The Top 5: Trends In Energy Storage and Innovations

Highlights :

  • Top trends in energy storage are Advancement Lithium-Ion battery technology, Lithium Alternatives, Solid-state Batteries, Advanced Thermal Energy Storage, and Distributed Storage Systems

Switch to Renewable Energy (RE) is high on demand for the countries across the globe. As more and more countries become the part to this wave of change, advancement in technologies is bound to happen. With advancement in technology, new trends emerge. Speaking of the energy storage trend, it is at the helm of this transition from conventional to renewable.

The value of the renewable energy market is set to grow from $880 billion to nearly $2 trillion by 2030. And the growing awareness of the importance of environmental and social governance (ESG) issues means there are tremendous political incentives, too. The renewable energy is highly variable and energy storage forms the central factor in deciding its worldwide adoption.

The year 2022 will see more attempts by the stakeholders to better the existing energy storage options and also to advance with new innovations. This article brings you the top 5 Trends in Energy Storage and Innovations in the Energy Storage realm.

#1 Advanced Lithium-Ion Batteries

Existing Lithium-ion batteries are extremely flammable, sensitive to high temperatures, require overcharge or complete discharge protection, and suffer from aging. This is in addition a huge environmental implication to mining the components for battery manufacturing. Naturally, advancement of Li-ion battery technology tops the list of trends in energy storage realm. Hence, the startups are modifying lithium-ion batteries to increase their performance and lifetime. To achieve this, lighter and energy-dense materials like li-polymer, li-air, li-titanate, and li-sulfur replace the traditional lithium-cobalt electrodes.

In addition, some startups – like Lithion Recycling Inc. (Canada), Duesenfeld GmbH (Germany), Fortum (Finland), and Envirostream (Australia) – recycle used batteries, advancing the circular economy. Recycling Li-ion itself is a novel trend to solve the issues with battery waste. Hazardous chemicals, including acids and heavy metals, such as mercury and lead, if released, harm the environment adversely.

Some other players are altering the constituents so as to reduce the environmental impact as much as possible. For instance, Green Li-ion is a Singaporean startup that recycles lithium-ion batteries to produce battery cathode. The startup’s modular processing plants use co-precipitation hydrometallurgical technology in contrast to the conventional processes that use leaching reagents. This results in purity enhancement while reducing the production time of the rejuvenated cathode.

Similarly, solving charging time woes of Li-ion battery is another is another trend in the new and renewable energy sector. For example, a UK-based startup, Echion Technologies, produces lithium-ion battery anode material for super-fast charging.

#2 Lithium Alternatives

Despite the aforementioned trend of upgrades to lithium ion battery technology, a new trend in Energy Storage is finding alternative to Lithium ion batteries. Lithium batteries are not environmentally friendly and it is hard to keep up with the increasing demand for lithium. For instance, zinc-air batteries are a viable alternative to lithium given zinc’s abundant supply, inherent stability, and low toxicity. Another efficient alternative is sodium-sulfur batteries. These batteries feature longer lifespans, greater charge/discharge cycles, high energy density, and are fabricated of relatively inexpensive materials. Some other promising battery chemistries are aluminum ion batteries, magnesium ion batteries, nickel-zinc batteries, and silicon-based batteries.

One such firm developing alternative battery technology is an Indian startup, Offgrid Energy Labs, with ZincGel. It uses a high conductive zinc electrolyte and carbon-based cathode. Its properties include self-healing, temperature-stable, and a longer life as it does not evaporate. All these ensure that the technology is a safe, eco-friendly, non-flammable, and sustainable alternative to the lithium-ion battery.

Sodium ion battery technology is a strong alternative to lithium counterpart as well. Recently, researchers from Skoltech and Lomonosov Moscow State University have developed a material for sodium ion batteries – powder of sodium-vanadium phosphate fluoride with a particular crystal structure. It’s used in the battery cathode to provide record-high energy storage capacity, eliminating one of the bottlenecks of the emerging sodium-ion technology.

#3 Solid-state Batteries

Solid-state battery is another trend in energy storage realm that does away with liquid electrolytes used in conventional lithium-ion batteries, enhancing range, charging, and safety risks – the biggest challenges of lithium-ion batteries use in EVs. They are increasingly receiving attention and considerations for more research for an ultimate breakthrough.

Conventional liquid electrolytes are highly combustible and have low charge retention and operational inefficiencies in extreme temperatures. To address these challenges, solid-state batteries replace the flammable liquid electrolyte with a solid compound that facilitates ion migration. Polymers and organic compounds electrolytes offer high ionic conductivity. Further, solid electrolytes support the use of high voltage high capacity materials enabling greater energy density, portability, and shelf life. Due to their huge power-to-weight ratio, they are also an ideal choice for use in EVs.

The solid-state battery technology for EVs is still in the prototype stage. Only a handful companies today, like TDK, have put miniature solid-state batteries on the market. SSB Incorporated of US makes polymer-based solid-state electrolyte material. The startup’s solid electrolyte combines polymer and ionic materials to improve ion mobility. In comparison with conventional liquid electrolytes, this material has high energy density while improving electrochemical and thermal stability. Theion, a German startup, is another proponent of the technology that devises solid-state crystal sulfur batteries, using direct crystal imprinting (DCi) to develop wafers from molten sulfur. The advantages include long cycle life, fast charging, low cell cost, and safety. Theion’s technology finds use in solutions ranging from smartphones and computer batteries to energy storage in cars and airplanes.

#4 Advanced Thermal Energy Storage

Listing trends in renewable energy sector is incomplete without a mention of thermal energy storage. Renewable electricity production is highly variable as of now. Hence, heat storage, both seasonal and short-term, is an important means for affordably balancing high shares of variable renewable electricity production. The process of thermal energy storage includes providing heat to the storage system for removal and use at a later time. Conventionally, heating companies store hot or cold water in insulated tanks to use when demand is increasing to manage peaks in district heating and district cooling. However, the recent showcase the use of new mediums such as molten salts, eutectic, and phase-changing materials to store heat energy. Solar thermal systems form the most common application for thermal energy storage, meeting the night time energy demands.

HeatTank, a product of Hungarian startup, HeatVentors, makes phase-changing material-based thermal energy storage systems and is one of the finest examples of this trend. HeatTank, using melting and solidification of phase change materials to store thermal energy, saves space, energy, and cost by balancing the efficiency of the cooling and heating system. Companies providing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems utilize this solution to improve stability and peak performance management.

#5 Distributed Storage Systems

Energy generation and storage systems traditionally follow a centralized architecture. This increases grid failure risks during high energy demand periods, which may disrupt the energy supply chain. Solving the issue, Distributed Storage Systems finds place in the list of top trends in energy storage systems. Distributed storage systems allow individual facilities to produce energy on-site and retain it for personal needs. Energy producers are also able to sell the excess energy to the grid. Solutions, such as EVs, microgrids, and virtual power plants (VPPs), prevent the expansion of coal, oil, and gas energy generation. They also enable greater reliance on renewables through the integration of local energy storage solutions like rooftop solar panels and small wind turbines.

One of the prime examples is the Belgian startup, MET3R, advancing Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) Management. Its ZenCharge, ZenSite, and ZenGrid, utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize fleet charging and reduce grid impact due to the charging site. They also provide information on EV charging loads management. Karit, an Australian startup, provides Virtual Power Plants. Its combination of a number of distributed energy assets into a VPP ensures an efficient power supply to customers while moving surplus energy into the market.

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Junaid Shah

Junaid holds a Master of Engineering degree in Construction & Management. Being a civil engineering postgraduate and using his technical prowess, he has channeled his passion for writing in the environmental niche.