The Renewable-Energy Revolution Will Need Renewable Storage
Author: Matthew Hutson
Germany is decommissioning its nuclear power plants and working hard to embrace renewables, but, because of the problem of “intermittency” in its renewable power supply, it remains dependent on fossil fuels-including impod Russian gas. The obvious solution is batteries. The most widespread variety is called lithium-ion, or Li-ion, after the chemical process that makes it work. Such batteries power everything from mobile phones to electric vehicles; they are relatively inexpensive to make and getting cheaper. But typical models exhaust their stored energy after only three or four hours of maximum output, and-as every iPhone owner knows-their capacity dwindles, little by little, with each recharge. It is expensive to collect enough-batteries to cover longer discharges. And batteries can catch fire-sites in South Korea have ignited dozens of times in the past few years.Venkat Srinivasan, a scientist who directs the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science, at the Argonne National Laboratory, in Illinois, says that that one of the biggest problems with Li-ion batteries is their supply chain. The batteries depend on lithium and cobalt.