The role of storage in replenishing energy supply on a human time scale: potential and challenges

V. De Angelis
Urban Electric Power,
United States

Keywords: energy storage


Our economy runs mostly on energy stored in crude oil. Fifteen thousand tons of prehistoric, buried plant material (the equivalent of 1,500 trees that grew on 5 acres of land 100M years ago) are required to produce the 2,674 kWh of electricity a single person uses every year. Solar panels can generate up to 312 MWh of electricity per year on a single acre, enough to meet the needs of 117 people. Electricity, however, is not as easy to store as gasoline and battery manufacturing is not keeping up with the rate of solar panel deployments. The world consumes 24M GWh of electricity per year that can be produced by solar panels installed on 76M acres. All known Lithium reserves can only be used to build 7 TWh of Lithium-metal batteries that can store electricity generated from solar on 7M acres. There is enough Zinc available to manufacture 100 TWh of Zinc-air batteries (enough for 100M acres of solar), but Zinc has traditionally only been used in disposable batteries. We will discuss the degradation mechanisms that make Zinc-based batteries challenging to recharge and the research, engineering, manufacturing, and system integration activities taking place at the City University of New York Energy Institute and Urban Electric Power to overcome these limitations and allow pairing Zinc batteries with solar panels.