New Joint Industry Program Investigates Battery Degradation For the Grid 

By Battery Power Online Staff

June 15, 2021 | Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Tex., has launched a new Joint Industry Program (JIP) to investigate energy storage systems for the grid. JIP efforts will include developing new test cycles for batteries employed in grid applications, estimating the life span of batteries and their potential for failure, and reducing likelihood of battery fires.

“I’m delighted that the Institute is taking this step to investigate energy storage systems, which are a growing sector as we rely more on renewable energy resources,” said SwRI Executive Vice President and COO Walter M. Downing in a press release announcing the program. “This joint industry project is a great demonstration of SwRI’s dedication to innovation for the betterment of humanity.”

ENGIE, EnBW, the Central Research Institute of Power Industry (CRIEPI), Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and CEZ have joined SwRI’s Energy Storage for Electric Grid JIP. Joining the JIP requires signing a cooperative research agreement and providing operational field data from a grid battery the JIP participant has deployed. There is no fee to join the JIP. SwRI is funding of this JIP through internal research, with the other JIP members providing in-kind support.

Among the questions the JIP will address: how long it takes for a battery to degrade and the explosion and fire risks associated with large, grid-scale batteries.

“Renewable [energy] sources tend to be highly variable, so it becomes necessary to store excess energy in a battery so it can be used during periods of high demand,” explained Dr. Jayant Sarlashkar, an Institute engineer in SwRI’s Powertrain Engineering Division, in the same press release. “The increased role of renewable resources in the energy mix has led to a greater demand for batteries to store that energy to balance supply and demand.” He continued: “Once we deploy a battery for grid applications, we need to know how long we can rely upon it.”

Over the course of its life, a grid-connected battery must respond slowly or suddenly, depending on the grid demands. On a normal evening, a battery might supply 1,000 houses with continuous power, which is slow and sustained behavior. But in an emergency, that same battery could be called upon to supply an immediate surge of electricity to prevent a blackout. The JIP will investigate how these two very different demands affect the degradation of a battery, and SwRI plans to develop a method to estimate performance degradation in grid-connected batteries and establish a correlation with battery fires.

“The main benefit to the participants is that they get to watch and guide the research to keep it true to the needs of the industry,” Sarlashkar said. “They also get to license the IP after it is demonstrated before SwRI offers it to JIP non-participants, which may provide a competitive advantage by reducing life-cycle costs.”

This new JIP will utilize SwRI’s grid-connected energy storage facilities at its San Antonio location. The program is expected to be completed in July 2022.