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Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

Breakthrough vanadium energy storage system wins Mayor’s Innovation Challenge

As the demand for electrical energy increases, so does the need to find appropriate energy storage solutions. An innovative research project using a vanadium redox battery system could be an answer — and it’s one of the winners of the City of Calgary’s inaugural Mayor’s Innovation Challenge.

Developed by the Centre for Energy Research in Clean Unconventional Technology Solutions (CERCUTS) — one of seven Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) research areas at SAIT — the ARIS Battery Storage project demonstrates the potential of a breakthrough technology to address issues related to renewable power intermittency, energy grid stabilization and climate resiliency.

“Applied research is key to accelerating technology and innovation,” says Trish Josephs, Director of ARIS. “It helps reduce risk and develop technology from early prototypes to commercialization. It also introduces and matches technology solutions from new startups with large enterprises across industries.”

The project was led by Marlon Norona, a CERCUTS team member and recent grad from SAIT’s MacPhail School of Energy, and Matthieu Trudell, a summer intern from Western University in Ontario.

The research team, which also includes Dr. Vita Martez and Matt La Prairie, have already completed a prototype to generate electricity from vanadium and are looking to scale up to a pilot project. The research was funded by the Clean Technologies segment of NSERC’s Industrial Research Chair program at SAIT led by Martez.

“This system could lead the way to a net-zero energy solution,” says Trudell. “The vanadium mined from the Athabasca tailings ponds and from mines across Canada for use in the battery system could be a new revenue stream for the province, it could create jobs for Albertans while reducing the environmental impact of the energy sector.”

Generating opportunity

Launched in May 2021, the inaugural Mayor’s Innovation Challenge asked: How might we advance innovative energy solutions on the path to net zero emissions in order to achieve economic, social and environmental resilience? 

The City received more than 130 submissions in response and the field was narrowed to nine finalists across three streams in the spring.  

ARIS Battery Storage was named the winner in the Pre-Commercial/Startup stream after a virtual pitch session last week. The panel of judges included Heather Campbell, the Executive Director for Clean Technology at Alberta Innovates, Brad Zumwalt, a leader and investor in the Calgary technology sector, and Mayor Naheed Nenshi.  

“Choosing winners was not an easy task,” says Mayor Nenshi. “The enthusiasm of all of the teams, and their solutions to our planet’s energy issues were very compelling. Ultimately, the judges felt that these submissions were the ones that would most benefit from the opportunities offered by the Challenge.”

Winners will have the opportunity to work more closely with the City of Calgary and/or ENMAX to build on their idea or innovation, be mentored by a Fellow from Energy Futures Lab (EFL), and meet with senior officials at Prairies Economic Development (PrairiesCAN).

Advancing innovative energy solutions

“Electricity demand in Canada is growing at an annual rate of two per cent and is expected to increase, » says Norona. “Based on our research, ARIS Battery Storage has the potential to provide 24/7 power reliability at a lower price tag than other battery solutions, including lithium.”

Unlike conventional batteries, ARIS Battery Storage uses a single energy source, vanadium. Vanadium allows power to be accepted and stored as chemical energy, which can then be discharged as electricity through a redox reaction. It also has a 25-year lifespan and is recyclable.

“We’re very excited to partner with the City and ENMAX on future applications for this technology,” says Josephs. “We gratefully acknowledge the mentorship received from Platform Calgary, ENMAX, EFL and Erin Chrusch from the Mayor’s Office.”

Adrienne Madden

Adrienne Madden

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