South Africa’s stretched energy grid has led to a rapid uptake of uninterrupted power supply (UPS) systems and a marked increase in renewable energy investments.
Freedom from the grid needs reliable storage batteries – where the energy created by turbines or solar panels is stored for continuous power, or in the case of a UPS system in a home or business, the power from the grid is stored for use when the power trips.
During the upcoming virtual shopping frenzy that will mark Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a good storage battery will become an essential backup tool for those waiting in line, online.
When you understand what makes a high-quality storage battery, it makes choosing the right battery system a lot easier. I always tell people to see it as they would an onion with its multiple layers.
There are four layers that make a good battery. They are:
First layer – The chemistry
This is perhaps one of the most crucial elements. If the chemistry inside the battery is not right, it will not only be ineffective, but dangerous as well. Different chemistries are better suited for specific environments. For instance, automotive-grade battery cells deliver extreme temperature resilience and high energy density, which makes them well-suited to environments that rely on these characteristics.
Second layer – Charging capacity
Once you are satisfied with the chemistry, you need to ensure that the battery chosen has the right capacity insurance. This is to provide the ability to support the charging required and remain within the 48-volt paradigm critical for renewable energy.
Third layer – Well-designed box
The battery cells must obviously be of the highest grade. The chemistry means little if the battery is not constructed correctly. The physical box must be rugged while the connections to the cells for monitoring and power delivery must be solid. The battery must have a well-designed box that can take shocks.
Fourth layer – Safety
The final part is ensuring the battery does not leak or explode. The safety specification of the battery you choose is an important consideration. Chemical devices need to be designed and stored correctly as this speaks directly to their safety.
A lithium battery, for instance, features a battery management system (BMS) that monitors and shuts down the battery if something goes wrong. There are also physical signs to check out as well such as whether the battery is misshapen or has watermarks on it.
Interestingly, repurposed or second-life batteries from electric vehicles (EVs) are tailor-made to deliver the performance and safety required to be quality, robust storage batteries. Of course, it is not a case of simply removing them from a car and plugging them into a solar solution. Care must be taken to select the right kind of battery that can deliver this second life and that is equipped to deal with the demands of long-term storage.
If you consider that these carefully chosen and repurposed second life batteries have 10 to 15 years of use once we have repurposed them from EV into storage batteries, the value is two-fold: first, you pay less for high-grade batteries and second, by repurposing EV batteries that would have ended up in landfills by their tons, we can move off the grid in a carbon-sensitive and sustainable manner.”
Quality batteries should be put through rigorous testing so that by the time they are built into commercial or residential systems, the end-user knows they have bought quality. Ongoing testing really is non-negotiable. When you are choosing a battery, ask about the testing. Our 2nd LiFe lithium-ion phosphate batteries, for instance, have been quality checked and have gone through rigorous testing to ensure they are fit for purpose, that is long-term energy storage.
- Felix von Bormann is CTO and co-founder of lithium-ion storage battery business Revov, which supplies battery systems across Southern Africa