The Critical Role of Batteries in Renewable Energy Development

As we continue to spiral uncontrollably into climate chaos, renewable energy sources are no longer an option. Renewable energy is the way, and scaling it to meet entire nations’ needs is proving mission-critical. 

The holy grail of energy storage? Batteries.

Battery power will play a key role in our ability to store renewable energy at scale. From automobiles to homes to city blocks, reliable energy storage comes in all shapes and sizes.

Renewable Energy and the Battery

The traditional electrical grid is notoriously unstable. The stories abound. From Nairobi to Tokyo to the U.S., animals chew through power lines, fall into transformers, or otherwise meddle with critical grid structures. 

The result? Megawatts of power disappear, leaving miles of homes without power. And all of this does not even include natural disasters, like wildfires in California, that cause near state-wide power outages.

There are two important points here. One is that our current carbon emissions are unsustainable, so renewables like solar, wind and air are becoming increasingly inevitable.

The other is that our grid is vulnerable because it is antiquated and unable to store energy for more than a short period of time. The current grid setup only allows for enough storage to smooth out the spikes in demand, but not enough to compensate for large-scale outages. 

Enter the battery. It comes in many forms you may have heard of, including:

  • Lead-Acid
  • Nickel-Iron
  • Nickel-Cadmium
  • Nickel-Metal Hydride

Other types of batteries exist, including various automotive batteries like dry-charged and flooded deep-cycle batteries. But not all are appropriate for the type of storage needed for renewables to make a dent in the energy matrix, except one — the lithium-ion battery.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are one of the most exciting battery developments in the past 50 years. John B. Goodenough invented the lithium-ion battery in the 1970s and, along with his international team of researchers, won the Nobel Prize in 2019.

Lithium-ion batteries entered the market via consumer products. Sony was the first to integrate Lithium-ion batteries for use in its handheld video recorder. The battery soon made its way into smartphones, tablets, laptops, and digital cameras. 

Lithium-ion batteries have proven a superior source of energy storage. Among the many advantages of Lithium-ion batteries include:

  • Higher Energy Storage Density
  • Higher Voltage Delivery
  • Longer-Lasting
  • Low-Maintenance

Recently, Lithium-ion batteries have become the most promising route to long-term renewable energy storage. Thanks to the battery, it is possible to foresee a legitimate future for clean energy.  

Automobiles

Transportation is a good place to start. According to the EPA, fossil fuel use in automobiles, planes, ships, trucks, and trains is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gas on earth.

As of 2018, transportation was responsible for almost 30% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, followed closely by electricity production and industry.

Electric vehicles (EV) are rechargeable automobiles that you can plug in to refuel. No need to gas up, since the all-electric EVs run charge alone. But, as with all new technologies, EVs have been expensive.

Until just recently, electric vehicles have been a rich person’s novelty toy. Who can really afford a $50,000 Tesla, especially five years ago? Not a whole lot of people, not enough to matter to the environment anyway.

However, the landscape is changing and rapidly. Electric vehicles (EV) are becoming a phenomenon embraced by some of the world’s largest automakers, like Volkswagen, Toyota, GM, and Ford. 

And it’s not just old guard finally paying attention. New EV manufacturers are popping up by the dozens, especially in colossal markets like China, where EV companies like Polestar, Nio, Faraday Future (FF), and Byton are adding to the competition. 

The bottom line? EV is getting more affordable. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global EV sales hit over 7 million in 2019, compared to 2.1 million in 2019. 

To put things in perspective, in 2010, there were just 17,000 EVs on the road, worldwide! 

To say that EVs are trending up is an understatement. EVs are rapidly becoming the norm. Much of this trend is thanks to the advent of batteries, especially lithium-ion batteries. All EVs run on lithium-ion batteries.

Large Scale Storage

Electrical use is the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. From homes to businesses, electricity’s convenience has historically been made possible by burning fossil fuels in coal-fired power plants. 

But this trend also is changing, thanks to lithium-ion battery storage.

To fuel large-scale storage that can provide megawatts of power to communities, there needs to be a way to affordably store clean energy derived from solar, air, and wind technologies. Nations are embracing lithium-ion installations designed for massive energy storage. 

Like EVs, large-scale battery storage has grown at a healthy rate, led by countries like Korea, Japan, and China. According to the IEA, countries added almost 3 gigawatts of storage capacity in 2019, compared to a quarter of a gigawatt added in 2013.

Companies like Tesla are advancing battery storage at scale, with its South Australia installation–the largest of its kind in the world–generating 100 megawatts. That’s enough electricity to power 30,000 homes. 

Power plants are integrating scaled-up renewable energy storage, as well. Battery farms can act as “peaker plants,” replacing a power plant’s fossil fuel use during times of peak demand. 

Lithium-Ion Disadvantages

When it comes to renewable energy, storage has been one of the biggest challenges. Thanks to the lithium-ion battery, there is now a way to store energy at scale, and the future seems bright. 

But lithium-ion storage is not perfect. There are many issues with lithium-ion batteries scientists still need to resolve.

First, lithium-ion batteries tend to overheat, especially at high voltages, and often combust. They’re 40% more expensive than other storage options, like nickel-cadmium batteries, and they tend to get more defective with age.

Not to mention that lithium-ion batteries still can’t match gasoline’s energy density by volume (or weight). Fossil-fuel is still more bang for the buck, albeit the ecosystem’s potential downfall.

Know Your Options

Even if you don’t own a renewable energy vehicle, you can still make your car battery as efficient as possible.

Contact us today to see what type of energy-efficient car batteries we have to offer. 

Reliable Power Delivered Worldwide

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