What Bill Shock?: WA Nursery Celebrates Two Years of Shunning The Grid

A Busselton nursery is celebrating two and a half years of paying nothing for its electricity usage after installing an industrial size battery and small solar array on its block two hours south of Perth.

Lucy Stuart and her husband Ian installed a 10kW power 100kWh vanadium redox flow battery at their native tree nursery in 2016 and since then has not paid for any of the energy its used.

Lucy Stuart installed a vanadium battery at her Busselton nursery.
Lucy Stuart installed a vanadium battery at her Busselton nursery.

The battery is the size of a shipping container and is charged by a 15kw solar system. When called on, it can provide enough power to run at maximum output for 10 hours straight.

The farm is still connected to the grid but the the Stuart’s haven’t had to use it.

Mrs Stuart said they settled on a battery system to meet their growing electricity demand because of grid availability and peace of mind.

“Where we are, the grid provides single-phase power only,” she said.

“We wanted three-phase power in order to use a workshop and use heavier machinery.

“We can’t always be down here at the farm, and our tree nursery does depend on uninterrupted power supply for the irrigation of the seedlings.”

Vanadium redox flow batteries have been the poor cousin to their booming lithium relatives but many Australian companies are hoping the Australian developed technology will out-muscle lithium in bigger energy storage projects because of it’s safety and longevity.

Mrs Stuart’s battery was built in Austria and installed by Vsun Energy, a subsidiary of Australian Vanadium (ASX:VDL), which is looking to build a $500 million Vanadium mine and processing facility near Meekathara.

In a statement, the company said the technology relied on a vanadium electrolyte solution held in storage tanks.

“Such batteries can be charged and discharged at the same time and can be cycled often and deeply, which differentiates them from lithium-derived storage,” the statement read.

“They have a 20-plus year lifespan and at the end of the battery’s mechanical life, the electrolyte can be re-used over and over again.”

In January Australian Vanadium managing director Vincent Algar said he was excited for vanadium’s future as the technology spreads.

Increasingly vanadium redox flow batteries are being used in trial projects across the country.

Another WA-based vanadium focused company Protean Energy (ASX:POW) is also conducting trials and installed a 25kW, 100kWh battery at an industrial site in Perth to trial a micro-grid.