, the one thing that I would add to that question is that if you're looking at, at, you know, the, the, the initial capital cost of those batteries, what I just said is, is, is, is accurate, but if you want to look at the total cost of ownership of those batteries over their life cycle, and especially talk about levelized cost of storage, which is essentially how much useful work are you getting out of the batteries over their life? We already are significantly better than lithium ion batteries in the kind of applications we target, and we have a path significantly downwards toward some very very compelling L Cost cost numbers in the long term.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. And is that, I presume that's because the longer life and the greater cycles, the greater number of cycles per battery. Because I assume if you are on a grid, for example backing up either wind or solar, you're probably doing frequency regulation, which is kind of multiple times per hour, per minute, even at times, depending on when you're called on to step in. That could mean tens or hundreds of cycles per day at different times.

MattHarper:

Yep, no, that's exactly it. I mean, and we, so we focus on what we think of as high throughput applications. So whether that's we've got an installation up in the north of Scotland, which is regulating power output from a tidal turbine. So it's doing 4 deep discharge cycles per day, constantly cycling very, very difficult duty cycle for lithium ion batteries to survive. Conversely, a little bit further south in the UK, we've got our installation at the Energy Super Hub Oxford, which is doing a combination of merchant trading on the electricity markets and some of those ancillary services in the, in the, broader electricity market there. So each one of those means that in both applications, we are cycling with the batteries almost continuously, making sure that we're getting value for our customers out of those devices as many hours of the day as possible.

Tom Raftery:

Fascinating. Tell me a little bit about, just, veering left for a second. Tell me a little bit about the, the Genesis story of Invinity, you know. What, what made you're, you're one of the founders. So what made you kind of wake up one morning and go, I know what I should do. I should start a vanadium flow battery company.

MattHarper:

I'll tell you, the real story is that I woke up one morning and realized what I shouldn't do, but we'll leave that one of the side for now. Look, I've been working I've been working in renewables since the mid nineties. I spent the first 10 years of my career in hydrogen and fuel cells. And then in, in 2005, I had the opportunity to go join a company called VRB Power Systems, which was the original licensee of the Vanadium Flow technology into North America. We sort of went through a couple of corporate changes, a transaction that saw us acquired by a company over in Asia. And in 2013 we were continuing to advance the commercialization and deployment of the technology. But we were really focused on these sort of very, very large scale utility projects, you know, in the sort of tens to hundreds of megawatt hours that were being constructed on site as kind of, you know, bespoke engineering projects say, you know, kind of built like a small chemical plant. And and what we saw was was was 2 things first of all. We saw that that mode of construction wasn't going to evolve the technology in the way that we wanted, simply because when you build something on site, you never get the degree of standardization and consistency that we thought would be needed to really understand how these batteries operate and how we could optimize them over time. And, and, and second of all we didn't think that that method of constructing batteries was ever going to be fit for purpose for deployment in, in North America because, you know, at that time, the most exciting story in renewables was the massive uptick in, in solar deployment. And solar plants are being rolled out on the order of megawatts per week you know, turn around and say, yeah, we can deliver a flow battery to support your solar plant, but it's going to take two and a half years worth of, you know, site engineering, permitting and construction simply was never going to work. So, you know, the concept that evolved out of kind of the Venn diagram between those two forces was for us to say, look, can we take this technology that we know really well, a technology that we know would be very much fit for purpose for serving renewable power projects and turn that into something that's totally turnkey that we could deliver out of a factory with great quality control at lowest possible total cost and deliver to our customers in a way where they could hook it up and have it up and running within hours to days. And that was really the sort of the nut of the idea that ultimately became that became Avalon Battery, which was the company we founded back in 2013. And that we we brought into Invinity when we merged with one of our competitors over the UK back in back in 2020. That concept, I think, has been fairly well played. Very well proven now. We've now shipped. I think the number is something like 1400 of those individual battery modules into the field. That's more flow batteries that have been built by the entire group of flow battery companies in the rest of the world. It's a huge fleet. And as we expected, what that fleet size has given us is an unbelievably powerful data set. That we can go to and we can, you know, we've got real time telemetry into most if not of all of those systems. You know, we get the data back in terms of how they're actually operating, how they're actually performing you know, critical metrics like uptime, like efficiency, like, you know, like, you know, any sort of degradation over time, roundtrip efficiency, all those things come back into, into our data platform and we're able to use that fleet to fully optimize, you know, the current operation and also our future product development. So, you know, I think that that that that strategy of sort of, modularization and and using that modularization to drive standardization, using that standardization to drive, you know, ultra high quality and lowest possible cost has been has been one that's played out very well for us.

Tom Raftery:

Nice. Nice. And so if you are getting the data back from the batteries, does that mean that you are also maintaining and managing the batteries for your customers? Or is that something that you hand off to them? Or is it a mix?

MattHarper:

It really depends. Um, I would say in some instances, we directly support batteries in the field. Increasingly what we are trying to do, especially as we go to much larger projects, you know, we're not the ones who are typically pouring the concrete and running wires and, you know, doing all the good install stuff on a, on a particular site. So what we've been moving towards is a mode where we provide sort of the expertise and know how, and then we use, you know, local teams to go and, you know, from, from 3rd party contractors to go and not only build the, the facilities in the 1st place, not only install the batteries themselves when they land on site, but also provide any of the, any of the support that might be needed over time. 1 of the things that are our customers and, and, and they're, and they're, their suppliers or their, their the people who are providing those maintenance services like about our batteries is that there's nothing in a vanadium flow battery that that will go that will that will trigger, you know, maintenance fairly quickly, right? Because we've got a fairly modular nature. You know, we, if we see you know, the performance of 1 of a, an array of, say, 300 of our batteries starting to change in a way that might indicate that some maintenance might be required, you know, that's I think that's an activity we can plan for, you know, three to six months out, not where we have to roll a truck to site right away, which can become very, very expensive, as you can imagine. So, the nature of the technology is such that we can that we can you know, plan those maintenance activities fairly proactively and therefore keep that, as I mentioned, that levelized cost of storage as low as possible over the life of the solution.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. Nice. Nice. Talk to me a bit as well about the, the market for energy storage, because with the deployment of renewables, it's obviously growing. Also, with the deployment, increasing deployment of increasing electrification of transportation, for example, the competition for batteries has got to be growing. I know we're bringing more battery plants online, but for example, for grid energy storage the the utility companies or the people who are building the wind farms and solar parks and tidal and et cetera, et cetera. They're looking for batteries. They don't care whether they're lithium or vanadium or whatever. What they want is storage, whereas the car manufacturers are not looking for vanadium. So obviously there is less competition for what you guys are producing. That's got to be working in your favor, right?

MattHarper:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, lithium, lithium ion batteries have done a phenomenal job of proving that storage can be a very helpful and for developers, a very profitable part of the electric grid, but where they've proven that capability, it's, it's, it's at sort of the, you know, the, the, the, the pointy front end of electricity markets where, you know, for example, the kind of prices that we saw in the UK last winter, where you were people were paying 2000 or 2000 pounds a megawatt hour for energy, for example, I mean, batteries can be very, very profitable in those kinds of areas, but it's a limited number of time cycles per year and a number of limited number of hours per day where those numbers tend to make sense. What we are seeing around the world is a progressive shift to more to longer duration batteries, to higher throughput batteries, and that's driven, it depends on the jurisdiction, how that is, how that push is happening. For example in Australia, where we're just building one of our largest projects right now. They have essentially, the grid operator has essentially said, look, we're not going to let you put any more solar generation onto the grid unless you have a way of capturing that solar generation and delivering it back onto the grid when it's more valuable, because they already have negative pricing for electricity many, many hours of the year. Incremental solar is not hugely valuable without having having storage available and indeed is starting to look more and more like a burden to those, to those to those grid operators. Conversely, where we see in other jurisdictions where where so that's, that's sort of the, the you know, the operator push. We're also seeing other jurisdictions that are starting to look at different types of market direct markets for the battery. So rather than saying, look, you can't install more renewables without a battery. Other markets are saying, look, we're going to create market structures explicitly for long duration capacity or zero carbon capacity or things like that, that would directly incentivize the construction of batteries by themselves. You know, in both in both both can work. And and, and we're, we're sort of happy to adjust to what are the stipulations in particular markets are to make those to make those kinds of projects happen, but look to your, to your fundamental point you know, competition with mobility. It's absolutely true. I mean, one of the things that we've often thought about is, you know, if you're a lithium ion battery manufacturer, and you could wrap a metal box around your battery and put it in the field, or you could wrap. some very sexy, very fast, high tech piece of automotive machinery around your battery and put it out on the road. Which one would you rather do? I mean, the cars are going to win every time you know, whether it's, whether it's just from a market's perspective or whether it's from a, you know, value add perspective you know, we think that, you know, lithium is going to continue to dominate that automotive space opening a window for For for, for, for stationary storage, especially as we look towards those much longer duration applications and trying to, trying to achieve, you know, what is ultimately we hope net zero baseload around the world.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And talk to me a little bit about that as well, because idea that, you know, the old trope that we always hear that the sun isn't always shining and the wind isn't always blowing. There are, though, times when, you there isn't sun, or obviously every night, for example, but cloud cover, intermittent cloud cover, or the variability of wind and batteries can step in there really nicely, but also increasingly we're starting to see, or are we, correct me if I'm wrong, we're starting to see more and more grids looking for, to your point, longer duration energy storage. So is the sweet spot of that shifting in terms of economics, because batteries are becoming cheaper, solar is becoming cheaper. And so maybe the sweet spot for that was an hour of storage for a renewable generation facility. Now it's two hours. Now it's four hours. Now it's eight hours. I'm not sure where it falls. It probably depends on region as well and the technologies. But is is that shifting from shorter durations to longer durations now? And are we seeing, you know, more be deployed for that reason?

MattHarper:

Yeah, absolutely. And and I would you know, probably the most comprehensive and interesting piece of work that we've seen in this area is, the US Department of Energy published a report earlier this year called Pathways To Commercial Liftoff For Long Duration Storage. And what that report looked at, I think in one of the most comprehensive ways I've seen is if we look at what the grid is going to be in 2030, 2040, 2050, what percentage of the energy storage on the grid to achieve that sort of ultimate level of, of, of anticipated or desired decarbonization will be served by, you know, what they call, you know, short duration, you know, long duration and seasonal storage. And if you look at what they are presenting and I think it's very, it's, it's, I mean, no, no, no models are right. All models are useful isn't that the old expression. You know, it's certainly it's, it's, it's, they present it in, I think, a very logical way. Shorter duration storage is still going to have a massive part to play. There will always be intermittency. There will always be, you know, connection constraints. You know, there are things that need to be worked around. That middle ground of you know, where we're focused, you know, essentially, you know, how to take electricity from the daytime when the sun's shining and push it into the nighttime when the sun isn't is, is, is potentially a, you know, a pretty big part of it because it's so regular, right? You know, we know that the sun, we get good solar generation in a lot of regions in the middle of the day. We know that we get good wind generation in coastal areas, you know, in the morning and evening. So those are sort of very regular things that we can plan infrastructure around and we can use to deliver a large, a large part of that sort of total, total amount of energy needed. But then there's that, that seasonal portion, you know, how do we make sure that you know, the, the, the, the doldrums of February can be served by, you know, the wind power that was generated in, you know, the blustery days of November. I mean, those are, those are you know, that is, is an equally critical capability. What we find, what we find interesting is that if you look at the absolute magnitude of energy that is delivered onto the grid, and I would use absolute magnitude as a measure of relative value. Of energy deployed onto the grid in that future scenario, the vast majority of it is coming from that middle segment, right? The number of terawatt hours that will be delivered onto the grid in a net zero future. disproportionately come from that middle ground, you know, more than 10 hours of duration to less than say 36 hours of duration. That is the sweet spot for where the majority of that energy is going to come from. And that's where we're, where we're really focusing our business.

Tom Raftery:

And is that for reasons of economics or for reasons of there's going to be just more demand for that middle ground than either end?

MattHarper:

It's a, it's a combination of both. You know, if we look at the economics of our product you know, the, the vanadium that goes into our battery is a comparatively large portion of our total product cost. What that means is that we want to be making use of every one of those vanadium ions as much as humanly possible. That means, you know, regularly charging and discharging those devices, making sure that that ultra high throughput is something that means we get very high utilization out of that little asset inside the battery. And that's what points us to that kind of middle ground. There's a lot of conversation around today around much longer duration storage. You know, people who are looking at some of the iron air batteries that are going to serve hundreds of hours or longer. People who are looking at, you know, either compressed air or, or storing hydrogen in underground salt caverns that are focused on, you know, maybe hundreds of thousands of hours. And, and what those technologies share is an unbelievably low cost of the energy storage mechanism. But they're combined with an inability to cycle those forms of storage very regularly. So it's, it's, you know, it's, it's what my friends in the UK love to call horses for courses, right? There are times where you want to have ultra high throughput, and there are times where you want to have an ultra low cost storage medium so that you can pack that energy away and deploy it back onto the grid, you know, weeks to months later,

Tom Raftery:

Nice. Yep. Yep. And are you finding, let's say, with the falling, continuing falling cost of solar in particular, but wind as well and batteries, are you finding that now in most markets, that the combination of solar plus storage is cost competitive versus the fossil fuel, like gas plants or the equivalent.

MattHarper:

it's getting there. Look, our, our sort of Northstar as a business is to be able to generate renewable power, deliver renewable power on demand at lower cost than any fuel based source of electricity. And, you know, we talked a little bit earlier on about the levelized cost of storage as a, as a, as a development metric. And that's something we talk about a lot. That's the reason for that is because of that target. Wind and solar, most regions of the world, you can generate for somewhere between 20 and 30 dollars a megawatt hour. Right now if you can, and, and, and, you know, gas generation, coal generation, et cetera, et cetera, start somewhere around the 80 dollar a megawatt hour range. That means you've got about 50 dollars per megawatt hour to play with to take that renewable power and make it absolutely dispatchable. That's that levelized cost of storage number. If you can get the levelized cost of storage down to 50 a megawatt hour or below, suddenly you have a solution that you can deploy to absolutely offset all of those fuel based sources. Eliminate, you know, any carbon producing form of electricity and use when solar plus those low cost batteries to to absolutely accelerate that path towards net zero. That 50 dollar megawatt hour number is is is notable as well, because that's what the Department of Energy has identified as their 2030 moonshot goal. And we think that two things. First of all, there's, there's, there's, there's very little chance that lithium or some of the incumbent technologies are ever going to get there, but we do have a crystal clear path to get there. And we think they're going to, we're going to be there about three years earlier than what the DOE are projecting.

Tom Raftery:

Wow. Wow. And you had an announcement a couple of weeks back that you came out with. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

MattHarper:

We did. Yeah, absolutely. And this is, you know, in some ways you know, continuing that same thread. You know, the, the, you know, we announced back in mid 2022 that they were going to allocate 350 million dollars for pioneering long duration energy storage projects. We were thrilled to find out that we had been selected for not one, but two of those of, of those programs. We were the only energy technology provider that was selected twice. Our program with the d o e is really focused on that levelized cost of storage point, right? We, they are laser focused on deploying these funds to get L costs under 50 a megawatt hour to drive that future net zero grid. And and through these 2 programs that we're going to be building with them we we, we, we believe we're going to get there. And we, they've now validated that they seem to think the same thing

Tom Raftery:

Congratulations.

MattHarper:

Thank you very much. Yeah, no, it's tremendously exciting. This will be, these projects will see us deploy 70, sorry, 84 megawatt hours worth of our next generation product starting starting in late 2024 or early 2025. We're going to be delivering first 12 megawatt hour array to partners at Pacific Northwest National Labs, who are have been one of the pretty eminent researchers in energy technologies in general and battery technologies in particular over the last few decades. And then we're going to be taking 5 of our initial 14 megawatt hour arrays and delivering those out to a series of of rural electricity co ops who are focused on decarbonizing their, you know, local generation and consumption and and, and, and using those, those 5 different sites to really prove in a, diverse series of applications, how our batteries can can go and serve the electric grid. You know, one of the things that we think that we think was really powerful in that in that application to realize the reason that we got selected, not for the, not just for the sort of deployment side of their program, but also the sort of the research side of the program is because, you know, our battery is unique in that it combines that long duration capability with that high throughput capability. And so to be able to take a battery, put it out into the field and say, okay, how can we absolutely drive this thing to the nth degree? How do we get the maximum performance out of this? How do we experiment with all of the different things that long duration storage can potentially provide because of that? You know, fundamentally non degrading nature. We're a great platform from which to do a lot of that commercial demonstration. So, we are, you know, obviously thrilled at the validation of having DOE stand beside us in some of these projects and are looking forward to getting them built.

Tom Raftery:

Fantastic. Fantastic. Matt, we're coming towards the end of the podcast now. Is there any question I haven't asked that you wish I had or any aspect of this we haven't touched on that you think it's important for people to be aware of?

MattHarper:

Yeah, I mean, look, I, without trying to, without trying to be, you know, throw anyone under the bus or trying to be too self serving. I mean, I, you know, I'd love to just there's a couple of sort of cautionary notes or things that we've, you know, the missteps that we've seen in the industry over the, oh God You know, 28 years that I've been involved with it that I think is, is important to things to people to think about. As we're moving into this new mode of starting to deploy this sort of broader set of of energy of, of energy storage technologies. One of them is, you know, there's this interesting interplay between technologies and markets, right? And I often say that, you know, technologies need markets to scale, but markets don't exist until the technology is proven. And there's this, you know, there's this, there's this, there's this chicken and egg thing that, that we really need to get through. The risk is that you end up pigeonholing new technologies and new capabilities based on what incumbents are already able to do. You know, we're seeing this in some of the markets we serve today where you know, people see the value of long duration. They know that they're going to need batteries like ours to, you know, have their projects deliver the most revenue into the future. But, you know, what is paying, what is paying for those projects right now is a series of markets designed for lithium ion. And, you know, breaking that linkage and making sure that we've got a way of, of, of, of funding broad scale deployment beyond those narrow market structures is, is, is, I think, critically important, not just for us, but, you know, for all of the new technologies that are coming into this space. You know, the other one is, is, and, and, and, and, you know, rightly or wrongly, no matter what side of the Atlantic Ocean you sit on, you know, the, the, the Inflation Reduction Act I think has spurred a really critical conversation in our industry around the importance of industrial policy. You know, we, I think have been very much look, we've, we've, in some ways have missed the boat in the solar world, for example, right? We've got a very high geographic concentration of where a lot of solar products are being manufactured. And, and we don't, you know, if, if renewable energy is going to be, you know, the future of the energy market, which in many ways is the biggest market in the world. You know, all of our countries that we live in need to make sure that we retain an industrial policy, retain and develop an industrial policy that allows us to continue to benefit from, you know, the construction, the manufacturing and the operation of these products. You know, I think that that has was a bit of a misstep in the solar world. And I'm, and I'm hoping that you know, with an increased focus on what domestic industrial policy should look like in the face of the kind of massive upheaval, upheaval in in, in energy that battery technologies and other renewable technologies are going to drive. That is something well worth considering.

Tom Raftery:

Makes sense. Makes sense. Yep. Cool. Matt, that has been fascinating. If people would like to know more about yourself or any of the things we discussed in the podcast today, where would you have me direct them?

MattHarper:

Either one of two things. You can go to Invinity's website. That's infinity. But with a V for vanadium triple W dot invinity dot com. Or you can find me on linkedin and and and, and track me down there.

Tom Raftery:

Perfect. Perfect. Matt, that's been fantastic. Thanks a million for coming to the podcast today.

MattHarper:

Thanks so much, Tom. Always great to chat and we'll speak to you again.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about the Climate Confident podcast, feel free to drop me an email to tomraftery at outlook. com or message me on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you like the show, please don't forget to click follow on it in your podcast application of choice to get new episodes as soon as they're published. Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find the show. Thanks. Catch you all next time.

(Cont.) Beyond Lithium: The Rise of Vanadium Flow Batteries in Renewable Energy

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