Pathways to low-cost electrochemical energy storage: a comparison of aqueous and nonaqueous flow batteries
Energy storage is increasingly seen as a valuable asset for electricity grids composed of high fractions of intermittent sources, such as wind power or, in developing economies, unreliable generation and transmission services. However, the potential of batteries to meet the stringent cost and durability requirements for grid applications is largely unquantified. We investigate electrochemical systems capable of economically storing energy for hours and present an analysis of the relationships among technological performance characteristics, component cost factors, and system price for established and conceptual aqueous and nonaqueous batteries. We identified potential advantages of nonaqueous flow batteries over those based on aqueous electrolytes; however, new challenging constraints burden the nonaqueous approach, including the solubility of the active material in the electrolyte. Requirements in harmony with economically effective energy storage are derived for aqueous and nonaqueous systems. The attributes of flow batteries are compared to those of aqueous and nonaqueous enclosed and hybrid (semi-flow) batteries. Flow batteries are a promising technology for reaching these challenging energy storage targets owing to their independent power and energy scaling, reliance on facile and reversible reactants, and potentially simpler manufacture as compared to established enclosed batteries such as lead–acid or lithium-ion.