Fuel cells have received all the attention from the financial media, but a new Escovale report takes a critical look at the business future of flow batteries, reports the Editor.
Electrical energy storage spans applications requiring substantial amounts of energy, delivered over a period of hours or days, down to those calling for short bursts of power. There are already major markets at several points in this spectrum (e.g. pumped hydro and UPS systems). Opportunities of much greater magnitude await the successful development of novel storage technologies. New markets will emerge in a host of applications, associated with: the effective production and delivery of electric power; energy management and the provision of secure, high-quality power at end-user sites; in support of renewable and distributed energy resources; and as an enabling technology within the transportation sector.
These opportunities are now capturing the imagination of an increasing number of developers, potential users and investors. This brings with it a requirement for reliable, unbiased information.
Escovale is in the process of preparing a series of reports examining key storage technologies, which will subsequently be integrated into a management study covering the sector as a whole. The first report, dealing with flow (redox) batteries, has just been published.
The Flow Battery report, available in printed or electronic format, provides a timely analysis of one of the most compelling storage technologies. There can be no doubt that this would be on the receiving end of a multi-$bn stampede, if products were available today at the performance and price levels envisaged for mature redox systems. It has all the hallmarks of a winning technology – there are obvious but largely unexploited market opportunities; diverse application areas; massive potential markets; a proven track-record, demonstrating that at least some variants of the technology actually work; plausible routes to achieving cost-reduction and performance-improvement targets; and modest technical risk.
Several distinct flow/redox battery technologies are under development (vanadium, zinc bromine, polysulphide bromine, cerium zinc, etc). Their development status ranges from laboratory based R&D through to field demonstrators on the verge of commercialization. Target applications start at single-digit kW power levels and extend to tens and ultimately 100s of MW.
The business case for a particular installation normally includes a high-energy (hour or multi-hour) duty, but redox systems can be very responsive and thus have the potential to generate additional revenue through provision of power quality or other functions – at the minute, second or millisecond level.
A key feature of most flow batteries is that the energy is stored in charged electrolytes, outside the cell. There are major benefits in separating the ‘power’ function (determined by the size and number of cells) from the ‘energy’ function (determined by the volume of electrolyte). Flow batteries can be built with a much greater storage capacity than most other battery types. The inert electrodes confer another distinctive flow battery feature – exceptional cycle life. In addition to electrical recharging, flow batteries can be rapidly replenished by electrolyte exchange and (in a recent innovation with implications for the fuel cell industry) by converting the chemical energy in a feedstock. Properties such as these, together with the promise of commercial viability within a marketplace that is going to be increasingly receptive to storage projects, justify the strong interest in flow batteries that has developed in recent years.
The objective of this report, as for others in the series, is to give an understanding of the technical and commercial issues for each technology, providing a solid framework within which potential users, investors and suppliers can make informed decisions. Recently constructed flow battery installations have demonstrated the concept. As the manufacturers and developers move from prototypes to commercial-scale production, this report offers insights into the objectives of these demonstrations and the market opportunities that will follow.
The Escovale report comments on the likely take-up of follow-on projects and the path and timescale to commercialization. It compares different types of flow battery and their applications. The focus is on flow batteries together with redox hybrid and non-flow redox systems, and coverage includes issues that still need to be resolved, which are often glossed over elsewhere. The report also examines redox technologies in the context of other storage options (and alternative solutions that do not involve storage).
About half the report is allocated to the applications and commercial prospects for flow batteries. It investigates the nature of the opportunity and the scale of the accessible markets in: supply-side and user-side energy management; renewable energy projects; distributed generation; high integrity power provision; and a range of mobile applications. Also analysed is the development of these accessible markets, and the success that flow/redox systems are likely to achieve. This provides a basis for flow battery market forecasts, with global scope. The forecasts cover the difficult near-term period, the transition to the market expansion phase (expected to begin in earnest in the early 2010s), and the subsequent growth to a substantial business valued at more than US$1.5 billion per year by 2025. The report includes an overview to 2050 (in addition to providing long-range forecasts, this tests the core strength of the sector to show that there is no likelihood of market burn-out – as can happen when a limited opportunity is exhausted).
Forecasts are presented in terms of MW/year (aggregate nominal rated power) and GWh/year (aggregate nominal storage capacity per cycle), with estimates of its distribution by application (energy management, renewables, premium power, other stationary application, vehicular/mobile) and by rating.
Flow Batteries: Technologies, Applications and Markets has been prepared by a team including Escovale personnel and others (notably Anthony Price of Swanbarton). Escovale has supplied the best part of 500 management reports concerned with emerging energy technologies to more than 150 clients from six continents, giving it a leading position in this area. Further details and a partial list of clients can be found at www.escovale.com. The report comprises 15 chapters and more than 150 pages.
The report is available as a single copy for £2,000 and can be ordered via the BEST editorial office.
Contact: email@example.com for details.