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Vanadium: The Energy Storage Metal



The world is moving to a renewable energy economy.

Solar use is growing at exponential rates, and countries like the U.K., France, and India are planning to ban gas-powered vehicles in the coming years. Even the world’s largest auto market in China is under duress from mounting pollution, and the country has ambitious plans to build up world-class renewable capacity while ditching gas-powered vehicles.

The Energy Storage Question

As the world shifts to renewables, one question remains up in the air: how will we store all this energy?

Today’s infographic comes to us from VanadiumCorp and it highlights vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) – which are a breakthrough that some experts say may be the future of grid-scale energy storage.

Vanadium: The Energy Storage Metal

Vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) are fairly unique in the battery world.

They work by taking advantage of the natural properties of vanadium, a metal with four different oxidation states. But rather than using the metal in a solid state, vanadium electrolyte (a liquid solution) is used for both half-cells and the configuration is divided by a proton exchange membrane. Typically, massive tanks filled with vanadium electrolyte are connected, pumping the solution through at high volumes to charge or discharge.

The Benefits of VRFBs

This unique setup gives VRFBs a few interesting advantages for something like grid-scale energy storage:

  • Extremely scalable
  • Can rapidly release large amounts of energy
  • Vanadium electrolyte is reusable, recyclable, and has a battery lifespan of 25+ years
  • No cross-contamination of metals, since only one metal (vanadium) is used
  • Cycle life is theoretically unlimited
  • Can maintain ready state for long periods of time
  • Can be charged and discharged at same time
  • Non-flammable

As a result, VRFBs can be used in a variety of energy storage applications such as peak-shaving, load leveling, microgrids, wind and solar, off-grid power supplies, and uninterruptible power supplies.

Vanadium Outlook

VRFBs are getting more attention from utilities companies, and large battery projects have already been announced.

The most notable vanadium-flow battery is probably a 200 MW system being built on the Dalian peninsula in China, which will serve 7 million residents. Costing $500 million, it’ll be used to peak-shave approximately 8% of Dalian’s expected load by 2020. This battery system will be the world’s largest, and it will single-handedly triple China’s grid-connected battery storage capacity.

According to Chinese firm Azure International, the market projection for VRFB demand (by MW) in the top 10 countries is growing at an 80% CAGR from 2013 to 2020, ultimately culminating in more than 7,000 MW of vanadium-flow capacity needed in 2020.

This demand could be even more substantial than that if the price of vanadium electrolyte could be reduced – it makes up about 30-50% of the cost of each battery alone.

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Ranked: The World’s 50 Top Countries by GDP, by Sector Breakdown

This graphic shows GDP by country, broken down into three main sectors: services, industry, and agriculture.



Visualized: The Three Pillars of GDP, by Country

Over the last several decades, the service sector has fueled the economic activity of the world’s largest countries. Driving this trend has been changes in consumption, the easing of trade barriers, and rapid advancements in tech.

We can see this in the gross domestic product (GDP) breakdown of each country, which gets divided into three broad sectors: services, industry, and agriculture.

The above graphic from Pranav Gavali shows GDP by country, and how each sector contributes to an economy’s output, with data from the World Bank.

Drivers of GDP, by Country

As the most important and fastest growing component of GDP, services make up almost 60% of GDP in the world’s 50 largest countries. Following this is the industrial sector which includes the production of raw goods.

Below, we show how each sector contributes to GDP by country as of 2021:

(% GDP)
(% GDP)
(% GDP)
(% GDP)
🇺🇸 U.S.77.617.91.03.6$22.9
🇨🇳 China53.539.37.20.0$16.9
🇯🇵 Japan69.928.81.00.4$5.1
🇩🇪 Germany62.926.70.99.5$4.2
🇬🇧 UK71.617.30.710.4$3.1
🇫🇷 France70.316.71.611.4$2.9
🇮🇳 India47.926.117.38.7$2.9
🇮🇹 Italy65.022.71.910.4$2.1
🇨🇦 Canada*67.724.11.76.6$2.0
🇰🇷 South Korea57.$1.8
🇧🇷 Brazil57.820.27.514.6$1.6
🇦🇺 Australia65.725.52.36.5$1.6
🇷🇺 Russia54.131.83.910.3$1.6
🇪🇸 Spain67.420.42.69.6$1.4
🇲🇽 Mexico59.$1.3
🇮🇩 Indonesia42.839.813.34.1$1.2
🇮🇷 Iran47.338.012.42.3$1.1
🇳🇱 Netherlands69.417.91.511.2$1.0
🇨🇭 Switzerland71.924.60.62.8$0.8
🇹🇷 Turkiye52.831.15.510.6$0.8
🇹🇼 Taiwan60.638.01.50.0$0.8
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia46.544.72.76.1$0.8
🇵🇱 Poland56.927.92.213.0$0.7
🇧🇪 Belgium68.819.60.710.9$0.6
🇸🇪 Sweden65.022.51.311.3$0.6
🇮🇱 Israel72.417.21.39.1$0.5
🇦🇷 Argentina52.523.67.116.8$0.5
🇦🇹 Austria62.425.81.210.5$0.5
🇳🇬 Nigeria43.831.423.41.4$0.5
🇹🇭 Thailand56.335.08.70.0$0.5
🇮🇪 Ireland55.437.81.05.8$0.5
🇭🇰 Hong Kong89.$0.4
🇩🇰 Denmark66.719.30.913.1$0.4
🇸🇬 Singapore70.324.40.05.3$0.4
🇿🇦 South Africa63.024.52.510.0$0.4
🇵🇭 Philippines61.028.910.10.0$0.4
🇪🇬 Egypt52.531.211.44.9$0.4
🇧🇩 Bangladesh51.333.311.63.7$0.4
🇳🇴 Norway51.836.31.710.2$0.4
🇻🇳 Vietnam41.237.512.68.8$0.4
🇲🇾 Malaysia51.637.89.61.1$0.4
🇦🇪 U.A.E.51.647.50.90.0$0.4
🇵🇰 Pakistan52.118.822.76.4$0.3
🇵🇹 Portugal64.719.62.213.5$0.3
🇫🇮 Finland60.324.12.313.4$0.3
🇨🇴 Colombia58.$0.3
🇷🇴 Romania59.$0.3
🇨🇿 Czechia58.830.31.89.1$0.3
🇨🇱 Chile54.431.33.610.6$0.3
🇳🇿 New

Industrial sector includes construction. Agriculture sector includes forestry and fishing. *Data as of 2019.

In the U.S., services make up nearly 78% of GDP. Apart from Hong Kong, it comprises the highest share of GDP across the world’s largest economies. Roughly 80% of American jobs in the private sector are in services, spanning from healthcare and entertainment to finance and logistics.

Like America, a growing share of China’s GDP is from services, contributing to almost 54% of total economic output, up from 44% in 2010. This can be attributed to rising incomes and higher productivity in the sector as the economy has grown and matured, among other factors.

In a departure from the top 10 biggest countries globally, agriculture continues to drive a large portion of India’s GDP. India is the world’s second largest producer of wheat and rice, with agriculture accounting for 44% of the country’s employment.

While the services sector has grown in India, it makes up a greater share in other emerging economies such as Brazil (58%), Mexico (59%), and the Philippines (61%).

Growth Dynamics

Services-led growth has risen faster than manufacturing across many developing nations, underpinned by productivity growth.

This structural shift is seen across economies. In many countries in Africa, for instance, jobs have increasingly moved from agriculture to services and trade, where it now accounts for 42% of jobs.

These growth patterns are supported by rising incomes in developing economies, while innovation in tech is lowering barriers to enabling service growth. As the industrial sector makes up a lower share of trade and economic activity, the service sector is projected to make up 77% of global GDP by 2035.

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