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Vanadium Flow Battery to Provide Grid-Level Storage for Gills Onions

SP120502 electricity

What is claimed to be the largest flow battery system in the world capable of storing and delivering grid-scale power instantaneously has received permission to operate from the local utility and will begin full operation in the weeks ahead, announced Prudent Energy, the manufacturer of the vanadium redox battery energy storage system (VRB-ESS). The project's commissioning marks a significant point in the deployment of large-scale electricity storage systems and will be used to expand onsite power generation at an agricultural processing facility in California owned by Gills Onions.

Prudent's VRB-ESS allows utility customers to balance load, bridge generation, and regulate voltage and frequency, in one low-maintenance system. The systems are used by commercial and industrial companies to reduce operating expenses and provide backup power. Unlike other advanced energy storage systems, Prudent's VRB is highly scalable, charges and discharges completely without decreasing power capacity, and contains an energy-bearing electrolyte that never wears out.

The Gills Onions storage system is planned to have three 200 kW modules with enough electrolyte to provide six hours of storage. This will allow the VRB to provide six hours of energy at 600 kW (3.6 MWh) during the expensive on-peak utility rate period. The system can be expanded in the future as needed by adding additional 200 kW modules and/or additional electrolyte.

"This project unleashes the power of energy storage for industrial companies and the grid of the future. It proves that multi-megawatt-hour VRB systems can be delivered today. We expect dramatic benefits for a company like Gills Onions, to help them manage their operating costs," said Jeff Pierson, senior vice president, Prudent Energy.

The storage system will work in combination with Gills Onions' existing renewable energy system, which extracts the juice from unusable parts of the onions and treats it in a high-rate anaerobic reactor to produce methane-rich biogas that feeds two 300-kW fuel cells. The resulting electricity is used to power the onion processing plant, saving an estimated $700,000 annually in electrical costs.

Gills Onions is a 29-year-old, family owned and operated grower and food processor with perhaps the most innovative fresh onion processing plant in the world. In concert with sister company Rio Farms, the Gill brothers manage more than 17,000 acres of farmland and 300,000 square feet of processing and warehouse facilities. Gills Onions maintains an aggressive strategy to provide customers the highest quality fresh-cut onions with the lowest environmental impact. The company has received numerous local and national awards and recognition for their sustainability efforts.

"Prudent Energy storage is clean, quiet and safe, making it an attractive, sustainable solution for onsite power generators like us. We are impressed with the innovative technology behind Prudent's vanadium flow battery, and are excited to be the first company in the United States to deploy a VRB system on this scale," said Steve Gill, owner/partner, Gills Onions.

Lower Utility Bills on a Sustainable Basis
One of the VRB system's obvious benefits is that it allows Gills Onions to reduce utility bills by storing electricity when rates are lowest and delivering that electricity during expensive peak rate periods. Electricity prices increase during high use periods, especially for six hours in the afternoon when the local utility, Southern California Edison, must call on peaking generators to meet demand. That additional cost of electricity production is passed to the customer via Time of Use (TOU) rates.

Although Gills Onions generates a significant portion of its own electricity, it still depends every day on the local utility. By charging the VRB-ESS typically at night, then discharging that power during the afternoon peak period, Gills reasoned it can substantially lower its power bill each year.

In 2011, Gills Onions was recognized by McDonald's Corporation on the merits of their sustainability achievements. Proving how important such a commitment is to effective business relations, Gills Onions received McDonald's annual Innovation Award for its waste-to energy project, a zero waste initiative, and participation in The Climate Registry.

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