Redflow looks to recharge investor hopes
If investor appetite in Redflow were likened to one of the company's potentially revolutionary battery systems, it would be in need of a recharge.
Since listing two years ago at $1 each, shares of Redflow have soared as high as $1.70 only to plummet to as low as 4.5 cents last July.
Confirmation the company received a $3 million research and development payment from the tax office has lately buoyed the stock.
More of that stock price recharge might not be too far off. In fact, shares on Monday rose as much as 27 per cent, or 3 cents, to 14 cents.
The maker of zinc-bromine flow batteries - devices that can both store power and smooth out the inevitable intermittency of electricity generated from solar and wind-generated energy- says talks to supply a major US defence contractor continue to advance.
“We're boxing up a bunch of batteries to send over there,” Alex Winter, Redflow's co-founder and head of engineering, told Fairfax Media. “That's moving ahead definitely.”
Meanwhile his brother Redflow's Chris Winter – who first worked with Alex on the battery 11 years ago in a Brisbane shed - was in Germany last week “finalising details” on another deal that's “right there on the cusp as well.”
Redflow's plan, if the right partners can be found, is to outsource most of the battery's production and to team with international “system integrators” which can package the technology with other products - such as solar power units – and market on a mass scale.
“We're talking hundreds of thousands of our battery modules,” Dr Winter said. “At the moment, we're making 20 a month (in Brisbane).”
Dr Winter said zinc-bromine batteries are already comparable in cost to the ubiquitous lithium-ion batteries produced in the hundreds of millions annually, and could soon be much cheaper.
“Conservatively, we should be able to come below 30-40 per cent of the cost we have now,” he said. “Trying to do everything is a sure-fire way of failing.”
The firm's batteries are largely made from low-cost materials such as polyethylene, and unlike lead-acid batteries, can regularly be fully charged and discharged.
The market for energy storage is potentially huge. Dr Winter cites estimates from US-based Lux Research that zinc-bromide batteries could grab almost one-fifth of the $US113 billion ($109 billion) market by 2017.
Redflow's main competitors are focusing on much larger batteries, making them less flexible for customers, he said.
Redflow's batteries now cost about $1000 per kilowatt hour. Its standard module, about the size of a dishwasher, has the capacity to supply up to 5 kilowatts for two hours.
A shipping container-sized unit of 24 modules, dubbed M90, was launched at the University of Queensland last week, with plans for a 36-module unit to be installed there in the future.