Lockheed to introduce flow battery in bid to boost renewable energy

Lockheed Martin Corporation, a company more synonymous with defense and aerospace operations, is developing a new “flow” battery made of inexpensive, nontoxic materials that can help utilities save money and use more renewable energy.

“You open up a chance not only to make renewables more marketable and more useful, you might even change the structure of at least a portion of the utility market,” Leo Mackay, a senior vice president for sustainability and ethics at Lockheed, told reporters at the company’s Global Vision Center in Virginia.

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.

Affordable storage of power from renewables could help the industry grow faster but has long been elusive, reports Reuters.

Frank Armijo, vice president for energy initiatives at Lockheed Martin said the company is developing the flow battery using proprietary electrolyte chemistry that combines low cost earth metals with chemicals that are also inexpensive.

“The challenge with existing flow batteries is that they lean heavily on materials like vanadium and zinc bromide which are extremely expensive and toxic,” Armijo said. “Ours is neither of that.”

Armijo said flow 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 rapid degradation issues that lithium ion has.

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