Energy storage systems are propagating worldwide at an ever-growing rate. The systems are used not only to add stability to existing power grids but also bolster the move to renewable energy sources such as wind (which doesn’t always blow) and solar (which doesn’t always shine).
Many of these have at their heart the familiar lithium-ion technology that is also energizing the burgeoning EV market. That is, they depend on metals such as nickel, manganese, and cobalt as well as lithium—which can be expensive, in short supply, and laborious to mine and process.
Add to that the fact that those mines have historically been environmental and worker safety hazards and it’s easy to understand why there have been numerous projects that seek energy-storage methods that need not depend on access to all or any such metals.
Some of these projects are close cousins to the Li-ion-hearted battery systems they hope to replace. Easy to understand when the ability to substitute an abundant, inexpensive material for even one of those metals could save the industry countless millions of dollars, and cleanly. Other projects take giant steps back from the familiar battery chemistries to employ completely different technologies.
Both kinds of projects are finding success—not only in the lab but in the grid. Here are seven of them that have recently caught our attention: