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Energy storage is predicted to see explosive growth in the next few years. According to the Energy Storage Association, the US market alone grew to 280 megawatts (MW) in 2016 and is expected to reach nearly 500MW in 2017 and over 1 600MW by 2020, with one research house predicting growth of 50-60% per annum for the next decade from a base of roughly 900MW.

Energy storage a growing marketResearch conducted by Bushveld Minerals in conjunction with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) indicates that demand for vanadium redox batteries (VRFB) will peak in 2025-2030 as their use in energy storage systems rockets. Currently, lithium ion technology dominates the storage market, but deployment of vanadium batteries in large storage projects is increasing.

Bushveld Minerals has therefore decided to build a vanadium electrolyte plant in South Africa. According to the company, it will be able to produce an initial 5-10ML of the electrolyte, which would equate to 200MWh in annual energy storage. Initial expenditure on the plant would be approximately R130 million, but this could be reduced by locating the electrolyte plant alongside Bushveld’s vanadium mine, Vametco, in Brits.

“There is no longer any doubt about the growth of energy storage globally to gigawatts of annual capacity and billions of dollars in market opportunity. Similarly, favourable factors in this industry, such as the move toward longer duration storage, are increasing the demand and competitiveness of VRFBs. As we have maintained for three years, the largest threat to the success of VRFB technology remains the supply of low cost vanadium feedstock. Following the acquisition of Vametco, we are uniquely positioned to address this challenge,” says CEO of Bushveld Minerals, Fortune Mojapelo.

“Energy storage is already on a similar cost path as photovoltaic and wind and some research indicates that the trajectory might be even quicker. If South Africa wants to be part of this lucrative industry, we need to act now,” says Lizeka Matshekga, IDC Divisional Executive for Agroprocessing, Infrastructure and New Industries, presenting another research report on the market – the Energy Storage Techno-Economic study.

According to this report, energy storage could unlock opportunities for South Africa in mining and beneficiation, research and development, commercial exploitation, local industry development, developmental impact, as well as opportunities for South Africa in the global market. This study was sponsored by the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

“While energy storage is net electricity and can work as generation or load, as well as provide lots of flexibility, there are a number of potential grid infrastructure services benefits and potential customer energy management services benefits. Energy storage on a system level provides value in combination with other resources deployed in the system, and the best use of system storage and its value depend on storage’s highest value use cases in that context,” the study states.

Image credit: Copyright: cpaulfell / 123RF Stock Photo

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