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Are lead-acid or lithium-ion battery better for energy storage system?

2020-03-27


Over the past decade, price for solar panels and wind farm have come down. Utilizing solar or wind seems more feasible. However, as you never know what happen next, the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Sometimes solar or wind is uncertain, but the demand for electrical power certainly remains. This is why, if we want to count on renewables, we need to solve the problem of how to ensure there are enough available power in any weather or at any time.

Figuring out a viable way to store enough energy is necessary for using solar or wind. And that is battery storage. In the past, lead-acid batteries are used to store energy for a large number of solar powered homes, especially those who are far away from grid or without access to grid. With the advancement of battery technology, new battery for energy storage entered into the market. As more companies start to offer lithium-ion batteries for energy storage system, it is becoming a new trend in using lithium-ion batteries for storing energy nowadays. But which is better?

1、Short cycle life VS Long cycle life

The cycle life decides how many times a battery can be discharged. The cycle life of a lead-acid battery is lower than a lithium-ion battery. The cycle life of lead-acid battery can last for about 200-1,000 cycles while the lithium-ion batteries have cycles about 1,000-4,000. Hence, the lead-acid batteries needs more frequent replacement when employed for solar energy storage.  

Image source: 2012: White Paper: Comparison of Lead Acid vs. Lithium Ion for Stationary Energy Storage. Courtesy All Cell Technologies.

2、Low efficiency VS High efficiency

The energy storage efficiency of lead-acid batteries is lower than lithium-ion batteries. Lithium batteries efficiency is near 95%, however, it is about 80-85% in lead-acid batteries. With the same time, a lithium-ion batteries lose less energy than lead-acid batteries. Since lithium-ion batteries are more efficient, it can spend less time to be fully charged while the lead-acid batteries cannot charge or discharge as fast as other energy storage systems.

3、Low price VS High price

Cost is a main consideration when looking for battery for energy storage system. The price of traditional lead-acid is more attractive for people because it is lower than lithium-ion batteries. The initial investment of lithium-ion battery maybe high, but it is more cost-effective in the long run. The price of lithium-ion battery is declining. The Levelized Cost of Storage Analysis reports in Nov. 2017 showed that the installed capital cost of a residential lead-acid battery ranges from $598 to $635 per kilowatt hour. A lithium-ion battery has installed capital costs between $831 and $1,089 per kilowatt hour. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance also found that the price of lithium-ion batteries has dropped over subsequent years from 2010. Despite Bloomberg's Mark Chediak pointed out that those prices are chiefly for electric vehicle manufacturers. "Developers of stationary storage systems -- like the kind that back up rooftop solar panels -- can expect to pay 51 percent more than automakers because of much lower order volumes," he stated.

Actually, although the cost of lead-acid battery is low, there are some extra cost of lead-acid battery. The lifespan of lead-acid battery is shorter than lithium-ion battery, so it needs more maintenance and replacement than lithium-ion battery, which increase the additional cost virtually.

4、Low energy density VS High energy density

The lithium-ion batteries have a higher energy density than lead-acid batteries. It means that with the same volume, more energy is available for lithium-ion battery. Lithium-ion batteries have high energy density with small size and light weight. In other words, because of the high energy density of lithium-ion battery, the lithium-ion battery weighs three times less than the lead-acid battery, and also with a half volume. Therefore, the small size of lithium-ion battery with enough energy is beneficial for small place as it can occupy less space for energy storage.

5、Low Depth of Discharge VS Deep Depth of Discharge

The discharge capability of Lead-acid batteries is lower than lithium-ion batteries. If the lead-acid batteries discharge too much energy, it will damage their capability to store energy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study found that if the lead-acid battery is discharged to 50%, it has around 1,800 cycles before the fall of energy storage capacity. If it is discharged to 80%, it could only maintain 600 cycles before the decline in energy storage ability. However, the lithium-ion batteries has a deeper depth of discharge ability. With the same discharge to 50% of its capacity, the lithium-ion battery can last for 5000 cycles which we can see a significant increase in energy storage capacity.

By comparison, it can be seen that the benefits and the reducing cost of of lithium-ion battery has lead to the its popularity being a reasonable alternative of lead-acid battery. The option of batteries for energy storage system is rely on the project budget. To know in advance the cost of lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries is important when planning for energy storage system installation. UFO POWER supplies superior battery to adapt to different energy storage system and is an profession energy solution provider. 


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