2
$\begingroup$

This questions boils down to the following important questions:

  1. Do we physically have enough materials in the earth's crust to make enough lithium ion batteries to support global storage demand?
  2. Can we produce lithium ion batteries at a cost/kWh to make it economically feasible? Many speak of the supposed $100/kWh barrier, but at what cost per kWh do we need to compete with existing non-renewable energy sources?

Lithium ion batteries have been the most talked about means of storage for renewables, but can they solve the world's energy storage problem to support a transition to renewable energy?

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Enough energy lands on the earth’s surface each day though, how do you get to it? $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Oct 4 '20 at 17:37
4
$\begingroup$

I would like to answer this question slightly differently.

The challenge with rechargeable batteries (Lithium Ion), each charge discharge cycle causes internal resistance of the battery to increase. This causes the usable life of the battery to decrease.

enter image description here

Therefore if the rise internal resistance over time is decreased or fully resolved then the Lithium Ion batteries will last for ever. As result the efficiency of the batteries will be improved.

References:

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

I'll approach your question from another perspective. This is a very simplistic calculation, but it will serve to make a point.

The following graph presents the cost and gravitational density of Lithium ion batteries.

enter image description here

The data is up to 2013. Let's assume for argument sake that we are at 300 Wh/kg.

Let's take the US residential energy consumption 11$\left[\frac{kwh}{day\cdot person}\right]$.

Assuming the US population is 328 million, then the daily energy requirements only for residential capacity are in the order of 3.608*1012 Wh = 3608 GWh. So, assumming you wanted an storage capable for independence of 1 day you'd need:

$$\frac{3608\ GWh}{300\ Wh/kg}\approx 13\ 000\ 000 t = 13\ Mt $$

Just for comparison reasons, the global annual lithium production is in the order of 77 000 t (Statista link)

So you can see, it might be a bit difficult to move in the next few years towards a complete the Li ion energy storage.

Fortunately there are other technologies with significantly higher capacities:

enter image description here

Even if we achieve the theoretical limit of the Li-Air batteries we would only increase about 40 fold, which is still quite a long way away.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.