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Aquion Energy: environmental friendly saltwater battery?

Similar to previous years, the Intersolar Europe was again divided in the solar exhibition and the EES - Battery and Energy Storage Systems. One company we came across at the EES section was Aquion Energy.

From the increasing size of the EES exhibition, it is an obvious trend that most technology developments are now taking place in energy storage!

While Lithium-Ion technology is the dominant battery technology (with LG the Intersolar EES Award winner this year with its new Li-Ion Battery Cell JH3), the next wave of battery technologies will undoubtedly be so called ‘environmental-friendly batteries'.

The booth of US-based Aquion Energy was a very interesting visit in this regard. The company has developed a saltwater-based battery, which is safe, non-toxic and is said to be competitive in price.

Aquion Energy at Intersolar Europe

Aquion Energy at Intersolar Europe

Company Background

The US based company was founded in 2008 by current Chief Scientist Dr. Jay Whitacre.

A new storage technology takes time and money to develop. So far Aquion Energy raised USD 190 million, with its latest raise in April this year. Venture funding comes from various sources, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield, Byers and nobody less than Bill Gates.

The Intersolar Award finalist nomination wasn’t the first sign of recognition for the company. In 2015, founder Whitacre received the Lemelson-MIT Prize for the invention of the Aquino saltwater battery, an award worth USD 500,000.

Market for long duration storage

With its saltwater battery, Aquion Energy aims for the long duration energy storage market. Long duration energy storage means storing electricity for more than six hours.

The market for long duration storage is worth billions, an estimated USD 766 billion by 2050 (!). (Source: PV Magazine)

Aquion Energy Saltwater battery at Intersolar Europe

Aquion Energy Saltwater battery at Intersolar Europe

A market dominated by economics

The energy industry is “dominated by economics”, and regardless the brilliance of a new technology, an energy storage product has to make the economics work first.

A member of Aquion's staff explained at Intersolar Europe that the current pricing is already competitive with established battery technologies. Further their batteries are becoming more affordable, especially once its US factory has been fully scaled up.

So, how does Aquion Energy's saltwater battery compare to lead acid and lithium-ion batteries? Below a simplified comparison:

Lead acid

Lead Acid batteries are toxic as they're made with lead plates, and the electrolyte is made with sulfuric acid diluted in water.

+ relatively inexpensive
- energy density is relatively low
- can not be fully discharged
- don’t operate too well under high temperatures
- contain.. lead.

Lithium-Ion

+ energy density is high
+ can be discharged quickly
+ lithium-ion batteries used to be expensive, however the price is expected to come further down, especially once Tesla opens up its Gigafactory.
- can't deal with high temperatures
- comes with safety precautions.

Aquion Energy

Aquion Energy's saltwater batteries on the contrary are made with non-toxic and safe ingredients: carbon, cotton, saltwater and Manganese Oxide (MnO), the 10th most common element on earth. Its features are:

+ can be fully discharged without any harm
+ non toxic
+ / - pricing is competitive (needs to be confirmed after factory scale up)
- can only be discharged slowly, not suitable for high draw loads

Long duration energy storage

Aquion Energy aims to tackle a couple of disadvantages of the established battery technology with its simple, non-toxic and low cost batteries. At the same time it's aiming at a specific market: long duration energy storage.

Neither lead acid nor lithium-ion battery technology seem to be the perfect match for long duration storage, however Aquion Energy's batteries - made of a combination of salt water, carbon and manganese oxide -seem to be the perfect match.

Lithium-ion batteries are mostly used in portable devices and are suitable for powering electric cars, providing high power and short bursts of energy. However there’s a large market for long term, sustained, lower-power energy for which Lithium-Ion may not be the best choice, and this is exactly the market Aquino is aiming at.

Comment Section

3 thoughts on “Aquion Energy: environmental friendly saltwater battery?


By Nick A. Mascia on 12 July 2016

I Always enjoy your studies and reports Dricus.
1) About the Aquion battery:
How many cycles of use ( actual life) can the battery be rated?
2) How many kilowatts is it rated?
3) After startup of a home A/C which has a high amp draw, can the Aquion be used to run the A/C for evening use?
Thanks for your well researched opinion.


By Loe Tyas Basuki on 14 July 2016

Where will we contact to get quotation for Aquion Energy's saltwater batteries ?


By Jerry Stokes on 14 July 2016

When considering and comparing battery technologies it is essential to fully understand the requirements of the application as different cell chemistries and cell constructions will determine performance and suitability - there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution. At SEC we have 40 year experience of manufacturing, specifying and supplying high performance batteries into demanding applications. Our first installations were for solar corrosion protection of oil pipelines in the Middle East where long life, zero maintenance and high temperatures could be achieved using our lead acid gel batteries fitted with our CATVENT - we supply these same batteries today for micro, mini-grids and a wide variety of stand-alone applications often charged by PV.

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Dricus
Dricus is co-founder of the Sinovoltaics Group and Director at 3rd party PV Quality Assurance company Kisun Solar. Dricus has been working in the PV industry in China for 7 years. During his time in China he set up and managed a complete solar panel factory for a Canadian publicly listed company in Shanghai. Main interests are solar innovations, PV plant development and PV quality. Connect with Dricus on LinkedIn