These plastic batteries could help store renewable energy on the grid

Conductive polymers could wind up being a major player in grid storage, but whether that happens will likely depend on how quickly the company can scale up its technology and, crucially, how much the batteries cost, says Susan Babinec, who leads the energy storage program at Argonne National Lab.

Some research points to $ 20 per kilowatt-hour of storage as a long-term target that would help us reach 100% renewable energy adoption. It’s a milestone that other alternative grid-storage batteries are focused on. Form Energy, which produces iron-air batteries, says it can reach that goal in the coming decades.

PolyJoule may not be able to get costs that low, Paster acknowledges. It’s currently targeting $ 65 per kilowatt-hour of storage for its first systems, reasoning that industrial customers and power utilities may be willing to pay that price because the products should last longer and be easier and cheaper to maintain.

So far, Paster says, the company has focused on building a technology that’s simple to manufacture. It employs a water-based manufacturing chemistry and uses commercially available machines to assemble its battery cells, so it does not need the specialized conditions sometimes required in battery manufacturing.

It’s still unclear what battery chemistry will win out in grid storage. But PolyJoule’s plastics mean a new option has emerged.