Sodium Sulfur Battery In Abu Dhabi Is World’s Largest Storage Device
February 3rd, 2019 Steve Hanley
Abu Dhabi solar farm Abu Dhabi is home to one of the world’s largest solar
farms. Credit: MASDAR
sodium sulfur battery cell Credit: Science Direct
Abu Dhabi now boasts the world’s largest storage battery — a 108 MW/648 MWh
behemoth that is five times larger than the Hornsdale battery installed in
Australia by Tesla a year ago. There is one other important difference
between the battery in Australia and the one in Abu Dhabi. The Tesla unit
used lithium-ion battery cells. The one in Abu Dhabi uses sodium sulfur
Sodium sulfur technology was first explored by Ford as a possible source for
electric trucks in the 1960s. But the sodium and the sulfur have to be
heated to 300º Celsius to function properly, an issue for wheeled vehicles.
Ford sold the technology to Japan’s NGK, which has continued to develop the
technology in conjunction with Tokyo Electric Power ever since, according to
Compared to lithium-ion batteries, sodium sulfur batteries typically have a
much longer useful life. 15 years or 4500 cycles is typical, according to
Science Direct [
]. Their efficiency is around 85% and they have a response time of 1
millisecond. Other advantages are that they use no lithium or cobalt, two
elements that are in relatively short supply. Instead they use sodium and
sulfur, both of which are abundant in nature and inexpensive.
However, liquid sodium is highly reactive and can become explosive in the
presence of water. Great care must be taken to insulate the inner components
of the batteries from the outside environment. Corrosion at such high
temperatures requires robust cell structures. While the materials are cheap,
the supporting structure for the battery cells increases manufacturing
The entire cell is enclosed by a steel casing that is protected, usually by
chromium and molybdenum, from corrosion on the inside. This outside
container serves as the positive electrode, while the liquid sodium serves
as the negative electrode. The container is sealed at the top with an
airtight aluminum oxide lid.
Ten Batteries That Function As One
] reports the battery for Abu Dhabi is actually 10 separate batteries in
different locations that are connected together and controlled as one,
making this in essence a virtual battery. The actual batteries are
manufactured by NGK.
Abu Dhabi is making major investments in renewable energy. It plans to spend
$160 billion by 2030 on renewables and has set a goal of obtaining 60% of
its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050 — one of the more ambitious
targets in the Middle East. ”In 50 years, when we might have the last barrel
of oil… I can tell you we will celebrate that moment,” Sheikh Mohammed bin
Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, said a few years ago.
Mark Jacobson, one of the world’s leading renewable energy authorities and a
professor at Stanford who has proposed a road map for getting to zero
emissions power worldwide, was quick to recognize the significance of the
fact that Abu Dhabi had selected sodium sulfur technology for the world’s
largest storage battery, tweeting the news to his followers on January 30.
He told CleanTechnica in an e-mail that sulfur sodium batteries have high
energy densities, high charge and discharge efficiencies, and a long cycle
life, as outlined by Wikipedia.
Now that Abu Dhabi has taken the lead on sodium sulfur batteries, other
countries may take a fresh look at this technology, especially if the longer
projected service life leads to lower total costs for energy storage. Those
lower costs are what will drive a stake through the heart of convention
methods of generating electricity and accelerate the transition to zero
emissions energy around the world.
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