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When Robert Friedland Talks Vanadium, I Pay Full Attention

Commentaries & Views

Mr. Robert Friedland is the recipient of the 2017 Northern Miner's Lifetime Achievement Award, and when the legendary mining billionaire offered his rare insights on vanadium in a recent interview with The Northern Miner, I paid my full attention. Mr. Friedland stated:

“We think there’s a revolution coming in vanadium redox flow batteries,” he says. “You’ll have to get into the mining business and produce ultra-pure vanadium electrolyte for those batteries on a massive scale.

We’re very deeply interested in how you store electrical energy in the grid.

The beauty of the vanadium redox battery is that you can charge and discharge it at the same time, something that can’t be done with a lithium battery. With a vanadium redox flow battery, you can put solar power and wind power into the battery, and you can put excess grid power into the battery at night, and at the same time you can have a stable output into the grid.”

Source: The Northern Miner accessed at-

Like Mr. Friedland, I favor the fundamentals of vanadium, which is embarking on a stealthy run in price that very few exploration and mining investors and commodities observers have yet noticed. Below are charts of vanadium (vanadium pentoxide or V2O5) price and the stock price of two companies active in vanadium, an exploration company and a mining company to illustrate this stealthy run.

Source: MetalBulletin accessed at-

The thesis of vanadium bullishness lies in the use of vanadium redox flow batteries (“VRBs”) to complement the explosive growth of grid-scale wind and solar energy generation capacity, which has increased more than 7-fold in the last 10 years. Large VRBs have characteristics that allow storage of wind and solar-generated electrical power and release of that power during times these generators cannot generate power. VRBs also improve the economics of wind and solar energy generation and enhance grid operation.

Global Wind and Solar Energy Capacity (MW) 2007 to 2016

Source: International Renewable Energy Agency accessed at-

The mechanics of renewable power generation is simple. Thanks to science and technology, the average total cost to build and operate a power-generating asset over its lifetime divided by the total energy output of the asset over that lifetime (the “levelized cost”) of wind and solar energy are now the lowest of all commercial energy sources, an unthinkable proposition only a few years ago.

Source: Lazard Asset Management accessed at -

The share of wind and solar in electricity production amounts to less than 2.7% globally in 2012 and less than 6% in 2015.

accessed at:

Source: Enerdataaccessed at

How high can that 6% share climb? Consider-

“On an unusually windy day in July 10, 2015, Denmark found itselfproducing 116% of its national electricity needs from wind turbines yesterdayevening. By 3am on Friday, when electricity demand dropped, that figure hadrisen to 140%.

Interconnectors allowed 80% of the power surplus to be shared equallybetween Germany and Norway, which can store it in hydropower systems for uselater. Sweden took the remaining fifth of excess power.

’It shows that a world powered 100% by renewable energy is nofantasy,” said Oliver Joy, a spokesman for trade body the European WindEnergy Association. “Wind energy and renewables can be a solution todecarbonisation – and also security of supply at times of highdemand.’”

Source: TheGuardian accessed at -

Additionally, Denmark’s neighbor, Sweden set a 100% renewable energyproduction target by 2040. The article stated

“Under the proposals, the scope of Sweden’s market-basedsupport scheme of renewable electricity certificates will be extended to helpincrease income for energy producers in Sweden and Norway. Proposals alsoinclude reducing the tax burden on installation costs for offshorewind.”

Source: Wind Power Monthly accessed at -

Even the not-so-sunny or windy Germany managed to generate 29.5% of itselectricity in 2016 from renewables.

Source: Energy Transition accessed at -

If solar and wind energy capacity sustains an annual compounded growth rateof 10%, the world would generate about 20% (from the current 6%) of itselectricity from those resources by 2030. Such a scenario is entirelyplausible, if not too conservative, and we are well on the renewablerenaissance path.

An Asian Power Magazine article dated February 17, 2017 and titled“India’s installed capacity for solar parks hiked to40,000MW” reports:

“50 parks with at least 500MW capacity each will beconstructed.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved an increase insolar park installed capacity target from 20,000 MW to 40,000 MW for projectsto be development in solar parks and ultra-mega solar power projects, accordingto Mercom Capital Group.”

Source: Asian Power Magazine accessed at -

That 40,000 MW represents the capacity equivalent of 40 modern nuclear powerplants.

Now consider the impact efficient high voltage electrical power transmissionwould have on solar and wind electrical power generation tied with VRBs andtheir advantages.

China has the longest 800kV Ultra High Voltage Direct Current Transmissionline: 2,192km Hami–Zhengzhou completed in 2014 and 3,400km lineZhundong–Wannan to be completed in 2018*. The same technology couldtransmit excess wind power from San Francisco at 6 am to Houston at 8 am (~3100km), while capturing solar power from Houston at 8 am and transmitting it to adark cloudy, stifling New York city at 9am (~2600 km) in time for the WallStreet opening.

*Source: Wikipedia accessed at -

Indeed, with the capacity of solar and wind energy increasing and enhancedby VRBs and efficient long distance transmission interconnectors, the futurecapacity and deployment of wind and solar energy is practically limitless andthe levelized cost will further decrease. By comparison, nuclear energyproduction has stagnated since 2000 due to rising construction time and cost. Amodern 1,000 MW nuclear reactor plant can take up to 10 years and US$10 billionto build.

Source: International Atomic Energy Agencyaccessed at-

To me, vanadium clearly offers a better upside than uranium.

Besides the inability of simultaneous charge and discharge pointed out byMr. Friedland, lithium ion-batteries are not ideally suited for grid-levelenergy storage because they have a short-duration discharge cycle and begin todegrade after a few hundred cycles of fully charging and fully discharging (or1,000 cycles at most), whereas vanadium batteries are non-flammable and canoperate for 10,000 cycles.

This year, I have written three articles about vanadium and vanadium redoxflow batteries, which are worth a read:

Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries: The Next Big Wave After LithiumBatteries

Renewables with Vanadium Batteries to Reshape $27 billion Off-GridEnergy Market

Death of Uranium and Renaissance of Vanadium (in Energy Storage)

How do investors profit from the upcoming renewable energy renaissance andthe pent-up demand for VRBs?

Over half of the VRB cost is vanadium. Vanadium is primarily used as a steelstrengthening additive with less than 10% of worldwide vanadium supply usedtoday in batteries. Given that there are no vanadium strategic stockpiles , anyincrease in vanadium redox flow battery demand will cause an increase invanadium price.

Unfortunately, there is no vanadium ETF, and vanadium does not trade oncommodity exchanges such as the COMEX or LME, which makes buying the variousforms of vanadium challenging.

The other option is to own vanadium mines. Vanadium is mostly produced as aby-product from processing titanium iron ore. However, there are a couple ofprimary vanadium deposits, such as the active Maracas Menchen mine in Brazil,and the feasibility stage Gibellini deposit in Nevada, which ProphecyDevelopment Corp. (TSE: PCY, OTC: PRPCF) had just announced it will acquire.

I am siding with Robert Friedland and believe both vanadium and vanadiummining companies represent excellent value to investors at current prices.

I don’t own vanadium metal; however, I own 19% of Prophecy DevelopmentCorp.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.