Non-fossil Renewable Energy

Battery Development: Electricity Storage of the Future

We have long relied on batteries for powering small electronic devices.  However, battery technology has evolved far past the AAAs we still use, and hold significant promise for transforming our present into a sustainable future.

 

Among the many places that battery technology is changing is for electric and hybrid vehicles.  For example, research is underway that shows semisolid fuel cell batteries hold significant advantages over current lithium ion battery designs – once the bugs are worked out.  Should today’s research be fully implemented, lithium ion batteries could hold over ten times as much energy.  Even further in the future, when battery development moves past lithium, the potential is greater still.

The implications of advanced vehicle battery designs are potentially monumental.  If and when battery technology matures to the point that electric vehicles are as cheap and effective as traditional automobiles, they will be attractive to consumers and we could see electric vehicles become the norm, rather than the exception.   As renewable energies become a greater part of our electricity mix, electric vehicles will become a much more carbon-neutral means of transportation, and will be a critical part of a modern, sustainable society.

Battery technology is also evolving for larger roles, such as for utility companies.  Multiple new designs are being researched, such as sodium sulfur, zinc-bromide, vanadium redox, nickel-cadmium, and lead-acid.  Currently, utility scale batteries are very expensive and can result in significant electricity cost increases to consumers.  However, batteries used for this purpose will be particularly important when we get more of our electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar.  Solar panels can only generate electricity when the sun is shining, and wind turbines can only generate electricity when the wind is blowing.  But people use electricity around the clock, so electricity transmission and storage must be kept in mind as key players.  Smart grids will require advanced utility scale batteries to store electricity so it can be delivered when needed.

 

Sources:  Robert F. Service, “Getting There”, Science Magazine, June 2011.

Robert Peltier, “Can Utility-Scale Batteries Rescue Intermittent Renewables?”, Master Resource, March 2010.

SustainableBusiness.com news, “GE, Saft Announce Utility-Scale Battery Offerings”, May 2010.

Essay by Ryan Dash

 

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Last edit 18Oct2017