Energy storage with lead‒acid batteries: can they be cost-effective?

Energy storage using batteries has been established as an effective and efficient way of storing electrical energy both to stabilize electricity networks and to time-shift electricity generation to consumption, especially as more and more electricity is produced from renewable resources which are intrinsically intermittent.  Lead–acid batteries are perfectly adapted to automotive 12 V and industrial standby and traction applications.  Although they are also successfully applied for energy storage both in front of the meter and behind the meter, there is a range of competing technologies, such as Li-ion, sodium‒sulfur and flow batteries, for this service. Lead‒acid  batteries can provide long cycle and calendar lives and have been adapted for shallow cycling applications where the battery is not routinely brought back to a fully-charged condition. Li-ion batteries have advantages in terms of specific energy but for static applications this is not important in the same way as for electric vehicles. Other technologies are also better suited to static service. Safety is an important consideration. Lead‒batteries and flow batteries have aqueous electrolytes which are not flammable whereas Li-ion batteries have organic electrolytes that are flammable. The sustainability of lead‒acid batteries also the advantage of having very high recycling rates. The selection of preferred technology for battery energy storage depends on overall lifetime costs and this will be discussed to show that lead batteries are cost-effective.


Dr Geoffrey May Director, FOCUS Consulting, United Kingdom

Geoffrey May is a metallurgist and a Chartered Engineer first and second degrees  at the University of Cambridge.  He first joined Chloride to work on sodium-sulfur batteries and then on valve-regulated lead‒acid batteries. He moved to Hawker Batteries and became the  Group Director of Technology and then joined FIAMM as Chief Technology Officer.  Finally, he set up his own business — FOCUS Consulting — to provide expert service for battery manufacturers, users and investors.