There’s been much spoken in recent times about how we can improve battery storage for renewable energy systems like solar and wind. It’s undoubtedly the next big challenge and one which many countries, including the UK, are working hard to tackle.
The Faraday Challenge at a glance:
- It was introduced by the Government to boost research and development in the area of electric vehicle batteries.
- Despite it’s focus on cars, there will be real knock on potential for battery storage across a whole range of sectors including renewable power such as solar and wind.
- The challenge is worth £246 million in grants and awards, all designed to put the UK at the forefront of battery development.
- The first part of the challenge is a £45 million award to create a battery institute which will make technology more accessible and affordable.
The Big Battery Conundrum
While the Faraday Challenge is set to focus on car batteries, the issue of effective and efficient storage is seen as one of the biggest challenges for clean energy over the next decade or so. Nowhere is this more important than in intermittent technologies such as solar and wind. Essentially, when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, you don’t get any power production. There’s also the problem that the vast majority of solar energy is available mostly during the day rather than at night when it is really needed.
If you could collect all that power and store it in batteries, this would go a along way to improving the viability and effectiveness of many renewable technologies. This is an area that we can expect to develop rapidly over the next decade or so, simply because it’s vital in order to provide a stable and reliable energy infrastructure.
At the moment we are highly reliant on lithium-ion batteries for storage but with better research and development, as well as investment in key areas, this is likely to change and do so rapidly. According to Time magazine:
“Perhaps the biggest open question for energy storage remains how much—and where—the market will grow in the coming years—whether lithium ion batteries will keep their place as the top way of storing electricity. Hydrogen storage, molten salt and other forms of batteries all offer alternatives that have received significant investment in recent years.”
It’s doubtful that by the end of the next decade we will be using lithium-ion batteries, particularly when it comes to large scale storage. Researchers are already working with different materials in the hope of producing more efficient storage. That includes using sodium, zinc and bromide solutions. Lithium is likely to become more expensive as time goes on and raw materials are unable to keep up with supply demands so alternatives will be needed.
It’s not certain if the Faraday Challenge is going to radically transform the landscape for battery R&D in the UK and these are still early days. But it does show that the Government is focused on an important area of development and keen to be a major market player. It’s a race that every country is involved in, however, and there are some pretty big competitors including China and the USA.
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