Saturday, April 30, 2016
I just pulled the dead 12 volt deep discharge battery from my sailboat. It got me thinking. Well, the first thing I thought was: darn, those things are heavy. The second thing that came to mind was the fact that my household battery bank is getting on in years.
My household solar electric system is of moderate size. Storage consists of 12 golf cart sized batteries. Currently I'm using good quality Interstate brand. Trojans are good too, but since Interstate has local dealers that's what I went with. The big advantage of dealing locally is that I don't have to pay for shipping. Since shipping is based on weight and batteries are mostly lead, it would get pricey quickly.
Lead acid batteries are really old technology. They haven't advanced all that much in the last 100 years or so. Battery storage has always been the Achilles heel of alternative energy. While lead acid battery storage is adequate for off-grid homes, it doesn't scale well to power grid size. There are some massive battery bank systems out there for things like phone and Internet systems, but there are none large enough to power a big city.
At least, not until fairly recently. Battery technology is making some huge leaps. There's always been interesting things invented in laboratories, but those technologies never made it out of the lab. Now there are huge factories turning out high capacity batteries for everything form cell phones to electric cars. There's real economic incentives for cheap battery storage. Those clever ideas from the labs are starting to show up in factories.
It's almost at the point where it would make sense to replace my 19th century electrical storage system with something from the 21st century. Almost.
The house system should be able to last for another year or two. By then it might make economic sense to try something new. Of course, there's also the possibility that as new battery technology takes hold, lead acid will be deeply discounted. That would be fine too, as leas acid has proven to be good enough for my needs.