Redflow reports strong interest in household flow battery technology

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Redflow’s Simon Hackett sees strong interest in Australian flow battery technology, and is rolling up his sleeves and giving installation instructions himself.

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Simon Hackett, the executive chair of battery storage maker Redflow, says the company’s first shipment of 10kWh zinc bromine “flow” batteries is en route to Australia, but that rolling them out to the market will be a slow process, but expressions of interest in the Australian made technology numbering in the thousands.

Speaking at the Disruption and the Energy Market conference hosted by RenewEconomy in Sydney on Tuesday, Hackett said that Redflow had received 1300 expressions of interest in the battery, known as the ZCell, since launching its residential website roughly a month ago.

simon hackett zcell

“The first of the batteries in the nice sexy cases is on the water now,” Hackett told the conference, ”But it’s going to be slow. Clearly it’s an early adopter thing right now, but that’s how technology works.

“We are just on the cusp, we think, of this making a real difference in the world,” he said.

Last Friday, the company gave similar figures in a release to the stock exchange.

“We have (to date) fielded direct expressions of interest in buying energy systems using our products from over 1,200 people around Australia. We have received enquiries from over 380 installers who are interested in creating solutions for customers based on the ZCell platform.”

Hackett told the conference that he personally trained 45 installers last week “because I know how it works” and more would be trained in coming months. Hackett has installed the technology in his home and his business premises. The company intend announcing its initial ZCell installation company list in mid September.

Hackett, whose pedigree is in IT and who confesses to being “attracted to interesting technology” (he’s owns multiple Tesla EVs), describes the ZCell as “actually, a really good battery.”

And while he clearly has a vested interest, he detailed a number of reasons why he thinks it has an advantage over other technologies and chemistries, namely lead-acid and lithium-ion.

Chief among these reasons is that it doesn’t lose capacity with age – Hackett says the flow batteries last 10 years, delivering “true 100 per cent depth of discharge daily energy cycles.

Another “cute characteristic”, he said, was that the flow batteries could be switched off for long periods (weeks, months) “and back on (much) later with no energy loss.”

Further, the batteries are made mostly of recyclable reusable parts, including mostly plastic casings and reusable electrolyte fluid – “quite unusually nifty for a battery,” says Hackett.”

On the safety side, the batteries actively “self-protect” from damage – from current, temperature, etc – by switching off, instead of melting down, meaning you “can’t break it by working it too hard.”

And unlike their lithium-ion counterparts they’re not a fire risk. Bromine, says Hackett, is a traditional fire extinguisher material, “so this battery will neither contribute to a fire nor accelerate one” – a notable plus for a technology most people will be putting in or on their homes.

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12 Comments
  1. Daniel 4 years ago

    Great work and great alternative to lithium batteries. Would it be possible for the Redflow battery to be offered in a smaller residential size for people with a home/office or work premise having the main electricity use around the solar day? This could enable a section of the community to move ahead with storage and more easily achieve a swifter payback period.

    • nakedChimp 4 years ago

      They are surely working on that, but I guess there are limits to down-scaling while still keeping it economical – especially for end-consumers – at the moment.

      • Daniel 4 years ago

        True though for many home/offices or offices, I reckon the LG Chem being offered in its 3kWh, 6kWh or whatever the exact specs are (or any brand), has an advantage for people who primarily consume around a solar day. I reckon those families should go first, cause smaller battery needed and hence faster payback..

  2. Phil 4 years ago

    I have to point out 2 issues here that i recommend early adopters investigate as part of their due diligence.

    1) This battery in an off grid situation may require 2 of them as there is a maintenance cycle during which no energy output from the battery is possible.

    2) The material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the Bromine chemical solution used reads such that your insurance policy may deem it a hazardous chemical in either a domestic or commercial installation and possibly require it’s own hazardous enclosure such as wet cell batteries now have with it’s own venting and bunding against spills and vapours.

    I’m not saying anything negative about the technology. Just suggesting those that use it know as much about the pros and the con’s as possible as it is a 10 year investment after all.

    This is no different to the pros and cons and necessary due diligence required with competitive different chemistry Lithium Ion and Lead acid technologies.

    • nakedChimp 4 years ago

      “This battery in an off grid situation may require 2 of them as there is a
      maintenance cycle during which no energy output from the battery is
      possible”
      I would expect them to build in redundancy for that for off-grid systems?

      • Daniel 4 years ago

        Realistically most people would surely need 20kWh to be off grid anyway? And getting traction to move PV/storage forward seems focused upon hybrid installs. Payback seems much less cause PV is currently cheap compared to batteries.. Surely no one could achieve a decent payback with an off-grid system, when there is a grid available to backup a hybrid system..

      • Phil 4 years ago

        One would hope . I have triple redundancy in my off grid situation but many pro off grid installers only have Dual redundancy in their designs.

        This limits the ability to take off line key components for service or replacement or back order in a remote location without running the genset ( the only redundancy in a dual redundant setup) for extraordinarily long periods of possibly weeks.

        I know a lot of off gridders are looking at this redflow technology , but few seem to know about the maintenance cycle needed for electrode ‘scrubbing” or the chemical nature of the bromine present in quite a large amount of 100 liters and it’s possible effect on human , animal and aquatic life were a major spill or even a vapour situation to occur.

        • nakedChimp 4 years ago

          Are you sure?
          Most serious designs I’ve come across have several components in parallel installed to give redundancy (chargers, inverters, batteries).

          • Phil 4 years ago

            Yes i have seen a lot of systems in Australia being sold with only 1 inverter or 1 mppt charger

            There seems to be a mindset issue in the off grid power industry regarding on grid thinking being applied to off grid thinking

            I can only suggest to anyone looking at going 100% off grid to go through a “what if” process where they go through every piece of hardware of the installation and ask ………what if this fails and i cant get a replacement for 2 weeks ? And how will i generate the power i need and what resources will i need to do that regardless of the weather.

            This will uncover any single points of failure that the designers may either not have incorporated of offered to the user.

    • Daniel 4 years ago

      There’s few properties which could be off grid with a 10kWh battery so the battery doesn’t seem primarily for going off grid. So I imagine for hybrid systems, using PV/storage + grid input, perhaps the problem could be solved with a manual transfer switch – simply switching the property entirely over to the grid on the days the system is due for maintenance.

    • Finn Peacock 4 years ago

      Phil, There’s a very detailed reponse to your first point here:

      http://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/off-grid-with-z-cell/

  3. Sam0077 4 years ago

    The sooner the better re storage. I’m looking forward to it as this means power cuts which all too often happen in the evenings – well not home daytime during week -are covered and we dont lose the match etc. Plus will make better use of our investment. We’ve only had it up and running since end of July so still getting used to it.Seems though we’re on our own as paid so email re questions on Monitor remain unanswered. Have to do some research as I am not sure I am reading it correctly. As it doesn’t seem to be saving our pocket much and we got a bigger system than most advised 3Kw and ours is 5Kw. So as to take a battery as soon as available. Isnt the drop from 28c approx down to 6.5c a bit steep ! Methinks they could be a tad more generous as saving them money.

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