U.S. company Form Energy has made a major breakthrough in the long-duration storage of solar and wind power, according to an article by Scientific American published on Wednesday.
The innovation is called the “iron-air battery,” which could help decarbonize the nation’s power sector more economically than lithium-ion storage systems. It only uses domestically available items.
The lithium-ion batteries used today demand expensive materials like lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite. These are mostly acquired from outside the country. The new battery, however, stores electricity using simple iron metal through the principle of “reversible rusting.”
Essentially, the battery converts iron metal to rust when discharging while it converts the rust back to iron when charging.
Iron-air batteries can promote and diversify the country’s future supplies of green electric power for utilities, told Scientific American George Crabtree, director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at Argonne National Laboratory.
Iron-air batteries are much larger than lithium-ion ones and can store and discharge power for as long as 100 hours.
In past statements, Form Energy has said its iron-air technology will be able to “store electricity for 100 hours at system costs competitive with legacy power plants. The company’s pioneering multi-day battery will reshape the electric system to reliably run on 100% low-cost renewable energy, every day of the year.”
Form Energy has shortlisted a location for its first factory. It will be in Weirton, West Virginia, and construction will start in 2023.
Speaking during Thursday’s announcement of the new factory, Mateo Jaramillo, Form Energy’s CEO and co-founder, called Weirton “a historic steel community that sits on a river and has the rich heritage and know-how to make great things out of iron.”
He further said that “to reach renewable energy independence, to meet supply-chain challenges, to run the grid reliably and affordably, we need new, domestically manufactured energy-storage technologies capable of cost-effectively storing electricity for multiple days.”
Jaramillo also added that his company expects “to be generating meaningful revenue in 2025.”
Maybe the future will not harbor a place for lithium-ion batteries.