What a difference ten years can make. In 2010, batteries powered our phones and computers. By the end of the century, they are also starting to power our cars and homes.
The surge in lithium-ion battery production over the past decade has driven down prices, making electric vehicles commercially viable for the first time in history from a cost and performance standpoint. The next step, and what will define the next decade, is utility-scale storage.
As the urgency of the climate crisis becomes more apparent, lithium batteries are key to the transition to a world of renewable fuels. Solar and wind are playing a growing role in generating electricity, but without effective energy storage technology, gas and coal are needed when there is no sun or wind. Large-scale storage is helpful if society is to move away from a world reliant on fossil fuels.
Lithium batteries: The rising stars of science
Lithium-ion batteries - an all-encompassing term in itself - were first developed in the 1970s and first commercialized by Sony in 1991 for use in the company’s handheld video recorders. Now, they're everywhere, from iPhones to medical devices to airplanes to the International Space Station.
Perhaps the biggest indication of the role these batteries play in modern society is the fact that the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scientists who developed lithium-ion batteries.
"This development [of lithium-ion batteries] has progressed rapidly over the past few decades, and we can expect many more important discoveries in battery technology," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in October. "These future breakthroughs are undoubted will further improve our lives, not only for our convenience, but also for the global and local environment, and ultimately the sustainability of our entire planet."
Investment opportunities in the battery supply chain
The main reason why battery-powered electric vehicles are still relatively expensive is the cost of the raw materials required for their production. In addition to lithium, lithium-ion batteries require other minerals such as cobalt and graphite, as well as metals such as nickel, aluminum, and manganese.
Power your phone power your home
The need for bigger and better batteries to power electric vehicles has had a knock-on effect, including in-home energy storage. This is especially true as falling solar prices, coupled with government subsidies, encourage consumers to switch to renewable energy.
The use of storage is noteworthy at RUN and across the industry - residential batteries have gone from a novelty to an increasingly common part of new residential solar installations.
Next steps: Utility-scale storage
However, the biggest potential market for energy storage is not individual consumers, but large utilities.
In short, the typical way the grid operates today is to use electricity that was produced moments ago. Inventory is low, so supply and demand must always be in balance.
But as battery prices fall, more and more utilities are integrating lithium-ion batteries into their systems. Currently, they are mainly used to replace so-called peak plants - plants that are usually powered by natural gas and are only used during peak demand. They have also started replacing diesel generators in places such as hospitals where there is a constant need for electricity.
The above describes the development prospects of lithium-ion batteries in energy storage in detail. If you want to buy lithium-ion batteries, please contact us.