Category: electricity

Vanadium Redox Flow Battery “VRFB” 101

Vanadium Infographic 1

 

The Vanadium Redox Flow Battery

The VRFB is a type of rechargeable flow battery where rechargeability is provided by vanadium electrolyte (VE) dissolved in solution. The two tanks of Vanadium, one side containing V2+ and V3+ ions, the other side containing V4+ and V5+ ions, are separated by a thin proton exchange membrane.  VRFBs consists of two tanks of vanadium electrolyte that flow adjacent to each other past a membrane and generate a charge by moving electrons back and forth during charging and discharging. This battery offers unlimited energy capacity simply by using larger electrolyte storage tanks. It can be left completely charged for long periods without losing capacity and maintenance is much simpler than other batteries. Pumps on both sides circulate the electrolyte.

The electron differential between the two cells generates electric power. Most batteries use two chemicals that change valence (or charge or redox state) and cross-contaminate and thus degrade over time. VRFBs utilize multiple valence states of vanadium as a single element to store and release charge. The VRFB has no cross-contamination like most batteries. The electrolyte in the catholyte and the anolyte consists of 100% vanadium ions. The ion-sensitive membrane separating both sides of the electrolyte tank allows only protons to pass. VRFBs are containerized, long duration, non-flammable, compact, reusable over infinite cycles, and last more than 20 years.

What are the advantages of Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries?

  • VRFBs have a lifespan of 20+ years
  • VRFBs offer immediate energy release
  • VRFBs are suitable for grid connection or off-grid settings – ideal for renewable energy
  • VRFBs can discharge 100%, without any damage to the battery
  • VRFBs are non-flammable
  • They ensure power and energy can be scaled independently
  • Vanadium electrolyte can be re-used and does not need to be disposed of
  • The batteries can be cycled more than once per day
  • They use only one element in the electrolyte – V2O5
  • VRFB energy storage guarantees uninterrupted power supply

How does a Vanadium Redox Flow battery (VRFB) work?

  • A flow battery is charged and discharged by a reversible reduction-oxidation reaction between the two liquid vanadium electrolytes of the battery
  • Unlike conventional batteries, electrolytes are stored in separated storage tanks, not in the power cell of the battery
  • During operation, these electrolytes are pumped through a stack of power cells, in which an electrochemical reaction takes place and electricity is produced

 

Solar panels: a ray of hope as UK energy prices go through the roof

Demand is growing as more of us work from home. But does the £5,000 outlay for installation pay off?

Cleaning up … but the slope of the roof alone can have a big impact on savings
Clean energy … but the slope of the roof alone can have a big impact on savings. Photograph: Simon Dack/Alamy

With energy bills on their way up again from April, homeowners are looking skywards to try and ease the pressure on their budgets – by installing solar panels.

The latest change to the regulator’s cap on default tariffs means, from spring, that the average annual dual-fuel bill will go up to £1,971, an increase of 54% on current levels.

And with homeowners increasingly working from home, and therefore using more energy during the day, many are looking at installing panels to cut costs, and even earn from the energy they generate.

Thomas Newby, chief executive of Leeds-based renewable energy company egg, says they received the same number of inquiries in the first nine days of this month as they did in the whole of November.

“Many consumers are still on fixed deals but which will likely come to an end shortly, so I expect we may see a further increase in demand in the coming year,” he says.

What it costs

Solar panels convert energy from the sun into electricity. Stronger sunlight creates more electricity, which can then either be used in your home or exported to the national grid.

But installing them comes at a cost. The average bill reaches almost £5,000 and rising labor bills and shortages of photovoltaic panels mean prices are going up.

Domestic systems are generally made up of between 10 and 15 panels, each of which generates between 200W and 350W of energy, according to the Energy Saving Trust, a charity promoting energy efficiency. The more panels on the roof, the higher the installation cost but also the potential for more energy.

The average price for an installation of a 3.5kW system is £4,800, including labor. This tends to be about 12 panels.

“This is the average size for domestic systems in the UK,” says Brian Horne, senior insight and analytics consultant at the Energy Saving Trust. “The amount you pay for installation will be influenced by the size of the system, and will also be affected by any difficulty with access to your roof.”

This price does not include the cost of a battery, which allows solar energy to be stored for use at a later time. They range between £1,200 and £6,000, according to GreenMatch, which compares green energy products.

Although prices for solar systems have come down over the last decade, the increased cost of labor as well as the shortage in panels from China recently, has sent costs on the way back up, says Newby. “That’s as a result of some increase in material prices but, more generally, it is labor. That’s a big part of the job.”

Planning and permissions

The ideal roof for solar panels is south-facing. East- or west-facing roofs yield up to 20% less energy; north-facing ones are the least productive and deemed to be impractical in the UK.

For a 3.5kW system, you need room for 15 to 20 sq meters of panels. The best results will be achieved from a roof angled at 30 degrees. Most UK roofs are between 30 and 45 degrees, according to consumer group Which?.

Solar panels are classed as permitted developments so in most cases will not require planning permission. However, if you live in a listed building or a conservation area, there may be restrictions. It is best to contact your local council to be absolutely clear.

When solar panels are to be installed, the company which brings electricity to your home – the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) – must be informed. The Energy Networks Association has an online tool that, by entering your postcode, will tell you which company operates in your area.

If a solar system is above a certain size, prior permission is needed from the DNO and can take up to three months to obtain, according to Newby. After the preparation for putting the system in place is complete, installing the panels can take one to two days.

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Different EV Charging Connector Types

Let’s start with AC. There are two types of AC plugs:

  • Type 1 is a single-phase plug and is standard for EVs from America and Asia. It allows you to charge your car at a speed of up to 7.4 kW, depending on the charging power of your car and grid capability. 
  • Type 2 plugs are triple-phase plugs because they have three additional wires to let current run through. So naturally, they can charge your car faster. At home, the highest charging power rate is 22 kW, while public charging stations can have a charging power up to 43 kW, again depending on the charging power of your car and grid capability.

Two types of plugs exist for DC charging:

  • CHAdeMO: This quick charging system was developed in Japan, and allows for very high charging capacities as well as bidirectional charging. Currently, Asian car manufacturers are leading the way in offering electric cars that are compatible with a CHAdeMO plug. It allows charging up to 100 kW.
  • CCS: The CCS plug is an enhanced version of the Type 2 plug, with two additional power contacts for the purposes of quick charging. It supports AC and DC charging. It allows charging at a speed of up to 350 kW. 

Now, what do you do if you live in Europe and drive an Asian car like the Nissan LEAF? Well, you need a cable that connects the type 2 plug of the charging station with the type 1 outlet of your vehicle (type 2 to type 1). The maximum speed will be up to 7.4 kW.

To summarize:

Four types of plug exist, two for AC (type 1 and 2) and two for DC (CHAdeMo and CCS).
Type 1 is common for American vehicles, it’s a single-phase plug and can charge at a speed of up to 7.4 kW.
Type 2 is standard for European and Asian vehicles from 2018 onwards, it’s a triple-phase plug and can charge at a level of up to 43 kW.
CCS is a version of type 2 with two additional power contacts. It allows very fast charging.
CHAdeMO can be found in Asian cars and allows for high charging capacities as well as bidirectional charging.

WHAT ARE THE NECESSARY COMPONENTS OF A SOLAR MOBILE POWER SYSTEM?

Solar Truck camper

Mike’s Truck Camper – Photo from 2018

Solar power systems are an increasingly popular solution for both off the grid and on the grid power generation. They’re cost-effective and convenient, with solar panel kits widely available for any purpose.

With that being said, you should know that lots of different solar system components go into any system. With so many essential components, it can be helpful to understand why they’re necessary.

What Are the Main Components of Your Solar System?

Remember that you don’t just need to grab one of each of these solar system components and call it a day. You need to make sure they all work together properly. That also means finding dependable, quality brands that you can count on.

Solar Panels?

Of course, solar panels themselves are a big part of your solar electricity system. You can get panels today in a wide range of sizes, providing power in the range of 80 to 300 watts or more per panel.

The number of panels you’re going to need in Canada will vary widely depending on the size of your home and the specific region, due to how much the climate can vary. You could find yourself needing between 7,000 and 15,000 watts of capacity. How can you know how much you need? Find out with our solar panel calculator.

Make sure to go with systems designed for Canada, in particular, when setting up panels to power your home. Efficiency will rely on panel placement, which should always face south for maximum sun exposure. They should also be set up with a tilt of roughly 30 degrees. You can optimize this placement using your exact latitude.

You’ll also have to look into the options for polycrystalline or monocrystalline solar arrays. These are the two main types of panels. Monocrystalline is generally more efficient, although they can be more prone to damage.

Charge Controllers

You can’t simply plug your solar cells into a battery or the grid and hope for the best. You need a charge controller to manage electricity production.

Charge controllers prevent your batteries from taking in too much charge and becoming damaged. There are two different types: maximum power point tracking (MPPT) and pulse width modulation (PWM). Each device provides different levels of control.

The main difference to consider when choosing these solar system components is the voltage. PWM charge controllers require that panel and solar batteries match. MPPT charge controllers require the solar panel operating voltage to be about five volts higher than the battery charging voltage.

You should always check beforehand that your solar system components will work properly together.

Inverters

A primary problem when implementing a solar energy system is that solar panels put out DC power, whereas the electrical grid and your home’s electrical system run on AC power. That means you need to convert from DC to AC. To do that, you need inverters. Systems that aren’t grid-tied typically use a battery-based inverter to keep things simple.

Many solar energy systems will use string inverters. These are designed to run power that’s generated from multiple panels or a single inverter. This arrangement can be even more cost-effective with combiner boxes that connect multiple string inverters.

Running all of the panels in your solar power system can lead to efficiency issues because the weakest link will limit output. Microinverters provide a designated inverter for each panel, preventing this problem. The trade-off is that having more inverters costs more money than simply opting to go with string inverters.

Racks and Mounts

The mounting system that holds your solar panels is fundamental, especially in areas that get heavy snow. You need to make a deliberate choice that factors your region and individual needs.

The most common type of racking is roof-mounted. This keeps all of your solar system components safely out of harm’s way and should give your panels the most unobstructed sunshine possible.

You always want to make sure that a roof-mounted system is properly installed to prevent damage to your roof like leaks.

When roof mounting isn’t possible, some homeowners choose to go with ground mount for their solar electric systems. With this setup, racking is arranged at the appropriate angle to support the panels on the ground. This makes reaching them for cleaning and maintenance easy but can also leave them open to any potential hazards at ground level.

Finding an area without trees or other objects to obstruct ground-level sun exposure can also be hard and in some cases, impossible.

When neither of these options is possible (or for some specific applications), pole-mounted solar panels could be the way to go. These panels are installed on poles, which means that they’ll be high up and get excellent sun exposure but don’t require installation on your roof.

Every situation is unique, so it’s up to you to decide which type of mounting system is suitable for your home and region.

Solar Batteries

It wouldn’t do you much good to only have electricity when the sun is shining at its peak! That’s why batteries are integral solar system components. They give you storage capacity, which means that your solar power system can deliver electricity even after the sun goes down. They’re vital when you want to get the most out of your solar panels.

Your battery bank will be one of the most expensive components of your solar power system, so you need to make sure that you’re getting just what you need. There are two primary choices for solar system batteries: AGM and lithium.

AGM batteries use the same lead-acid chemistry that traditional car batteries do, but with a major upgrade. The absorbed glass mat that gives them their name prevents hydrogen gas release, a major problem for the safety and longevity of traditional lead-acid batteries.

These new batteries provide great storage capacity, safety, and reliability. They’re also relatively inexpensive.

Lithium batteries are also available for solar power systems (think electric vehicles). The main issue is that they’re much more expensive than AGM batteries and they don’t like cold weather.

With that being said, in every other category, they pull ahead. Lithium batteries can handle more charge cycles. They’re also safer and easier to maintain, and they last longer than AGM batteries.

Lithium batteries present a significant price trade-off, so both options are still worth considering.

A Backup Power Source for Your Solar Energy System

You should never rely on a solar energy system without having a backup power source available. When damaged or failed solar system components bring down your system, you don’t want to go without electricity until you can repair or replace them. Installing a backup power source ensures that you’ll always have reliable access to electricity.

For many homeowners, their backup power source is simply the existing electrical grid. Grid-tied systems are standard for installing solar energy systems anywhere other than the most remote locations. This arrangement is simple and convenient but isn’t always the right choice for everyone.

If you look at any kind of facility that can’t go without electricity for even a moment, they’ll have standby diesel generators. They’re incredibly reliable, relatively easy to store the fuel for, and less expensive than some other options. However, if your reason for going solar is environmental, you will likely shy away from the idea of a diesel generator.

Depending on your location, you might investigate wind turbines or even water wheels for backup power. However, these two are subject to many conditions. For real emergencies, even the most environmentally conscious families should have a portable gasoline generator to ensure they don’t go without the absolute necessities. (Please go ahead and share your comments and thoughts below)

System Maintenance:

Taking proper care of your solar power system is essential to the system’s longevity and efficiency.

Almost anywhere in Canada will get more than enough rainfall to keep panels clean. If you do notice them getting dusty during a particularly dry spell or otherwise covered in debris, you can simply spray your panels down with a household hose.

During the winter, you’ll have to keep them clear of snow for them to work. There are extendable tools designed for this task that make clearing snow a breeze. Whatever you do, never try to defrost panels with hot water. The temperature difference will crack the panels right away.

Learn more about Solar:

It’s easy to make sure that you get everything you need and that it’s all compatible and high-quality when you go with solar power components from Power My Home.

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What are the advantages of a 48V over a 12V system?

Solar systems are no longer a thing of the future─they are an effective and efficient way to provide your home, RV, boat, or off-grid cabin with the energy they need. And as we continue to develop solar technology, we are finding new and innovative ways to improve upon the past.

For example, up until recently, 12V or 24V systems were commonplace, with 12-volt systems being the most popular. But now technology is allowing the use of 48V systems, so let’s learn more about them. 

What is a 48V system?

Small setups like RVs or tiny homes can usually manage with a 12-volt or 24-volt system when it comes to power consumption. With these options, if you need more power, you can add more solar panels or another battery bank to increase your amp hours without too much hassle. 

 

However, with larger homes, the solution may not be so simple, which is where 48-volt systems come into play. The more amps you need, the more resistance (and heat) you’ll produce. To prevent blown fuses, tripped breakers, or even worse, a fire, you need a system that can handle the increased capacity without increasing the hazards. 

What are the advantages of a 48V over a 12V system?

  • Higher Efficiency

For both off-grid solar systems and those connected to the grid, 48V systems provide full power for high voltage appliances that require many watts to run. With a 48V system, the configuration allows for a more direct energy path, reducing consumption. All you’ll have to worry about is configuring the wiring between the charge controller, battery, and inverter. 

  • Safety

Because 48V systems run at higher efficiency while using fewer amps, they can operate appliances more safely than lower voltage systems. A 48V system will not have to increase its amperage regularly to provide the same power level as a 12V or 24V system.

  • Less Expensive Wiring and Batteries

48V systems don’t need to increase the current to appliances as frequently, which means they don’t need as much backup power from batteries. Also, they don’t require as much cabling and don’t need cables to be heat-resistant, making them cheaper. 

  • Scalable

Instead of taking a 12V system and scaling it up just to get to 48V, you can scale a 48V system even further. Right now, Renogy is developing a 48V LiFePo battery bank to support larger systems scalability.

Why is 48V the future of solar?

Each year, more and more devices become electrical or hybrid, and they will need solar systems to keep up. A 48V system can provide the energy these devices need without compromising on quality or design. Plus, 48V systems will work in vehicles that utilize 12V systems through developments with converters, all while not losing out on efficiency. 

 

Renogy’s current projects create a 48-volt to 12-volt converter, so keep an eye out for that, along with the 48V LiFePo battery bank. Please note that we prioritize customer service and offer free shipping on orders over a specified price point. 

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Best Deep Cycle Battery For Cold Weather

A deep cycle battery is imperative in a lot of situations but using them in extreme conditions can mean that they don’t function as you would expect them to.

That said, there are some deep cycle batteries that will perform even when placed under the duress of cold temperatures so if you live in a cooler climate or are heading off on a cold-weather expedition, it is important to choose the right battery.

In this guide, we will be explaining the impact that cold temperatures can have on your deep cycle battery, what to do about it, and the best options to avoid problems.

Deep cycle batteries are one of the most effective ways of storing energy and they are also incredibly cost-effective.

However, while their very design makes this so, it also has a negative side in that these batteries are not as effective when they are exposed to cold temperatures.

In short, when the deep cycle battery is exposed to cold weather, the charge and discharge cycle is slowed.

Most experts would recommend that you protect your batteries by addressing this issue during maintenance checks.

If you have ever used your deep cycle batteries in both summer and winter, you will probably have noticed one key difference; during the summer the batteries tend to charge far more quickly.
This is because warm temperatures speed up the charge and discharge cycle. That said, it also means that the battery will drain much more quickly than normal too.

However, when you use your batteries in the winter, this process is slowed down meaning that it may take the battery much longer to charge than one might expect.

If you research deep cycle batteries, you will notice that almost all manufacturers place the same temperature recommendations on their equipment with 27ºc/80ºf being the norm.

It is at this temperature that these batteries are known to operate most efficiently.

Flooded Deep Cycle Batteries And Cold Weather
When you are using a flooded deep cycle battery, it is critical to perform regular specific gravity readings using a hydrometer.

This way, you will get a very clear idea of whether the battery is charged enough when you are in colder conditions.

Once you have your readings, you will be able to compare these to the manufacturer’s specs to ensure that you are getting the most out of the battery.

When you are taking the readings, you must subtract 0.004 from every ten degrees that the temperature falls below 80ºf.
The baseline reading for the electrolytes in these flooded batteries sits usually at 1.265 when it is fully charged.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a fully charged battery at a temperature of 50ºf, you would need to subtract 0.004 x 3 from 1.265 which would give you a corrected reading of 1.253 which means that your battery would only be operated at between 92% and 95% of its usual capacity.

Essentially, the colder the weather, the less capacity your flooded battery will have.

Another problem faced by people using a flooded deep cycle battery in cold weather is the possibility of freezing.

 

When we talk about freezing in relation to these batteries we are not talking about the operable temperatures but rather the freezing point of the electrolyte.

In a flooded deep cycle battery that is fully charged, it would take temperatures as low as -80ºf/-62ºc but when the battery starts to discharge, this freezing temperature rises, and a fully discharged flooded battery might freeze once it hits 20ºf/-7ºc.

For this reason, it is advisable to avoid allowing exposure to these kinds of temperatures.

Moreover, if the electrolyte freezes, then it is very likely that the battery will forever be rendered useless.

Other Types Of Deep Cycle Batteries And Cold Weather
There are several other types of deep cycle batteries that, while slightly different, do have a lot in common. These are the absorbed gas mat or AGM battery, gel cell batteries, and sealed lead acid or SLA batteries.

It may come as a surprise that, despite their popularity, there is not a lot of current information on the impact of cold weather on any of these batteries.

However, it is suggested that they will lose a seriously significant amount of charge when exposed to the cold. One study found that this could be as much as 76% when exposed to freezing temperatures.

However, unlike flooded deep cycle batteries, at this temperature, these types of batteries will regain their full potential once they are warmed back up.
The only exception to this is if the batteries become physically frozen but this doesn’t happen until the temperature drops very significantly. You’d need to get down to about -75ºf for this to happen.

If you are using this type of battery, most manufacturers would recommend that you avoid allowing it to be exposed to anything lower than 32ºf and certainly do not charge it if it falls below this.

However, if you live somewhere that cold weather like this is commonplace, you may need to use the battery in any case. In this instance, you will simply need to be willing to replace the battery more frequently than usual.

This could be as often as every year, but the good news is that these batteries are not expensive.

What Are The Best Deep Cycle Batteries For Cold Weather?
There isn’t any type of deep cycle battery that will function perfectly when exposed to cold temperatures.
However, lithium-ion batteries do tend to fare far better than other types.

They will perform a lot better in many aspects and since they are so readily available, they are certainly worth considering if you live in or will be spending time in a colder climate.

That said, you must expect to lose a little capacity when the mercury drops but compared to others, this is minimal. When exposed to temperatures as low as 32ºf/0ºc, a lithium-ion deep cycle battery will only lose around 17%.

You could push it even further and take the temperature as low as -4ºf/-20ºc and still expect to have at least 70% of the original capacity.

If you need something more reliable, there is no doubt that lithium-ion is the way to go.
But it isn’t only the way that these batteries perform in extreme conditions that make them a cut above the rest.

The lithium-ion battery is far more lightweight.

If you’re traveling in an RV in cold weather or are out in the middle of nowhere enjoying time on your boat, or anything else, the chances are that you will already have a lot of equipment and the last thing you need is a cumbersome battery weighing you down.

These modern deep cycle batteries also benefit from the ability to charge far more quickly even when the temperature is lower which is something that other batteries cannot lay claim to.

Moreover, they are much more versatile and can be mounted in any way, including upside down.

They’re great if you are looking for something long-lasting. Compared to other types of deep cycle batteries, a lithium-ion may last up to five times longer.

They are a little more expensive, but when you consider that you won’t need to invest as frequently even when you are using them in cold weather, this is an investment worth making.

It is also worth keeping in mind that these batteries require no maintenance which when compared to the work you would need to put into a flooded deep cycle battery in the cold, is a massive plus point.

As a general rule, these lithium-ion batteries will safely charge and discharge in temperatures that range between -40ºf and 60ºf although it is worth checking with the manufacturer as there may be exceptions to this rule.

Where Can I Buy Lithium Ion Deep Cycle Batteries?
The first lithium-ion battery prototype was made in the mid-1980s making them one of the newer types of batteries. However, thanks to their superior performance, these batteries have become very popular, very popular.

You will find various types of lithium-ion batteries in a whole array of devices and deep cycles LIs are seemingly everywhere.

This means that getting your hands on one isn’t difficult and there are a lot of manufacturers vying for your attention.

One of the most notable producers of this type of battery is Dakota whose products are being used in locations like the Arctic Circle where the average summer temperature is just 50ºf/10ºc and in winter, this plummets down to -22ºf to -31ºf.

If the batteries prove successful in these temperatures, then that is convincing enough for us.

That said, as with most other modern purchases, lithium-ion deep cycle batteries can be purchased from us (Power My Home) there are a plethora of choices here.

Whether you are looking for something that can face thousands of cycles like this one from TalentCell or accessories to go with your battery, you’ll find everything you need on websites like this.

Conclusion
If you have ever tried to use your deep cycle battery in cold weather they ou will have noticed that it just doesn’t perform as well as when you use it at the ‘sweet spot’ temperature of 80ºf.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use a deep cycle battery in extreme conditions, it simply means that you’ll need to choose one that is better designed to handle the stress.

While some batteries will really struggle when the temperature drops, lithium-ion deep cycle batteries will keep on performing.

They will lose a little capacity but compared to other types, this is incredibly low.