EcoVillage to use lead acid batteries

By: Alexis Lee, News Writer

The Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium (ALABC) will add its expertise to a project that aims to create a solar-powered microgrid on the campus of the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T).

The project involves the creation of an EcoVillage microgrid on the university campus in Rolla, Missouri, utilising solar panels in combination with lead battery energy storage units. In past projects, Missouri S&T has used lithium batteries, but is keen to use lead batteries in this project due to their excellent performance, reliability, cost and end of life recycling.

Initial planning for the project was conducted at a recent meeting on the Missouri S&T campus with a number of key players, including ALABC member Doe Run, Ameren, Missouri Department of Economic Development Division of Energy and Missouri Public Utilities Alliance – ALABC members NorthStar, Exide and Enersys also attended the meeting. 

ALABC is an international research co-operative comprised of lead producers, battery manufacturers, equipment suppliers, application developers, and research facilities organised to enhance the performance of lead batteries for a variety of markets.

ALABC’s Alistair Davidson said: “From an ALABC point of view, this project is expected to highlight how lead batteries are the right choice in this type of application as we believe that they provide an excellent energy storage option for the project.”

Angie Rolufs, of the S&T Microgrid Industrial Consortium, said: “Our consortium was created to advance the knowledge and use of microgrids through industry/academic partnerships.  The planned partnership with ALABC aligns perfectly with our consortium vision. The project also provides the opportunity to tell a good news story from a Missouri economic development point of view, since lead is a Missouri natural resource.”

The project fits in well with ALABC’s current three-year energy storage technical communications program, which aims to highlight the benefits of using lead batteries. The lessons learnt about the performance of lead batteries in the project will be available to all the consortium’s 70+ member companies globally, with the potential to help determine the future direction of ALABC R&D.


Environmental concerns

According to a 2003 report entitled “Getting the Lead Out”, by Environmental Defense and the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., the batteries of vehicles on the road contained an estimated 2,600,000 metric tons (2,600,000 long tons; 2,900,000 short tons) of lead. Some lead compounds are extremely toxic. Long-term exposure to even tiny amounts of these compounds can cause brain and kidney damage, hearing impairment, and learning problems in children.[37] The auto industry uses over 1,000,000 metric tons (980,000 long tons; 1,100,000 short tons) every year, with 90% going to conventional lead–acid vehicle batteries. While lead recycling is a well-established industry, more than 40,000 metric tons (39,000 long tons; 44,000 short tons) ends up in landfills every year. According to the federal Toxic Release Inventory, another 70,000 metric tons (69,000 long tons; 77,000 short tons) are released in the lead mining and manufacturing process.[38]

Attempts are being made to develop alternatives (particularly for automotive use) because of concerns about the environmental consequences of improper disposal and of lead smelting operations, among other reasons. Alternatives are unlikely to displace them for applications such as engine starting or backup power systems, since the batteries are low-cost.