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Lockheed develops clean, efficient battery to boost use of renewable power

24 April 2018

Lockheed Martin Corp hopes to launch a new ‘flow’ battery made of inexpensive, nontoxic materials that can help utilities save money and use more renewable energy, company officials said on April 23. On a visit to the company’s Global Vision Center in Virginia, senior staff told reporters the company hopes to introduce it in a little more than a year.

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Flow batteries, which use chemicals dissolved in water, last longer than lithium ion batteries, which are usually solid. That means they can help utilities meet consumer needs for longer periods during so-called peak demand times such as evenings, when residents use lights, televisions and kitchen appliances.

Unlike natural gas or coal, which can be burned anytime to generate power, wind and solar power are sometimes most active when consumer demand is down. Affordable storage of power from renewables could help the industry grow faster, but has long been elusive.

Lockheed is developing the new flow battery using proprietary electrolyte chemistry that combines low cost earth metals with chemicals that are also inexpensive. Existing flow batteries use materials like vanadium and zinc bromide which are expensive and toxic.

The new batteries can last six to 10 hours compared to about two to four hours for lithium ion batteries. In addition, flow batteries do not have lithium ion’s rapid degradation issues.

Lockheed, which has been developing advanced battery technologies for its space program for decades, is competing with other companies in the race to develop batteries for grid storage including Tesla Inc and LG Chem Ltd.

Utilities have always had to rely on large power plants for generating electricity during peak hours. These flow batteries could eventually help utilities become less centralized and more site specific.

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