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⚡ "The Future of Solar Storage"

The Interchange

Photo by Thomas Kelley / Unsplash

Host: David Banmiller
Guest: Rebecca Ciez | Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering | Purdue University
Category: ⚡ Renewable Energy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[3:45] “You want to have this electricity system that's dependable, so that we can use renewable resources around the clock to meet most of our energy demands. And so we're talking mostly about electrical energy storage in that case. Today, the market is still dominated by pumped hydro storage. We built a bunch of pumped hydro, initially when we built nuclear power plants, because nuclear power plants run continuously, but people don't use electricity in the same continuous constant manner. […] And so matching that was […] the initial idea behind all of this pumped hydro energy storage. But we […] tapped out that market, at least in the United States. […] Today, when you look at grid energy storage, you're mostly talking about adding things like battery energy storage, and primarily lithium ion battery energy storage. So lithium ion batteries got their start in electronics, they were co-opted for electric vehicles. And so now grid energy storage is borrowing from those electric vehicle technologies and basically installing these battery packs on the grid.”

[13:24] “I think battery energy storage is a good early player, if we're talking about getting these things out and at scale by 2030. It's an existing technology. There's a lot of manufacturing capacity in the pipeline, if it isn't have hasn't already been built yet. That's a good sort of early technology to adopt. There's a lot of discussion about whether you should move towards things like hydrogen production, or ammonia production and reuse those, whether in a fuel cell or some other kind of combustion method as a form of long duration storage. I think it's a little bit more challenging.”

[14:33] “If you talk about energy storage, the real challenges are these handful of unpredictable events per year, where you have limited solar and wind and no opportunity to provide a recharge opportunity. And so on those kinds of days, you would imagine using existing natural gas capacity, other sort of power generation technologies that already exist, that we maybe leave online a little bit longer than we would otherwise use day to day and providing some kind of compensation mechanism for are letting those resources continue to exist and be operational, but perhaps not be dispatched nearly as much or as frequently as they are today.”

[17:33] “Globally, there are over 250 giga factories in the pipeline or online to make battery energy storage technologies. The US is a little bit behind. So there's not as many relative to places like Europe or Asia. But all of the ones in the US are tied to automakers. And so they're going to make those batteries and they're going to end up in cars. And so that's great for the mobility transition. But when you think about what's happening for the grid, there's not the same sort of analogous company to put forth that level of investment to build these big factories, in the same way that like a Ford or GM can announce that they're building these partnerships and to have access to the capital to build the factories. And there's not the same parallel in energy space. And so in different parts of the world, and China in particular, is providing a lot of government support to build out their manufacturing capacity. And we don't have the same parallel in the US, especially at the grid level.”

[20:57] “Recycling will definitely play an increasing role. […] Right now, most of the recycling interest is still on what I would call traditional recycling metals. It's things like cobalt, and nickel, that are really high value. […] Not all facilities are capable of even recovering lithium when they're doing lithium ion battery recycling. […] So improving the processes moving towards like a hydro metallurgical process, or even potentially directly recycling […] could have the most environmental benefits. But achieving that is really difficult because everybody's got their own secret sauce of what's in their own batteries.”

[23:15] “Europe is already in the process of passing and updating their recycled content requirements on batteries. And they're directly tied to things like the environmental impacts and also the ethical concerns. And so they're the most stringent around things like cobalt, because cobalt mining is so concentrated in places like Congo, where it's not well regulated, and there's not great labor practices or safety practices. […] The US doesn't have similar regulations for lithium ion batteries.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 44 min | 🗓️ 11/26/2021
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