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Unpacking Lithium Energy Storage

In a world dominated by portable electronic devices, lithium battery storage have become a key component in our daily lives. These power-packed units have changed the world of technology and transformed the way we operate use and generate energy. s.

Everyone wants a lithium battery for their solar home system as gel batteries have proven to be inefficient. However little information is available to make a decision on the right size, model and quality. In this article, we will discuss the advantages of lithium batteries as well as important safety consideration.

Energy Storage Capacity

One of the most significant advantages of lithium batteries is the fact that they store more energy per unit weight and volume, making them ideal for portable devices like smartphones and laptops. The high energy density of lithium batteries enables us to enjoy extended battery life and the convenience of using our mobile devices for longer periods. Liithium batteries can rapidly charge and discharge, boasting exceptional charge retention a function important for devices like mobile phones. Additionally, lithium batteries experience minimal self-discharge, ensuring that the power levels remain high even for extended periods of no usage.

In solar energy systems lithium batteries present capabilities that solar needed but older technologies like a gel and AGM could not provide. When the sun comes up we want our batteries to quickly charge and when a surge of power is required the battery should be able to provide us with that. Lithium batteries are now lighter thus easier to transport, install and be stored.

Popular battery models are the 48V100ah (4.8kWh) and the 24V100ah (2.4kWh) used for 5kVa and 3kVa systems respectively. The kWh is the standard rating for batteries that indicates the approximate amount of energy it can store, for example a 4.8kWh battery will run a 10W bulb for 480 hours or 20 days before it needs to be recharged.

Safety Features

Safety is very important when using batteries, and lithium batteries have made significant developments to protect users. Manufacturers have implemented various safety mechanisms, such as thermal controllers, overcharge protection, and voltage monitoring to prevent overheating, explosion, and other dangerous incidents through the Battery Management System. The BMS is an intelligent electronic component added to the battery pack responsible for advanced monitoring and management. It is the brain behind the battery and plays a critical role in its safety, performance, charge rates, and longevity. These safety features provide users with peace of mind since the risk of failure is greatly reduced and performance warranties are very long, up to 10 years.

Demand for lithium batteries has resulted in manufacturers developing new technology more rapidly to stay ahead of the competition. However, the market has also had its fair share of unfair and unsafe practices in an effort to drive the price down. If you are thinking of buying a lithium battery take note of the following considerations.

Considerations When Looking For A Battery

Battery information can be confusing for the average person leaving them at the mercy of the seller or installer. Basic information to know is the battery size and how to verify the quality.

Batteries are rated for safety, and accuracy of stated performance by established standards laboratories in countries of manufacture or other international testing bodies. Make sure your battery has the right set of certifications so that you know it's safe and appropriate for your application.

Battery Certification & Testing

Like any other popular commodity lithium batteries are subject to knock-off products and scams to trick the unaware consumer. Battery certification exists to protect users against suppliers taking advantage of a lack of knowledge from buyers.

The most common practice at the manufacturer level is the rating scam. This trick involves manufacturing batteries with slightly smaller cells and giving them a higher energy rating. Since there is no common way to test the validity of the kwh inscribed on the battery the buyer simply has to trust what the seller says is true.

Another local practice is a form of “battery reassembly” where cells from one old battery are used to build another "new" one. This is common with grey import batteries either removed from telecom towers or retired from an old solar system. While battery repurposing is not new (EV batteries are frequently repackaged to be used on residential systems) the lack of knowledge, appropriate technology and BMS equipment presents a danger to consumers.

There are many such battery workshops across the country mostly converting 48V lithium batteries into a 24V configuration. The batteries sold off to market as brand new but do not have a BMS, test certification or any established standard.

Disadvantages of Untested Batteries

Using uncertified and untested lithium batteries and batteries without a Battery Management System (BMS) presents several disadvantages.

(i) Safety

Without a BMS or a test certificate the battery automatically lacks the necessary built-in safety features. This exposes the user to the risk of overcharging, overheating, and short-circuiting, which can lead to fire, explosions through a phenomenon called thermal runway. The battery will not efficiently manage its charging and discharging cycles or control charging parameters. The result in uneven internal cell voltages, leading to decreased battery capacity and shorter overall lifespan.

(ii) Warranty Support

After spending thousands of dollars on an energy storage system a solid warranty should be in place in case things go wrong. If the battery is not certified and has no BMS warranty for some components like inverters is void.

To determine whether the battery has had a warranted failure, the battery will need to be tested by the manufacturer or an appointed service agent. This is usually done by reading data logs stored in both the battery and the inverter while you were operating them.

(iii) System Performance

Battery and inverter manufacturers are continuously cross-testing their products for interoperability. Communication protocols between batteries and inverters have been established between the most common manufacturers. Utilising this function improves the user experience and extends battery life. Communication can only occur if the battery has a BMS to connect to. Lack of communication with some inverters leads to erratic system behaviour, decreased performance and potential damage.

(iv) Insurance

Insurance companies sometimes require electrical product to possess an underwriting certificate or label to process a claim. Without this your claim for fire damage emanating from solar system failure may be rejected.

Lithium technology has transformed the way we use power and more improvements are expected to be introduced in the near future. When looking for a lithium battery solution take note of the issues above to ensure your investment is safe. Always insist on buying products with the right certifications, a BMS and insist on the installer to make use of the communication systems between the battery and inverter.


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