Over 600 million people across African have no access to electricity. 60% of African businesses say access to reliable power is a constraint on their growth. Power outages cost African countries 1 to 2% of their GDP annually. It is estimated that energy storage technologies could save up to 100 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year by replacing 25 million diesel and gasoline generators in developing countries.
Two projects intended to contribute to realising that future have been awarded grants totalling £1m. Both projects have a 2-year duration and will be funded from a £3 million grant provided to the Faraday Institution from UK Aid as part of its Transforming Energy Access (TEA) programme. The TEA programme supports early stage testing and scale up of innovative technologies and business models that will accelerate access to affordable, clean energy-based services to poor households and enterprises, especially in Africa.
Led by researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of Strathclyde, these projects will focus on developing two technologies that could accelerate the uptake of batteries and promote inclusive, reliable and affordable energy access to enable the clean energy transition in emerging economies.
RELCo-Bat: Reclaimed Electrolyte, Low Cost Flow Battery
Dr Richard Wills from the University of Southampton is leading the RELCo-BAT project team that also includes researchers from the University of Sheffield and the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST). The project will develop a low-cost, soluble lead flow battery to promote grid stability and a secure, clean supply in off-grid generation with a focus on Botswana and Sierra Leone.
A unique advantage of the proposed battery is the potential to use recycled conventional automotive batteries for its manufacture, thereby creating a local supply chain and servicing capability. To guide system design and fast-track best approaches to aid cost reductions, a techno-economic assessment of the soluble lead flow battery using the new electrolyte system will be performed in parallel with experimental developments. BIUST will partner with a local stakeholder who will provide expertise and data on local network operations and off-grid systems in various African economies.
The proposed flow battery potentially represents a unique solution that links energy storage directly into a circular economy loop (though recycling conventional automotive lead acid batteries), that will provide wider benefits through the creation of a new, sustainable value chain.
Low Cost Graphite Polysulphide Single Liquid Flow Battery for Developing Countries
A team of researchers at the University of Strathclyde, led by Dr Edward Brightman, plans to reduce the cost of an innovative graphite polysulphide single liquid flow battery (GPFB). They are working with Edinburgh-based commercial flow battery developer StorTera to refine and cost-engineer the system. Improvements to the liquid component of the battery will be targeted to make it suitable for Sub-Saharan climates. Additionally, the graphite felt electrode materials will be engineered to enable the possibility of using existing roll-to roll manufacturing equipment as the team target a step change in cost, which would be highly competitive compared to current Li ion battery costs.
A prototype flow battery, suitable for supporting critical infrastructure such as telecommunications towers and micro-grids, will be assembled using low-cost components. It will be tested by the Power Networks Demonstration Centre in Scotland. Researchers will engage with potential end users in Sub-Saharan Africa to identify specific needs and a suitable site to ultimately install and demonstrate the prototype.
Additionally, the Energy for Development team at the University of Strathclyde is preparing a techno-economic study of the flow battery outlining specific user and business cases to demonstrate how effective the technology could be.
As part of the same programme of work, the Faraday Institution is working with DNV to develop a techno-economic analysis of the costs and prospects for replacing fossil-fuelled generators with battery storage technologies. This will be published in the autumn of 2021.
Ian Ellerington, Head of Technology Transfer at the Faraday Institution said, “Through this programme and our wider work with the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance and World Bank’s Energy Storage Partnership we are pleased that the Faraday Institution is in a position to affect global change, helping communities with low or no connectivity to have reliable access to energy sources and bringing economic, social and environment benefits to developing countries and emerging economies.”