Hello again from the Travel Desk, bringing you another engineering sight.
This trip takes us to Seoul, South Korea or, more specifically, to Seonyudo Park. Seonyudo Park is located on an island in the Hangang River as it winds its way through western Seoul. Until 1998 this island was home to a sewage treatment plant serving Seoul. As operations shifted and the facility was shut down, the Seoul Metropolitan Government looked for a way to turn the industrial island into an asset instead of a liability.
Seonyudo Park - How it Came To Be:
Of the proposals submitted, the winner was a plan transforming the island into an ecologically themed park and educational space. Some of the facility was completely demolished, while selected structures were partially deconstructed and retooled as gardens, performance space, or simply little retreats from hectic urban life. The current space is very much a relaxing park,
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="In the Opened, Cleaned Water Reservoir"][/caption]
but its past is not relegated to history. Some of the old pumps, valves, and other equipment were kept and put on display. The footprint of the old facility is marked with new Poplar trees. One of the concentrating basins was turned into a playground while another became an amphitheater. You can lunch in the café located in the old pump house. The roof was removed from the underground clean water reservoir and is now a quiet space populated with ivy covered columns. Settling basins now contain gardens.
Seonyudo Park - Aesthetics and Access as Part of The Master Plan
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Cafe in the Pump House"][/caption]
There were also some strategic new elements constructed, such as a new pedestrian bridge, a visitor center, and a green house. The pedestrian bridge, while possessing definite aesthetic qualities, increases access and helps connect the island to the city. The visitor center has display and presentation space, with the current exhibit presenting concepts of how cities and people interact with and affect nature. There are many facts and figures presented on energy and the resource usage of the residents of Seoul and how individuals can reduce their environmental impact. Some of the space is also dedicated to the Hangang River Renaissance Master Plan. This master plan tells of a transformation of the river banks from an afterthought of urban planning to an expansive multi-use network of civic and private buildings. The proposed themed neighborhoods range from business centers to sporting complexes to residential towers, each planned with features that will help return the river to a cleaner, more natural state and maximize the benefit of such a resource for the people of the city.
Seonyudo Park - Slices of Soeul Life
On my visit to the park there were people from all slices of Seoul. School groups taking in the educational displays, young couples enjoying some quiet time with nature, amateur performers doing live performances of their favorite anime, picnicking families, and photographers honing their craft, to name a few. I think the real beauty of the park is how it preserves a bit of the past and shows a path for the future, all while providing a better present.
Seonyudo Park Photos:
The transformation of Seonyudo Park benefited from the fact that the old treatment plant was the only resident of the island and, being an island, there were no neighbors to get approval from. The Master Plan is much more ambitious in complexity and scale, requiring more work from a more diverse coalition—and throw in a challenging economic environment for good measure. But what makes the Master Plan more difficult are the very aspects that give the plan so much potential. If the Master Plan is executed as well as the award winning Seonyudo Park has been, Seoul will have a string of jewels along a beautiful natural resource that will be the envy of any city in the world.
- Subway Line #2 to Dangsan Station (Exit #1) then bus (605, 6623, 6631, 6632, or 6633) getting off at Hanshin Apts then walking across the Rainbow Bridge
- Subway Line #2 or #6 to Hapjeong Station (Exit #8) then bus (604, 5712, 6712, or 6716) or walk to Hanshin Apts then walking across the Rainbow Bridge
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As states keep adding record amounts of wind and solar power to their grids, everyone's looking to buy some form of grid storage. That makes Bill Radvak, American Vanadium's CEO, a happy man. When he thinks about California, he knows the state needs to smooth out growing afternoon solar peaks, while Texas wants to save the power produced by wind turbines in the late evening. On the demand side, New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), one of the largest energy users in the US, is hosting a demo of a 400 kilowatt-hour array of CellCube vanadium redox flow batteries at a new 1.6 million square foot office building in downtown Manhattan.
The MTA selected Radvak's CellCube because it can provide hours of long-duration power, setting it apart from the much shorter duration lithium-ion batteries touted by Solar City, Stem, and Green Charge Nation. And like all flow batteries, they can be easily scaled up by adding more electrolyte tanks. The more volume, the more cost-effective. They're also very reliable storage systems too, keeping 99% of their charge for up to a year. Radvak is the right man, with the right product, at the right time. In business school he would have called it riding a secular trend; as a miner, it feels like life's oozing warmly over his boot tops.
During the two-year demonstration period, the MTA and local New York utility ConEd want to see how much power and money a customer can save by shaving demand levels. The batteries are charged at night when the rates are low, then during the day, the stored energy is released to reduce the building's daily peak loads, cutting the charges that often make up over half of a commercial business' power bill. Extra energy is sent to the grid to ease congestion, because eventually New York City wants to use battery storage to meet growing demand, instead of building expensive, new substations.
Flow Battery advantages
American Vanadium, which is actually a Canadian mining company, has been CellCube's North American distribution partner since May 2013. "CellCube expects to be a major player in the $5 billion long-duration battery market in 2020, capturing at least 20 percent of the market by then," Bill Radvak told Reuters. Meanwhile, Gildemeister, CellCube's German manufacturer, has already sold more than 65 batteries across Europe and Asia and is now working with a partner to create European “battery parks” that will smooth out grids congested by renewable energy.
CellCube's vanadium flow batteries come with other advantages. Vanadium provides significant power and energy over other battery combinations (zinc bromine, iron chromium) used by competitors. CellCube's batteries are also durable and nearly ageless. Since only one metal (vanadium) is used in the electrolyte, electrode degradation is nearly nonexistent, giving the battery a 20-plus-year lifespan.
But there's a catch. Which is how Radvack got involved with grid batteries in the first place. Vanadium is much more expensive than the other metals. That's because CellCube fights the global steel industry over a limited supply of the metal used to make strong alloys for tools, buildings, bridges, and "rebar" reinforced concrete. "Steel mills love it," Radvak told the BBC. "They take a bar of vanadium, throw it in the mix. At the end of the day they can keep the same strength of the metal, but use 30% less."
Making matters worse, only three countries provide most of the supply: China, Russia and South Africa. Unfortunately, China has been going through the biggest construction boom in history and hogging demand. Beijing's recent decision to use higher quality steel rebar has already bumped costs up for the rare metal.
An old vanadium mine
Back in 2006, when Radvak's Canadian mining company decided to reopen the old, Gibellini vanadium mine in Nevada, renewable energy, battery storage, and grids were the last thing on his mind. Back then, vanadium was all about steel. Planning to produce 14 million pounds of vanadium per year, about 5% of world supply, the mine had the potential to be the world’s lowest cost producer. When finally open, processing the vanadium in a sulfuric acid leaching process would produce vanadium pentoxide for steel and vanadium electrolyte for flow batteries.
Changing the business plan
But Radvak changed his business plan once he realized that vanadium pentoxide would bring $5 per pound, but electrolyte for flow batteries would was a cool US$25 per pound. After popping his forehead with the heel of his hand, ahe said, "We’re gonna help create the energy storage market in North America." Later, once the mine was finally in operation, Gildemeister offered to buy all the electrolyte for its North American Cellcube from American Vanadium.
Radvack went with Gildemeister because it was the company that was the most commercially advanced. The deal would allow Gildemeister to grow to any scale it wanted, which, according to Radvack, would be jeopardized without a secure vanadium supply.
Currently, American Vanadium is in talks with a global power company and two large US solar developers to use its vanadium flow battery in “major” projects. If the deals materialize, they want to install microgrids with solar and energy-storage, Radvak told Bloomberg.
This is part of Radvak's rapid growth strategy. “We targeted the largest energy developers and integrators in North America," he said, "proposing to be the (storage) provider for companies that have numerous customers or a backlog of projects in need of long-duration energy storage.”
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