It’s a truism in the solar industry that, despite the record growth we’re seeing in home solar installations, the real turning point will come when energy storage technology matures to the point that it can also be adopted at the same fast pace. (Back in October, we touted a new free energy storage plan from Stem as a great first step down that path.)
Along a parallel track, when hybrid and full-electric vehicles first approached the mainstream a decade ago, one of the big concerns among some environmentalists (and some concern trolls) had to do with the resources needed to make batteries and the toxicity of EV batteries when they reached the end of their useful life in a vehicle.
In a development that’s been years in the making, earlier this month, the huge Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo Corporation announced that it has created a new joint venture to turn used EV batteries into a solar energy storage system.
The new 4R Energy Corporation has developed a prototype system that puts 16 used EV batteries from Nissan Leafs to work in an economical solar storage system that can store 400 kilowatt-hours of electricity generated by a nearby solar farm, and distribute that electricity out to the grid at night.
In a nutshell, Sumitomo may have just made big strides in solving both problems: as continue to skyrocket and ever-more batteries prepare to enter the waste stream, the 4R Energy system can scoop those batteries up and use them to feed the demand for home energy storage. And what’s more, Sumitomo is putting it to the test in a way that also tackles the problem of grid intermittency — that the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day, nor does the wind always blow, even though humans demand energy 24/7.
As CleanTechnica points out, this isn’t the first time that EV batteries have been put to use in energy storage. Back in 2011, Ford Motor Company put old batteries to work to power an auto manufacturing plant.