Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Saturday last was Earth Day. When first staged on April 22, 1970, Earth Day was a ‘teach-in’ to awaken the public to the sorry state of the environment. The event helped to galvanize support for the Environmental Protection Agency, which was created by Congress in December 1970. As the years went by Earth Day became for many a ‘clean-up day’ intended to provide participants bragging rights to sprucing up the community.
Perhaps now more than ever, there is a need for Earth Day every day.
Friday, April 21, 2017
The most recent article “Getting into the Flow with Vanadium” may have disappointed some investors who were expecting more opportunity for a stake in building energy storage. Large scale energy storage is an idea to which many in the utility industry speak, but few power producers have made significant investments beyond lithium ion batteries. Flow batteries have long been touted as a cost-effective and technically superior alternative for wind or solar power storage or for load-balancing efforts on the electric grid, as examples. In the last post we looked at the flow battery producers using vanadium materials as the foundation for the electrolyte that literally flows through the cells of these novel battery designs. In this post we look at an alternative material - zinc bromide.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
The previous post “Off the Grid” introduced a series of articles on flow batteries for grid-scale energy storage. Investors focused on renewable investments should at least consider the implications of storage requirements in evaluating renewable energy technologies even if storage developers are not considered portfolio-worthy. Owners of grid-connected solar and wind power systems must design a network that can meet the highest peak load of the year even if a large part of the generating capacity sits idle for extended periods. Storage technologies convert electrical power into chemical or mechanical energy and then send it to the grid when as needed.
Batteries, of course, fall into the category of chemical solutions. According to the Department of Energy about 20% of the energy storage solutions in place today rely on batteries. Total capacity is just over 300 megawatts. Lithium ion technology represented the vast majority of this installed battery capacity. Fast response time makes lithium ion batteries popular. Unfortunately, they do not hold up well under repeated charge and discharge cycles. Lithium ion batteries must be replaced frequently, increasing cost of operation.
The deficiencies of lithium ion battery technology have opened a door for flow battery technologies. Flow batteries have a long battery life and tolerate as many as 10,000 charge and discharge cycles. Additionally, the liquid electrolyte can be replaced, making it possible to extend the life of the battery through a refurbish cycle that delays expensive replacement.