Juan Corrado, Darcy Partner


Last Thursday, at one of our Darcy Live Events we discussed New Battery Chemistries, alternatives to Li-ion batteries – cheaper and safer solutions.

Despite Li-ion batteries’ high energy density and declining costs in the past decade, new battery chemistries are on the rise to provide non-flammable and inherently safe energy storage at the grid level.

Unlike conventional batteries, these new batteries generally use non-toxic earth-abundant materials and can provide a cost-effective solution that is inherently safe for the users and the environment. Being so, they can be deployed near populated areas or in in-door places and are easier to reuse and recycle.

We have invited Urban Electric Power (UEP) to present their rechargeable alkaline batteries at our Forum. As can be seen on the Vendor Landscape presented during the Forum (Figure 1), this is the only technology today (together with zinc-air) that offers a solution for Long Duration Storage, that is non-flammable, non-toxic, that can be operated at room temperature and is already available in the market.

ImageFigure 1. Vendor Landscape presented during Forum.

During the Forum, we have discussed the different types of rechargeable batteries for grid-scale stationary storage, the advantages and disadvantages of these chemistries, and features of these companies. Among these, we highlighted E-Zinc, Zinc8, Enerpoly, Ambri, and Form Energy, among others.

There was a very interesting Q&A session with Babu Chalamala, a Subject Matter Expert from Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), and UEP as well. As part of this session, a comparison between UEP’s solution and Tesla’s commercially successful Megapack was made. UEP distinguished itself from Tesla’s Megapack for being a non-flammable battery and very competitive in price. You can find this comparison on UEP’s Storefront on Darcy Connect here.

A few hours after the Forum, a Tesla Megapack (a large battery system for utility-scale energy storage projects) with 3 MWh of battery cells caught fire in Australia.

The project using the Megapack – 210 of them, to be precise, is called “The Big Battery” and will have a capacity of 300MWh once repaired. The installation of the giant new battery packs was just completed and the system was undergoing testing when one of the Megapacks caught on fire.

More than 150 people from Fire Rescue Victoria and the Country Fire Authority responded to the blaze, which burned for 4 days. Luckily enough, the fire didn’t propagate to the other Megapacks around it. However, the big problem is the toxic fumes that emanated from the burning Megapack. The authorities issued a toxic air quality warning for Batesford, Bell Post Hill, Lovely Banks, Moorabool, and Geelong’s northern suburb due to the fire. The cause of the fire remains unknown, but investigations have commenced.

The poll results pulled from the Forum clearly show that the interest and need for Long-duration Storage (LDS) solutions among our utility members are needed in the short term (Figure 2).

ImageFigure 2. Forum Poll Results: When do you anticipate an operational need for storage capacity of 4-12 hour discharge?

Also, inherently safe and cheap batteries are required (Figures 3). The shift from Li-ion batteries to safer technologies is imminent. Despite its advantages and low prices, lithium-ion runs risks of thermal runaway, flammability, and limitations for LDS. Besides, the potential scarcity of lithium is also a rising concern in the industry – available lithium will inevitably be prioritized for solutions that require high energy density, as it is with the EV industry.

ImageFigure 3. Forum Poll Results: What features do you value most of an electrochemical battery?

If you want to learn more about the different battery chemistries and the companies working towards electrochemical non-flammable solutions with cheap abundant materials and allowing for LDS you can still watch the recording of the Forum here or access the different companies’ Storefronts presented in the Vendor Landscape.

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