Renewable energy – solar and wind – works like a charm when the wind is blowing strongly enough to whip windmill blades into a frenzy, or the sun is baking down onto strategically-placed solar panels. The trouble, of course, is that the power they produce is intermittent. Wind has an annoying habit of dying down, as does the sun in hiding behind clouds.
>"Another alternative has more recently come to the fore, with the technology originating from a metal most have never heard of: vanadium. Named after the Norse goddess of beauty, Vanadis, vanadium’s primary use is for strengthening steel. Dropping a bar of vanadium into a batch of steel allows the steelmaker to use 40 percent less material. The metal is also used in super alloys and in aerospace applications, which require 99.9 percent purity. Henry Ford used it in the first Model T.
Chemists have discovered another use for vanadium, one whose applications are far-reaching. When an electrical current is passed through two tanks of vanadium dissolved in sulfuric acid, it creates a type of rechargeable battery called a “vanadium redox battery”. The battery’s chief advantages are its stability – it can be recharged up to 20,000 times without losing performance, meaning a potential decades-long life – and it can be discharged while retaining nearly all of the vanadium electrolyte. Vanadium redox batteries are also scalable, meaning they offer nearly unlimited capacity by simply scaling up to larger storage tanks.
While the technology is still nascent and expensive, one company is charging ahead with ambitions to open the first vanadium mine in the United States and become the lynchpin of a new power storage market in North America.
American Vanadium plans to use vanadium mined from its Gibellini project in Nevada as feedstock for vanadium electrolyte used in vanadium flow batteries; last year the company showed the seriousness of its intentions by announcing a deal with Gildemeister AG. Under the agreement, American Vanadium will market and sell the German company’s CellCube redox flow battery, used to recharge electric vehicles and to store solar and wind power."<