A new type of battery with the potential of increasing the efficiency and cutting the costs of solar power was unveiled thanks to collaboration between the University of Southampton and lithium battery; technology company REAP systems. The latter is the sponsor of the research project which is Led by Yue Wu, a MSc Sustainable Energy Technologies student under the supervision of Dr Carlos Ponce de Leon, Professor Tom Markvart and Dr John Low (an employee at the Institution’s Research Institute for Industry, RIfI). The project focused on the use of lithium batteries for purposes of energy storage in photovoltaic systems.
MSc student Yue Wu indicates that although most photovoltaic systems employ lead-acid batteries for energy storage purposes, lithium batteries, especially the LiFePO4 types, are more efficient when used as energy storage devices.
In order to collect data, a custom-made battery management system provided by Reap systems was used. A lithium iron phosphate battery was connected to a photovoltaic system which was fixed to one of the buildings in the University.
Yue further adds, besides lithium batteries having an efficiency of 95% compared to that of the commonly used lead-acid batteries, which is 80%, the former has a relatively less weight and are long lasting. In general, the maximum charge/discharge cycles of this new battery is 1,600, indicating that replacement would be infrequent.
Although the LiFePO4 battery can increase the efficiency of solar power systems, further investigations need to be done before commercial rollout is done. The installation and maintenance costs of the technology need to be scrutinized. In light of this, Dr. Carlos Ponce de Leon and Dr. John Low contemplate conducting more investigations on the project with a new group of Master’s students.
The founder of REAPsystems, Dr Dennis Doerffel who is also a former researcher at the University of Southampton says that energy storage devices such as batteries in both renewable and non-renewable energy sources contribute greatly in the utilization of energy. He further reiterates that LiFePO4 beat the conventional lead-acid batteries in many aspects. This new battery beat its former counterparts in terms of efficiency, extended lifetime, lighter weight and less cost per unit. Dr Doerffel concludes by saying that this battery has the potential of commercial application in both photovoltaic systems and in a variety of other renewable-energy systems. Source: E-science News