Blog | August 7, 2018

Lead Batteries Help Create a “Wind”- Win for Renewable Energy

Credit: Creative Commons, via Flickr user Sparky

American Wind Week is August 5-11, and according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), members of Congress on both sides of the aisle support wind power. AWEA notes that wind power jobs are found in all 50 states and more than 70 percent of congressional districts contain a wind farm, active wind factory or both. We’d call that a “wind”- win for all parties!

The industry’s growth is directly tied to the increasing demand for energy. Our recent Information Brief on Renewable Energy Storage noted that global demand for energy is expected to increase by 30 percent between 2018 and 2040. A significant portion of that will come from renewable sources like wind, solar and water. Lead batteries help to enable the success of wind power by storing excess energy when demand is low and releasing it when needed. And, compared to other battery technologies used for energy storage, lead batteries are a more affordable storage option in terms of upfront costs.

Did you know that Iowa produces more of its electricity from wind than any other state? Thirty-seven percent of its energy is from wind. And Google, Microsoft and Facebook all built data centers in Iowa to tap that renewable resource.

Additionally, strong demand for low-cost wind power from utilities and other buyers, including major corporations like AT&T and Walmart, continues to drive the industry’s growth. AWEA’s U.S. Wind Industry Second Quarter 2018 Market Report reveals that during that time period, construction started on wind farms totaling 5,322 megawatts (MW). That brings total construction activity to 18,987 MW. (A single new American wind turbine represents 2.32 MW of capacity on average, roughly enough to power 750 typical homes.1)

Wind has provided power for centuries, starting with windmills, which pumped water and ground grain. A modern, 21st century wind turbine has three blades, more than 8,000 parts, and sits atop a steel tubular tower. The blades capture wind’s kinetic energy and convert it into electricity, which is where lead batteries step into the picture. 2

Batteries are tools that can help balance electricity supply and demand. While large amounts of wind are consistently and affordably integrated onto the power grid through transmission and a growing demand for renewable energy, batteries can help improve efficiency across the entire system. They allow excess power from any generation source to be stored for when demand increases during peak hours.

In fact, lead batteries have a track record of enabling wind power in remote areas to deliver electricity where it has never before been available. Since 2008, the Scottish Isle of Eigg has enjoyed its own “Eiggtricity” from a combination of wind, solar and hydro-generated power. A 24kW wind farm consisting of four 6kW wind turbines is part of the combined system to ensure continuous availability of power for the island’s 87 residents. The wind turbines are located at the southern end of the island to take advantage of the best wind exposure. Combined with solar and hydro stations, these three renewable energy sources are stored in lead battery banks.

As we observe American Wind Week, let’s celebrate the role of lead batteries to deliver the power of wind. It’s a win for all of us.

[Special thanks to the American Wind Energy Association for providing background information.]

Learn More:

  1. American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) news release, “Record wind farm construction underway at close of second quarter,” July 26, 2018.
  2. AWEA www.awea.org
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Carole Mars The Sustainability Consortium Director

The high recycling rate of U.S. lead batteries means a large percent of U.S. lead battery manufacturing supply chain inputs (73% of its lead) are sourced from domestic recyclers.

Dr. Carole Mars, Director of Technical Development and Innovation, The Sustainability Consortium