Lead acid batteries to store energy in S&T’s EcoVillage

The houses in Missouri S&T’s EcoVillage will use lead acid batteries to store and distribute energy starting in fall 2017.
Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

By Halloween, Missouri University of Science and Technology’s new EcoVillage microgrid will be up and running on solar panels and storing excess energy with lead acid batteries.

In conjunction with the Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium (ALABC), Missouri S&T’s Microgrid Industrial Consortium partners Doe Run, Ameren and Azimuth Energy are designing the EcoVillage microgrid. Missouri S&T researchers Dr. Mehdi Ferdowsi, professor of electrical and computer engineering; Dr. Pourya Shamsi, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Dr. Fatih Dogan, professor of materials science and engineering, also are working on the design.

“Despite competition from newer energy storage chemistries, such as the lithium ion batteries in our first microgrid, lead acid batteries still retain a large share of the high-power battery market,” says Angie Rolufs, director of the Center for Sustainability at Missouri S&T and leader of the consortium. “This alone is a good reason for us to include them as an energy storage option in our next microgrid. This new microgrid will provide a new ‘living lab’ from which S&T researchers can collect data and conduct research in a variety of areas, including S&T’s Smart Living signature research area.”

Advantages of lead acid batteries include low cost, reliability — they have been around for 140 years, Rolufs says — and their tolerance to overcharging. Lead acid batteries are also the most recycled product in the world with large infrastructure in place to support recycling.

“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,” says Dr. Alistair Davidson from ALABC’s parent organization, the International Lead Agency. The project’s initial planning took place in January during a meeting of the S&T Microgrid Industrial Consortium. ALABC members Doe Run, NorthStar, Exide and Enersys all attended the meeting. Davidson traveled from London to attend; and Dr. Boris Monahov of ALABC came from North Carolina to attend.

S&T Microgrid Consortium industry advisory members from Ameren, Azimuth Energy, the Missouri Department of Economic Development Division of Energy, Missouri Public Utility Alliance and Rolla Municipal Utilities also attended.

“The ALABC members were able to see first-hand our microgrid in the Solar Village and then tour the new EcoVillage to understand the potential for a new microgrid project at this unique site,” Rolufs says.

Since that meeting, three lead acid battery manufacturing companies have expressed strong interest in participating in a microgrid project within S&T’s EcoVillage.

Selecting a particular battery chemistry will depend on the application and the physical location, Rolufs says.

“Often, a mix of battery chemistries can provide the ideal solution for a microgrid application,” she says. “We look forward to learning more about lead acid batteries in a variety of use case scenarios in the new EcoVillage microgrid.”

S&T’s timeline for the project is to have the microgrid designed, constructed and ready to go when the third EcoVillage solar house returns from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon on Oct. 25.

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