The world’s largest flow battery has opened, using a newer technology to store power.
The Dalian Flow Battery Energy Storage Peak-shaving Power Station, in Dalian in northeast China, has just been connected to the grid, and will be operating by mid-October.
The vanadium flow battery currently has a capacity of 100 MW/400 MWh, which will eventually be expanded to 200 MW/800 MWh.
According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who helped develop the project, it can supply enough electricity to meet the daily demands of 200,000 residents.
It will be used to smooth peaks and troughs in Dalian’s electricity demand and supply, making it easier to use solar and wind power.
Flow batteries are a newer type of battery technology that operate by combining tanks of liquid electrolytes, rather than using static electrodes.
They use cheaper and more sustainable materials than lithium-ion batteries, and are longer-lasting: theoretically, vanadium flow batteries could charge and discharge indefinitely.
They’re also flame-resistant and therefore safer than lithium-ion.
Flow batteries aren’t as energy dense as lithium-ion batteries, however, meaning they’re unlikely to be viable alternatives in electric vehicles or other places where the weight of the battery needs to be minimised.
Instead, most interest in flow batteries is on static applications, like the big grid-scale battery in Dalian.
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Australia’s first and largest flow battery is a 2 MW/8 MWh vanadium flow battery under development in South Australia, at Yadlamalka near Port Augusta.
Australia’s biggest operating lithium-ion battery, by comparison, is currently the 300 MW/450 MWh Victorian Big Battery near Geelong.
How does a flow battery differ from other batteries? Read our battery explainer.
Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.
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