Why flow batteries are sustainable

Why flow batteries are sustainable

Flow batteries are mainly produced with low-cost materials and without using any ‘conflict’ materials, such as cobalt.

Vanadium, one of the most commonly used electrolytes in flow batteries, is widely available. As well as mining, it can also be recovered from different waste products, such as mining slag, oil field sludge, and fly ash. Once a vanadium flow battery is decommissioned, the vanadium electrolyte can be recovered and reused by up to 97%, leading to both lower environmental impacts and a lower cost of ownership.

A further flow battery technology option is based on organic electrolytes, which avoids the use of metals completely. Sodium chloride, as one of the main raw materials in these technologies, is highly available in the European market, which is the second largest producer globally. Even at 50GW of output, only a single-digit percentage of the annual salt mining in Germany is required. This results in a substantial independence from global supply chains and scalability for applications in Europe.

Developing a local flow battery chain would also further lower its environmental impact by reducing the emissions related to the transport of raw materials. As flow batteries have a longer operational time, the embodied energy amortised over the lifetime is therefore even lower.

They also have a very long operational life, which can exceed 20 000 cycles and 20 years. During this period, they can cycle and recharge with almost no loss in power. As flow batteries have a longer operational time, less energy is needed to construct and maintain a flow battery across its entire lifecycle.

Flow batteries are also modular, and their parts can therefore be replaced or reused, if necessary.

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