Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Future Of The Lithium-Ion Opportunity In Solar Energy Storage

from: www.azom.com
3rd. March 2014

The Future Of The Lithium-Ion Opportunity In Solar Energy Storage

By AZoM.com Staff Writers

Topics Covered

Introduction
Desperately Seeking Lithium
Bringing Lithium To The Solar Market
Price, Projections and Problems
Risks Of The Lithium Ion Space
About NanoMarkets

Introduction

Solar energy storage using lead-acid batteries is as old as the solar energy industry itself. Off-grid photovoltaics (PV) has invariably used such batteries, in some cases just car batteries to store energy produced during sunny periods.
Till now the market for grid-connected PV storage has been negligible but there is a drastic change. The solar storage business is thus doubly blessed. Not only has its opportunity space increased because of the growing number of PV installations as a whole, but non-utility, grid-connected PV has become a target has become a target market for storage for the first time.

Desperately Seeking Lithium

According to NanoMarkets, for years to come, lead-acid batteries are going to eat up much of the available market for PV storage. Lead-acid batteries are mature, reliable, easy to find and not really that expensive. However, with growing demand for PV storage, it is understandable that battery firms have been seeking technologies that can do the job better than lead-acid.
Lead-carbon batteries are a natural alternative, but remain very expensive. Many of the other alternatives such as Sodium Sulfur batteries are aimed at utility-scale generation and are not what an average PV user would consider as an alternative to lead acid. That leaves just one alternative, lithium-ion batteries. Unlike most of the other technologies that compete with lead-acid these batteries are already in widespread use in consumer markets; cell phones, power tools and perhaps soon cars.

Bringing Lithium To The Solar Market

Lithium batteries have begun to creep into the PV market. Current trends are as follows:
  • Panasonic is a brand name for consumer and small business technology products, which in 2012 targeted German residential PV installations with a 1.35-kWh lithium-ion battery unit (up to 5.4 kWh total per system) with a lifetime of 5,000 cycles.
  • In Germany, in early 2013, the utility RWE started to offer its residential customers a modular energy storage system called RWE HomePower. This is a lithium-ion system developed in conjunction with VARTA.
  • Meanwhile, in the US, Solar City now sells a home energy storage system based on lithium ion storage technology developed by the electric vehicle company, Tesla.
  • NanoMarkets expects other entrants such as Hitachi into the market. It is working on lithium-ion batteries with Johnson Controls.
  • Lithium battery watchers must also keep an eye on China which is ramping up production of high-technology products based on domestically derived intellectual property.

Price, Projections and Problems

Presently the cost of lithium-ion batteries is about four times the cost of lead-acid batteries. This doesn’t matter all that much when one is considering batteries for small devices; cell phones and power tools for example. In such cases, the high energy density along with the low weight of lithium ion batteries is more important in technology choice by OEMs than is high cost.
The main reason why it is expected that lead acid batteries will tower over lithium batteries in the solar sector is price. Even with the inevitable price declines in lithium-ion, and the obvious virtues of lithium ion in terms of energy density and weight, NanoMarkets expects lithium ion to be too expensive for PV users even a decade from now.

Risks Of The Lithium Ion Space

There are an will be exceptions to this rule. Large lithium-ion batteries will continue to be deployed. For example, SAFT, the French battery maker, has built what is considered to be Europe’s largest storage system for a PV plant. It uses a modular lithium-ion battery system and is being provided to Spanish renewable-energy provider Acciona for a solar park in Tudela, Spain. The capacity of the system is 1 MW. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has been exploring the potential for lithium-ion batteries for solar farm peak shaving applications.
NanoMarkets is concerned that the large scale lithium battery business seems to be a peculiarly risky one. NanoMarkets notes that 2012 took its toll Ener1 (HEV), Valence and A123 have all filed for Chapter 11 protection.
Large-scale lithium battery R&D is heavily subsidized by governments, which puts it at the whim of politicians and changing political circumstances. For example, in the U.S., an important source of funding for lithium batteries was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has resulted in significant capacity.
And as government subsidies dry up, so might R&D for lithium ion batteries. While the first casualty would be larger grid-scale batteries, such an event could well impact the future of lithium-ion batteries more broadly.

About NanoMarkets

NanoMarkets is a leading provider of market research and industry analysis of opportunities within advanced materials and emerging energy and electronics markets. Since the firm’s founding, NanoMarkets has published over one hundred comprehensive research reports on emerging technology markets. Topics covered have included OLED displays, lighting and materials, thin-film electronics, conductive inks, transparent conductors, renewable energy, printed electronics and other promising technologies. Our client roster is a who’s who of companies in specialty chemicals, materials, electronics applications and manufacturing.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by NanoMarkets.
For more information on this source, please visit NanoMarkets.
Date Added: Aug 21, 2013 | Updated: Aug 22, 2013

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