The switch from metal-based batteries could pave the way for renewable energy storage systems.
With the shift to coal and fossil fuels, wind and solar power plants are popping up around the world. Alternatives like this are mostly complementary, supplying only a fraction of the electricity to the grid due to their natural intermittency. The excess supply from windmills and solar cells needs to be stored in a way that, for example, can be easily tapped into the grid when needed, usually during periods of peak electricity usage.
Excess energy is often stored in large lithium-ion batteries, however this approach raises sustainability concerns.
In this article, we will discuss energy storage systems, and the potential impact on the industry.
energy storage system
In the pursuit of net zero emission, battery energy storage systems (BESS) will be an extremely valuable asset in promoting the use of renewable energy. A major challenge for renewable energy sources such as solar and wind is their discontinuous output: energy cannot be produced without gusts or clouds. This is where battery energy storage systems come into play, storing excess energy during periods of high production and then using it during periods of low production. In this way, as fossil fuel and coal power plants are phased out, storing renewable energy can effectively maintain a reliable and stable supply to the grid.
In addition to large grids, battery energy storage systems have commercial and residential applications. Through advanced software algorithms, the system can choose when to store and release energy. Releasing energy during periods of high demand is known as peak shaving. The process reduces the amount of energy purchased and puts less pressure on the grid. As a result, the probability of power surges is lower and the reliability of the local grid increases.
Even beyond the grid, energy storage may be even more important. For example, many parts of remote regions and developing countries rely on decentralized microgrids for power. The limited roads and energy transport required over long distances make renewables a reasonable option. These remote locations mean that robust storage systems are essential to meet their needs.
Plastic instead of metal
One challenge in developing battery energy storage systems, however, is that grid energy storage requires far larger batteries than those found in electric vehicles. This means that they need larger quantities of lithium, an element in high demand in the automotive industry and many other industries. For this reason, lithium and other battery metals are expected to grow as demand for electric vehicles grows tenfold in 2030.
To avoid this challenge entirely, PolyJoule has developed batteries based on plastic rather than metal.
From a supply chain perspective, a major advantage of plastic-based batteries is that the polymers they use can be manufactured from common industrial feedstocks. The result is more abundant material, which ultimately reduces supply chain pressure.
Polymer batteries also offer safety improvements over current industry standards. While lithium-ion batteries contain a flammable liquid electrolyte that facilitates ion transfer, the liquid required for conducting polymer batteries is much more inert. Testing has shown that no amount of overcharge, damage or short circuit will cause PolyJoule's products to thermally runaway. No flammability risk means no expensive temperature control systems, safer for the end user.
In addition, the nominal operating temperature of the battery is between -40 and 50 degrees, while the average operating temperature of the lithium-ion battery is between -20 and 50 degrees. Considering battery energy storage system applications, which may face extreme heat or cold weather in remote areas, the unaffected operation of polymer batteries in harsh conditions without the need for climate control systems is a huge attraction. Additionally, PolyJoule expects the conductive polymer battery to last for more than 20 years or 12,000 cycles, more than double the life of a lithium-ion battery.
We are experiencing a global boom in renewable energy. Target deadlines vary from 2030 to 2050, but the goal is the same: carbon neutrality using alternative energy sources.
Battery technology is already in focus, especially lithium-ion batteries, but all industries and applications that use subtle variations of the same batteries will create huge demands and pressures on raw materials. Diversifying battery technologies, such as conducting polymers, may help speed up plans and bring carbon neutrality from ideal to reality.