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The Most Ethical Renewable Energy Systems

The main thing in renewable energy systems is the embodied energy: the energy over the lifetime of the product versus the energy of manufacturing it. Lithium batteries are used a lot because they are lightweight, but they don’t last. Lead-acid batteries, like car batteries, are also short-lived. An old technology, the nickel-iron battery, lasts a long time.

Lithium batteries are great when there might be a space or weight issue, but they are consumable products. Lead-acid batteries decays as they give energy. The nickel-iron battery powered the first electric cars, some of which had batteries that worked over 100 years later. These are not acid, but alkaline, made with a potassium hydroxide mix.

While they are only 1.2 volts, which means a lot of batteries and a lot weight, in a stationary situation, such as a house, the embodied energy is much, much better in nickel-iron batteries.

Key Takeaways:

– Renewable energy is best judged via embodied energy: the amount of energy it provides over a lifetime versus the amount used to produce the system.

– Lithium and lead-acid batteries both have short lifespans, decreasing their embodied energy, and as a result, they create more waste.

– Nickel-iron batteries, a very old technology, lasts an incredibly long time and have much more embodied energy.

-In a stationary situation, such as powering a house, nickel-iron batteries, though they require more space and weigh more, are a more ethical choice.

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  1. I don’t know much about electronics, so the question: is it neccesary to use special 1.2V Products or is it possible to convert it? Just curious, if it makes sence to buy such a battery nowadays….

    1.2 volt cells are connected in series to provide higher voltages. Example 10 cells would give 12 volts.
    Next time you see a car hood up, have a look at the 12 volt lead acid battery and you will see it made up of 6 smaller cells, at 2 volt each, providing the 12 volts.
    I’m sure you also have had items that take multiple AA batteries, same deal. 2 AA 1.5V batteries in series for 3V, etc.

  3. The only electrical issue with nickel iron batteries is that they require a higher charging voltage per cell than lead acid batteries which most battery chargers can’t do. The simple way around this issue is to use only 19 batteries in a 24 volt system (or 38 in a 48 volt system) instead of the 20 x 1.2 volts you would expect to use. The 22 volt system is easily handled by inverters, still producing 240 volts. This increases the charging voltage per cell when using a charger designed to charge lead acid batteries.

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