UPDATE: NeoVolta Becomes First Lithium Iron Phosphate Energy Storage System Approved by California Energy Commission

on November 12, 2019

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 12, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The NeoVolta NV14 has been approved by the California Energy Commission (CEC) as a certified energy storage system. These systems store energy produced by solar panels and store it for later use. To achieve the certification, the NV14 residential energy storage system had to meet or exceed a series of safety and performance standards.

The CEC added energy storage systems to its Solar Equipment Lists in August 2019. According to the commission’s guidelines, only solar energy systems that use equipment from these lists are eligible for California’s ratepayer-based incentives.

NeoVolta is one of three manufacturers that have received CEC certification as an energy storage system, and the first that uses lithium iron phosphate battery chemistry. Lithium iron phosphate batteries have been proven to be safer, cleaner, and longer lasting than ordinary lithium ion batteries.

The NV14 system has a high storage capacity of 14.4 kilowatt hours and delivers 7.6 kW of continuous power, easily outperforming competitors in its class. It can connect with any residential solar installation—new or existing, AC or DC. With the NV14, homeowners can design a system that is tailored to their needs.

The NeoVolta NV14 is also a sound investment: Homeowners can see significant savings on their monthly utility bill. That’s because the energy generated while the sun is shining can be stored in the NV14’s battery and used during evening “peak demand” hours when utility rates are often twice as high.

And if the power goes out, which is becoming a way of life in California, the NV14 automatically disconnects from the grid and seamlessly continues to power a home’s critical loads. Homeowners who need even more storage capacity can add a second NV14 battery without the expense of installing another entire system (inverter and battery); this option will be available in December 2019.

“Approval from the California Energy Commission is a major milestone for the NV14 advanced energy storage system,” said Brent Willson, CEO of NeoVolta. “With this certification, every homeowner can have confidence in our system’s safety, performance, and reliability, while also qualifying for California solar incentives.”

About NeoVolta – NeoVolta designs, develops and manufactures utility-bill reducing residential energy storage batteries capable of powering your home even when the grid goes down. With a focus on safer Lithium-Iron Phosphate chemistry, the NV14 is equipped with a solar rechargeable 14.4 kWh battery, a 7,680-Watt inverter and a web-based energy management system with 24/7 monitoring. By storing energy instead of sending it back to the grid, consumers can protect themselves against blackouts, avoid expensive peak demand electricity rates charged by utility companies when solar panels aren’t producing, and get one step closer to grid independence.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUPDATE: NeoVolta Becomes First Lithium Iron Phosphate Energy Storage System Approved by California Energy Commission

Samsung SDI First To Meet Stringent New UL Installation Standards

on November 4, 2019

Lithium-ion battery manufacturer Samsung SDI has claimed an industry first, passing UL9540A test certification for the safe installation of stationary energy storage systems (ESS), with particular regard to the fire risk posed by thermal runaway.

The South Korean company is supplier to many system integrators in the energy storage industry, as well as contributing to the manufacture of complete systems for commercial and utility use in a joint venture (JV) with inverter maker Sungrow.

UL published UL 9540A, Test Method for Evaluating Thermal Runaway Fire Propagation in Battery Energy Storage Systems in 2018, “to help manufacturers have a means of proving compliance,” to new regulations. These include standards introduced by the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), as well as changes to the International Fire Code currently in place (2018 IFC). Information on the UL test and methodology can be found here.

For instance, meeting the terms of UL9540A can allow ESS racks to be installed in closer proximity to one another than the NFPA’s code 855 states, with UL9540A acting as assurance of safety. Meeting the test criteria also means battery racks “can be installed without needing to add separate fire-fighting system(s),” Samsung SDI said in a release sent today to Energy-Storage.news.

UL9540A testing is applied to rack-level safety with an optional battery system safety test. Samsung SDI is the first to meet the rack-level requirements. Samsung SDI said it attained the certification “for its capability of preventing large scale fire in the ESS by applying proprietary designs for safety of cells, modules and racks to prevent battery thermal runaway propagation”.

As reported by Energy-Storage.news over the past few months, investigations into a couple of dozen lithium-ion battery storage system fires across South Korea in 2018 showed that rather than defective battery cells, poor installation, monitoring or management of battery systems was to blame in every case. DNV GL said of its own detailed investigation into one such fire that minor issues should not be allowed to become major fires, as had been the case in that instance.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsSamsung SDI First To Meet Stringent New UL Installation Standards

Utility-Scale Battery Storage In The United States Dominated By Lithium-Ion

on October 31, 2019

A new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows the depth of lithium-ion’s control of the utility-scale battery systems market, revealing its near totality in installations of recent years.

The oldest battery storage system currently operating in the United States is the Battery Energy Storage System project in Fairbanks, Alaska. This project, which came online in 2003, uses nickel-based batteries in a system with 40 megawatts of power capacity and 11 megawatt hours of energy capacity. While nickel has long since petered out, lithium-ion has surged in its place and achieved heights greater than it ever did in the last 15 years, handily beating out nickel, lead-acid, sodium-based, flow batteries and other challengers in the field. This is primarily due to their high-cycle efficiency, fast response times, and high energy density.

Utility-scale systems as such have at least one megawatt of power capacity — the maximum instantaneous power output available. Yet their use and success can also be measured in energy capacity — the maximum energy that can be stored or discharged from them during one charge-discharge cycle. The latter is measured in megawatt hours. At the end of 2018, the United States boasted 862 MW of operating utility-scale battery storage power capacity and around 1,236 MWh of battery energy capacity, with lithium-ion making up approximately 90 percent of either capacity.

There are other, newer battery technologies under development, with the potential to provide even greater capabilities than lithium-ion, but for the moment, the latter dominates. It is likely to be lithium-ion that continues to benefit if the United States reaches EIA predictions over the next few years, which note that battery storage power capacity could top 2,500 MW by 2023 — providing there are no major changes to planned additions.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUtility-Scale Battery Storage In The United States Dominated By Lithium-Ion

Scientists Develop ‘Nanochains’ to Increase Lithium-Ion Battery Capacity

on September 23, 2019

How long the battery of your phone or computer lasts depends on how many lithium ions can be stored in the battery’s negative electrode material. If the battery runs out of these ions, it can’t generate an electrical current to run a device and ultimately fails.

Materials with a higher lithium-ion storage capacity are either too heavy or the wrong shape to replace graphite, the electrode material currently used in today’s batteries.

Purdue University scientists and engineers have introduced a potential way that these materials could be restructured into a new electrode design that would allow them to increase a battery’s lifespan, make it more stable and shorten its charging time.

The study, appearing as the cover of the September issue of Applied Nano Materials, created a net-like structure, called a “nanochain,” of antimony, a metalloid known to enhance lithium-ion charge capacity in batteries.

The researchers compared the nanochain electrodes to graphite electrodes, finding that when coin cell batteries with the nanochain electrode were only charged for 30 minutes, they achieved double the lithium-ion capacity for 100 charge-discharge cycles.

Some types of commercial batteries already use carbon-metal composites similar to antimony metal negative electrodes, but the material tends to expand up to three times as it takes in lithium ions, causing it to become a safety hazard as the battery charges.

“You want to accommodate that type of expansion in your smartphone batteries. That way you’re not carrying around something unsafe,” said Vilas Pol, a Purdue associate professor of chemical engineering.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsScientists Develop ‘Nanochains’ to Increase Lithium-Ion Battery Capacity

In Lab Secrets, Tesla is Talking About 20-Year Lithium Ion Batteries

on September 9, 2019

If any particular technology takes all the oxygen from everyone else because it dominates an industry, then we’re going to have a dearth of investment in these other technologies, and we’ll just never know what we could have had. Let’s think about crystalline silicon solar modules controlling an industry which had a wealth of thin film innovation, and many other ideas. However, if a technology comes in and takes over, leading to broader industry expansion so that the investment crumbs are large enough to still support investment in these secondary ideas – and we get the great technology from the new leader – I’m going to argue we’ll benefit greatly.

In a research paper by a team at Tesla, A Wide Range of Testing Results on an Excellent Lithium-Ion Cell Chemistry to be used as Benchmarks for New Battery Technologies, up to three years of battery testing have found performance that suggests the potential for electric vehicle battery packs that can drive more than 1 million miles and last more than twenty years when used in stationary energy storage situations.

In the paper, testing results on LiNi0.5Mn0.3Co0.2O2 / artificial graphite (NMC532/AG) cells are presented. The authors note that of all the cells tested, the ones with the longest lifetime are the single crystal NMC532/AG cells.

The very technical document goes into many manners of testing multiple cell types under a broad sets of conditions. A specific cell (below image) had 97% capacity retention after 5,300 cycles. The authors noted that there were almost no microcracks in the electrode particles – which they suggested was the reason “why these cells show no loss of positive electrode active mass during cycling.”

What is interesting is that these twenty years batteries are already being seen by those who develop energy storage projects, and probably by the world’s largest manufacturers who are putting out products with twenty years lifetimes. Cody Hill, an engineer and developer with 10 years in the grid energy storage industry, noted on Twitter this morning:

And what we should expect to see next in the marketplace are investment groups demanding 20-year energy storage contracts coupled with even lower energy storage pricing. SUSI Partners launched what it called the “world’s first dedicated energy storage infrastructure fund”. The fund seeks returns from 8-10% in ten years when accounting for degradation. That degradation could be managed in two ways – the first is by oversizing the battery on day one, so that it meets the needs by year ten. And the second of course is to make a better battery.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsIn Lab Secrets, Tesla is Talking About 20-Year Lithium Ion Batteries

The Lithium Glut Is Far From Over

on September 6, 2019

A few years ago, lithium producers started boosting production to anticipate the growing demand for the key battery metal for electric vehicles (EVs). For a few years, producers and investors enjoyed high lithium prices and miners expanded operations and opened new mines.

Then, production started to outpace demand as capacity and inventories grew, while demand growth for EVs has slowed as China cut subsidies for electric cars and its economic growth also slowed down amid an unpredictable trade war with the United States.

For several quarters, lithium prices have been falling and they are now more than half of what they were at their peak price back in 2017.

Analysts expect lithium prices to continue to fall in the near term, with recovery likely only in a few years’ time.

Yet, the price rout in lithium prices doesn’t necessarily mean that battery pack prices for EVs will become significantly cheaper.

“Overhead costs for producing an EV battery are still large and economies of scale have not yet been established meaning that the price of the raw materials used in a battery has a limited impact on the overall price of the battery,” Marcel Goldenberg, manager for metals and derivatives at S&P Global Platts, told Andy Critchlow, head of news in EMEA for S&P Global Platts, in a blog post.

According to Goldenberg, the EV growth rate will start catching up with lithium supply growth early next decade.

Until then, lithium prices are seen further falling and challenging the fortunes of the world’s biggest lithium mining companies.

Over the past 15 months, spot lithium prices have halved, and analysts and industry reports point toward a much lower floor for lithium.

Morgan Stanley sees lithium carbonate prices from South America dropping by 30 percent from now to US$7,500 per ton by 2025.

According to the investment bank, global economic slowdown and lower Chinese EV subsidies could delay investments in infrastructure necessary for EVs to pick up growth rate and expand market share.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThe Lithium Glut Is Far From Over

Cycle Of Life: A Circular Economy Approach To Lithium Batteries

on August 27, 2019

Did you know that batteries often have over 80% of their life left when they’re thrown away? This misunderstanding of the potential battery technology is unsustainable and wasteful. Imagine if your car broke down, you wouldn’t scrap it, you’d try and get the broken parts repaired.

What’s more, batteries can help support the growth of developing regions. Of course, they are an essential part of any green revolution, providing energy security when using intermittent sources of power such as wind or solar. But the opportunity for positive impact is even greater in developing regions, where energy security is directly linked to local development.

In 2016 Aceleron Co-founder Carlton Cummins and I set about finding a solution to reduce battery waste and making energy storage solutions more accessible to people in developing regions.

Reducing battery waste

Traditional lithium-ion batteries are welded or glued together, making individual components difficult to replace. If one part fails, the whole battery stops working and is usually thrown away – often with the majority of their potential left unused.

In response, we developed and patented a battery technology design that enables the batteries to be repaired, upgraded and reused when no longer suitable for their first life, thus reducing battery waste.

Manufactured in Birmingham in the UK, the simple assembly technology facilitates the easy replacement of components, which is coupled with advanced machine learning technology that can tell which components are faulty. This means a battery can function for up to 25 years, just like you could keep a car running for 25 years with appropriate maintenance and servicing.

We are early on in our journey, but we are selling battery packs in the Caribbean, UK and Kenya and we are definitely seeing an increase in global demand.

Supporting developing regions
Early on, we decided that our battery business should not only be a world leader in sustainable battery technology, but also have a positive societal impact, improving the lives of as many people as possible.

One exciting project currently taking place is in Kenya, where we are repurposing ‘dead’ solar lamp batteries into battery packs for a price similar to lead acid batteries. The work involves taking apart old battery packs, comprehensively testing all the components and building repurposed batteries.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsCycle Of Life: A Circular Economy Approach To Lithium Batteries

‘Lithium’s Not The Only Game In Town’: Energy Storage Hopefuls Eye Breakthrough

on August 15, 2019

After numerous false starts, bankruptcies and billions of dollars invested, developers of alternatives to lithium-ion batteries for electricity storage believe that a new window of opportunity is opening. This renewed optimism is fueled by maturing battery and nonbattery technologies, some limited commercial successes, demand for longer-duration storage, and growing concerns around the safety and supply chain risks of the incumbent chemistry.

Pointing to a recent major fire at a 2-MW lithium-ion battery system in Arizona, the state’s second such incident, Arizona Corporation Commission member Sandra Kennedy said in an Aug. 2 regulatory filing that the technology carried “unacceptable hazards and risks.” Kennedy urged the state to explore available alternatives “that are far more sustainable and do not have these risks.”

Project owner Arizona Public Service Co., utility subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp., disclosed Aug. 8 that it would delay its ambitious battery expansion plans to incorporate lessons from the accident. But the utility remains committed to adding energy storage resources, Pinnacle West’s CEO said, perhaps creating an opening for competitors.

“Lithium’s not the only game in town,” said Philippe Bouchard, senior vice president of startup Eos Energy Storage LLC. The New Jersey-headquartered developer of zinc-based batteries has raised nearly $100 million to commercialize its technology, culminating in recent installations in California and North Carolina.

The next step for the company is raising capital for a flagship manufacturing facility. “We have been preparing this scale-up for quite some time,” Bouchard said.

Eos is among dozens of aspiring companies, from upstarts to industrial powerhouses, that are courting investors, utilities, project developers and others to catapult them into competition with lithium-ion leaders LG Chem Ltd., Samsung SDI Co. Ltd., Panasonic Corp. and Tesla Inc. While a few of these efforts have separated from the pack, experts remain skeptical of their near-term chances.

“There are a number of contenders to lithium-ion technology for power storage applications,” said Felix Maire, a senior analyst at S&P Global Platts Analytics. “However, lithium-ion benefits from the massive scale of the electric vehicle market.”

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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants‘Lithium’s Not The Only Game In Town’: Energy Storage Hopefuls Eye Breakthrough

Unlocking Lithium Metal’s Stored Potential

on July 5, 2019

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego have developed an electrolyte they say is compatible with lithium metal anodes, allowing for much greater energy density than current Li-ion battery designs. The new battery has also been shown to function well at temperatures as low as -60 degrees Celsius.

The key innovation is a liquefied gas electrolyte (LGE). Current commercial lithium-ion batteries all use liquid electrolytes, and most researchers are looking into solid materials as the next generation of battery technology. UC San Diego, however, is taking the opposite approach in working with a gas, liquified under pressure, as its electrolyte. The goal is a battery that can take advantage of lithium metal anodes, which could offer high specific capacity, low electrochemical potential and light weight, but can’t work safely or efficiently with conventional liquid electrolytes.

Details of UC San Diego’s LGE work were first published in Science in 2017. At the time, the researchers posited the idea batteries incorporating their electrolyte could power satellites and interplanetary rovers, among other outlandish suggestions.

A new paper, High-Efficiency Lithium-Metal Anode Enabled by Liquefied Gas Electrolytes, published this week in Joule, however, brings the technology down to earth. The paper reports that by optimizing their LGE the researchers were able to create a lithium battery cell which maintained 99.6% efficiency after 500 cycles at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius), and 98.4% at -60.

The team pointed out using a conventional liquid electrolyte with a lithium metal anode has ensured efficiency has not gone beyond 85%, and most liquid electrolytes cease to work entirely at temperatures around -20 degrees Celsius.

Safety first

Another concern about working with lithium metal anodes is the formation of dendrites, which can reduce performance, and in the worst cases lead to short circuits, fires and explosions. UC San Diego reported that with its LGE, lithium particle deposition was “smooth and compact” and porosity of deposition was measured at 0.9%, compared with 16.8% for the same anode in combination with a conventional liquid electrolyte.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUnlocking Lithium Metal’s Stored Potential

This Tweak Could Be A Gamechanger For Lithium-Ion Batteries

on April 18, 2019

Lithium ion batteries may soon be able to charge much faster thanks to what seems like a simple substitution of one mineral for another in the battery’s cathode.

Researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this month announced they had achieved much faster charging rates in lithium ion batteries by replacing the usual cobalt oxide used together with lithium in the cathode with vanadium disulfide.

“It gives you higher energy density, because it’s light. And it gives you faster charging capability, because it’s highly conductive. From those points of view, we were attracted to this material,” said Nikhil Koratkar, the lead author of the study.

The researcher added that improving the electrodes was the way to making lithium ion batteries perform even better.

It seems lithium ion batteries’ dominance will be hard to break with so much work being put into improving these batteries. Koratkar’s team’s work is only the latest example of this work, but there are scores of labs around the world looking for the same ultimate reward: maximizing the performance of the world’s dominant battery technology before a viable alternative really makes it out of another lab.

Recently, the race to reduce charging times for EV batteries specifically heated up as new superchargers came on the scene with few batteries capable of actually using them without getting fried in the process.

Tesla last month opened its first V3 Supercharger station that has a capacity of 250 kW and can add 30 km of range per minute. The company has made its new cars compatible with the new, faster chargers, but Tesla is more of an exception in that it makes its own batteries and chargers.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThis Tweak Could Be A Gamechanger For Lithium-Ion Batteries