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New grade of Battery may make alternative energy mainstream  RSS feed

 
Nicholas Covey
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Location: Missouri/Iowa border
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It's likely mostly hype, as these things usually are, but like anyone else I like to present the information as I get it so that others can decide what they want to believe.

If this is true as advertised, this does have the potential to revolutionize off-grid electric as we know it.

http://www.heraldextra.com/news/article_b0372fd8-3f3c-11de-ac77-001cc4c002e0.html
 
Neal McSpadden
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Looks good if it works and is able to be realistically manufactured.

This paragraph blew me away:

A small three-bedroom home in Provo might average, say, 18 kWh of electric consumption per day in the summer -- that's 1,000 watts for 18 hours. A much larger home, say five bedrooms in the Grandview area, might average 80 kWh, according to Provo Power.;Either way, a supplement of 20 to 40 kWh per day is substantial. If you could produce that much power in a day -- for example through solar cells on the roof -- your power bills would plummet.


Do people really use this much electricity??  I grew up in a 3,000 sq ft house in Maryland that had cold winters and hot summers.  We never came anywhere close to those kinds of figures.
 
Jeremy Bunag
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I've always wonder what the huge lag in commercial batteries stems from?  Back when I worked for a hobby distributor, LiPo (Lithium Polymer) was becoming "all that, and a bag of chips."  On a one or two cell pack you could run your car or plane with more torque (read: amps) and longer run times, like on the order of double and triple, all with a lighter package.  The problem (maybe what delayed it coming to powertools) was the propensity to spontaneously burst into flames if charged incorrectly. 

But really, I still see "great strides" in battery-powered alternative energy things using NiMh or Lead-Acid.  I would think since LiPo has entered the tool market (at least a couple of manufacturers), the charging issues must have been addressed (there is no lazier charger than a power tool charger).

***Ok, I just found my own correction:  Lithium Ion recently made it to power tools and consumer electronics.  Lithium Polymer has yet to make an appearance, cost being the holdback, I guess.  Though acording to Wikipedia (the know-all and trust-some source) Hyundai is working with LiPo for their electric car.

Ultimately, I'm gonna keep watching the Hobby industry to be ready for the "next" thing...they're innovators!
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Jeremy:

The best-performing lithium ions use cobalt oxide as their cathode material.

Cobalt is a "strategic mineral", needed for e.g. jet engines.  A significant production run of cars with the hobby plane/cell phone/laptop chemistry would threaten to consume so much Co that all the large military powers would begin hoarding it, and a few of them would likely start proxy wars in the Congo.  There would likely not even be enough left on the commodities market at that point to comfortably meet consumer electronics demand.

Penetration into the power tool and auto market is largely due to substitutions of less-scarce (and thankfully, less-toxic) minerals such as manganese and iron.  Improving performance of these low- or zero-cobalt cathodes to a reasonable level has taken at least a decade.

Quittrack:

I've looked into these liquid metal storage batteries, and it seems like there may be some good uses for them.  There is a lot of hype, but the technology seems worthwhile to me.
 
Alison Thomas
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I wonder how long before they are available?  I hadn't realised that 'current' batteries have such a high running temperature and are SO short in life-expectancy - 'a year or so' the article says. And then there's the disposal of such a nasty chemical mix. 

We're starting to look at PV so this is very interesting. 
 
Irene Kightley
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I hope it's not long !

Batteries really are the weakest link in the solar/wind/water chain for producing and storing useful electricity.

We've been off-grid for 18 years and I would say that a couple of years is very pessimistic. 

If you use a good deep cycle battery made for the job with a controller to ensure that the battery isn't getting overcharged and cuts out the load when it's in danger of being undercharged plus you maintain them regularly, then they can last much longer. We still have batteries running which are eight years old and their charge holding capacity is still OK. 
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Tamo, about kWh use: I attended a renewable energy presentation at the WA State Permaculture Convergence last weekend where it was reported that:

– 2005 average American home consumed ~ 30 kWh of electricity per day.
– 2004 average EU-25 home consumed ~ 11 kWh of electricity per day.


Thank Jeff, for the great presentation and for posting the whole thing online.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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hardworkinghippy wrote:
I would say that a couple of years is very pessimistic. 

If you use a good deep cycle battery made for the job with a controller to ensure that the battery isn't getting overcharged and cuts out the load when it's in danger of being undercharged plus you maintain them regularly, then they can last much longer. We still have batteries running which are eight years old and their charge holding capacity is still OK. 


What you have said is true of lead acid batteries.

The couple-years figure is for lithium ion batteries.  They like to sit at 60% to 80% charge and as cool as possible: if they are never fully charged or discharged past halfway, and never left in the sun, I've found they can last three years with good performance and four with OK capacity.  I don't think they're appropriate for a home energy system; they might not even be the wisest choice for a motor home.

Nickel cadmium and NiMH just prefer a complete discharge each cycle.  NiMH aren't nearly as finnicky.  IIRC, they last about as long as lead acid in theory, but there aren't as many options for maintenance/revival.  They're much better for predictable energy input and unpredictable output, the opposite of a household energy storage situation.  My parents have about 200,000 miles on their 2001 Prius, and the NiMH battery pack is still chugging, although it isn't as efficient as it was 8 years ago.
 
                          
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So what is the best current battery for PV/wind/hydro systems.

Does lead acid still hold the crown?  3 years for Leth seems far too short.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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travisr wrote:
So what is the best current battery for PV/wind/hydro systems.

Does lead acid still hold the crown?


I think it does, if for no other reason than the huge production capacity and R& library that its use in the auto industry has built up.  It's cost-effective, and if your system is standing still, the weight is not such a problem.

There is some renewed interest in nickel-iron batteries for their ridiculous toughness and longevity.  They last several decades, even with abuse.

travisr wrote:  3 years for Leth seems far too short.


If you are marketing electronic gadgets, it's perfect!  Have you noticed the trend toward devices where the battery can't be changed?
 
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