As more utilities cut off subsidies for grid-tied solar users, a growing number of homeowners are investing in battery storage for their renewable energy (RE) systems. From the spare money, they’ll save on utility bills.
So which storage technology will RE users prefer? Currently, flooded lead-acid and sealed lead-acid batteries command the largest market share, followed by lithium-ion cells in certain applications.
Lithium-ion batteries offer high energy density and low maintenance, which contributes to their domination in the portable electronics market. However, lithium ion’s cost — often more than $100,000 to provide battery backup for an average-sized house — makes them cost-prohibitive in most RE systems. In addition, lithium-ion batteries contain toxic materials that have to be disposed of in special landfills. So the batteries designed to store green energy actually end up harming the environment.
Lead-acid Battery or Lithium-Ion battery? Which will lead the market?
Lead-acid batteries are the most popular energy storage systems for renewable energy. They’ve been proven for more than 100 years. Because of their heritage and time in use, we know there’s no danger of meltdown. And because battery engineers have refined manufacturing and design, they’re able to lower costs and increase quality, reliability and lifespan. Even better, lead-acid batteries are 97% recyclable — the highest recyclability percentage of any product.
Because RE batteries are subjected to brutal operating conditions, some batteries fall short on lifespan, performance and value. That’s why one of battery industry’s biggest changes is the move toward automated manufacturing to produce advanced lead-acid batteries. That shift, including cast-on-strap (COS), computerized quality control and robotic assembly, is producing batteries that last longer and deliver more power.
Lead-acid battery engineers have spent decades improving their designs. But even the best-designed battery will die early — and perform sub-optimally — if it’s forced to operate in extreme weather. Ideally, lead-acid batteries should be used in 77°F (25°C) temperatures. Yet many RE systems expose batteries to a scorching 100°F or more and freezing temperatures in other climates. These extreme conditions rob batteries of their storage capacity and can cut battery life by more than 50%.
That’s why even the leading batteries should only be part of the equation. The other key factor is protecting batteries from performance and life-sapping weather conditions. One company, Mark Snyder Electric, created the world’s first stand-alone structure built from the ground up to shield batteries and other RE system components from extreme weather.
EMPUS in Battery industry
Called Enertopia Multi-Purpose Utility Structure (EMPUS), this patent-pending structure keeps the elements at bay to protect batteries and other gear for up to 25 years. EMPUS marries low-maintenance temperature control with R-42 super-insulation from P2000 — so the temperature in the structure stays at or near the ideal for longest battery life.
Because of their efficiency, cost-effectiveness and environmental sustainability, lead-acid batteries and protective structures will remain the most popular technology to lead the RE market.