Bloomberg recently reported that ESS Inc’s iron-flow storage technologies could be the long-duration storage technology that we have been looking for. The company claims that the technology can not only store renewable energy longer, but help overcome some the reliability issues causing blackouts in California and the record-high energy prices currently seen in Europe.
The batteries rely on “iron-flow chemistry” which differs than than the currently popular lithium-ion battery. And while lithium-ion battery pricing has decreased 90% over the last 10 years, their ingratiates contain rare precious metals including cobalt and nickel. These batteries are made of iron salt and water – both of which are cheap and plentiful.
Genie Solar’s resident battery expert, Bill Schmitz, tried out this technology in the past and found a few issues companies will have to contend with: 1. they tend to get very hot, so there are concerns about placing them inside without a cooling mechanism; 2. They need pumps to have the electrolytes flow between the cathode and anode and the pumps take a lot of current and would fail; 3. The batteries need maintenance by adding electrolyte; 4. They don’t have a high rate discharge so not ideal for shaving peak demand 5. On a per kW basis, they take a significant amount more room than lithium.
With the right conditions, and the right use, the positives are significant: They are at least half the cost of a lithium ion battery and they are significantly safer.
Like solar panels and system design – finding the right solution for the right application is key to a financially viable and overall successful application. Genie’s experts are here to help their commercial and industrial clients face the coming energy challenges.