VRB Power lands big wind deal in Ireland

Who said there’s no such thing as large-scale battery storage?

Vancouver-based VRB Power has sold a 1.5 megawatt flow battery system to an Irish wind developer that wants to couple the storage technology with some of its wind turbines. Tapbury Management Ltd.’s 39-megawatt “Sorne” wind farm is being built in two phases, and initially the Irish company wants to use VRB’s technology to complement Phase II (representing about 7 megawatts of the total farm).

VRB’s system will provide 12 megawatt-hours of energy — that is, 1.5 megawatts of output can be sustained for eight hours. If the system works well and Tapbury wants to apply the technology to the full farm, it has the option to expand the storage system to 50 megawatt-hours. The initial deal, however, is worth $6.3 million (U.S.) to VRB, which sees the sale as important for establishing a market in Ireland and the rest of Europe.

“It is the largest sale we have made to date and it provides validation of the potential for our storage systems to be coupled to wind farms in the large, growing wind markets in Ireland, Europe and North America as well as a number of other countries worldwide,” said VRB chief executive Tim Hennessy in a media release.

Hennessy goes on to make the following — encouraging — comments:

“The negotiation of this sale has been ground-breaking from the point of view that this will be one of the largest flow batteries to be coupled to a wind farm and it will be the first large scale system of this type to be installed in Europe. This project will provide high level visibility and credibility for our technology for wind applications in what is a fully commercial project. It follows on the heels of our recently announced sale of a smaller 120kWh system to Riso National Laboratory in Denmark which will be assessed in both grid connected and off grid wind applications in Denmark.”

“The presence of the 12MWh VRB Energy Storage System will enable Sorne, Phase II to provide more electricity to the grid on a much smoother basis improving the reliability and predictability of electricity generation and alleviating issues of intermittency. This, together with the ability to store excess wind energy which would otherwise be lost, has positioned Sorne to negotiate better than usual commercial terms for the off take agreement relating to the electricity that will be generated from Phase II as well as qualifying Phase II for higher capacity and ancillary payments. These value streams provide a strong value proposition for wind farm operators in Ireland and other countries and territories around the world and this sale will provide a blue-print for other such sales.”

From my perspective, this is fantastic news. While high electricity prices in Ireland and Europe may make the business case stronger in that region, the fact is that VRB now has a large-scale demonstration for all the world to see. As electricity rates creep up in North America and as VRB improves the economics of its system, sales opportunities are bound to emerge in Canada and the United States.

And don’t forget — VRB is also putting its flow batteries to test in the European solar market. This is a technology to watch, as it could truly unlock significant value from intermittent renewable energy systems. Sure, there’s a lot of “coulds” and “ifs” with this technology, and it may still take years for VRB to get some market traction, but the signs so far are encouraging.

7 thoughts on “VRB Power lands big wind deal in Ireland”

  1. $6.3M for a 7MW windfarm means $.90 per watt. Wind farms usually cost about $1.10 per watt, so this increases the cost by about 80%. Is this at an economic cost yet?

  2. The economics are driven by a number of factors, but from what I understand the wind developer in Ireland crunched the numbers and figured out this improves the business case over having just a standalone farm with no storage. I hope to have a better explanation in my Clean Break column on Monday.

  3. I think its main value lies in the penalties that the wind farm operator can avoid by having storage. In this way the operator can guarantee steady output and add value as a grid frequency stabiliser. Additionally the VRB system power can be sold as spinning reserve which attract a large price premium and could make the whole wind/storage system more economically viable even with the higher initial price.

  4. This installation will use at least .1% of the world’s annual production of vanadium, so there should be serious concerns about how much this could be scaled up.

  5. Quote:

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    This installation will use at least .1% of the world’s annual production of vanadium, so there should be serious concerns about how much this could be scaled up.

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    Your numbers are about right assuming ~27W/L from a 2.0M solution of V and ~42×10^3 metric tons of annual production. Scaling this up a lot would require increased V production. The good news is that there are about 38×10^6 metric tons of minable V. http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/vanadium/vanadmcs05.pdf .

  6. It still just costs WAY to much. People in Aust are complaining about the cost per kW of proposed nuclear, and trying to say how impractical it is on that alone, without even realising how much these things cost without HEAVY government subsidy.

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