Remote cell towers must rely on inconsistent and expensive supplies of fuel oil to run generators. And the heat makes reliance on batteries a challenge. Now, according to a report in Forbes, the harsh conditions are acting as a test bed for a new technology.
Imergy, with its vanadium electrolyte storage platform, has 70 systems up and running in India, with some of them for more than two years.
Batteries are charged when the electric grid functions; brownout and blackouts are common in Third World countries. When the grid does shut down, the batteries can take over for more than 10 hours.
India and Africa are ideal places where avoided costs are high and the systems can be tested in harsh environments.
Much attention has been paid to better known technologies like lithium for energy storage, which is popular because of its energy density relative to weight. Tesla and other electric vehicle makers have shown its value there, but it is expensive for grid applications.
So, why vanadium?
The battery can use a low cost material that comes from industrial waste streams. It lasts forever. It’s a hard asset that’s attractive to financiers. And the electrolyte never wears out because there is no cross contamination of chemicals.
Imergy determined that once the basic chemistry was solved, the challenge was to scale it and deploy in the real world.
The cell deck is 5-10 kW and the modular technology can increase the size of its electrolyte tanks that can be built into 250 kW – building blocks.
Imergy is concentrating on projects under 10 MW. The company is focusing on telecoms and micro-grids where deployment can be fast.
In addition to India, the plan is to move where markets offer the best opportunities. Parts of New York and Texas make sense, and especially Hawaii, with its high electricity costs. Vanadium is also the medium of choice on another energy storage project in New York.