It seems like everyone is talking about electric vehicle batteries lately. Automakers are racing to make these batteries more powerful so they can convince more people to buy EVs, and the Biden administration is spend billions to make the United States a manufacturing center for next-generation battery technology. But even with EV batteries in the spotlight, another kind of battery is gaining traction: home batteries.
The concept of a home battery is simple. In the same way a laptop battery powers a laptop when it’s not plugged into an electrical outlet, a home battery powers a home when it’s not receiving power from the grid or a renewable energy source. Hundreds of thousands of people have already installed Tesla Powerwalls, solar powered home batteries that provide a few hours of backup power. And as extreme weather events, such as last year’s devastating winter storm in Texas, have stretched the electrical grid to its limits, even more consumers have started buying this one and other types of home batteries†
The government supports similar types of power grid upgrades. On Tuesday, the Energy Department said it would? spend over $3 billion of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law on EV batteries and batteries intended for long term energy storage, including batteries that could one day power people’s homes and businesses. This money is used to finance projects aimed at increasing the supply of main battery componentsas well as the development of the total battery production capacity† The hope is that these investments will help the US build more batteries that can then be installed not only in people’s homes, but also in neighborhoods and throughout the electrical grid, playing a vital role in alleviating the mounting pressure on the country’s aging energy infrastructure – and making it more resilient.
“We need to build clean homes and start with clean homes that are fully electrified, that use batteries to stabilize their loads, and be part of a clean electrical grid,” Ryan Brown, the CEO of small battery startup Salient, told IPS. code. “Otherwise, there’s just not really a good prospect for solving climate change.”
This week, Salient announced a partnership with Texas-based sustainable homebuilder, Horton World Solutions, to demonstrate: its new zinc-ion battery technology† If all goes according to plan, the companies will install these batteries in more than 200,000 homes over the next ten years.
Home batteries vary in size and energy storage capacity, and while many are based on well-known lithium-ion technology, some take advantage of being stationary to use more abundant materials, such as zinc. Each battery — some people install several for more storage — is usually about the size of a television and usually costs at least a few thousand dollars† In addition to Tesla, there are a few large electronics companies such as: LG Chem and Panasonic – of which both are in the EV battery business — selling home battery packs, as well as lesser known battery manufacturers such as Salient, generaland Enphase†
Larger batteries or large battery banks can power many homes at once. While these giant battery systems wouldn’t fit in a single residential building, can be directly connected to the power grid; or to microgrids that power an entire block of flats or an entire neighborhood† Compared to a home battery in a single-family home, this kind of setup would give entire communities of people access to electricity when power isn’t available or extra expensive – which is why some experts say they’re taking a much more equitable approach to the future of energy.
Regardless of their size, home batteries and other types of stationary batteries have become a critical part of efforts to increase the global supply of renewable energy in the fight against climate change. The reason is obvious: because the sun isn’t always around to power solar panels and there isn’t always wind to power turbines, utilities, and individuals need batteries to store their renewable energy to make sure it’s available when people really need it. Stationary batteries eventually increase the grid’s overall capacity, which is especially important as we electrify things currently powered by fossil fuels.
“We’re also seeing a potential increase in the use of electric vehicles and even heat pumps to replace gas stoves,” Dharik Mallapragada, a research scientist at MIT’s Energy Initiative, told Recode. “Batteries can come in handy there, because they can basically shift consumption… in terms of how much you get off the grid.”
In addition to his administration’s latest investment in battery technology, President Joe Biden in March uses the Defense Production Act to order the production of critical materials needed for: stationary storage, which he called “essential to national defense”. Some stands governmentsalong with utilities, have also started offering financial incentives for people to buy home batteries and commercial battery banks† California even has updated his state energy code to require that all new commercial and high-rise multi-family buildings install batteries, as well as solar panels.
“Within the next few years, everyone will realize they need a battery,” Jehu Garcia, a battery reseller who runs a do-it-yourself YouTube channel about batteries, told Recode. “At the moment it is up for grabs: who will get to work first? Is it about the homeowners, or is it about the utilities? But it’s going to happen anyway.”
Even the EV industry is investing in the stationary battery sector. In addition to offering its Powerwall batteries to individuals, Tesla recently completed construction one of the world’s largest batteries for PG&E in Northern California, and has also begun work on another battery for use outside of Houston that could power 20,000 homes. CATL, a Chinese company arguably the world’s largest manufacturer of EV batteriesannounced plans last month to produce 900 battery systems for a Texas-based renewable energy company that will support the state’s beleaguered power grid. Meanwhile, GM designs its Ultium batteries so that they can ultimately be reused for: provide long-term energy storageand Nissan announced earlier this year that it test a similar idea using its EV batteries at a power plant in Spain.
All of this represents progress, but it also serves as a reminder that we may need all the batteries we can get. The International Energy Association estimates that to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, the world will need to increase the world’s battery storage capacity from the 17 gigawatts we had in 2020 to 585 gigawatts by the end of the decade† That means batteries have to be ubiquitous — in people’s cars, in the basement of apartment buildings, and on the grounds of power plants. As intimidating as this task may seem, it is only one piece of the very complicated puzzle of figuring out how to fight climate change.
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