There are various forms of battery on the market, but lithium-ion technology is widely used to support the electricity grid. Big systems can store many megawatt hours of electricity and combine large numbers of batteries together.
There have been many well-publicised examples of lithium-ion batteries catching fire in recent years, leading to safety concerns. Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4 – a type of lithium-ion energy storage system) batteries are the system of choice for grid-scale applications because they are not as prone to thermal runaway or combustion like typical lithium-ion batteries, and last as much as five times longer.
According to German battery manufacturer Sonnen, lithium iron phosphate batteries can be charged and discharged more than 10,000 times and keep 80% of their capacity. After 15,000 cycles, Sonnen says, lithium ion phosphate batteries still contain over 60% of their capacity.
Batteries are not the only power storage solution. Other types include:
- Pumped hydro (which acts like a giant battery by using reservoirs at different elevations)
- Thermal systems which use heating and cooling to store and release energy
- Flywheels which convert electrical power into mechanical power
- There are also emerging storage technologies such as;
- Superconducting magnets
- Compressed air storage
- Hydrogen storage