Batteries on the Horizon

Battery System Installation

Energy storage is an ever-growing field of research, and it’s a vital part of the expansion of solar power. Batteries can flip the switch on PV energy and turn it into a dispatchable source of power, able to meet the changing needs of any given household, business, or even the utility grid as a whole. 

Flooded lead-acid, AGM, and Lithium Ion (Li+Ion) batteries make up the key players in PV storage, although Lithium-Ion is quickly becoming the preferred option among solar customers. Li+Ion batteries, first conceived in the 1980s, have been used in household electronics for decades but just recently became efficient and cost-effective enough for use in renewable energy storage. CivicSolar only just added them to stock in the past couple of years, with companies like LG introducing great Lithium-Ion solutions to the mainstream PV battery industry. 

Fast forward to present day, there are a few innovative battery technologies in the works that might just break out into the ever-changing energy storage market. In such a versatile and developing landscape, it pays to keep a finger on the pulse of upcoming technology. We’ve highlighted here a couple of new, patent-pending storage solutions that are worth taking a closer look at while they’re still in the research stage. 

 

Solid State 

What is it?

Solid-state batteries still utilize lithium ions, but they’re in a solid-state electrolyte as opposed to a liquid - and flammable - material. Solid-state battery technology is already in use in some small commercial applications, like inside medical implants, but researchers have recently been eyeing solid-state solutions as the next big innovation in renewable energy storage. 

Further innovation by these researchers is believed to have doubled the energy density, increased capacity, and removed the need for cobalt - a metal that is surging in price every year as energy storage demands increase. 

Although allowing lithium-ion mobility in a solid-state electrolyte has proven challenging, a technology called LTPS was just patented by researchers from UCLouvain and Toyota which could further change the game for this solution. 

Use cases: Residential and Commercial 

Possible Advantages: Solid-state batteries are much safer than traditional lithium-ion batteries, and they have also been shown to have faster charging rates and higher performances. 

When can we expect to see it?

The patent for the LTPS technology was recently filed, so look out for UCLouvain and Toyota in the coming years. The battery was tested in laboratory conditions and more research needs to be conducted on its commercial viability. 
 

Redox Flow 

What is it?

While various types of flow batteries have existed for some time, new patent-pending Redox Flow batteries have some changes that reduce costs and nearly double the operational voltage. Science Daily reports that University of Colorado at Boulder researchers are announcing successes with battery chemistry known as aqueous flow, in which chromium ions and organic binding agents are used to allow electron movement throughout the battery. Michael Mashark and Brian Robb of CU Boulder’s Chemistry Department report that the new battery chemistry is the highest performing technology for energy storage yet. 

Use cases: Utility and Large Commercial 

Possible Advantages: This technology might be the most exciting because of its potential for scalability. Aqueous flow batteries have the best potential for grid-based storage solutions because of their high energy storage capacity and larger size. Additionally, the Redox Flow battery technology that CU Boulder announced is made with non-toxic, abundant materials, and uses a relatively neutral pH of 9.

When can we expect to see it? 

Marshak and Robb from CU Boulder plan on optimizing the technology before a commercial release, but they’ve already filed a patent for the Redox Flow battery and have a high confidence level for its utility-scale viability. 

 

Gold Nanowire 

Perhaps the most exciting and most original energy storage technology currently in research is gold nanowire. Nanowires have high conductibility, coupled with large surface areas and have long been eyed as a potential solution for energy storage. The challenge faced with this type of wire, though, is that it has never been able to withstand many re-charging cycles because of its fragility. According to Nick Lavars from New Atlas, researches at the University of California at Irvine claim to have a breakthrough solution to this issue after a lot of trial and error in experimentation. 

What is it?  

Gold nanowire is coated in a manganese dioxide shell, then encased into a gel electrolyte similar in composition to plexiglass, leveraging the lifecycle of the battery to withstand hundreds of thousands of re-charging cycles. 

Use cases: Residential and Commercial 

Possible Advantages: Because these batteries can be cycled hundreds of thousands of times with no signs of degradation, they could represent a massive shift in energy storage practices. Whether or not they’re viable enough for widespread adoption remains to be seen. 

When can we expect to see it? 

As of yet, Gold Nanowire batteries are still in the research stage and rollout is to be determined. 

Energy storage has come a long way but still isn’t attractive enough to a lot of folks who are looking to cut costs and maximize investment return. The hope and driver behind each new generation of PV batteries is to increase the adoption of renewable energy storage and make it more convenient. Battery chemistry improvements take time, and any of these new technologies may need years of testing and experimentation before they hit the market. Keep an eye out for energy storage innovations in the next few years, and remember that Solid-state, Gold Nanowire, and Redox Flow battery technologies might be right on the horizon. 
 

Sources 

Gershgorn, D. (2019, March 18). Researchers Accidentally Make Batteries Last 400 Times Longer. Retrieved from https://www.popsci.com/researchers-accidentally-make-batteries-last-400-times-longer/ 

Hanley, S. (2018, June 26). The Solid-State Lithium-Ion Battery - Has John Goodenough Finally Done It? Retrieved from https://cleantechnica.com/2018/06/26/the-solid-state-lithium-ion-battery-has-john-goodenough-finally-done-it/

University of Colorado at Boulder. "High-performance flow batteries offer path to grid-level renewable energy storage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 July 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190725112549.htm>.

Université Catholique de Louvain. "A new material for the battery of the future." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 July 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190717122607.htm>.

Lavars, N. (2016, April 21). Nanowire battery electrode powers through hundreds of thousands of charge cycles. Retrieved from https://newatlas.com/nanowire-electrode-hundreds-thousands/42926/ 

Published
4 weeks 2 days ago
Written by
Ashley Land
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Battery
Storage
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