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Breakthrough battery technology improves sustainability

Renewable energy sources like wind and solar provide reliable energy when the sun shines and the wind blows. Battery energy storage systems effectively complement these sources and boost reliability, especially on windless or cloudy days. New technology is making batteries even more effective as well as safer and better for the environment. 

Lithium-ion batteries have grown in popularity for their high energy density and efficiency. The development of new internal chemistry has made it easier and more cost-effective to produce batteries using more common minerals. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, these new systems are more resilient, have a longer lifespan and are easier to recycle than earlier generations.  

To assess the impact of batteries on the environment, researchers study aspects of the lifecycle from mineral extraction to end-of-life uses. Since many of the raw materials for battery production come from outside the U.S., recycling efforts are expanding rapidly to enable greater recovery of critical minerals and battery components for reuse in new U.S. battery production.  

Efforts like these inspire innovation and funding requests for further research. In May 2022, the U.S Department of Energy announced $3.1 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law would support commercial battery manufacturing and recycling efforts. 

Battery safety is also on researchers’ and scientists’ minds from design to operation. Unlike lead-acid batteries that contain liquid acid and can be a hazard if the units fail or leak, lithium-ion batteries are completely sealed and the electrolyte within them is a more stable dense gel. Built-in features and careful site engineering also maximize safety and security. 

The integration of energy storage systems in our electric grid is an important step to complement the cost-effective expansion of renewable energy sources. Advancements in battery technology make these systems more resilient, longer lasting and environmentally conscious.  
Grant Barton is a Communications Partner with a passion for sustainability and eco-friendly city planning. He has a diverse background in engineering, politics and international communications and hopes to apply this experience when writing and breaking down complex topics related to Alliant Energy's Clean Energy Future plans.

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