No more Lithium? Here are some new battery technologies to make renewable energy, the real deal.
In 2021, renewable energy made up 29% of global electricity generation, an increase of 2% from 2020. Is that it? We are on a good way but a critical piece is needed for the puzzle to be completed...
And you can invest in that piece today and become the owner of a gigacorn company! So what is this missing piece?
Wind farms and solar farms are able to offer electricity at a competitive price, even cheaper in certain areas, than traditional power plants. Still, the world without coal or gas-fired power plants requires a more efficient battery to provide a reliable power source, at night and when there is no wind, and when the sun is not around…
Today we are going to dig into the rabbit hole of renewable energy storage! One of the biggest carbon-emission-saver potential, with the power to make this renewable industry make… or break! And we found some gems for you too! Let’s get into it…
When producing renewable energy storage isn’t enough
The global market for batteries is estimated at $173 billion in 2021. Batteries are important for all usages, from small-scale like EV cars and solar panels at home to large-scale like renewable energy farms and power grids. Still, the most common battery used today is the Lithium-Ion battery which has a minimal life usage of 5 years and generates toxic waste after its life cycle. The world needs better batteries and now, we will examine the future of the battery industry.
The energy baseload problem
In electricity distribution, there is a different amount of demand for electricity throughout the day or in different seasons. However, renewable energy does not supply the same amount of energy throughout the day. For instance, solar panels generate the most amount of electricity in the day. On a cloudy day, there might not be much electricity generated. However, there is still a demand for electricity. Baseload power is the minimum amount of electric power needed to be supplied to the electrical grid at any given time. It is unlikely for a power plant to operate at the peak generation all the time since the unused electricity will go to waste. Thus, there is a requirement for a constant generation of power which is fulfilled normally by the coal-fired power plants. This is a huge obstacle to a complete transition to renewable energy unless we are fine with not using electricity at night.
The solution to this problem lies in using batteries for renewable energy. Since there will be extra electricity generated during the peak period, this energy can be stored and released at times when there is a demand for electricity.
Energy storage innovations are needed
The most common battery is a lithium-ion battery, which is used in electric cars, mobile phones, laptops, and even in current renewable power farms. The factors for its widespread usage are its higher efficiency (i.e. the stored electricity is released with the least wastage), its competitive Levelized cost of storage (LCOS) of $150/MWh, and the low cost of installation ($1,200/kW). However, there are two big issues with a lithium-ion battery.
Short-lived: Lithium-ion battery has a minimum charging cycle of 2,000 (i.e. a battery cell can be recharged up to 2,000 times) which is around 5 years. This will not be a problem for small devices. However, for cars and power generators, the lifespan of 5 years is way too short and will require regular maintenance.
Toxic wastage: Lithium-ion batteries cannot be disposed of in a normal landfill. While it might be less toxic than other batteries (such as lead), it can contaminate the ground or water when not disposed of properly. Lithium is also a toxic metal.
The rise of kinetic batteries, the solution to the renewable energy storage crisis?
But why shall chemical batteries be the only option available? Particularly when 96% of the surface of our planet is made up of oceans, which have the perfect components to store massive amounts of energy…. Let’s dig in!
There are other forms of potential energy that are gravitational and elastic. Chemicals are used in most batteries, but there have been experiments with gravitational and elastic energy as well. For instance, the extra power generated can lift a certain object up and when the object is released from that height, electricity can be generated. Here are some of the most interesting solutions we have found:
Buoyancy Energy Storage Technology (BEST)
When a floating object is pushed under the water, potential energy is stored and the object will shoot up once the force is gone. BEST uses this concept and creates an energy storage system from platforms of polyethylene pipes, filled with hydrogen or helium. Connected to the renewable energy farm in the vicinity of the oceans, the electricity generated will power the motor under the ocean and pull the platform down to the ocean floor. When the energy is needed, the platform will be released and push the electricity back into the grid. LCOS: $496/MWh* Installation costs: $4,000 - $8,000 kW *With optimized materials, the LCOS can be reduced to $50/MWh
Floating Liquid piston Accumulator using Seawater under Compression (FLASC)
FLASC utilizes a hydropneumatic system (meaning using both air and water) to store electricity. It can be installed directly on a solar cell or wind turbine. When the electricity is generated, it is used to pump ocean water into a closed chamber, compressing a mass of air already in the chamber. When the electricity is needed, the ocean water will be released and the air will be decompressed. The FLASC system can be installed in three ways: 1) within a floating platform with an external subsea hydropneumatic module, 2) entirely on a floating platform, and 3) subsea installation. The company is also exploring the applications of FLASC to liquefaction of natural gas, reverse osmosis desalination, and offshore green hydrogen production. Since the system uses the ocean as the heat sink, it can achieve 95% thermodynamic efficiency. The life expectancy of the system is estimated to be 20 years.
Deep Sea Pumped Storage
The system uses the high pressure under the water to help store energy in a hollow concrete sphere. When electricity is generated, the water will be sucked out, creating a near-vacuum in the sphere. When the energy is needed, the water is released back into the chamber, using the pressure from the ocean. The seawater will flow through the turbine on top of the sphere, producing clean electricity. The system can be easily scaled up by adding more spheres and electric cables. Unlike traditional pumped hydro storage, this system does not require a landscape of hills or valleys to build reservoirs and also does not lose water like traditional reservoirs. However, the system will be optimal if installed at the depth of 750m, which could be difficult for some wind farms. LCOS: $60/MWh, Installation costs: $1,366 kW
Ocean Grazer, a company based in the Netherlands, aims to create an electricity storage system for offshore wind farms and solar farms near the oceans. The Ocean Battery, an invention that won the 2022 CES Innovation Award, can be easily built with rubber, cement, and PVC. When extra electricity is generated, the water will be passed into a high-pressure bladder where the potential energy will be stored as the difference in pressure. When the pressure is released, the water will rush through the motor into the lower-pressure reservoir, generating electricity. The LCOS is estimated to be $175/MWh.
Amber Kinetics is a company based in California. Their batteries utilize a long-duration flywheel to store electricity. When the battery is charged, a flywheel (imagine a rotor blade) in the vacuum chamber will accelerate and keep spinning faster. When the electricity is being used, the flywheel will slow down. Its main advantage is its resistance to extreme temperatures as extreme temperatures can damage other forms of batteries. It is also easily scalable, up to 10 MWh depending on the size of the project
Energy Vault, based in California, is a company that revolutionizes energy storage via gravity and kinetic energy. Their products are scalable, which will benefit large-scale renewable energy farms. Their gravity-based solutions (GES) made use of the gravitational potential energy that is generated when an object with mass is lifted. For instance, when there is an excess in energy, the energy will be used by the crane to lift blocks of mass. When energy is needed, the mass will be released and electricity can be produced.
At Atlas Capital, we do not only focus on new technologies, but we also aim to revolutionize traditional industries into greener ones. We believe that by bringing innovators, and investors together, we can ride that trillion-dollar market tsunami while returning huge ROI to our investors and saving gigatons of CO2. Now is the time your investments can build a zero-carbon world for your children.