Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Newly Merged Battery Maker Hopes Vanadium Can Flow into Sales

The earlier post “Redox Flow Battery Developers” on June 12th, outlined the most recent efforts of several companies pursuing redox flow battery technology and its promise for large-scale energy storage.  Invinity Energy Systems Plc (IES:  LON) had just recently been created by the merger of Avalon Battery and redT Energy.  The new company is among the few in the redox flow battery sector with publicly traded shares.  redT had developed several flow battery designs and recently partnered with Statkraft to sell a solar-plus-storage solution with a financing option for U.K. customers.  Avalon Battery brought demonstrated experience in the U.S., Asia and Europe to the bargain.  With a few more months of trading behind it, we look again at Invinity as a vehicle to run the race for large-scale storage.

Energy Superhub Oxford (ESO) is one of four smart energy systems projects funded in the United Kingdom by InnovateUK.  The project is to demonstrate scalable solutions for electric vehicle charging, battery storage and electric heat.  Invinity is in the center of the project with the vanadium flow battery technology that was originally developed by RedT Energy, one of the two precursors of Invinity. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Northvolt 'Greens Up' with Debt

The coins are jingling in the pocket of Sweden’s leading lithium-ion battery developer Northvolt AB after it raised $1.6 billion in new capital through a debt financing.  Nordic Investment Bank led a group of banks and pension funds in the round.    Northvolt is not just another gigafactory wannabe.  Its leadership wants to deliver the ‘greenest’ battery for consumers’ mobile devices and electric vehicles. 

Northvolt is targeting 2021, to begin production in its factory located near Skelleftea, Sweden.  By 2024, the management wants to stamp out batteries with as much as 32 gigawatts hours of energy.  Distinguishing Northvolt from every other battery maker housed in a big building is Northvolt’s plan to integrate its supply chain, buying directly from mining companies for the metals that are required for lithium ion batteries.  Reportedly, Tanqui Lithium Corporation (002466:  Shenzhen) is one of Northvolts lithium hydroxide suppliers.

Then Northvolt plans to manufacture its own components such as the cathode and complete battery assembly itself.  Bringing these processes in-house gives Northvolt more control over power usage and recycling. The company’s reputation as a ‘green’ manufacturer will be further burnished by sourcing electricity from a hydroelectric utility.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Novel Energy Storage Solution Gets World Recognition

“It is gravity that shapes the large scale structure of the universe…”

Stephen Hawking


It is a novel idea:  using gravity to store energy.  For large-scale energy producers it could be a welcome solution to a large-scale problem.  At least that is the view of Energy Vault AB, an energy storage developer based in Switzerland.  The company has won some converts to its gravity idea.  In June 2020, the company was name one of the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers of 2020.  

The company was the focus of an earlier post in November 2018, entitled “Forget Batteries, Store Energy in Concrete Blocks.”  Energy Vault’s tower-mounted crane and pulley system makes it possible to store energy created by intermittent solar or wind generators.  Later when winds have died down and the sun has long set, the energy is released by allowing the reverse action by pulleys.  The system is very like pumped hydro but replaces water with concrete blocks.  A prototype is set up in Arbedo-Castione, Switzerland next to a wind farm.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Bounty of the Sea: Lithium

With one demand forecast after another the need for the element lithium seems to grow exponentially.  The primary end use of lithium these days is batteries for electronic devices of all kinds from cars to calculators.  Analysts like to couch their estimate in terms of lithium carbonate, one of the many lithium compounds.  It is the first chemical in the lithium production chain that makes possible in subsequent steps the production of other lithium compounds.    One of those, lithium hydroxide, is gaining interest for lithium-ion batteries. 

Among the most recent forecasts is one from BloombergNEF, suggesting that by 2025, global battery requirements for lithium chemicals could reach 700,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). Other uses for lithium chemicals, such as glass making or metal alloy production, will add another 300,000 metric tons of LCE demand by the same year.

Those big numbers have attracted numerous developers to the lithium sector, all hoping to capture a share of the fast growing market.  A survey by Investing News Network in 2018, concluded that capital costs for the brine method of lithium production ranges from $150 million to $300 million.   Extracting lithium from hard rock is even more costly with capital expenditures ranging from $250 million to $2 billion.