A Giant Leap for Energy Storage

The energy storage sector took a giant step forward this week with the news that New York’s Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) will be installing three vanadium-flow batteries in a downtown Manhattan building.

The project is aimed at cutting utility bills and demonstrating how “small footprint, high volume on site energy storage systems can shave down peak electricity use.” As CleanTechnica explains, “even without a renewable energy angle, on site energy storage is the next big thing in grid management and smart building strategies.”

Dr. William Acker, executive director of the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology consortium, commented that “New York State is actively pursuing commercially ready technologies that will help grow a clean energy economy and improve the reliability, efficiency and overall performance of our electric power delivery system.”

Acker expects this demonstration to show the “important role energy storage can play in helping consumers save money, reduce peak load demands and provide the grid serving NewYork with stored energy during times of shortage or disruption.”

That being said, the MTA plans to charge the batteries at night, when power is cheaper, discharging the stored energy at peak times and thus curbing the end cost of the energy.

The technology

The vanadium-flow battery system, known as the CellCube and manufactured by Gildemeister, is an energy storage system that allows clean and emission-free power provision. It can be charged fairly quickly and offers high safety, storage stability and quick reaction times. According to Bloomberg, vanadium dissolved in sulfuric acid can recharge and discharge indefinitely, with a shelf life of up to 20 years. Each of the batteries is able to store 130 kilowatt hours each. The CellCube has been providing commercial energy storage across Europe, Asia and Africa and is only now breaking into the North American market.

In early 2013, Vancouver-based resource company American Vanadium (TSXV:AVC) joined forces with Germany’s Gildemeister to deliver energy storage solutions to the North American market. Using vanadium sourced from American Vanadium’s Gibellini project, the only US deposit of vanadium, commercialization of this energy storage solution in the United States could be a reality as the company nears the start of production at Gibellini.

“As we continue the development of the only vanadium mine in the United States to provide the critical source of vanadium electrolyte for these advanced battery systems, we are honored to be working on this groundbreaking energy storage installation with the MTA, one of the largest energy consumers in the United States,” said American Vanadium CEO Bill Radvak in a company statement.

Is commercially viable energy storage really in the cards? 

ConEdison, New York City’s largest utility company, has also partnered in the project. As Radvak told CleanTechnica, the company hopes to gain a “better handle on the potential for using distributed energy storage as a means of pumping energy back into the grid
with the ultimate aim of reducing the need to build large substations as demand grows.”

Should the MTA project be successful, it will be a significant step forward in the energy storage sector. “[I]f you can economically store a significant amount of energy on the 25th floor of a skyscraper,” CleanTechnica states, “you can do it just about anywhere.”


Securities Disclosure: I, Vivien Diniz, hold no investment interest in any of the companies mentioned.