The development of storage systems can facilitate the transition to renewable energy sources
The technological development of batteries is playing a crucial role in the global energy transition towards clean and sustainable sources. Battery storage systems make it possible to store the excess energy produced by plants such as wind turbines and photovoltaic panels and to release it later when necessary, guaranteeing continuity in the energy supply.
Operation and technologies of battery storage systems
Battery storage systems store electrical energy in the form of chemical energy, allowing electricity to be stored and released according to the needs of the consumer or grid operators. The main batteries used in storage systems are:
- Lithium-ion batteries that use chemical compounds containing calcium and lithium are the most used due to their high energy density.
- The redox flow accumulator which uses liquid chemical electrolytes flowed inside the battery.
- Lead-acid batteries that contain traditional lead-based electrochemical accumulators.
Impact of batteries in the renewable energy market
The development of batteries significantly favours the implementation of renewable sources in the global energy mix both for stationary energy production plants and for plants integrated in electric mobility.
For this reason, the demand for batteries is expected to increase steadily in the coming years. This is linked both to the expansion of solar and wind energy for cogeneration and to the massive increase in the diffusion of electric vehicles.
According to some estimates, the demand for batteries will grow approximately 9-fold by 2030, for a total of more than 3,000 GWh of stored and ready-to-use energy.
The transition to clean renewable sources also passes through the study and innovation of energy storage methods. It will be a gradual process that requires investment in research and development to improve performance, contain costs and identify greener alternatives to currently available technologies.
Battery value chain in Europe and investments in the sector
Large public and private investments are planned in Europe to build a strong industrial value chain for battery production. The European Union has launched the European Battery Alliance to encourage partnerships and joint ventures among companies, research centres and institutions, with the aim of reaching a battery production capacity of 200 GWh by 2025. Even individual states members have launched support plans for the sector, such as the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan in Italy which provides for the construction of plants for the production of lithium ions by 2025. Given the strategic importance of batteries for the energy transition and the resulting competitive advantage, the development of a European chain for the production of batteries is considered crucial for energy independence and consequently for the technological leadership of the European continent.
Role of electric mobility in the energy transition
The spread of electric mobility together with renewable sources can make a decisive contribution to the decarbonisation of the transport sector and the fight against climate change. Electric vehicles have a significant impact on the growth of the battery market and, vice versa, the availability of more powerful, economical and sustainable accumulators favours the development of the zero-emission mobility.
The electric mobility sector will therefore be able to greatly benefit from the technological progress of batteries deriving from a consolidated European supply chain because this availability will push even stronger towards electric traction vehicles.
Decarbonisation goals and the role of batteries
Achieving climate neutrality by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement, requires a rapid and effective decarbonisation process in all economic sectors.
Batteries and energy storage play a fundamental role in this transition, allowing for the efficient integration of renewable sources into the energy system. Being typically non-programmable sources, it will be crucial to accumulate energy in the phases of excess energy surplus, increasing the flexibility and resilience of the whole system.
To fully exploit the potential of storage batteries, it is necessary to improve their performance, reduce costs and the environmental impact throughout their life cycle, improve the supply of strategic raw materials and finally find green and effective solutions for disposal and possible regeneration. Only in this way batteries will be able to make a decisive contribution to achieving the decarbonisation objectives, enabling an intelligent and sustainable energy system.
Sodium ion batteries: the near future?
The battery market is constantly evolving: lithium-ion batteries are currently the most efficient and popular electrochemical technology, however many companies are looking for cheaper and more sustainable alternatives.
Sodium seems to be the most promising choice. In fact, the Chinese giant CATL, the largest manufacturer of batteries for electric vehicles in the world, holder of a third of the world market, has announced that its Na-ion batteries will be ready for mass production by the end of the year.
What are the reasons why sodium ion batteries are becoming more popular?
Na-ion batteries have a lower energy density and a shorter life cycle compared to lithium-ion batteries, however they are considered safer and offer better performance over a wider range of temperatures. Another important reason is that sodium could become an interesting choice for an economic issue. In fact, lithium has become very expensive due to its limited and concentrated availability in specific areas of the globe. Conversely, sodium is abundant and, being the sixth most common element on Earth, it can be easily found. This would ensure a consistent reduction of costs in the medium and long term and a liberation from some countries that risk blackmailing the world as some countries have done so far with fossil resources such as oil and gas.