Lithium Valley…Suburban Chicago Site of Massive Research Into Energy Storage


Advantages in Research and Development: Supercomputing and Scale
According to Argonne manager Amine Khalil, what sets this department ahead of research and development internationally is advanced supercomputing. This technology will enable engineers to create molecules rather than relying on material tests to find a candidate. In addition, their new Materials Engineering Research Facility will provide the facilities needed to test larger quantities required for the manufacturing phase. Typically this type of research would be limited to a much smaller scale. The ability to scale-up, provided by the new lab, was put in place to ensure the smooth transition of research out of the
lab and into the market. Two other labs include one for cathode materials and another for electrolyte materials. Improving performance will be the focus of the first lab while the second will look at safety. General Motors Co.’s hybrid electric car, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, currently uses a cathode material that was developed at Argonne.

Lithium Ion Battery Storage – Making Speed on the Grid
Globally, predictions are that the market for Lithium Ion batteries used in transportation will grow by 50% annually. While this technology also holds a potential role in grid storage, it may be too early to determine their value in this sector. One of the challenges is that the batteries will be in competition with other alternative fuels such as gas-fired peaker plants and hydro. Research is also being conducted to determine the value of batteries used in Electric Vehicles once they’ve reached the end of their life in cars. In a Power Industry interview with Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA), President Brian Wynne, discussed the potential value of repurposing these batteries, “One of the most interesting elements in these programs is to determine the value of EV batteries when they’ve reached the end of their useful life in the cars. Can we repurpose them, particularly for energy storage on the grid? If we do, that unlocks tremendous value—you could amortize their value over a much longer life cycle and dramatically reduce their initial costs for EVs.”

There are currently twenty projects financed by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act at three hundred sites across the US focused on parts that will contribute to electric transportation. A test project at the Salem Smart Power Center made news May 31st after launching a “micro grid” that will service 500 US Homes. This 5 megawatt lithium ion battery is part of a larger project to improve the efficiency of the electric grid, while making it adaptable to the storage of renewable energy sources. The battery consists of 1,440 modules similar to those used in electric vehicles. The utility plans to use the battery as a back up during blackouts. The renewable energy storage system is part of a range of grid tests that will be performed in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Investment in lithium ion storage technology is also being conducted within the private sector. In a project not receiving government funding, AES Energy announced this spring that they’ve supplied 400,000 megawatt-hours of frequency regulation services to the electricity grid in the mid-Atlantic states. The company has developed 150 megawatts of lithium ion energy storage in four locations. Their batteries rely on wind turbine energy with a capacity of 98 MW. Based on their experience the competitive edge of battery storage lies in their speed. According to AES President, Chris Shelton, the batteries are used continuously and can respond within seconds, giving them a competitive edge over natural gas and coal fired plants. Lithium Ion batteries are also are emissions free.

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Posted by on Aug 1st, 2013 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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