[ExI] Form Energy’s New Low-Cost, Iron-Air Battery Runs for 100 Hours

John Grigg possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com
Sat Aug 7 16:41:55 UTC 2021

In the Philippines, a solar power home package can be purchased for only
around six hundred dollars. Often two of them are enough to power a home. I
look forward to being free from the local power grid, where electricity is
twice the price it was back in America.

"Finding a way to store large amounts of energy at low cost will be vital if
we want to shift our grids to renewable energy. A new iron-air battery
can deliver power for 100 hours at one-tenth the cost of lithium ion could
be the key.

Rapid improvements in the cost and capacity of lithium-ion batteries
are transforming
the transport sector, helping electric vehicles
toe-to-toe with gas-powered cars. Prices have dropped so low that lithium-ion
batteries increasingly make sense for large-scale applications, such as storing
excess renewable energy
when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

But there’s one place where they’re still of little use: storing energy for
multiple days. This is crucial, because a grid reliant on large amounts of
renewables doesn’t only have to contend with daily variations in sun and
wind—a major storm can block out the sun or an extended period of calm can
bring turbines to a halt for days at a time.

A secretive startup backed by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures
thinks it may have the answer, though. Form Energy <https://formenergy.com/>,
which was co-founded by the creator of Tesla’s Powerwall battery, Mateo
Jaramillo, and MIT battery guru Yet-Ming Chiang, has unveiled a new battery
design that essentially relies on a process of “reversible rusting” to
provide multi-day energy storage at ultra-low costs.

“With this technology, we are tackling the biggest barrier to deep
decarbonization: making renewable energy available when and where it’s
needed, even during multiple days of extreme weather or grid outages,”
Jaramillo said in a press release

The company’s batteries are each about the size of a washing machine, and are
filled with iron pellets and a water-based electrolyte similar to that used
in AA batteries. To discharge, the battery breathes in oxygen from the air,
converting the pellets to iron oxide, or rust, and producing electricity in
the process. To charge, the application of a current converts the rust back
into iron and expels the oxygen.

The key to their approach is the low cost of the constituent materials.
Today’s lithium-ion batteries cost $50 to $80 per kilowatt-hour thanks to
the expensive minerals required to make them, like nickel, cobalt, lithium,
and manganese. According to the *Wall Street Journal
Form can make theirs for just $20 per kilowatt-hour, and they will be able
to provide power for 100 to 150 hours, depending on the configuration.

That’s significant, because recent research in *Joule*
<https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2542435119303009> found
that below this cost, the combination of energy storage and renewables
could provide reliable baseload power 100 percent of the time in places
with abundant renewable energy, like Texas and Arizona, making it possible
to completely do away with fossil fuel power plants."

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