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Energy & Environment

As Energy Storage Market Soars Flow Batteries Retrench 2015-07-28 15:46:24
Flow batteries have remarkable potential: The ability to store and then discharge large amounts of energy for 4 or more hours. The ability to fully discharge repeatedly yet remain at nameplate power rating. Trouble-free service lives measured possibly in decades. Out of context, flow batteries are the ideal solution for large-scale energy storage. But there are concerns.

4th Energy Wave’s report, A Technical and Business Case Assessment of the Global Flow Battery Market 2014 – 2024, is an in-depth examination of flow batteries’ business and technical cases, and their likely success as energy storage.

Flow batteries have attracted enormous sums of investment, including stimulus funding via the U.S. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). A typical vendor still in product development may have attracted $25-50 million of mixed private and government investment.

The top use case for flow batteries is time-shifting of renewable-source energy – generating energy with the wind at 0200 and selling that energy at 1800. Unfortunately, that use case is still in its infancy. And it can be met by competing storage technologies that are today tested-and-ready for sale.

What flow batteries do not have is a track record. Vanadium redox flow batteries (VRBs) were invented at the University of New South Wales in 1985. Yet 30 years later, there are 25 VRBs operational globally, of which 6 are rated at 1MW or greater. By comparison, there are 25 Sodium Sulphur batteries operational, all rated at 50MW or greater.

The flow battery market also lacks transparency. With so few operational batteries, many of which are gratis demonstrators, it is possible that even the vendors themselves do not know the price of their products. Regardless, flow batteries appear to be quite expensive compared to competing technologies. Vendors that sell their own unique chemistry do not even publish the energy density of their electrodes.

So the question is: Can flow batteries compete effectively in the mass-scale energy storage market? Their use case is yet nascent, but competing technologies are not. Each competitor has its own drawbacks compared to flow batteries, but all are available today.

This report examines both the technical case and the business case for flow batteries. The two are not identical, and not equally promising. The report draws on global trends in renewable energy installations, plus realistic energy market dynamics, government subsidies, and buyer behaviours, to identify how flow batteries can become a successful technology. Two forecasts are presented: a conservative scenario and an aggressive scenario, each including 10-year revenue forecasts and 10-year capacity forecasts.

The energy storage market is coming. Vendors will be there to solve the problems. This report considers how flow batteries can be part of the solution.

The report, and accompanying databook is priced at £2,000 / $3,250 / €3,900 and can be ordered from:

Press Information
4th Energy Wave
Edinburgh, Scotland

Kerry-Ann Adamson

# 451 Words
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