The UK energy storage company Faradion sailed across the CleanTechnica radar last year when it hitched its cutting edge sodium-ion technology to an electric bicycle, and the company has already upped the ante. Earlier this month, Faradion announced that it has teamed up with Moixa Technology and the University of Warwick’s Energy Innovation Centre to bring its new formula to solar energy storage.
With a cost estimated at about 30 percent less than comparable lithium-ion batteries, sodium-ion technology could shake up the home and commercial energy storage marketplace.
Move Along, Lithium-Ion Energy Storage
Researchers and energy policymakers have been eyeballing low-cost, more abundant alternatives to lithium for some time, and just a few months ago we noticed that one of them is Professor John Goodenough of the University of Texas, Austin. Having already been credited with inventing lithium-ion batteries, Professor Goodenough has now turned his attention to sodium-ion energy storage.
Over here in the US, the Department of Energy has been hammering away at sodium-ion (Na-ion) technology, particularly for grid scale applications. Last fall Sandia National Laboratories, for example, summed up the pros and cons of sodium-ion energy storage:
As noted by PNNL, one key disadvantage of sodium-ion technology is size and weight. Faradion has working to overcome that obstacle, as demonstrated by the company’s electric bicycle with a sodium-ion battery pack:
Solar Energy Storage With Sodium-Ion
The bicycle demo was intended to show that sodium-ion technology could lend itself to sustainable mobility, as described by Innovate UK:
Faradion said the battery for the e-bike produced a design energy of 418 Wh, 250 Wh of which has been used in the e-bike proof-of-concept. Faradion’s sodium-ion cells deliver a specific energy of more than 140 Wh/kg.
Each module contains 12 Faradion cells.
…When optimised, Faradion’s cells will, it said, be comparable in size to lithium-ion battery packs currently on the market.
With the new partnership, Faradion is pivoting to solar energy storage for stationary applications.
The trio consists of Faradion, the “smart” energy storage company Moixa Technology, and the Energy Innovation Centre at WMG, the University of Warwick’s academic-private sector research and innovation arm.
The partnership is also getting a dose of help from the UK funding agency Innovate UK agency.
One main goal of the partnership is to demonstrate that sodium-ion batteries are durable and reliable enough to maintain pace with the lifecycle of a typical photovoltaic system. By way of comparison, according to Faradion, a typical PV system can last about five times longer than a typical lead-acid battery, adding a hefty measure of energy storage management issues to the cost of a PV system.
Tasks among the three partners have been divvied up according to their areas of expertise:
Faradion will bring to the partnership its knowledge of sodium-ion battery technology, cell performance, battery markets, and licensing. Moixa Technology, which is a leading developer of smart storage and direct current technologies, will provide its ability to design, build, and test photovoltaic energy storage systems and its knowledge of this market. WMG at the University of Warwick will supply the large scale prototype manufacturing and electrode coating capabilities.
In addition to the low-cost and abundance advantages noted by PNNL, Faradion notes that sodium-ion materials can be synthesized, processed, and applied using the same methods and equipment currently deployed by lithium-ion battery manufacturers.
No word yet on when the new solar-specific batteries will hit the market, but the company Williams Advanced Engineering is already deploying Faradion’s energy storage technology in battery packs like this 12-cell module:
In addition to its track record with Faradion, Williams also brings solar energy storage experience to the table. In 2014 the company launched a collaboration with solar giant Hanergy, aimed at optimizing solar generation.
All images via Faradion.