4 Jul 2020
News & Information
A guide to the energy storage revolution
A true revolution for the renewable energy sector is the development of battery storage systems. The major downside of solar energy was certainly its constriction to daylight hours. However, technological advances are launching us into a new era of energy efficiency and sustainability. As the landscape changes dramatically, there is more than ever a need for information and transparency within the industry.
On 16 June, President Obama hosted a summit at the White House to address the potential of emerging battery storage technologies, announcing a number of policies to assist the US’ broader environmental policy. An extremely positive sign of things to come for the global energy storage market and an encouraging sign for Australia.
The most common types of batteries.
Alkaline, lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries are the most commonly used. Single-use batteries such as the alkaline AA or AAA power small electrical devices. Electric cards and grid energy storage, however, use rechargeable batteries such as lead-acid and lithium-ion. Lead-acid batteries are relatively cheap but typically last only a few years and aren’t powerful enough to power a car and they have toxic elements that require special handling after use.
The rise of lithium-ion batteries
Lithium-ion batteries pack more energy into a given volume, last longer and operate at a wider range of temperatures than other rechargeable batteries.
As a result, they have become the standard batteries for running computers, mobile phones and other consumer electronics. And, most importantly, they also have the energy density and longevity that make them suitable for powering cars and storing and dispatching solar electricity.
It’s no longer a matter of speculation as to whether lithium-ion batteries will be product of choice for storing large amounts of energy for at least the next 10 years.
What do lithium-ion batteries cost?
Battery prices have fallen significantly since hitting the market in the 90s. Five years ago, a lithium-ion battery would fetch over $1,000/kWh in wholesale prices, but now the average price hovers around $400/kWh, with Tesla’s large scale commercial batteries as low as $250/kWh ($500/kWh including the software and system to operate them). By 2020, Tesla expects the total system price to be as low as $300/kWh.
Are lithium-ion batteries as good as they get?
As with all new technologies, there is room for growth and batteries have by no means reached the same plateau in innovation that solar PV has. However, by all accounts, the technology is expected to remain at a similar stage for the next five to ten years. This is exciting news. In conjunction with the market becoming more competitive and prices dropping significantly, now is the time to invest in the technology.
Where next for battery technology?
Flow batteries are the only serious contenders to compete with lithium-ion batteries. They store electricity in two tanks of liquid, separated by a membrane. However, they are much bulkier and often contain toxic, non-organic materials such as vanadium, iron, zinc and bromine.