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Should I go with Nickel Iron?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 22
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My biggest concern is reliability and longevity. I need my battery bank to last 25 years+. If I've done my reading correctly Nickel Iron is my best option. Do I have that right? If so can anyone recommend somewhere in Canada I can purchase? Thanks!
 
pollinator
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The OLD nickle Iron batteries lasted forever.

The new ones are being made in China and are a total crap shoot.  Maybe the last for decades, maybe they last 4 weeks.  The Chinese are famous for not honoring warranties once the product leaves China.  Unless you can find a reliable dealer in Canada that you're sure will still be around in 20 years,  I wouldn't recommend them.

Also NiFE batteries have pretty poor charge efficiency, it takes lots of energy to charge them for the amount you can pull out and they have

I'm planning on going with LiFePO or LiMn2O4 batteries that are way over sized and then never letting them fully charge or fully discharge.  These should last 20+ years used that way.
 
pollinator
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Iron Edison, although they source their batteries from China, only use a specific factory and appear to stand behind their product. Whether that holds up over the long term is anyone's guess, but at least it's a US company that's been around a while. Ironcore in Australia has its own manufacturing, or at least they did last time I checked.
 
pollinator
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It has at best a 60% charge discharge efficiency. Where as LiFePO4  is 98%+
So with half of the energy lost you will have to double your solar panel array compared to LiFePO4
So while it last twice as long it will be multiple times heavier
I wonder how much it really cost per extractable/useable kWHr
 
Mark Roberts
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Thanks for the advice. My homestead is remote access and our family is transitioning to living 100% off what we produce and we will soon have no income. In light of that the solar setup we purchase needs to last 25 years plus as we will not have money for new batteries in 10 years time. I'm not concerned with efficiency as we will not be running any major appliances or heating anything, we just need to power LED lighting, charge power tools, water pump and dvd player / tv. I think our power usage will be fairly nominal.
 
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After long consideration I can tell you my next battery bank will be flooded lead one more time. I sized my bank for less than 30 percent discharge and at that rate expect 10 years of service based on published literature and a very long track record.  I'm seven years in with no real loss of capacity. Priced out nickel iron was 3 times the cost, lithium was 4 times to achieve the same storage capacities even accounting for smaller banks due to deeper discharge and all the other slight of hand methods battery sellers use.  Will a made in china nickel iron last 3 times as long as lead acid? no answer, will the flood of new lithium products last 4 times longer? no answer... I hate questions without answers. I think nickel iron has had its day due to poor charge efficiencies as for lithium I quite like what is published but will wait for the industry to shake out more hence the pledge for one more round of lead acid. Once the electric car numbers go up the market will be awash in used battery banks. While not perfect for all people the availability of used product will drive down the price of new products. As to money down the road setup a dedicate infrastructure fund and deposit all that lithium cash and wait. you will gain interest and sit on it and at the end of battery bank 1 (which you might find too small or kill due to the learning curve) you will still have the funds to purchase batteries and then some. Infrastructure wears out replacement is inevitable so plan for it.
Just my few thoughts on the matter. Best of luck with your homestead choices.
David
 
Peter VanDerWal
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Mark Roberts wrote:Thanks for the advice. My homestead is remote access and our family is transitioning to living 100% off what we produce and we will soon have no income. In light of that the solar setup we purchase needs to last 25 years plus as we will not have money for new batteries in 10 years time. I'm not concerned with efficiency as we will not be running any major appliances or heating anything, we just need to power LED lighting, charge power tools, water pump and dvd player / tv. I think our power usage will be fairly nominal.



Have you considered using a 'bank'?  Put all the money you save from not buying expensive (and questionable) batteries and extra panels, etc. and stick it in the bank, when the batteries do wear out take some of that money out of the bank to buy new ones, leave the rest in until the next time you have to buy batteries.

It doesn't matter how little power you use, if your batteries are only 1/2 as efficient then you have to buy twice as many panels.  It doesn't matter if it's two panels instead of one, or twenty panels instead of ten, twice as many is twice as many.
 
Mark Roberts
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I've been doing a lot of reading on NiFi batteries in the last few days. My understanding is that they are just as efficient as lead acid. The reason that people were having poor efficiency is that the controllers they were using were designed for lead acid and not NiFi. There are now controllers available for NiFi and efficiency is a non issue.    
 
Peter VanDerWal
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For what it's worth, they tend to advertise NiFE in a deliberately misleading way.

What you see advertised tends to be their "coulombic efficiency", i.e. amp hours in vs amp hours out, and indeed NiFE and PbA batteries both have similar "coulombic efficiency".

However, "energy"  = amp hours * VOLTS, and that's the kicker.  While both batteries have a nominal output voltage of around 12 volts, there is a significant difference in charging voltage. Where the average charging voltage on PbA batteries is around 14 volts, for NiFE it's around 16 volts.

So the average "energy" efficiency of PbA batteries is around 70-75%, but for NiFE it's around 60-65%.  For lithium technology, energy efficiency is typically 90% or better.

Note, this is just the efficiency of the batteries.  System efficiency includes the efficiency of the battery chargers, and of course any kind of 'impedance matching' electronics between the energy source (solar, wind, etc.) and the battery charger.
As you noted, trying to use NiFE batteries with equipment designed for PbA results in poor performance.  The options designed to work with NiFE are more limited than either PbA or LiIPO and tend to be much more expensive.

When you compare total system cost for a complete solution to meet your needs, NiFE will likely be significantly more expensive.
 
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Mark Roberts wrote:My biggest concern is reliability and longevity. I need my battery bank to last 25 years+. If I've done my reading correctly Nickel Iron is my best option. Do I have that right? If so can anyone recommend somewhere in Canada I can purchase? Thanks!



In many cases, for longevity, the amount of battery capacity you can install is just as important as what battery chemistry you choose.

For an example on
Table 2: Cycle life as a function of depth of discharge.*  
of this page
How to Prolong Lithium-based Batteries

Assuming 1 charge/discharge cycle per day from solar panels, LiPO4 batteries will last less than 2 years if they get fully discharged, but if you got enough batteries so that they only ever dropped to 80% full, the batteries would be rated for 25 years.
The second scenario means buying 5 times as many batteries as the first scenario. 5x more money up front, but you get more than 5x the rated cycles.
 
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Some may disagree - dependant on cost, space, and DIY-ability.

The alleged "salt-water battery" promoted by Aquion Energy (so you can Google it, I don't trust anyone who works with Bill Gates - this is not an endorsement of their company)

Take MnO powder (dietary supplement) and make a quilted pillow/pouch with Rayon fabric - make a bunch.
Take Activated Carbon powder (finer is better) and make a matching number of Rayon pillows.
Sew/attach 316 Stainless Steel screen into the middle of each pillow - alternatively, attach 316 SS rod at top, but ensure powder is in intimate contact with it.
Hang the pillows - alternating MnO/C - in one of those big Rubber-Made Tote things.
Connect all of the C pillows with thick copper wire/stainless screws - this is the Anode (if memory serves)
Do the same with the MnO pillows (this would be the Cathode, unless I have them reversed in my memory)
Pack the rest of the space with as much salt as you can get in there! Rock salt, Morton, doesn't matter - but get it in there!!!
Top it off with water.
Attach to charging circuit.

No kidding. You have to make a lot, and the values per-cell are unknown until you make them. Make sure the cell can ventilate to air. Build a big wooden rack and put a butt-load of these cells on it (they are HEAVY). Wire as you would any other battery bank - use thick wire or buss-bar. They last pretty much forever, won't hurt a thing (it's all edible! Except for the Rayon and the Rubber-Made/metals) and they handle freezing like a champ (though, you shouldn't - or probably can't unless you're Canadian or Alaskan - it's salt!)

That is the option of awesome - it's a rechargeable battery that YOU can build AND maintain.

The other option is to make some monster super-capacitors with mesh, carbon powder, and an evil chemical (it's some Potassium solution whose name is on You Tube under "DIY Supercapacitors" - use as electrolyte) inside of a 30 gallon trashcan. Make a few of them, put them on a rack with regulation circuitry, and TA-DA! Your very own Grid-tie SuperCap Bank!

A mixture of the two would be ideal, and is in my master plan. Batts for constant, Caps for peak demands (like starting a table saw)

Anywho, YOU are responsible for any "Shocking Experiences" and so forth... don't blame me if you get zapped, or use the wrong wire/fuse and burn down your shed...

But, yes - this actually works, you CAN do it yourself and, if you amortize the cost of the materials over their usible service-life (long after you run out of juice... or your kids) they are WAAAAAYYYYYY cheaper than ANY commercial battery bank of similar capacity - they're just bigger, and you have to make them.

HAVE AT!!
 
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I came accross this video clip in which someone who seems to know what he's talking about discusses battery types and getting the best out of batteries for solar installations: https://www.offgridbootcamp.com/video-1-off-grid-batteries/

in case that gives some ideas
have fun
Matthew
 
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All the water taxi operators in Amsterdam, Netherlands are converting their boats to electric propulsion. One of the biggest operators is installing Li-Fe-PO4 batteries in his boats. The reason for the choice is that the batteries are capable of being operated on a 48 hour charging cycle (hence do not have to provide one charge station for each boat); the use of Fe is a more ecological choice as opposed to Cobalt (much more expensive and less accessible); charging is relatively fast and the batteries are easier to produce and less prone to price fluctuations.
Short article available on www.bbc.co.uk by Matthew Wall (Technology of Business Editor).
Hope this is of benefit.
 
Phil Stevens
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Going back to the OP's top concerns (reliability and longevity), I'd still come down in favour of nickel iron. A well-constructed NiFe array could easily be a 100-year asset, and over that lifecycle it would blow away the higher upfront costs. Bear in mind that the cost of deploying these is quite a bit higher at the beginning. Reasons:

1. Lower energy density, so you need more cells to equal a comparable amp-hour rating compared to lead acid or lithium.

2. Greater recalcitrance, which means that if you need to get power in or out of the battery quickly, you will need to oversize the array.

3. Niche market, with all the attendant disadvantages like economies of scale, competition among vendors, greater shipment distances, etc.

4. Needs specialised charge controllers to get the best performance, although they are hard enough to destroy that you could cheap out on this piece of the puzzle in the beginning.

5. Self discharge rates are higher than comparable modern batteries. Again, this has implications for sizing the battery if you're contemplating a PV source and foresee extended cloudy winter weather with  However, even LiX formulations aren't energy time machines and lots of EV owners discover this to their chagrin when they go away on holiday and leave their car charged up, but unplugged.

However, on the positive side of the assessment, there are some attributes that would appeal to the long view:

1. Ruggedness. They don't care if you overcharge them, and similarly aren't ruined by discharge to zero repeatedly. Maintenance in the form of electrolyte topups and changes is the only thing they require.

2. Electrolyte is a simple potassium hydroxide solution, which could be quite easily homebrewed from wood ash.

3. Degradable and disposable (once you figure out what to do with the plastic case, of course). Nickel and iron are both relatively benign substances with no hazards in storage and can be reprocessed or repurposed. Potassium is a plant nutrient. Just don't pour it all out on one small patch of ground.
 
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I have been using 60 * 2 volt lead acid batteries for solar power for the last 15 years with no issues.
I do need to add about 30 liters distilled water every 3 months.
The life of the batteries is measured in discharge / charge cycle.  
This system has worked well using less than 10% capacity of the batteries.
The possible life of the batteries could be 30 years.
Use more of the capacity of the batteries and reduce the life of the batteries.

 
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How many folks here actually own a NiFe (Nickel Iron) battery bank?
Battery bank sizing is crucial because for instance an over-sized lead acid battery bank could last for decades because (as previously suggested) you might over-size it so much that only 10% DOD (depth of discharge) is being used, but for that to happen you'd spend a lot more because your bank would need to be much larger for that situation to be maintained.  Consider simple numbers, a typically designed system of 50% DOD would be x cost, but a similar system of only 10% DOD would need to have a battery bank 5 times the size (ie: 5 times the cost because there's 5 times as much storage).  So the battery bank would have to be much larger for you to be only using 10% of it's storage capacity.  I don't disagree with the poster's suggestion, it is true, but I think folks may have missed the point -- you need a lot more batteries.  Now, if you're only running a few small loads then it's not that big a deal -- maybe your $500 battery bank quintupled to $2,500 and that's a manageable increase for your bank account.  But if we're talking a large system you can see how this cost would go up a lot.  And this is why most people start a conversation like this, because they are looking at the different costs/benefits of Lead Acid vs. things like Lithium or Nickel Iron which have longer life cycles (and thus reduced cost over the long term).

Everybody seems to have an opinion on NiFE, but very few seem to have first hand knowledge/experience.
... anyways I digress, here's the reason I'm posting, I'd like to know:

Who here has used NiFe  and/or purchased them and/or installed them?  I'd really appreciate THOSE people's feedback.

And with that I'll just add two more things:

P.S. -- Another option I'm considering are the newer style Lithium batteries (ie: not the Tesla kind) such as SimpliPhi (LiFePO4 composition so are safer, and are added in parallel rather than in series which has advantages)
P.P.S. -- I have nothing to do with any company; I'm an electrician, I have my own off-grid system and I am seeking more knowledge as I know eventually I'll need to commit to a large purchase one day
 
Mark Roberts
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The maintenance required for lead acid is a deal breaker for me as well. Seems like you have to add a lot of distilled water on a fairly regular basis.

This page has some great info.
http://www.nickel-iron-battery.com/

Nickel-iron Battery Specifications Energy/weight 30-50Wh/kg
Energy/size 30 Wh/l
Power/weight 100W/kg
Charge/discharge efficiency 65% - 85%
Energy/consumer-price 1.5– 6.6Wh/US$
Self-discharge rate 10-15% /month
Time durability 30– 100 years
Cycle durability Repeated deep discharge does not reduce life significantly.
Nominal cell voltage 1.2 V
Charge temperature interval min.-40°C
max.46 °C

 
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These are some typical (minimum-maximum) expectations for batteries if used in deep cycle service. There are so many variables, such as depth of discharge, maintenance, temperature, how often and how deep cycled, etc. that it is almost impossible to give a fixed number.

Starting: 3-12 months
Marine: 1-6 years
Golf cart: 2-7 years
AGM deep cycle: 4-8 years
Gelled deep cycle: 2-5 years
Deep cycle (L-16 type etc): 4-8 years
Rolls-Surrette premium deep cycle: 7-15 years
Industrial deep cycle (Crown and Rolls 4KS series): 10-20+ years.
Telephone (float): 2-20 years. These are usually special purpose "float service", but often appear on the surplus market as "deep cycle". They can vary considerably, depending on age, usage, care, and type.
NiFe (alkaline): 5-35 years
NiCad: 1-20 years


https://www.solar-electric.com/learning-center/batteries-and-charging/deep-cycle-battery-faq.html

If properly maintained the NiFe batteries are a good option for longevity but you must use a high end controller with them and they can potentially start a massive fire if not kept wet. (Think monthly watering and 8 years replacement of electrolyte)

see the link for a more in depth discussion of various battery topics
 
L Affleck
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That's a bit vague.  Thanks for the data, but context is needed.
For instance you mention fire, but didn't compare it to risks of LiIon (fire/thermal runaway) or Flooded Lead Acid (hydrogen off-gassing) -- how is NiFe's fire risk any more or less problematic than those popular batteries?

Feedback from people who actually own a NiFe (Nickel Iron) battery bank and can comment on actual usage is requested!
 
L Affleck
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This post was great -- it has posts from few individuals who actually own NiFe battery banks:
https://permies.com/t/36069/permaculture-projects/Nickel-Iron-Edison-Batteries
 
Mark Roberts
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The more I read up on NiFi the more I'm sold.

- crazy long life, min 30 years
- can be discharged to under 20% regularly with no ill effect
- very little maintenance other then topping up with water
- very tolerant in sub zero temps

The list goes on but those are the main takeaways for me. The only drawback I can see is the up front cost.
 
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