VRB Power terminates most of staff, calls outlook grim
VRB Power’s vanadium flow-battery technology might have held potential as a utility-scale energy storage system, but in the end the Vancouver-based company has failed to execute and is on the road to insolvency. The company released a press release this afternoon announcing that it has been unsuccessful in seeking a merger, sale or some kind of financing that can keep the company afloat.
“The company has substantially curtailed its manufacturing, research and development operations and laid-off or given notice terminating most of its employees. Given its current financial and operational status, the company has ceased accepting new orders,” it stated.
VRB says it will still seek offers for a possible sale, as well as look for ways to license its core technology and patents, but in the meantime it is forced to dispose of its remaining inventory and other redundant assets. “In the event the company is unable to make adequate arrangements to discharge its outstanding liabilities, or for other reasons, it may need to consider seeking other remedies under applicable corporate or insolvency legislation.”
Given the current economic climate, it’s not surprising. That said, it’s a shame — there were high hopes in the renewable energy community for the potential of vanadium flow batteries as an economical way of storing wind and solar energy and helping relieve bottlenecks on the grid. When VRB announced it was selling a big system to a wind-farm developer in Ireland there was a lot of excitement, but it failed to close that deal. Since then, all the company has seen is a string of dinky sales to one-off pilot projects.
Chances are the assets will be scooped up by some other, better-funded company at a firesale price, and chances are it won’t be a Canadian company doing it. VRB, however, wasn’t the only supplier of this type of flow battery, and of course there are other chemistries out there with similar — or greater — potential. These include zinc-bromide (Premium Power), lithium-ion (A123), and sodium-sulphur (NGK) batteries. Gridpoint, for example, just announced today that it was selected by Xcel Energy to manage the flow of energy between a 1-megawatt sodium-sulphur battery from NGK Insulators and the grid.
So buck up, folks. We’ll get to energy-storage paradise in good enough time. There are other pokers in the fire.