American Vanadium aims at power-storage woes with battery tie-up

Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:35pm EST
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By Carole Vaporean

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Canadian miner American Vanadium Corp AVC.V took its first step toward becoming a renewable-energy company this week when it pledged with a European manufacturer to create a new power storage industry in North America.

Germany's Gildemeister AG (GILG.DE: Quote) makes batteries that use the little-known metal vanadium to recharge electric vehicles, store wind and solar power for optimal use by smart grids, and set up micro grids where main power sources fail to reach.

The two companies hope their partnership on so-called vanadium flow batteries, which could one day allow electric cars to travel hundreds of miles on a single charge, will tackle a range of problems confronting large-capacity power storage.

Sales of plug-in vehicles, for example, have been stunted in part by a lack of charging stations. Electric power grids continue to add sources of renewable energy such as wind and solar, but storing that on a scale large enough to tap during peak demand has been a challenge.

The two companies announced a memorandum of understanding aimed at cracking the North American market by using vanadium flow battery technology from Gildemeister and vanadium electrolyte from American Vanadium's U.S. mine.

"Two years ago, no one cared. They were still trying to put in wind and solar (power generators). Now, they're realizing that storage is what it's all about. That's a huge revolution in just the last year," American Vanadium's President and Chief Executive Bill Radvak told Reuters.

The vanadium redox flow battery captures energy as it is generated, storing it and releasing it as needed. While the technology behind vanadium batteries has been around for more than 20 years, it had remained in the development phase.

Previously seeing insufficient demand for the battery, holders of the technology had refrained from manufacturing it on a commercial scale, until now.   Continued...

Power stacks from the CellCube created by Gildemeister energy solutions are seen in this handout photo taken in 2012 at the Munich Intersolar office. REUTERSGildemeister/Handout