Bushveld Energy, IDC, Eskom to test first vanadium redox flow battery

21st November 2017 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Aim-listed Bushveld Minerals’ 84%-owned energy subsidiary Bushveld Energy has deployed its first utility-scale vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) to power utility Eskom for testing.

The power utility will, at its research, testing and development centre, in Rosherville, test the VRFB and its performance and applications under numerous simulations to validate the operational performance of energy storage systems in local conditions and to demonstrate the abilities and maturity of the VRFB for broad commercial use in South Africa and across the African continent.

The testing outcomes will include minimum load shifting, wind generation smoothing, solar generation smoothing, power quality improvement and self-black-start capability.

This follows the completion of market studies commissioned by Bushveld Energy, and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), in the second half of 2016, to assess African VRFB demand and opportunities and global vanadium electrolyte demand and requirements.

“As Eskom has identified significant energy storage requirements within the South African grid, this project will ensure VRFBs can showcase their superior technical and financial value,” explained Bushveld Minerals CEO Fortune Mojapelo.

The testing process will take 18 months, after which the system will be redeployed to a commercial site within South Africa taking into consideration the outcomes of the test work results.

The VRFB commissioning, with an advanced VRFB with peak power of 120 kW and 450 kWh peak energy storage produced by UniEnergy Technologies (UET), is expected in the first half of 2018.

Bushveld Energy and US-based UET teamed up in April 2016 with a memorandum of understanding to develop market opportunities for VRFB, develop a strategy to identify and develop immediate VRFB installation opportunities in Africa and create a vanadium value chain in South Africa.

“We believe this first pilot installation in partnership with Bushveld Energy and Eskom will demonstrate that energy storage solutions do offer a financially attractive proposition and create the opportunity for a new local industry to be developed, through which local mineral resources can be beneficiated and jobs can be created,” said IDC new industries strategic business unit head Christo Fourie.

Co-developers Bushveld Energy and the IDC, in addition to Eskom, will jointly facilitate access to the battery for independent power producers, energy storage developers and policy decision-makers, as well as various capital providers, for wider familiarisation to realise large-scale adoption of VRFBs.