Our national electric grid has limited ability to store excess energy, so electricity must constantly be generated to perfectly match demand. Though wind and solar power are promising clean alternatives to fossil fuels, their natural unpredictability and intermittency make them incapable of delivering the power on demand necessary to operate today’s grid. The U.S. needs technologies that can cost effectively store renewable energy for future grid use at any location. Flexible, large-scale storage would create a stronger and more robust electric grid by enabling renewables to contribute to reliable power generation.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
ITN Energy Systems is developing a vanadium redox flow battery for residential and small-scale commercial energy storage that would be more efficient and affordable than today’s best energy storage systems. In a redox flow battery, chemical reactions occur that allow the battery to absorb or deliver electricity. Unlike conventional batteries, flow batteries use a liquid (also known as an electrolyte) to store energy; the more electrolyte that is used, the longer the battery can operate. Vanadium electrolyte-based redox flow battery systems are a technology for today’s market, but they require expensive ion-exchange membranes. In the past, prices of vanadium have fluctuated, increasing the cost of the electrolyte and posing a major obstacle to more widespread adoption of vanadium redox flow batteries. ITN’s design combines a low-cost ion-exchange membrane and a low-cost electrolyte solution to reduce overall system cost, ultimately making a vanadium redox flow battery cost-competitive with more traditional lead-acid batteries.
If successful, ITN’s vanadium redox flow battery would provide storage capacity for residential and small-scale commercial applications at a cost approaching $1,000 per unit, compared to the $4,000+ price point of today’s systems.
A more efficient and reliable grid would be more resilient to potential disruptions.
Electricity generation accounts for over 40% of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Enabling large-scale contributions of wind and solar power for our electricity generation would result in a substantial decrease in CO2 emissions.
Increases in the availability of wind and solar power would reduce fossil fuel demand, resulting in reduced fuel prices and more stable electricity rates.