With the advent of renewable energy and electric mobility, the concern for battery waste is becoming an increasingly concerning issue. Many countries still lack afterlife management plans or processing capacity for retired batteries, yet these batteries retain storage capacity at their retirement. This creates a huge environmental and health hazard, but also a market and impact opportunity that companies like SLS Energy, which operates in Rwanda, are leveraging by providing energy storage services using batteries retired from electric vehicles or salvaged from the electronic waste stream. These repurposed batteries are also known as “second-life” batteries.
Second-life batteries are suited for multiple applications
Second-life batteries are evolving from a hope or hype phase into a reality. Many market applications are being designed, and some are already adopted. These applications include the more common power backup services, but they could also be more complex applications such as peak shaving or load shifting, as well as larger-scale grid services. In addition to their environmental and social impact, second-life batteries also present many opportunities and implications in the renewable energy and energy storage industries.
The most obvious advantage of second-life batteries is lower energy storage costs for off-grid and other grid applications. Batteries becoming more affordable would not only accelerate the adoption of renewable energy sources such as solar energy but also increase the
usability and reliability of these systems. More productive use of solar energy can be affordably achieved without being constrained by the high cost of energy storage. Off-grid consumers could also enjoy toptier energy services at an affordable price.
From battery ownership to storage-as-a-service
Second-life batteries are also spurring the market to rethink battery ownership. Users need services from strong batteries that they can rely on and would be less bothered with owning the batteries if the economics played in their favor. This is comparable to how gridconnected users are concerned about the reliability of their supply and not about the ownership of the generation and transmission systems. If these batteries are owned and managed by a central operator, their economics, lifetime, and performance can be easily optimized, and they can be used in
their most suitable applications at different stages of their usable capacity. SLS Energy is currently pursuing energy storage as a service model for telecommunication towers.
Lastly, second-life batteries will present salvage value for retired batteries. This value could be factored into the project financial models to improve their economic viability, or it could be passed on to the end user to incentivize the adoption of renewable energy products. The retired battery salvage value is expected to have a bigger impact in the electric mobility space, where electric vehicle owners could reclaim that value at a strategic point of the vehicle’s lifetime and be detached from battery degradation concerns.
By modeling and optimizing battery economics, performance, and lifetime during both the first and second life applications, companies such as SLS Energy can bring all the environmental, social, and market opportunities of battery repurposing to life. In doing so, we will address battery waste and the reliance on fossil fuels for energy storage needs through building a sustainable chain and a circular economy for batteries.