World Energy Storage Day draws attention to the circular economy


World Energy Storage Day is celebrated every year on September 22nd by industry representatives, political decision-makers, think tanks and associations in order to recognize its global importance.

With an increasing focus on the effective integration of renewable energies, the importance of electric vehicles and a reliable, resilient energy supply, storage systems are becoming an integral part of the future electricity and energy ecosystem. click here to see live sessions (after registration).

Energy storage is a key factor in the advancing electrification of carbon-intensive sectors, especially the automotive and energy industries. The developments are driven by the increasing spread of electric vehicles and the balancing of renewable power grids to provide electricity in times of weak sun and wind.

Energy-dense battery technologies such as lithium-ion have opened up new avenues for portable electronic devices, electromobility and stationary storage. IDTechEx have forecast that the demand for lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles alone will reach over 2500 GWh. However, the introduction of lithium-ion batteries is not without cost and still poses both technological and environmental problems.

Recycling and circular economy

The mining of cobalt and lithium for lithium-ion batteries is anything but environmentally friendly. Most of the cobalt comes from mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where mining pollution is exacerbated by human rights abuses.

Lithium mining has a major impact on regions with scarce water reserves due to the large amounts of water required for the extraction process. There are other environmental impacts of the traditional battery supply chain when looking at the land and sea route some materials travel before reaching the battery cell manufacturer to form finished products.

Recycling solves this problem by closing the loop in the supply chain. Companies can recover valuable metals from old batteries and scrap from battery production and are currently developing more environmentally friendly processes to do this.

Recyclers featured by IDTechEx, including Battery resources and American manganese, employ acid leaching and solvent extraction in their hydrometallurgical processes. These processes require less energy than purely pyrometallurgical techniques used by recyclers in the past, where the metal is melted down, resulting in a loss of value. This solution can be further optimized by merging battery recycling facilities with production facilities to enable more recycling of production waste.

Increasing circularity in the lithium-ion battery supply chain will reduce the technology’s environmental concerns. However, further measures must be taken to improve the sustainability of battery metal mining until sufficient quantities are circulating in the utility grid. In addition, as battery chemistry evolves, recyclers must adapt their processes accordingly, and the waste of unwanted metals can be inevitable.

Advanced lithium and more

Lithium-ion batteries are slowly reaching their performance limits. There is always a compromise between energy, performance and service life. Lithium-ion is a relatively well-developed technology, but alternatives such as solid-state, sodium-ion, and redox flow batteries bring fresh innovations to the field.

Solid-state batteries replace the flammable liquid electrolyte with solid alternatives, creating safer batteries. In general, the most popular types are oxide, sulfide, and polymer systems, but there are several other solutions, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

They can be compatible with high voltage cathode materials and high capacity lithium metal anodes, making it possible to increase energy density beyond 1000 Wh / L and improve safety. IDTechEx predict the solid state battery market will affect the supply chain and reach over $ 8 billion by 2031. For more information on solid state batteries, see the IDTechEx report Solid state and polymer batteries 2021-2031: technology, forecasts, players.

In addition to lithium, sodium-ion batteries have gained interest recently, in part due to CATL’s public entry into the sodium-ion market. These batteries have the potential to achieve high rate and long life. However, because sodium is a larger ion, the energy density is lower, although the gravimetric energy density of sodium ion cells may be comparable to that of LFP-type Li ions.

Compared to lithium, sodium is more readily available and democratically distributed around the world. Another advantage of sodium ions is that it works on similar basic functional principles as lithium ions, so that commercialization can be accelerated if findings from lithium ion development can be transferred.

Redox flow batteries (RFBs) are a non-toxic and non-flammable stationary storage alternative to lithium-ion batteries, in which power and energy can be scaled independently of one another. This higher level of security coupled with longer life and better suitability for long-term storage means that IDTechEx expects wide adoption of RFBs towards the end of the next decade, as described in Redox flow batteries 2021-2031.

In the past, RFBs have struggled to compete against the mainstream lithium-ion batteries but that is changing and in this report update IDTechEx explains and addresses the possible roles the redox flow battery will play in the future.

More work on performance metrics

Lithium-ion has established itself as a key technology and a trailblazer for the energy transition, but it is not a complete solution. Further progress needs to be made in developing a circular economy and tackling the competing factors in lithium-ion batteries to further improve performance metrics. In the case of stationary energy storage systems in particular, energy storage technologies beyond lithium ions can also play a role.

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