When two of the long-duration flow battery sector’s leaders ran into problems, a frequent partner, vanadium producer Bushveld Minerals, suggested they should discuss a merger.

The U.K.’s RedT Energy and U.S. firm Avalon completed that process in March. The synergies Bushveld identified have played out, and the new firm, Invinity, has been picking up project wins and is now focusing on cutting the cost of its systems and ramping up growth, Invinity CCO Matt Harper said in an interview.

“We're probably [at] 20 to 30 percent lower cost today than what RedT was building about a year ago,” he said.  “[We’ve] dramatically increased the longevity and reliability, and we’ll continue that process.”

Harper, who co-founded Avalon, said the new company is benefiting from RedT’s processing and manufacturing know-how and the system-level technology and modularization that Avalon brought to the table.

The two companies' intellectual property has now been merged into a fresh system. A 2-megawatt install for EDF’s Pivot Power in Oxford, England will be the first project to benefit from the revamped product.

These improvements mean the company can deliver profitable behind-the-meter projects. The tipping point into profitability was surpassed this year, Harper said. 

One such commercial project, announced earlier this week, is a 1 MW PV array paired with an 0.8 megawatt-hour vanadium flow battery (VFB) from Invinity. The project, for Scottish Water, will be completed next year and will essentially convert the commercial solar array into a fully dispatchable resource.

The install will also add on-site EV charging at the water treatment center in Perth, Scotland. The firm is in the process of electrifying its fleet of 1,400 vehicles.

Unlocking the utility-scale market for flow batteries

Next is the front-of-the-meter market.

Last week the company announced the world’s largest solar-plus flow battery project so far. The Yadlamalka project in South Australia will pair a 6-megawatt solar project with an 8-megawatt-hour vanadium flow battery.

The project, worth 20 million Australian dollars (USD $15 million), benefited from a grant of AUD $5.7 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. As well as shifting the load from the solar plant, the battery will also provide frequency control services to the Australian Energy Market Operator.

Projects like this, as well as 8 MWh worth of systems selected for California Energy Commission projects and a host of others, all help the firm to keep traveling along that cost reduction curve as well, Harper said. 

“The thing that was so great for me about the Yadlamalka is that it's the validation of the concepts that led us to form Avalon in 2013,” he said. 

“We’re quoting very large front-of-meter sites already, but we’re not going to be delivering a 200 MW single-site project next year; there’s a reasonable growth curve that we’re going to follow,” he added.

Fresh investment and a surging share price

The merger brought in around £8 million ($10.8 million) when it floated in March. Shares traded around £0.45 for the first two months after the float. In early December it issued new shares raising another £20.5 million ($27.65 million) with scope for another £2 million ($2.7 million) in an open offering under consideration. The December issue was at a share price of £1.75 ($2.36) per share. The current price is around £1.90 ($2.56). 

Harper said the current investment levels are sufficient for it to continue with its plans.

“One of the nice things about starting to have repeatable revenue and profitable projects, which we will in 2021, is that it opens up all sorts of other avenues for the kind of growth capital we may eventually need," he said. “We’re in a pretty good position for the foreseeable future." 

One advantage of flow batteries over lithium-ion technology is that they don't require funding to build gigafactories in order to scale manufacturing, Harper said. Systems can be assembled in four to eight months after an order is received, giving the manufacturing process the same sort of modular advantage as the vanadium flow batteries themselves. 

"There are no clean rooms; it looks like an assembly plant. And what that means for us is that we can be very flexible in where we build new capacity; we can build that new capacity fairly quickly and at a comparatively low capital cost," he said. "That's going to help us go up that scaling curve faster and hit those front-of-meter projects in fewer years than we saw with lithium."