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The New Wave: Battery Storage

Advancements in battery technologies are happening at the fastest rate of all time; energy storage installation investment is at a level never seen before; and the world’s shift to renewable sources of energy is occurring at a staggering rate. The energy transition is here, and nowhere is that more evident than at the International Battery Seminar.

The 40th International Battery Seminar took place in Orlando, Florida (March 20 – March 23, 2023) with more than 2,200 attendees and over 60 Sponsors. Some of the speakers included representatives from Albemarle, LG Energy Solutions, Tesla, Ford, GM, the Argonne National Laboratory, and Linde, to name a few. The conference covered a wide array of topics, ranging from Grid Scale Energy Storage, Global Supply Chain for Raw Materials, and Lithium-ion Battery Development, and more. Really, it was a true deep dive into the type of research and development being done in the battery world, and how that development has truly sped up considerably in the last few years with technological advancements allowing for cost competitiveness of battery-powered energy.

We’ve heard a lot over the last few years about EVs, with Tesla leading the way in the Western world, and other car companies jumping onto the bandwagon as the demand for EVs seems to be increasing exponentially each year. Yet, EVs were just the tip of the iceberg at the conference. Governments and companies around the world are starting to invest in grid-scale energy storage, with China and the US making the largest investments into stationary storage units. The development and commercialization of lithium-ion batteries, and the creation of batteries that not only last longer, but allow for more power usage, has really allowed for the reality of stationary storage to exist in less expensive environments. More countries are following the money, as geopolitics and economic realities are making the traditional sources of energy a bit more cost prohibitive than before. To quote one of the speakers, “The coming energy storage installation wave will be awe-inspiringly big.”

The decreasing cost of batteries featured heavily in many talks at the seminar. The creation of batteries, especially lithium-ion batteries, has really become more streamlined over the years; so much, in fact, that researchers are more comfortable experimenting with different fabrications of batteries. Researchers presented a number of batteries created without using nickel or cobalt, some substituting out graphite and replacing the graphite with different materials, some looking to create cobalt free batteries, and a good number looking into the next generation of batteries, especially work being done to create solid-state batteries. Battery safety was also a main focus, another reason different components were being tested. The cost reduction of batteries has allowed all these advancements to take place.

Batteries becoming a main source of energy storage is also dependent on the ability to mine the materials for the batteries. Since a main reason for transitioning to renewable sources of energy is to decrease the amount of carbon emissions, an interesting statistic is the necessary resources to create batteries. The amount of extraction of metals is significantly less compared to the extraction of traditional energy sources.

The types of energy transition metals is also another reason so many scientists are experimenting with different type of materials for their batteries. With more battery creation comes more demand for the rare earth minerals; thus, the more types of materials we can find that are suitable to long-lasting, powerful batteries, the longer rare-earth materials will last.

The International Battery Seminar not only substantiated a strong case for the current development and growth of renewable energy, but also documented the significant role batteries will play in a very bright future.

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