With the impending passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, renewables are about to get a fresh jolt in the U.S. They’re already some of the cheapest sources of electricity to build and run, but they haven’t taken over because they’re often dependent on the weather.
The simple solution is to store any excess power produced, but that raises the overall cost of renewable power. That’s set off a race among startups to find the cheapest way to do it, from batteries to compressed air and even giant concrete blocks.
The front runner so far appears to be batteries, many of which use the same lithium-ion chemistries found in EV batteries. The scale of EV battery production has made lithium-ion easy to obtain, allowing it to get a foothold in the sector, but its long-term prospects for grid-scale storage are murkier given its high cost of materials.
Competition for battery materials is intensifying, and there are many uses for batteries beyond EVs, which is why some companies, like Germany’s VoltStorage, are trying to build batteries using the cheapest, most widely available materials possible — chiefly, iron.