A future free of fossil fuels

Representative image. (DH File Photo)

The Norwegian Nobel Committee recently recognized and awarded three individuals whose invention has revolutionized a wireless and fossil-free future. Since the invention of Lithium-Ion batteries by John Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino, these batteries have become a blessing to the modern civilization. This prize was long overdue; for this invention has single-handedly led to the boom in the portable electronics industry.

The batteries inside our phones, tablets and laptop computers have enabled us to be productive whenever we want to. A modern smartphone packs more power than the supercomputers of yore, and lasts all day without needing a charge. Our laptops work anywhere, the Bluetooth headsets keep us entertained and the Fitbits help us keep track our health and fitness, all because of Li-ion batteries. Despite their omnipresence, we underestimate their importance in shaping the modern connected society.

Inside the modern batteries; the high-energy-density is the biggest feature that allows them to last long after a full charge. The same density is also useful in electric vehicles.

In some good news, the battery cost has come down by more than 80% in just 9 years, coaxing other industries to explore their uses.

With the global manufacturing capacity set to double in the next five years, the famed lithium-ion battery is strengthening its foothold in large-scale industries such as Electric Passenger Vehicles (EVs) and the energy sector. Lithium-Ion batteries are likely to play a crucial role in powering our journey along with India’s aggressive and ambitious solar energy expansion. To start with, our country is rapidly turning towards solar energy— the implementation of residential rooftop solar panels is witnessing an average of 20-25% growth every month.

While this growth is spectacular in its own right, we believe that our energy problems at home— prominently dealing with frequent power cuts — can be solved if ‘hybrid models’ are installed instead of ‘on-grid’ Solar Panels. Hybrid Models add a Li-Ion battery for energy storage in the system. The absence of battery storage in on-grid systems means that in the event of a power cut or outage, they shut down completely.

Not only are they unable to keep fans and lights going but they cannot send electricity being generated back to the grid making them effectively useless throughout the duration of a power outage.Hybrid solar systems, on the other hand, function during power cuts just like lead-acid battery inverters that we are familiar with. However, unlike the cheap batteries that power our inverters, a Li-Ion battery has enough to power an entire household.

It is not surprising therefore that hybrid systems powered by Li-Ion batteries are currently considered a luxury in the residential solar market. As per calculations, a whopping 97% of current residences are opting for an on-grid solar system due to the incremental costs of a hybrid system.

As of today, India implements fixed electricity pricing throughout the day. We pay the same price for a unit of electricity regardless of when we use it; even during peak hours. Around the world, however, electricity is typically ‘differentially priced’. It costs more to run an air conditioner during peak hours for example than during off-peak hours. 

If in the near future, India decides to move to differential pricing like in Australia, we will be forking over an additional 20-30% in bills for appliance use during peak hours. Li-ion batteries are going to be the saving grace in keeping our electricity bills in check if such a situation were to come to pass.

With a decreasing cost of Li-Ion batteries with every passing day, the Hybrid Solar Systems are expected to find higher adoption among Indian households.

Families will be able to breathe easy and run their air conditioners for as long as they want and still pay minimal electricity bills, or nothing at all. Lithium-Ion batteries will play a pivotal role in the expansion of solar power generation in India for the next 20 to 50 years.

The Nobel Prize to the three inventors is our collective doffing of the hat to the future that they have enabled for a society powered by renewable and sustainable energy.

(Chaudhary, is the CEO and Sachan, Chief Product Officer, at ZunRoof)

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