Australia’s Redflow expects battery manufacturing deal soon

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Redflow, an Australian developer of zinc bromine flow batteries, expects to commercialise its first storage technology within the next 12 months.

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Australian battery storage developer RedFlow says it will soon make its long-awaited move to manufacturing and expects to have its unique zinc bromine flow batteries in commercial production by the end of the current financial year.

Redflow, which has undergone a major restructuring in the last 18 months so it can focus on battery development, expects to sign a deal with a manufacturer shortly, with production to begin within 9 months.

“We believe we are now at a stage where we have a product ready for commercial applications,” CEO Stuart Smith told RenewEconomy. “We are in the process of reviewing final proposals from the shortlisted manufacturers and expect to make an appointment shortly.”

One of Redflow’s first customers will be the telecommunications group Emerson, which is looking at using its batteries with its solar panels to provide power to remote sites along its networks of poles and wires. Another customer is currently testing the technology for military applications.

Redflow will be the first to the market with a “modular flow battery” and Smith says this should give the company a significant advantage over rivals.

Redflow’s core product is a 3kW/8kWh battery. The flow battery give it a daily deep charge and discharge capability which the company says make it ideal for storage and shifting of intermittent renewable energy, and managing peak load or supporting off-grid systems.

The battery has been deployed in around 100 applications so far and is easily scalable. A 90kW array has been deployed at the University of Queensland’s 1.2MW solar array.

Redflow expects the global opportunities for cost-effective energy storage solutions to be immense – for electric and hybrid vehicles, distributed energy and utility grid storage .

Smith says it is clear that increasing power demand cannot continually be met through building new generation and distribution capacity. “The move towards distributed generation using sustainable resources such as the sun and wind supported by government regulation, funding and renewable energy targets is well under way worldwide,” he says.

“The efficient capture, storage and use of these resources are fundamental to reform which has only just commenced, and we believe our ZBM has the performance characteristics to capture a large portion of this market and address these needs.

However, Smith says it is unfortunate that nearly all commercial interest in its new technology has come from outside Australia. Despite receiving government funding that has been critical in the development of the technology, Smith says the commercial engagement from within Australia has been lack lustre.

Smith says local companies – despite an obvious market for the technology because of the shape and the cost of the local grid – are reluctant to adopt home-grown technologies.

“It is certainly disappointing that an Australian company with locally developed knowhow with an opportunity to be a global leader has had to look offshore for its commercialisation when local opportunities exist.”

The battery has an estimated cost of around $700kWh, although that could be reduced substantially depending on manufacturing costs and improvements. Smith says that until volumes are ramped up to obtain the decreased costs, it is probably priced out of the residential markets, but it could already be attractive for network operators who would otherwise have to spend to upgrade their networks of poles and wires.

Redflow has about $4.1 million is cash and expects a Commonwealth R&D tax rebate of approximately $2.5 million in September, as well as a $2.9 million AusIndustry Grant that was recently awarded to the company.

Redflow made a spectacular debut on the ASX in 2010, with its stock jumping from the $1 issue price to a peak of $1.70 soon after. However, an over-ambitious business plan under previous management, delays and a restructuring that included a winding back of its Brisbane operations saw its share price plunge to below 6c in 2012. It is still trading at just 9c a share and the company continues to look for a cornerstone investor.

 

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10 Comments
  1. Bob_Wallace 7 years ago

    “The battery has an estimated cost of around $700kWh”

    It’s likely dead in the water.

    EOS System’s zinc-air battery has an expected cost of $160/kWh. And a 10,000 100% DoD cycle life expectancy.

    Expected to be installed on grids in the next few months.

    • Giles 7 years ago

      To be fair to Redflow, that’s a very conservative estimate. Given problems over last 18 months, they being very cautious. likely to come out with better numbers once manufacturing deal agreed.

      • Biff 7 years ago

        Exactly. The cleantech space has been bedeviled by too many over-optimistic claims about manufacturing costs. Just look at the thin film CIGS space – a lot of companies claimed they could manufacture cheaper than silicon but so far hundreds of millions in VC have gone down the drain. When the product is actually being manufactured then we’ll know. I want this new tech to work as badly as any of us but experience has taught me to be wary of the grandiose.

      • Bob_Wallace 7 years ago

        If Redflow can bring us affordable storage, then great for them.

        I’ve got no dogs in this fight, I’m just watching for the best solution to our storage needs. That said, there’s a lot of difference between $160 and $700. Since EOS has already entered into installation agreements with several grids I would expect their number would be somewhat accurate.

  2. Miles Harding 7 years ago

    You beat me to it Bob!
    Doubly dead when membrane life and electrolyte poisoning are considered.
    In a Vanadium flow battery, the positive and negative electrolytes are the same thing, differing by valence state, so leaks in the membrane only discharge the battery. In a Bromine flow battery, an irreversible reaction occurs, depleting the electrolytes.

    • Bob_Wallace 7 years ago

      Then there’s the potential game changer – the Ambri liquid-metal battery. Last update I saw was that they were expecting to start manufacturing in 2014.

      If that one works as Sadoway claims it will it’s all over for coal and nuclear. Natural gas will have a very limited future.

      • Miles Harding 7 years ago

        I was a bit concerned because of the amount of metals that would be needed when grid scale battery buffering is attempted. The Sadoway battery is interesting because it uses liquid density to separate the anode and cathode, so should be immune to cycling degradation experienced by other cells.

        Another battery that is worth following is the aqueous sodium device being developed by Aquion Energy Systems. Again, common materials and good service life prospects.
        See here: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/water-and-salt-based-batteries-could-be-energy-storage-breakthrough-32051
        They are currently scaling to mass manufacture.

        None of the above are suitable for transport, but they don’t compete with the use of lithium in transport batteries.

        Something similar is happening in photovotaics, where cells that have good efficiency and don’t use exotic materials are starting to show up. Again, good for nailing the coffin of the incumbents.

        • Bob_Wallace 7 years ago

          Sadoway apparently started out with some ground rules. The basic one was that the materials had to be abundant and cheap.

          His first version started with antimony and magnesium, I believe. He stated that combination worked. Since then he states that he/they have investigated other combinations and moved on to something better. He hasn’t stated what.

          The fact that there apparently multiple combinations of materials makes it less likely that we’d run into supply problems. And since it seems there’s nothing to wear out we should have to build only one set. (Over time we might have to repackage.)

          I don’t allow myself to set the odds of this battery coming to market and performing as predicted higher than 50:50. But I set my hope level very high on this one.

          For EVs, check out Envia. They have demonstrated (with third party testing by the US Navy labs) 400 Wh/kg. That’s more than 3x what the GM Volt batteries will store. They are not real clear on cycle life. They state a >1,000 cycle cathode but aren’t quite as clear that they have a matching anode.

          3x the Nissan LEAF range would be a solid 180 miles (plenty) in the worst of conditions. If they can get to 1,000 cycles it would be a 180,000 mile, life of the car, battery.

          And they are talking $125/kWh.

          If they can hit even 500, 180 mile cycles at $125/kWh they’ve got a winner. That would be an EV with 80% of its original range at 90,000 miles (144,000 km for you folks with ten fingers).

          At 90k/144k some cars would be in nice enough shape to justify another set of batteries and some would be tired enough to be sold on to people with more limited budgets and who could live with >125 mile ranges.

          GM owns a piece of Envia. And recently a GM exec let slip in an interview that they were testing a high mileage battery.

          “On Wednesday this week at the annual conference of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, GM’s head of global R&D let his guard down slightly in saying prototype electric cars now being evaluated on U.S. test tracks have triple the energy density of a Chevrolet Volt, and close to double that of a Tesla Model S.”

          http://www.hybridcars.com/gm-rd-boss-hints-at-tesla-surpassing-batteries/

          Envia and Ambri are my ‘big hope’ products at the time. EOS has, I think, a major role in off-grid storage if it gets priced out by Ambri (or someone else).

          With 10,000 100% DoD cycles and $160/kWh they would be wonderful for the millions of people who live where the grid may never go and who are installing micro-solar.

  3. Biff 7 years ago

    Guys, don’t get too carried away by claims from anyone about expected costs. Battery storage is not immune from companies talking it up but not delivering on their claims. Zinc-air technology has some issues but certainly if Eos can actually manufacture what they say they can then it will be a wonderful thing.

    Competition in this space is great news for all of us. Lead acid + ultracaps, Li ion, Zinc Bromine, Zinc-air – may the best architecture win at the cheapest price!

    • Miles Harding 7 years ago

      Likely, more than just one architecture will win.
      It gives me hope to see this diversity being demonstrated.

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