Second-life battery systems for affordable energy access in Kenyan primary schools

Kebir, Nisrine and Leonard, Alycia and Downey, Michael and Jones, Bernie and Rabie, Khaled and Bhagavathy, Sivapriya Mothilal and Hirmer, Stephanie A. (2023) Second-life battery systems for affordable energy access in Kenyan primary schools. Scientific Reports, 13 (1). 1374. ISSN 2045-2322 (

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As the world transitions to net zero, energy storage is becoming increasingly important for applications such as electric vehicles, mini-grids, and utility-scale grid stability. The growing demand for storage will constrain raw battery materials, reduce the availability of new batteries, and increase the rate of battery retirement. As retired batteries are difficult to recycle into components, to avoid huge amounts of battery waste, reuse and repurposing options are needed. In this research, we explore the feasibility of using second-life batteries (which have been retired from their first intended life) and solar photovoltaics to provide affordable energy access to primary schools in Kenya. Based on interviews with 12 East African schools, realistic system sizes were determined with varying solar photovoltaic sizes (5–10 kW in 2.5 kW increments) and lithium-ion battery capacities (5–20 kWh in 5 kWh increments). Each combination was simulated under four scenarios as a sensitivity analysis of battery transportation costs (i.e., whether they are sourced locally or imported). A techno-economic analysis is undertaken to compare new and second-life batteries in the resulting 48 system scenarios in terms of cost and performance. We find that second-life batteries decrease the levelized cost of electricity by 5.6–35.3% in 97.2% of scenarios compared to similar systems with new batteries, and by 41.9–64.5% compared to the cost of the same energy service provided by the utility grid. The systems with the smallest levelized cost of electricity (i.e., 0.11 USD/kWh) use either 7.5 kW or 10 kW of solar with 20 kWh of storage. Across all cases, the payback period is decreased by 8.2–42.9% using second-life batteries compared to new batteries; the system with the smallest payback period (i.e., 2.9 years) uses 5 kW solar and 5 kWh storage. These results show second-life batteries to be viable and cost-competitive compared to new batteries for school electrification in Kenya, providing the same benefits while reducing waste.