An Iron-Air battery developed in the United States can store electricity from wind or solar power plants for days at a time, slowly discharging it back to the grid.
It will help tackle climate change by reducing the need for fossil-fuel power plants, according to technology startup Form Energy, of Massachusetts, US.
The Iron-Air battery is a “new class of cost-effective multi-day energy storage system”, which can feed electricity for 100 hours at a cost of 1/10 the cost of lithium-ion, the “holy grail” of renewable energy technology.
It is made using iron, one of the most common elements on Earth, and works by breathing in oxygen, converting iron into rust and returning rust to iron.
As it takes oxygen and shifts iron back and forth, the battery is charged and discharged, a process that keeps the energy stored for longer.
If development continues at a rapid pace, Form Energy hopes the first batteries will power the grid by 2025.
This will solve one of the most common problems facing renewable energy, which is how to cheaply store large amounts of electricity and supply it to the power grid when the sun isn’t shining for solar panels or when the wind isn’t blowing for turbines.
The electric grid now faces a challenge in how to manage this disparity in supply without sacrificing energy reliability or affordability.
Form Energy claims a new battery system is the answer to this growing problem.
They made an extensive review of all available technologies and ended up reinventing the iron air battery,” said Matteo Jaramillo, CEO and co-founder of Form Energy. This was done in order to “optimize it to store energy for several days for the electrical grid”.
The company says the battery it is developing will allow countries to fully retire thermal assets such as coal and natural gas power plants.
“With this technology, we are addressing the biggest obstacle to deep decarbonization: providing renewable energy when and where needed, even during multiple days of severe weather or grid outages,” Jaramillo said.
The company said it would also be cheaper. The lithium-iron battery cell uses the metals nickel, cobalt, lithium and manganese, which cost up to $80 per kilowatt-hour of storage.
By using iron, Form hopes to get less than $6 per kWh in terms of metal costs per cell, and package it into a complete battery system to keep the cost under $20 per kWh of energy storage.
Investors in the company include Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate investment fund backed by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and others. They also received funding from steel giant ArcelorMittal, a global leader in iron ore production.
Form Energy is working with ArcelorMittal to develop iron materials that ArcelorMittal will supply non-exclusively to Form battery systems.
The company plans to source the iron locally in the United States, then build batteries near where it is located, including within the American Iron Range in Minnesota for Great River Energy.
Form Energy has been leading the development of long-term grid-scale battery storage solutions, said Greg Ludkowski, global head of research and development at ArcelorMittal, which will supply the iron.
“The multi-day energy storage technology they developed holds exciting potential to overcome the problem of intermittent supply of renewable energy,” he said.
The company was founded by lithium battery pioneer Yi-Mingqiang, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Jaramillo, who studied economics before moving into battery technology, including a seven-year tenure at Tesla. “The founding team has 100 years of battery experience,” Chiang told The Wall Street Journal.
In early 2018, the first small tests of the new battery technology began, and in 2020, they were able to purchase patents for an Arizona-based battery company.
The final design will see 20 individual cells assembled into a battery with thousands of batteries assembled together inside the warehouse.
Each warehouse will then store enough electricity for a week, and it takes days to fully charge but discharge over 150 hours.
It will be charged by renewable energy plants such as wind and solar during operation, creating a 150-hour buffer when they are not producing energy, thus ensuring a continuous supply of electricity to the grid.
Source: Daily Mail