We live in a world where climate change is a reality, exploitation of natural resources is happening, and there is a shortage of non-renewable sources. The world, 20 years back wasn’t this way. Humans had started to store energy from sustainable sources like sun and wind. Then came the large-scale battery installations across the electricity grids around the world.
But the next big challenge came in the form of depleting petrol and coal reserves. So, now, there had to be a way found to keep the vehicles running on the road, keep the constant cargo delivery, and fulfil all the online shipments. The idea that solved this issue required vehicles to be electrically charged.
Why Have Batteries Become Suddenly Important?
Let’s start with a simple example.
Suppose your clock ran out of power. Now, you need a pair of batteries for it. Either you can choose the non-rechargeable ones that can be used only once, after which, they are a part of the landfill. Or you can opt for the rechargeable ones that can be used for 1200 times (In case of the SmartCell batteries).
Over time, the amount of battery waste generated increases and it is a cause of concern. Because we need a non-sustainable source to run electricity, vehicles and other energy demands, there will not be much left in the future. That is why researchers around the world are looking for solutions that can help to keep the operations in existence and supplement the energy needs of the world.
How do these batteries work?
According to research, it has been noted that the global installed power is expected to increase to the top 50GW, by 2020. The surge will increase by 1000GW by 2040. Even with such power, only 7% of the world’s energy capacity is going to be fulfilled.
Just like the functioning of the normal batteries, they require a positive end, the negative end, and the electrolyte. Of course, it is not like the small AAA or AAA rechargeable batteries, but yet, all the batteries function similarly. In a battery, electrical energy is converted to chemical energy when it is charged. The process is reversed when we draw power from them.
There are three main constituents in a battery, two electrodes and some form of chemical medium like the electrolyte. The electrolyte is in the form of a liquid, gel, or solid. To generate electricity, a chemical reaction takes place. In this, the electrons move from the negative electrode (called the anode) to the positive electrode (called the cathode). The process is reversed when we charge the battery, sending electrons back to the anode.
How Do Batteries Help In Taking The Renewable Revolution Forward?
With the increasing demand and the need for battery-powered devices, hybrid renewable energy is why batteries are installed alongside the solar farms and wind farms. Every solar energy power plant also needs a battery that can store all the energy. These hybrid farms can store power for further uses or sell it later at higher prices.
In some other regions, the batteries are being used to make the grid more resilient and avoid any sort of blackouts. However, storing power is not possible for inter-seasonal storage, like storing solar power in summer to release it in the winters.
As for the electric vehicles, the battery will be used to run for some time, and then these can be charged at particular EV spots for next running. It is the same as the petrol pumps, instead, they will store power that can be transferred from one pump to the other.
It will keep the batteries in the run and will supplement large energy needs in the coming future as well. However, even this idea needs a lot of research and technology to make it turn into reality. This will require large lithium-ion batteries with cobalt in action.
What Will Be The Environmental And Social Impact Of Making Batteries?
One of the key metals of constructing lithium-ion batteries is cobalt. Therefore, with the need for such batteries, the mining of lithium and cobalt will also commence. More than 60% of the world’s cobalt is produced in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The city has raised concerns regarding the social and environmental impact of mining such metals.
One of the biggest concerns is what will happen to these batteries after the end of their life. Many people have raised questions related to the fate of the batteries when their performance in electric vehicles is no longer good enough. There has to be a second life to these batteries, to make it possible to mine back the minerals or employ such batteries to different usage. The idea is to reduce the amount of battery waste, and deal with the dumping of such batteries after their lifecycle is complete.