Best stock to invest in – Investing With The Flow Battery



Best stock to invest in

by Debra Fiakas CFA
 
The looming threat of global warming has nearly everyone 
–  except perhaps those bickering with each other in the
Whitehouse  –  scrambling for lower carbon energy
sources.  Intermittancy remains a stumbling block for several
of the lower-carbon renewable energy sources, particularly wind and
solar energy systems.  To be a serious contributor to
grid-connected power systems these energy sources need utility scale
batteries that can store energy when the sun is down or winds have
died away.  Unfortunately, with current technology the cost of
such battery capacity increases the levelized cost of energy (LCOE)
of renewable systems to an uncompetitive price tag.

As a refresher, LCOE is a measure of the average total cost to build
and operate a power-generating asset over is lifetime relative to
the total energy output over that lifetime, i.e. total costs divided
by total output.   Typically expressed as cost per
kilowatt hour, it is handy for comparing different methods of
electricity generation on a consistent basis.  The more bells
and whistles a system requires to produce power  –  and
meet environmental standards  –  the higher the LCOE per
kilowatt hour.

Let’s get back to those batteries that could help make wind and
solar ‘grid-attractive’.  Lithium ion batteries have been the
most talked about battery storage technology in recent years. 
Unfortunately, lithium ion batteries do not have a particularly long
useful life, lasting only a few hundred charge/recharge
cycles.  As a consequence, batteries using lithium ion
technology could add as much as $0.33 per kilowatt hour to the LCOE
for wind or solar power systems with a storage component.

Flow battery technology is considered a viable alternative to
lithium ion batteries for stationary power sources.  Flow
technology converts chemical energy into electricity by pumping
electrolytes through a stack of electrochemical
cells.    First, as tested so far, flow batteries
show promise for numerous charge/discharge cycles.  Some flow
batteries can last through as many as 10,000 cycles.  Second,
flow batteries rely on a fluid electrolyte that can be replaced,
reducing the overall cost of operation.  Thus it is expected
that flow batteries will present a far lower LCOE contribution 
–  a factor that makes it more appealing for wind and solar
system operators.


There is a gaggle of developers with flow battery projects underway
or with commercial-ready battery products.  Vanadium has been
the preferred material for several years and several vanadium-based
storage systems are already in operation.  Zinc bromide runs a
close second. The most recent innovation is based on iron, which
offers the benefits of better safety and lower operating cost. 
Iron-based flow batteries are also considered to be more
environmentally friendly than those relying on strong acids like
vanadium.

The next few posts will take a closer look at the utility-scale
battery developers and producers.

Arotech (Electric Fuel Energy)


Debra Fiakas is the Managing Director of
Crystal Equity
Research
, an alternative
research resource on small capitalization companies in selected
industries.

Neither the author of the Small Cap
Strategist
web log,
Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial
interest in the companies mentioned herein.

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