Score one for renewable energy, particularly solar energy, as the U.S. Navy’s Mobile Utilities Support Equipment facility in Port Hueneme, CA, has announced it will be hosting a new cutting edge microgrid project.
This project aims to create a solar powered microgrid that will enable a system to operate in “island” mode, working off of only its own solar energy. This island mode is critical for security and resiliency.
The system uses vanadium flow batteries for solar energy storage, but how do these flow batteries actually work? Imergy Power Systems, the brains behind the flow batteries, explain that flow batteries generate a charge through the interaction of two liquids flowing next to each other.
Flow batteries have a huge advantage when it comes to lifecycle durability, and have have a strong safety and scalability advantage, because the liquids are stored in separate tanks.
The biggest challenges of this system have been compressing the energy density of the system into a useful size, and finding a cost-effective way to get the liquids close enough to interact, without contaminating each other.
The solution is valadium, a silvery transition metal that lends itself to this application, because it can exist in more than one state, which helps to cut down on cross-contamination. Unfortunately, there are no functioning valadium mines in the U.S., but Imergy is working to make that system more manageable.
The Navy has long proven to be ahead of the crowd when it comes to keeping its finger on the pulse of energy trends, whether its been wind power, coal, oil, or nuclear energy. It is the most progressive branch of the armed service when it comes to renewable energy.
With solar energy increasing in popularity, it’s no wonder the Navy has hopped on the solar bandwagon. Solar energy use has surged at about 20% a year over the past 15 years, and shows no signs of stopping, as the price of solar panels continues to drop.
Imergy is contributing an energy system it’s calling ESP30, which contains three vanadium flow batteries, to the Navy’s project. It has a capacity of up to 50 kilowatts and stores up to 200 kilowatt-hours.
ESP30 also delivers a cost of less than $300 per kilowatt-hour, and Imergy is confident it will meet the Energy Department’s energy storage goal of $220 per kilowatt-hour within about two years.