March, 2021

An alarming fact is that with the upsurge of population, we need to provide energy for more consumers each day, and for this we need a good way to store energy. If on a bright sunny day, we have an abundance of electricity, we can’t use it. This is because we do not have more alternatives to conserve energy. The main option is Lithium Ion batteries, which we see in Tesla’s home battery. Though Lithium ion is experiencing a drop in price, yet according to professionals, it is unaffordable for most grid-scale applications.

William Chueh, Associate Professor of Material Science and Engineering at Stanford University says, “To get to battery for the electrical grid, we need to look at a further cost reduction of 10 to 20x.” Besides, currently, Lithium ion batteries are not capable of storing more than a few hours’ value of energy at reasonable rates. Another con for using Lithium ion batteries is that they pose a severe fire risk and their performance ability to hold charge dwindles over time.

Entrepreneurs around the world are now experimenting with a number of options to store energy. These range from flow/liquid batteries to other forms of storage that are not battery-based or chemical-based options. Additionally, thermal storage has a considerably low cost as compared to battery-based storage. These mechanisms for renewables effectively compete with fossil fuels for the storage of energy. As per popular surveys, from 2000 to 2018, installed wind power grew from 17000 megawatts to over 563000 megawatts; as well as solar power that grew from a mere 1250 megawatts to 485000 megawatts. These numbers of renewable energy sources are likely to grow by an added 50% over the next five years.

According to analysts, Solar P.V. and Wind are the cheapest methods of generating electricity. Due to advanced industrialized production technologies and large-scale economies, costs have fallen by 85% since 2010. Wind and Solar energy storage are more effective than Peaker plants. Tesla built the world’s largest Lithium ion battery in Australia in collaboration with a wind farm to be able to generate electricity during peak hours. However, this does not establish that Lithium ion battery is an economical option for grid-scale applications. Many companies are therefore looking at scaling up their techniques to manufacture new battery technology.

Flow battery technology is by far the best alternative to lithium ion. It stores liquid electrolyte in external tanks, that is, the energy from the electrolyte and the energy from the actual power source are decoupled, as opposed to the Lithium ion battery, wherein the electrolyte is stored within the battery itself. The aqueous system of the flow battery prevents it from posing a fire risk.

Another technology is that of the Iron Flow Battery being used by the ESS Inc, which was founded in 2011. The company basically places these batteries in a shipping container performing to provide between 100 kilowatts of power for four hours to 33 kilowatts of power for twelve hours, using an electrolyte that is completely made up of iron, salt and water. Not only is this environmentally-friendly, but also highly cost-effective.

Keeping these alternatives in consideration, and looking at their growing numbers in production and efficacy, it is likely that the future will be radically different and much beyond

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