Be super-green and use second-life batteries

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A battery energy storage system (BESS) made from second-life electric vehicle (EV) batteries is especially suitable for the waste management sector, yet few busi­nesses are aware of how one could help them.

When a BESS is part of your energy system it is termed ‘behind the meter’, which means the electricity within it can be managed without incurring any charges. Being behind the meter is the reason a BESS can reduce electricity bills and/or infrastructure costs in several ways.

Cranfield University recently signed a con­tract for three BESS units and it is a textbook example of best practice. The BESS will allow the site to balance its energy behind the meter, with the systems being used to store excess solar generation when energy demand is low and deliver it back as load increases. The sys­tems are also being used to reduce fixed charges and infrastructure costs by shaving peak loads to keep them within site constraints.

A significant point about the BESS supplied to Cranfield and other organisations such as materials technology and recycling group Umi­core, as well as councils including Suffolk and Dundee, is that they utilise second-life EV batteries. The waste sector has long focused on how to handle end-of-life batteries, but there is a huge market developing around second life, and this is where a BESS hits the sweet spot.

A battery is often considered at the end of its useful life in a vehicle when it falls to 75-80% of its original capacity, but this still leaves a sub­stantial amount remaining. This can be used within stationary storage systems, with two to three sets of batteries needed to maintain capacity over roughly a 20-year time frame. It would be an unacceptable waste of resources to discard the value in a battery prematurely.

A second-life BESS makes perfect sense for the waste management sector from an environ­mental and economic point of view. But could a fear of battery fires be holding the industry back? A stack of 24 second-life Renault EV batteries in a typical Connected Energy storage unit is as safe as the EVs we drive, whereas a small, dropped battery cell can potentially pose an immediate fire risk.

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