BALIHT’s contribution to FLORES policy brief on flow battery systems and their future

As part of FLORES, the Network of Flow Battery Research Initiatives, BALIHT contributed to the policy brief entitled “Flow battery systems and their future in stationary energy storage”.

This brief feeds on discussions and exchanges between the FLORES team and conference delegates and industrial representatives present at the IFBF – International Flow Battery Forum Symposium in July 2021. Dr Vicente Vert from our partner organisation AIMPLAS moderated and collected the views expressed during a policy workshop on materials for redox flow batteries.

Redox flow batteries are a “very versatile storage technology with a long lifetime and high cycle numbers”. Even though they cannot constitute an effective alternative to Lithium-ion batteries for short-duration cycles below 15 minutes, RFBs are a more relevant technology for long-duration stationary storage (several hours of rated power). Scalability of energy and power, and cheap energy components in RFB systems “make them ideal for cost-efficient longer duration storage solution”, reads the brief. RFBs are particularly relevant when used in combination with renewable energies, since they “can deliver considerably lower levelized costs than other stationary storage technologies”.

However, this technology “often falls beneath the radar of policy makers and end-users, in part because they are considered as an immature or emerging technology”. Moreover, the brief stresses that “the major problem for flow battery manufacturers in Europe is the current energy market mechanisms”: renewable energy sources have been subsidized in the past, and coal and nuclear power plants are still active, keeping prices for flexibility services down. This makes grid-operated mid- to long duration energy storage uneconomical, leaving the main market for more profitable short-duration services like frequency regulation.

Thus, the report analyses the research needs, barriers and potential markets for redox flow batteries (RFBs), and proposes resulting policy recommendations on three topics:

  • Modelling and materials
  • Application, demonstration and validation
  • Roadmapping.

The report highlights the potential of new redox active organic compounds for Aqueous Organic RFBs, which could disrupt the existing approaches. In that perspective, BALIHT  was taken as an example: the battery we are developing will use electrolytes that can be made out of intermediate products which can be obtained from lignin, a natural and renewable raw material available from existing pulp production. Therefore, the report recommends tointensify fundings for research on this “low-cost, industrially feasible and environmentally sustainable production of organic active materials”. The brief also calls for further research for Smart Battery Management to elongate the battery life, such as the Battery Management System (BMS) developed in BALIHT.

The policy brief identified the opportunity of including R&D funding for redox flow technology in the next Cluster 5 WP of Horizon Europe for 2023-2024 call. This could help promising results obtained within the current EU funded projects – especially those represented in FLORES – to be “moved further along the TRL (Technology Readiness Level) scale”.

By targeting R&D funding and regulatory change, RFB systems will increase their cost-reduction, durability and enhance their maintenance, recyclability and reusability. All these elements will help RFBs to become more commercially viable.

The report also stresses that RFBs could play a valuable role contributing to  EU strategies in terms of circular economy, industrial sovereignty, leadership in energy storage, and independence of critical raw materials.

FLORES network will continue to promote the advantages and benefits of RFBs use over other long-duration storage technologies, and will keep pushing for further fundings and a better inclusion of this technology in EU policies and strategic roadmaps on energy storage and renewable energies.

You can find the full content of the policy brief HERE.

To remain in touch with FLORES activities, subscribe to the Network’s page on LinkedIn

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