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New battery design lowers solar power prices?

New battery design lowers solar power prices?

Posting in Design

A new type of battery could lower the commercial cost and upkeep of solar power installations.

A collaborative research project from the University of Southhampton, UK, and lithium battery technology company REAPsystems has resulted in the creation of a new kind of battery which may increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of solar power installations.

The project was led by MSc Sustainable Energy Technologies student, Yue Wu, and his supervisors Dr Carlos Ponce de Leon, Professor Tom Markvart and Dr John Low. The aim of the project was to develop the use of lithium batters as a means to store energy within photovoltaic systems. Wu says:

"Lead acid batteries are traditionally the energy storage device used for most photovoltaic systems. However, as an energy storage device, lithium batteries, especially the LiFePO4 batteries we used, have more favourable characteristics."

Lithium iron phosphate batteries were connected to a photovoltaic system attached to one of the University's buildings, and the researchers used a custom battery management system designed by the lithium battery technology company in order to measure energy efficient and output.

According to the team, the new lithium batteries reached an energy output and efficiency level of 95 percent, whereas traditional lead-acid batteries measure at approximately 80 percent.

The weight of the lithium batteries is lower, and each battery has a longer life span than their lead-acid counterparts. The tests found that the lithium-based models lasted for up to 16,000 charge and discharge cycles -- which means they would need to be replaced less often. This, in turn, may mean that solar power structures could be ran and maintained at a lower economic cost.

Dr Dennis Doerffel, founder of REAPsystems and former researcher at the university says:

"For all kinds of energy source (renewable or non-renewable), the energy storage device -- such as a battery -- plays an important role in determining the energy utilisation. Compared with traditional lead acid batteries, LiFePO4 batteries are more efficient, have a longer lifetime, are lighter and cost less per unit. We can see the potential of this battery being used widely in photovoltaic application, and other renewable energy systems."

The LiFePO4 batteries will require further testing before being put to commercial use. However, Dr Carlos Ponce de Leon and Dr. John Low now plan to take this project further with a new set of MSc students.

Image credit: Christine S

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure