When it comes to batteries the lithium-ion chemistry is king, powering everything from mobile phones to cars and grid-scale energy storage systems, but the looming lithium supply crunch is shining a light on alternative technologies, some of which rely heavily on a component you can find in your pantry and break-up tears.


Sodium chloride, aka common table salt, is finding its way into an array of alternative battery technologies such as sodium alumina solid state (or sodium nickel chloride), simply due to its abundant availability and low cost.

Unlike lithium-ion, these batteries run on sodium ions from common table salt and nickel metal powder (forming the cathode) and self-forms the anode when charging and discharging, eliminating the need for critical elements such as graphite and copper as well as the exposure to rising lithium prices.

From a technological standpoint, sodium alumina solid state batteries are beginning to garner attention from researchers for their performance in a wide range of applications, all without the supply chain headaches of common lithium-ion batteries.

For one, sodium alumina solid state batteries are considered safer because they are not prone to thermal runaway, last longer with a life span beyond 15 years and 4,500 cycles and are less susceptible to temperature changes.

Because the battery has no liquid electrolyte, ambient temperature does not affect its performance.

In fact, the core temperature of the battery is self-sustaining and does not require cooling like lithium-ion batteries, making them an ideal application for grid (stationary) energy storage.


The rapidly expanding energy storage market

As global markets continue to move towards a decarbonised electricity system, the rapid scale-up of energy storage is going to be critical.

Energy storage can help meet the need for reliability and resilience on the grid by reducing peak congestion periods and eliminating the need for additional power plants.

And while lithium-ion battery storage is a viable solution, it is not going to single handedly fulfill global energy storage requirements.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), total installed grid-scale battery storage capacity stood close to 16GW at the end of 2021, most of which was added over the course of the previous five years.

In 2021 alone, around 6GW of battery storage capacity was added to the mix, but to get on track for net-zero emissions by 2050, the IEA forecasts battery storage capacity will need to expand 44-fold between 2021 and 2030 to 680GW.

That means annual additions to an average of more than 80GW per year over the 2022-2030 period.


Table salt to play key role in energy storage

Recent policy developments such as the European Union’s REPowerEU plan (which sets ambitious targets to reduce dependence on Russian gas), and the US Inflation Reduction Act, offer a boost for stand-alone energy storage markets through innovation, access, and long sought after tax credits.

US Senator Joe Manchin has urged the Biden Administration to invest more in non-lithium energy storage technologies, while DOE Loan Programs Office head Jigar Shah says he expects companies to broadly secure 1GWh orders this year.

“I do think that all these non-lithium battery chemistries will get one gigawatt hour orders in 2023 which they will then be able to use to raise private money and use loan programs to scale up their manufacturing,” Shah told EnergyStorage.news.

A diverse range of alternative grid-scale solutions including lithium iron phosphate, iron air and flow batteries, as well as zinc ion and dual carbon are needed to drive the renewable energy transition and get the job done.


Altech Batteries – the only ASX player with exposure

Altech Batteries (ASX:ATC) is the only ASX listed company with exposure to sodium alumina solid state (SAS) batteries after entering into a joint venture agreement with Germany battery institute Fraunhofer IKTS in September 2022.

The two companies have partnered together to construct a 100MWh SAS plant in Saxony, under the brand name CERENERGY, and have kicked off the planning process for a definitive feasibility study required for the commercialisation process.

IKTS has invested about EUR 35 million into developing the technology over a period of eight years, which has seen the batteries expand into bigger modules suited for grid storage.

Once the Train 1 (100MWh) plant is built and operating, the longer-term vision for the joint venture is to construct additional trains or a Gigawatt battery facility.

Altech launched a 60KWh battery pack, specifically designed for renewable energy and the grid storage market in November 2022, which saw its share price jump 83% from 0.060cents to 0.11cents.

Fraunhofer have previously estimated that the cost of producing CERENERGY batteries should be in the region of 40% cheaper than lithium-ion batteries, primarily due to not requiring lithium, graphite, copper or cobalt.

Altech has appointed Germany-based ARIKON Infrastruktur GmbH  to manage the approval process, and site infrastructure requirements for the CERENERGY SAS battery facility as discussions continue with potential offtake partners.


Altech Batteries share price today:


This article was developed in collaboration with Altech Batteries, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.


This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.