How Batteries Reduce Carbon Footprint

After three promising years in which global carbon emissions barely increased, 2017 marked a +2% uptick and record-high industrial emissions of carbon dioxide, according to the Global Carbon Project. Predictions for 2018 aren’t fully set, but with +3-4% production-fueled gains anticipated this year in global GDP, it’s likely we’ll see continued increases in global emissions. Here’s how batteries reduce carbon footprint: 


Many countries have generated GDP growth while reducing carbon emissions over the past decade, including much of Europe, the U.K. and the United States. The reduced carbon footprints in these 22 countries have been linked to increased use of natural gas, solar and wind to generate electricity and investment in energy efficiency across industries.  Unfortunately, emission improvement in countries accounting for 20% of emissions won’t offset the expected increases in emissions from China and India.


As companies face continued pressure from consumers, employees, and shareholders to reduce carbon footprints, the search for reliable solutions has gained momentum. Researchers, students and start-up firms continue to create technologies and products to improve energy efficiency.  With the global use of solar power growing, maximizing this renewable energy’s use by finding ways to store it is a key industry initiative. Recent developments in battery structure and composition offer promising indicators that batteries can reduce carbon footprint.


Batteries are big business, with an IMS research report predicting demand for solar storage batteries would tally up to $19 billion in 2017. Most storage batteries currently in use are lithium-ion, a type shown to be problematic for carbon emissions. Materials and electricity used in production, the coal-powered electricity used to charge it, a relatively short lifespan, and complexities of recycling undermine the carbon footprint of lithium-ion batteries.

Here’s why this is important: Only about 5% of metal is recovered. When we look towards the future, we need to mine fresh lithium to sustain manufacturing of new lithium batteries. Driving EV’s that need lithium batteries is not only not sustainable but dangerous. 

Flow batteries have emerged as a low carbon footprint solution for solar storage, with vanadium options leading the charge. These batteries produce an electrical current through an exchange of negatively and positively charged liquid, using non-explosive, non-flammable electrolytes. Vanadium batteries reduce long-term energy costs through extended lifespans, up to 25 years, without any degradation in capacity. Size versatility allows vanadium batteries to have a broad use, from small systems to large utilities.


Flow batteries reduce carbon footprint by:

  • storing renewable energies for less load on current electrical grids

  • using relatively low amounts of energy during battery production

  • lasting longer, reducing energy costs associated with replacement

A full-scale effort is needed to drive global emission declines. Examining all facets of manufacturing, energy-production, and consumer use is key to finding new opportunities for improvement. Batteries are one more step forward in our efforts to reduce carbon footprint.


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