The long read: Advanced lead batteries for microgrids


From pv magazine 08/2020

As the world’s only global research hub dedicated to advanced lead batteries, the Consortium for Battery Innovation (CBI) is driving research and innovation into this tech. It aims to deliver next-generation batteries to meet increased global demand for renewable energy storage.

Innovation in lead batteries has a long history, with advanced batteries using additives such as carbon to deliver increased performance for the unique demands of energy storage applications, such as operation at partial state-of-charge (PSoC). Due to the intermittent nature of solar and wind power, batteries often do not achieve a full charge/discharge cycle. The ability of a battery to continue performing under these conditions is critical.

Microgrids are a vital energy storage application in which advanced lead batteries are providing crucial power by harnessing solar and wind energy. Microgrid systems offer a very cost-effective and sustainable solution for clean energy generation when paired with lead batteries.

A recent report from the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance has said that batteries can provide electricity to 600 million people globally who currently have no access. In all parts of the world, communities seeking reliable electricity have turned to microgrids, which can be disconnected from public supply networks and utilize batteries for power from renewable sources.

Technical roadmap

As demand for batteries continues to soar, it’s vital that technology can adapt and improve. CBI’s technical roadmap for innovation has identified improving cycle life for lead batteries as a critical research goal, to ensure that lead batteries continue delivering in the energy storage market. Improving cycle life, which is the number of charge/discharge cycles a battery can perform before losing performance ability, to 5,000 cycles by 2022 is a core objective.

Recognizing that energy storage underpins a clean energy future, our 2020 research bid has called for projects focused on the utility grid and renewable energy storage, looking to optimize the performance of lead batteries even further for this sector.

The battery landscape is shifting, and the innovation story for lead batteries is not yet at its end. Recent research has been undertaken by CBI in collaboration with its wide membership of battery manufacturers and recyclers, materials suppliers, research and testing institutes, and universities, The research is designed to foster the development of next-generation batteries for increased performance of utility and renewable energy storage applications.

From projects with leading universities such as UCLA visualizing the dynamics of carbon-enhanced electrodes, to collaborating with major national laboratories, CBI’s research program is extensive. A ground-breaking lead battery project organized by CBI alongside Argonne National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy is currently researching cycle life performance improvements using ultra-bright, high-energy synchrotron x-ray beams.

A recent advanced lead battery development uses new architectures to deliver improved performance, increased energy density, and improved cycled life – all essential technical performance requirements for the energy storage market. Bipolar lead batteries are being put through global testing regimes in a specialized research project launched by CBI in collaboration with Advanced Battery Concepts. This project will benchmark performance against known standards to provide insight into the battery capability at PSoC, which is vital for energy storage applications such as microgrids.

Batteries are essential to the future of energy storage. As the transition to renewable energy sources continues across the globe, advanced lead batteries will continue to innovate to meet evolving technical demands and make a clean energy future a reality. 7178.jpgAlistair Davidson

Case studies: Lead batteries in action

Large-scale microgrids

California-based Trojan Battery Co. has worked extensively in Africa to install microgrids in various countries. Trojan Battery partnered with Green Village Electricity Projects, a solar PV developer in West Africa, to provide electricity to the Nigerian village of Bisanti, a community of 260 households and 60 businesses. Power is provided for street lighting, business premises, and homes, and the project has resulted in a 50% reduction in energy-related expenditure. Featuring a 24 kW solar PV array, it uses large flooded industrial lead batteries to store energy.

Trojan Battery has also worked with E.On Offgrid Solutions (Rafiki Power) in Tanzania to install a microgrid at Ololosokwan for the local community and other locations. This project features a 6 kW solar PV panel and a Victron charger and inverter with 18 kWh of energy storage using deep-cycle AGM lead batteries. The installation has an advanced monitoring and management system to provide for open and secure end-to-end asset connectivity, data management, and advanced analytics, which has significantly reduced operational and maintenance costs for the project.

Furthermore, a series of microgrid systems with Trojan batteries have been deployed in the Chico region of Colombia, providing reliable electricity to more than 400 homes for the first time. The batteries work in conjunction with 250 W Trina solar panels, providing over 17 years of working service.

Island grid energy storage

On the island of Lifuka in the Kingdom of Tonga, a solar+storage microgrid was installed by CBS Power Solutions to help meet the government’s mandate to obtain 50% of grid power from clean energy. The project was completed in 2017 and uses CBI member Nuvation Energy’s battery management system and Hoppecke advanced lead batteries. The project features a solar array and 480 kW/495 kWh of battery storage. The Nuvation Energy BMS communicates with a pair of 300 kW Siemens inverters and an energy management system that works together to charge the battery cells from the PV array during the day and provide power to the grid at night.

Living laboratory

At the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), an EcoVillage is being powered by advanced lead batteries. This living laboratory, which conducts renewable energy research, education, and outreach, has been successfully running since 2018 with the support of the CBI. The solar-powered homes in the EcoVillage, which double up as student accommodations, were constructed by S&T students for the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) Energy Solar Decathlon competitions.

Missouri-based CBI members EnerSys and NorthStar Battery provided advanced lead batteries for the energy storage systems installed in the homes. Part of a microgrid is the role of the batteries to be a reliable source of power in case of grid outage. Connected to residential PV systems, the batteries undergo daily micro-charge and discharge cycles as solar generation fluctuates. Each house has an AC combiner and a critical-load distribution load center panel board. The AC-coupled advanced lead battery backup systems consist of 7 strings in parallel = 48V, 28 Cells, 67.5 kWh. The advanced lead batteries have successfully provided a high level of performance required by the system, demonstrating their qualities as a robust and reliable energy storage technology.

About the author 

Alistair Davidson is the director of the Consortium for Battery Innovation (CBI). He attended the University of Oxford and obtained a Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh. He has lectured at both Washington State University and the University of Chongqing, China.

This content is protected by copyright and may not be reused. If you want to cooperate with us and would like to reuse some of our content, please contact: