Research gaps in environmental life cycle assessments of lithium ion batteries for grid-scale stationary energy storage systems: End-of-life options and other issues

Elsevier, Sustainable Materials and Technologies, Volume 23, April 2020
Pellow M.A., Ambrose H., Mulvaney D., Betita R., Shaw S.
Although deployments of grid-scale stationary lithium ion battery energy storage systems are accelerating, the environmental impacts of this new infrastructure class are not well studied. To date, a small literature of environmental life cycle assessments (LCAs) and related studies has examined associated environmental impacts, but they rely on a variety of methods and system boundaries rather than a consistent approach. The large LCA literature of transportation applications of LIB contains selected life-cycle inventory data relevant for stationary ESSs, but does not incorporate characteristics unique to stationary systems, such as balance of system materials; operational profiles; and perhaps even different end-of-life (EOL) phase needs. This critical literature review surveys the existing studies on grid-scale stationary LIB ESS, and highlights research gaps concerning comprehensive environmental impacts. Further analysis specific to grid-connected LIB systems – encompassing use phase (battery operation) and EOL, in addition to production phase – is required for a robust assessment of environmental impacts of grid-connected energy storage in LIB systems. For example, thus far studies that systematically evaluate the consequential impact of storage system operation have been focused on energy arbitrage and frequency regulation applications. Future work should consider the impact of ESS providing other grid services as well. Although EOL costs and impacts for stationary LIB ESSs are an important consideration for prospective asset owners and key users of grid-scale ESS (such as electric utility companies and project developers), they are not yet addressed in the literature.