IRON-FLOW BATTERIES: Clean, Safe, and Sustainable Energy Storage
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA Comparison)
Long-duration energy storage systems are crucial for leveraging and managing intermittent solar and wind power. But, is the storage solution you’re considering as clean as it can be? It is if you’re looking at iron flow batteries.
In an independent assessment conducted at the University of California-Irvine, scientists evaluated the cradle-to-gate environmental impact of three different flow battery types1. Researchers assessed what happens before the in-use and end-of-life phases of a product’s life cycle and provided insight into the environmental impact associated with the production of the iron flow battery and made comparisons between the impact of the lithium-ion and other flow battery types. Iron-flow batteries proved to be the cleanest technology compared to batteries using vanadium and zinc. They’re also significantly less harmful to the environment than lithium-ion batteries.
START TO FINISH: IRON FLOW BATTERIES CAUSE LESS ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
What happens before the use and disposal of a device like an energy storage battery? Raw materials acquisition, processing of those materials to get them into usable form, manufacturing of individual product components and production of the battery itself. These steps often involve resource mining, which may lead to resource depletion, fossil-fuel-based energy consumption and more. All of these activities can impact the natural world. In the UC-Irvine study, researchers examined factors related to ecological risk that could result from raw materials extraction, processing and product production of flow batteries using different chemistries. Here is a list of those factors and why they’re important.
LI-ION BATTERIES: NO COMPARISON
While UC-Irvine’s research excludes lithium-ion batteries in the study, there are known differences in the environmental impact of Li-ion and iron flow battery production.
IRON FLOW BATTERIES: AN ECO-FRIENDLY ENDING
The life cycle of a product also includes its disposal. Compared to lithium-ion batteries, iron flow batteries offer the most environmentally friendly disposal options.
There’s little difference in the environmental impact of one battery to another when batteries are in use. What differentiates iron flow batteries from other types is the environmental impact of production and end-of-life activities. Iron flow batteries are cleaner to produce and easier to recycle and reuse electrolyte at end of life. Along with a greener life cycle, iron flow batteries have longer life: 20 years, versus the 7-to-10-year life of a heavily cycled Li-ion battery. There’s less environmental impact when you need to build fewer batteries over the long run. That, too, makes iron flow batteries the eco-friendly choice.
ABOUT ESS INC.
Established in 2011, ESS Inc. manufactures low-cost, long-duration iron flow batteries for commercial and utility-scale energy storage applications requiring 4-10+ hours of flexible energy capacity. The Energy WarehouseTM (EW) and Energy CenterTM (EC), use iron, salt, and water for the electrolyte, and deliver an environmentally safe, long-life energy storage solution for the world’s renewable energy infrastructure. With its safe, earth-abundant, proven iron flow battery technology, ESS Inc. is helping project developers, utilities, and EPC’s make the transition to more flexible non-lithium-ion storage that is better suited for the grid and the environment. www.essinc.com