Batteries for large-scale energy storage

One challenge associated with renewable forms of energy like wind and solar power is that power stations of these types cannot usually produce energy all the time, and may not generate it at the time when it is needed most.

Energy storage is one mechanism for dealing with that, and can rely on various mechanisms like compressed air, pumped hydroelectric storage, and multi-lagoon tidal systems.

It is also encouraging that battery technology is improving. A company called Corvus now makes lithium ion batteries that consist of assemblies of 6.2 kilowatt-hour modules. These can be charged in 30 minutes and discharged in 6. They could be joined together in large arrays of up to 40 megawatt-hours and may eventually be cost-effective in some energy storage and load balancing roles.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

7 thoughts on “Batteries for large-scale energy storage”

  1. One product of these efforts is a new industrial battery. This began with research into making a battery tough enough to be used in a hybrid locomotive. A chemistry based on nickel and salt provided the required energy density and robustness. Yet making it work in the laboratory is one thing, commercialising the tricky processes involved to mass-produce the battery quite another. So GE sets up pilot production lines to learn how to put promising ideas into action before building a factory. Some ideas fail at this stage, others fly.

    The battery is one that has taken off. Besides hybrid trains it is also suitable for other hybrid vehicles, such as fork lifts, as well as applications like providing back-up power for data centres and to power telecoms masts in remote places. It will be made in a new $100m facility near Niskayuna so that researchers are on hand to continue development. The battery itself consists of a set of standard cells which go into modules that can be connected together for different applications. The modules take up half the space of an equivalent lead-acid battery, are only about a quarter of the weight, will last for 20 years without servicing and work well in freezing or extremely hot conditions, says Glen Merfeld, in charge of energy-storage systems at GE’s laboratory.

  2. The researchers think they can produce a lithium-air battery with an energy density more than twice that of the best lithium-ion cells. That would make a lot of difference to portable electronic products. A typical lithium-ion battery can store some 150 watt-hours of electricity in one kilogram of battery—itself a huge advance over the 45-80 watt-hours of a nickel-cadmium battery, let alone an old-time lead-acid battery’s 30 watt-hours.

    But there is some way to go. Lithium-air cells will have drawbacks too, such as a sensitivity to high temperature which can cause their lithium-ion cousins to burst into flames. So far, the researchers have successfully tested their viral material through 50 cycles of charging and recharging, which is encouraging but well short of the hundreds or thousands of cycles expected from a commercial battery. The MIT team could be on the right road, but more work is needed before lithium-air batteries can be used to drive an electric car two or three times farther on a single charge.

  3. Tesla’s enormous battery in Australia, just weeks old, is already responding to outages in ‘record’ time

    Less than a month after Tesla unveiled a new backup power system in South Australia, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery is already being put to the test. And it appears to be far exceeding expectations: In the past three weeks alone, the Hornsdale Power Reserve has smoothed out at least two major energy outages, responding even more quickly than the coal-fired backups that were supposed to provide emergency power.

    Tesla’s battery last week kicked in just 0.14 seconds after one of Australia’s biggest plants, the Loy Yang facility in the neighboring state of Victoria, suffered a sudden, unexplained drop in output, according to the International Business Times. And the week before that, another failure at Loy Yang prompted the Hornsdale battery to respond in as little as four seconds — or less, according to some estimates — beating other plants to the punch. State officials have called the response time “a record,” according to local media.

    The effectiveness of Tesla’s battery is being closely watched in a region that is in the grips of an energy crisis. The price of electricity is soaring in Australia, particularly in the state of South Australia, where a 2016 outage led 1.7 million residents to lose power in a blackout. Storms and heat waves have caused additional outages, and many Australians are bracing for more with the onset of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

  4. OHSWEKEN – The governments of Canada and Ontario are working together to build the largest battery storage project in in the country. The 250-megawatt (MW) Oneida Energy storage project is being developed in partnership with the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation, Northland Power, NRStor and Aecon Group. The federal government is today providing a further $50 million in funding; the Canada Infrastructure Bank has played a key role supporting project development and is collaborating with the Oneida Energy storage project on an investment agreement. This project is another milestone in Canada and Ontario’s plans to build the reliable and affordable clean electricity grid that will help to power the future of Ontario’s economy.

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