Solar energy is no longer limited to a niche market. Many people are switching to this renewable energy source, and some have no access to a grid connection. For such users, the need for reliable storage becomes essential. Currently, other storage options dominate the market. However, saltwater batteries have great potential for changing this market.
This cutting-edge technology presents great opportunities as the batteries are maintenance-free. In this article, we will look at everything you need to know about this storage option. Let’s dive in.
What are saltwater batteries?
Saltwater batteries, like any energy backup, store electricity that you can use later. It’s their chemistry that differentiates this battery from the lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion in the market.
These batteries use a liquid saltwater solution in capturing, storing, and discharging energy. Additionally, the primary ingredient for conducting electricity in saltwater batteries is sodium, whereas lithium-ion batteries rely on lithium.
Saltwater Batteries Advantages
There are many advantages of saltwater batteries. The following are some of those characteristics that have made them stand out as a leading energy storage option. More so, when paired with solar panels.
1. They are Safe
Few energy storage batteries excel in this category, and saltwater batteries are some of them. The cells contain saltwater in their system. As a result, there is no fire risk. These batteries don’t have the same harmful materials that you find in lithium-ion or lead-acid batteries. For this reason, they are safe to handle and also more friendly to the environment.
2. They have a Long Lifespan
The solar panels last for 20+ years. For this reason, you want to use a battery that also has a longer life span to save on the cost of constantly changing batteries. Saltwater batteries meet this quality. They are more durable compared to the other energy storage batteries in the market.
Saltwater batteries hold 5,000 cycles. Also, since the product is not prone to explosions, you can use it beyond the indicated cycles.
3. Easy to Recycle
Recycling is friendly to the environment. It saves resources, reduces waste, prevents pollution, and many other benefits. Saltwater batteries are easy to recycle as they do not use heavy metal materials. As they gain popularity across the world, it is easier to place a recycling process for battery materials.
At the same time, these batteries are easy to dispose of once they have served you. Lack of harmful chemicals or material requiring special instructions to dispose of makes this possible.
4. It is Maintenance Free
Saltwater batteries allow full discharge without harming the battery. Also, fully discharging the battery does not affect the life cycle of the storage system. Additionally, the battery can stay for weeks or days without charge. For this reason, battery maintenance systems to control the charge are not necessary.
5. Friendly to the Environment
Earth minerals are required to make other types of batteries. Extracting those materials leads to ecological damage. Sadly, there are also political and economic upheavals surrounding the global demand as the resources dwindle. Saltwater batteries eliminate all these effects as they use commonly found materials.
There is yet to be a perfect innovation. So, saltwater batteries also have limitations. Some of the disadvantages include:
1. Limited C-Rate
Saltwater batteries have 0,5 C-rate, which is half. C-rate is used to compare different battery capabilities. If a battery has a higher capacity, it will run at a higher charge.
The batteries can only discharge half of their capacity at once. This means that if you need to use more energy in a shorter duration, these batteries may not be the best.
2. Lower Energy Density
Another limitation is its size. Saltwater batteries store less energy compared to lithium-ion batteries in the same amount of space. Due to the lower energy density, there is a demand for larger sized batteries. The larger the batteries are, the more the materials for making them are required.
3. Higher Cost
Costs are related to the lower density aspect of these batteries. Since larger batteries are required, it means manufacturers spend more money to make the batteries. In contrast, the costs for making lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries are declining. After resolving the cost at large scale production for saltwater batteries challenge, then its availability will increase.
Saltwater Batteries Commercialization and the Future
As much as saltwater batteries technology offers excellent energy storage opportunities, it is still new in the market. Currently, there is only one company, Aquion, known for manufacturing the batteries. However, they have run into some non-technological issues stopping production altogether.
Saltwater’s batteries’ future in the market is still uncertain. Experts will need to address the limitations of this technology. Investing in more research to resolve the C-rate is necessary. Most importantly, manufacturers should address issues of low density. Scaling production will depend on smaller batteries produced cost-effectively to give them a chance to compete with other energy storage technologies.
However, all is not lost for saltwater batteries. Experts warn of a looming lithium shortage as a result of the electric car boom. For this reason, saltwater energy backup systems can become the leading technology. Additionally, their materials are simple and readily available. They include carbon, salt, manganese oxide, and water, for which there is no shortage.
Saltwater batteries present dynamic technology in solar energy storage. Though they may be bulkier than other types, they are safer for you and the environment. The batteries rely on saltwater electrolyte—the materials used in manufacturing non-toxic, non-inflammable, and non-explosion prone.
Though the technology is young, it has shown much promise and reliability. Unfortunately, manufacturing can cost a fortune, which hinders availability across many markets. As the innovators continue to explore this technology, there is hope to see much improvement in its scalability. As the industry grows, it may become the go-to option as the world grapples with dwindling resources.
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