Environmental consequences of the use of batteries in low carbon systems: the impact of battery production

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Abstract

Adoption of small scale micro-generation is sometimes coupled with the use of batteries in order to overcome daily variability in the supply and demand of energy. For example, photovoltaic cells and small wind turbines can be coupled with energy storage systems such as batteries. When used effectively with renewable energy production, batteries can increase the versatility of an energy system by providing energy storage that enables the systems to satisfy the highly variable electrical load of an individual dwelling, therefore changing usage patterns on the national grid. A significant shift towards electric or hybrid cars would also increase the number of batteries required. However, batteries can be inefficient and comprise of materials that have high environmental and energy impacts. In addition, some materials, such as lithium, are scarce natural resources. As a result, the overall impact of increasing our reliance on such "sustainable or "low carbon" systems may in fact have an additional detrimental impact. This paper reviews the currently available data and calculated and highlights the impact of the production of several types of battery in terms of energy, raw materials and greenhouse gases. The impact of the production of batteries is examined and presented in order that future studies may be able to include the impact of batteries more easily within any system. It is shown that lithium based batteries have the most significant impact in many environmental areas in terms of production. As the use phases of batteries are extremely variable within different situations this has not been included here, instead providing comprehensive data for the production stage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-295
Number of pages68
JournalApplied Energy
Volume93
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2012

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