Victorian apple farmer installs vanadium battery to increase solar consumption

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A Victorian apple orchard will expand its PV fleet to 160 kW and add a 20kW/80kWh vanadium redox flow battery as it seeks to increase its renewable energy consumption. The battery system was sold to family owned and operated business Priest Bros by ASX-listed company Australian Vanadium Limited (AVL), through its battery subsidiary VSUN Energy.

The battery system will provide a minimum of four hours of stored solar energy. It will be installed together with a 100 kW PV array by VSUN, in collaboration with renewable systems provider Profit Share Power.

In its statement to the ASX, AVL said Priest Bros’ goal was to reduce its energy emissions at the orchards and to provide a reliable and renewable source of power to the site, particularly the irrigation system and packing sheds.

“The agricultural sector is seen as a key market for VRFB energy storage systems,” said AVL’s managing director Vincent Algar.“We and many of our partners see the integration of VRFBs with generation systems as being the building blocks of many renewable energy projects about to be rolled out, where businesses decide that they want a long life, low risk source of renewable and uninterrupted power.”

For Priest Bros, more onsite solar and battery storage is a way to improve both energy reliability and reduce its operating costs. The business was particularly drawn to the vanadium flow battery technology due to the lack of flammability, the number of hours of energy it could provide, and its long operating life.

“Being a hard working business, we need equipment that can work hard for us and when you see the ability of the VRFB storage technology to handle rapid and frequent charge/discharge cycling with no impact on the battery life, well it was a no brainer to choose that technology,” he said.

The battery system for this project is supplied by US vanadium flow battery maker Avalon Battery. The manufacturer has recently inked a deal with South African vanadium producer, Bushveld Minerals, to provide a leasing option for vanadium electrolyte, thereby reducing the capex and providing security for electrolyte disposal in the future.

When it launched VSUN Energy in 2016, AVL used the CellCube technology of Austrian battery manufacturer Gildemeister. Its first VRFB system was a 100 kWh unit installed alongside a 15 kW solar array in Western Australia on a farm near Busselton.

A few weeks ago, AVL signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with EPC provider and supplier of high-end critical uninterruptible power supply systems Metrowest Power Systems, to pursue opportunities for deployment of VRFB technology in Australia. The companies hope to push forward with larger projects and pave the way for the technology to demonstrate its strengths.