South Australia’s first ‘dispatchable’ solar power plant will be built as part of a pilot project pioneering the use of next-generation vanadium flow batteries (VFB).

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Being developed by the Yadlamalka Energy Trust (YET), the A$20m ($15m) project will wire together an 8MWh VFB developed by start-up Invinity Energy Systems with a 6MW solar array, producing some 10GWh of power per year.

“[YET] is excited about being the first in Australia to construct a large scale dispatchable solar power plant. Through using breakthrough technology in the form of vanadium flow batteries, we can deliver strong, economic infrastructure benefit to South Australia and at the same time support a low carbon economy,” said Yadlamalka Energy Trust chairman Andrew Doman.

Matt Harper, Invinity’s chief commercial officer, stated: “South Australia demonstrates that the majority of a region’s electricity needs can be served by clean, renewable sources. The catch is that the power of solar needs to be tamed and delivered on command; only then can carbon-intensive sources of electricity be idled for good. Vanadium flow batteries are the best solution for absorbing solar-generated power and delivering it at any time of day.

The PV-VFB system being installed by YET will charge during peak sun hours and discharge to match local grid need in the evening when loads are high from consumer demand. Using batteries allow for a ‘time shift’, making solar power ‘dispatchable’.

The project is being supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena), via a A$5.7m grant.

Arena CEO Darren Miller said: “The strong uptake of variable renewable energy has highlighted the need for increasing storage requirements and VFBs could play a major role in addressing the emerging need for medium-duration storage, complementing the role of more established technologies such as pumped hydro energy storage and lithium ion batteries in the Australian market.

Though Li-ion batteries have come to monopolise the energy storage markets in recent years, other technologies based on vanadium flow, liquid air, and hydrogen have been making in-roads to a market Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast will grow 122-fold from 9GW/17GWh in 2018 to over 1TW/850GWh by 2040.

Invinity’s VFB concept, which is based around a non-flammable, liquid electrolyte held in tanks within a self-contained module with a 20-25 year operating life, is designed for heavy-duty, daily use, such as storing solar and wind power production.

New battery chemistries were picked out alongside high-temperature heat pumps and green hydrogen by international energy consultancy DNV GL to lead the ‘second phase’ energy transition technologies that will build on the ongoing wind- and solar-powered shift