Tesla wades into Australia’s battle over energy future – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – July 10, 2017)

https://www.reuters.com/

LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA – There is a lot more riding on Tesla Inc’s deal to install the world’s largest grid-scale electric battery in Australia than whether Elon Musk can meet his bold commitment to finish within the 100-day deadline.

Under an agreement made public on July 7, Tesla must deliver the 100 megawatt (MW) battery within 100 days of the contract being signed, or the government of South Australia state won’t have to pay the electric car, clean energy and space exploration company.

On the surface, this is a deal aimed at providing back-up electricity to South Australia, a state that has been plagued by blackouts since it closed coal-fired power plants and moved to being powered mainly by renewables such as wind, and to a grid connection to neighboring Victoria state.

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Tesla to build titanic battery facility – by Dennis Normile (Science Magazine – July 7, 2017)

http://www.sciencemag.org/

Tesla announced today that it will build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery system to store electricity in Australia. The 100-megawatt installation—more than three times as powerful as the biggest existing battery system—will be paired with the Hornsdale Wind Farm near Jamestown, operated by the French renewable energy company Neoen, in a deal with the state of South Australia. The Tesla battery should smooth out the variability inherent in sustainable power generation schemes.

“Cost-effective storage of electrical energy is the only problem holding us back from getting all of our power from wind and solar,” says Ian Lowe, an energy policy specialist at Griffith University in Nathan, Australia, near Brisbane.

The Tesla system, he says, will “demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale storage.” It might also win over skeptics who doubt that renewables can match the dependability of conventional fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, says Geoffrey James, a renewable energy engineer at University of Technology Sydney.

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Tipping Points and Tesla’s battery dilemma – by Alf Stewart (Resource World Magazine – July 6, 2017)

 

http://resourceworld.com/

Tony Seba’s excellent You Tube video, Clean Disruption – Why Energy & Transportation will be obsolete by 2030 – (Oslo, March 2016), covers the concept of tipping points and expands on the concept of our society being on the cusp of a revolution in energy and transportation.

It explains that new developments in solar panels, lithium ion batteries, electric cars and autonomous driving are simultaneously converging to create a shift away from oil and towards electricity to power self-driving cars, charged on smart grids, using power from solar renewable energy. Resource World readers, however, are mostly interested in any new opportunities in resource stocks stimulated by this shift.

At the centre of this are Elon Musk and his revolutionary Tesla cars, Powerwall batteries, and solar panels. Musk has disrupted the automobile industry by launching electric cars with performance characteristics so good that they broke Consumer Reports reporting scale for cars by scoring a perfect 100.

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Electric car growth sparks environmental concerns – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – July 7, 2017)

https://www.ft.com/

Tesla Motors and now Volvo may have big plans to end the addiction of drivers to fossil fuels via electric vehicles, however the environmental footprint of mining raw materials used in car batteries and their eventual disposal are emerging as a flash point.

As the mining sector presents a green face and extracts raw materials from lithium to cobalt and nickel that constitute electric batteries, so the focus on their environmental standards and energy efficient production methods will intensify. At the tail-end of the electric vehicle boom is the matter of improving the recycling of lithium-ion batteries and making sure the environmental impact is also contained.

“There will be more scrutiny over the supply chain for electric vehicles than there is from the consumer electronics industry due to the green credentials of EVs,” says Robert Baylis, an analyst at consultancy Roskill. “And recycling is probably not going to have an impact for 10 years, and may not reach significant volume for 15-30 years.”

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Elon Musk Won’t Save Big Mining – by David Fickling and Elaine He (Bloomberg News – July 6, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The world’s biggest mining companies have more or less recovered from the commodity boom and bust of the past decade. At the same time, they’ve been left with an existential crisis: What minerals are going to drive their growth in the decades to come?

Aluminum was white-hot in 2007 when Rio Tinto Group paid $38 billion for Alcan Inc., but it’s since been sunk by a wave of Chinese oversupply. Coal and iron ore helped drive the Bloomberg Commodity Index to its most recent peak in 2011, but have fallen on harder times due to fears of climate-related demand weakness and a plateau in steel production. Even copper faces surpluses through to 2020, according to Bloomberg Intelligence’s supply model, which would tend to weigh on prices.

Thank goodness, then, for Saint Elon Musk. Demand for battery materials to feed the nascent electric-vehicle and electricity-storage industries has made a group of hitherto obscure minerals — principally cobalt, lithium and graphite — the next big thing in the mining industry.

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Russia’s Nornickel in talks to supply materials for BASF’s battery plans (Reuters U.S. – June 27, 2017)

https://www.reuters.com/

Russia’s mining giant Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) (GMKN.MM) is in talks with German chemicals firm BASF (BASFn.DE) to supply raw materials needed in the process for making lithium-ion batteries in Europe in the future, they said on Tuesday.

The talks between BASF and Nornickel, the world’s second largest nickel producer and a major cobalt producer, highlight the burgeoning market for metals needed for lithium-ion batteries production as the car industry’s push towards electric vehicles gathers pace.

Nornickel and BASF said in a joint statement the talks covered “cooperation to set the foundation to supply battery cell producers for electric vehicles in Europe with regionally produced cathode materials.”

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Demand, not supply, is the great unknown for lithium and cobalt – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – June 15, 2017)

http://www.reuters.com/

The number of electric vehicles on roads worldwide rose to a record high of 2 million last year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). That represented a doubling from the 2015 tally but electric cars still only accounted for 0.2 percent of the global count.

How many will there be in five years’ time? Or in 10 years’ time? The answer to that question will determine the fortunes of multiple metals over the coming years.

Battery materials such as lithium and cobalt are already bubbling as supply chains which have historically evolved to meet niche applications adapt to the much bigger demands of the green technology revolution.

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The open veins of Bolivia’s lithium powering the world – by Bostjan Videmsek (Sydney Morning Herald – June 11, 2017)

http://www.smh.com.au/

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia: Late in the morning the colours are at their prettiest, at their most intense. As far as the eye can see, the luminous white of the world’s greatest salt flats blends with the tender blue of the clear skies above the alpine desert of the Bolivian Andes.

The charismatic silence, very good at relieving the burden of one’s thoughts, is occasionally broken by the whistle of a mild though decidedly chilly breeze. The surrounding hills, some of them straining up 5000 metres, are sharply reflected in the thin film of rainwater not yet evaporated into the atmosphere. On a clear day and from afar, Salar de Uyuni looks like a colossal mirage. From up close, it looks nothing less than a miracle. But it may not remain that way for long.

Along the salt lake’s southern rim, industrial machines roar. Hundreds of heavy trucks are coming and going over the salty crust, wheezing like exhausted beasts, some 40 years old. Diesel fumes permeate the crisp mountain air. In their wake, the trucks leave perfect brown lines in the virginal whiteness, making the lake’s scores of square kilometres look like a giant bowl of cafe latte.

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Race Is on to Mine Metal Powering Electric Vehicles – by David Stringer (Bloomberg News – June 8, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The race is on to supply more of the cobalt needed for batteries in the fast-growing market for electric vehicles — and that means fresh competition for the big players Glencore Plc and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A pipeline of projects is looming in places including Australia, the U.S. and Canada after cobalt prices more than doubled in the past year. Glencore produces almost a third of the world’s supply, mainly from the Congo, which is by far the biggest source, accounting for as much as 65 percent.

Among those backing new global developments are billionaire Anil Agarwal and mining tycoon Robert Friedland. They’re aiming to capitalize as a battery boom sends demand for cobalt soaring more than 30-fold by 2030, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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Electric car demand sparks lithium supply fears – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – June 8, 2017)

https://www.ft.com/

The cost of extracting vital battery material is likely to create a ‘supercycle’ and drive up prices

A year ago, Tesla Motors founder and chief executive Elon Musk quipped that lithium was only the “salt on the salad” for the batteries that are vital to the US company’s electric cars.

Fast forward 12 months and concern is growing among analysts, and some other carmakers, that the supply of what Mr Musk dismissed as mere “salt” will not be able to keep pace with demand as the expansion of electric vehicles begins to erode the world’s century-long reliance on oil.

“There’s a pivot,” says John Kanellitsas, vice-chairman of Lithium Americas, a miner that is developing a lithium project in Argentina. “There’s much more consensus on demand; we’re no longer even debating demand. We’re shifting to supply and whether, as an industry, we can deliver.”

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UK takes step closer to national electric battery hub – by Costas Pitas (Reuters U.S. – May 31, 2017)

https://www.reuters.com/

COVENTRY, ENGLAND – Britain is moving towards creating a new national development hub for electric car batteries with officials setting out plans for companies to work together to improve the technology, possibly paving the way for large-scale local production.

Representatives from politics, academia and business in the central English city of Coventry, the historic heart of the British car industry, have pitched plans for a “National Battery Prototyping Centre” which would focus on research and development and testing.

Local government officials set out their plans to create the center, with state help, at an event on Tuesday attended by the business minister and by Ralf Speth, the chief executive of Britain’s biggest carmaker, Jaguar Land Rover, who has said he wants to build electric models in the country.

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The Race to Build a Better Battery for Storing Power – by Ken Wells (Wall Street Journal – May 21, 2017)

https://www.wsj.com/

Long-term, utility-scale storage would turn solar and wind energy into on-demand sources of electricity

There’s the battery in your watch. There’s the battery in your mobile phone. And then there’s the battery at Green Mountain Power’s Stafford Hills solar farm in Rutland, Vt.

The lithium-ion gargantuan is housed in two trailer-truck-size green metal containers. It sits atop a 10-acre former landfill and captures electricity from 7,722 nearby solar panels—enough to power 2,000 homes on a sunny day. What’s revolutionary about this system isn’t the solar farm; it’s the size and purpose of the battery, which offers 3.4 megawatt-hours of storage, enough to supply backup power to about 170 homes for a day, if needed.

The rap on solar and wind is intermittence—they don’t produce power when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, making them unreliable as the primary source for power grids. But if vast amounts of renewable energy—say, enough to power entire cities—could be captured and stored in giant batteries and deployed when needed, that downside would fade away.

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Energy storage and the UK industrial strategy: what’s next? – by Ian Larive (Energy Storage News – May 17, 2017)

https://www.energy-storage.news/

When UK prime minister Theresa May announced there would be a general election on 8 June, you could forgive the public a weary sigh at the thought of a third trip to the ballot box in as many years. And you could forgive those of us in the battery storage sector for wondering whether an election campaign might slow the industry’s momentum.

After all, the ink has barely dried on an industrial strategy that, amongst its numerous pillars, set lofty goals for the development of battery storage capacity in the UK, committing the country to innovation and becoming a world leader.

Could the election campaign mean that impetus was lost ahead of Brexit negotiations that would dominate the political space, while possibly reducing access to electricity from the continent, making storage capacity with the UK grid more vital?

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A graphite pro reviews recent battery event and the conflict mineral challenge – by Nicolas Tremblay (InvestorIntel.com – April 12, 2017

https://investorintel.com/

The Battery Conference in Fort Lauderdale that I recently attended from March 20-23rd is an annual event where the top battery scientists, industry executives, forecasters and enthusiasts gather to hear about the latest developments and the current state of research. On my part, I care about:

  • The worldwide state of lithium-ion market penetration and its forecasted growth;
  • How many EVs were produced in the last year and the forecasted trends for next year and beyond;
  • Getting a feel for the progress of lithium-ion in the field of ESS’s connected to the grid;
  • Looking for a battery breakthrough that has a chance of making it to production in the coming years;

There are dozens of presentations, several of which run concurrently. For anyone interested in an understanding of the current market penetration of lithium-ion needs to attend Avicenne Energy’s presentation for a talk on the market penetration of lithium-ion batteries. Here are the main things to know:

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Company developing lithium-ion batteries that won’t explode, catch fire – by Mike Freeman (Toronto Star – April 1, 2017)

https://www.thestar.com/

SAN DIEGO—At American Lithium Energy’s headquarters outside San Diego, president and co-founder Jiang Fan opens a padlocked door to the company’s battery-testing chamber.  Here, squat machines puncture batteries with nails, crush them with a weight and pump so much voltage into them during recharging that they swell like miniature balloons.

This abuse could spark explosions or fires in typical lithium-ion batteries. Yet American Lithium’s cells don’t blow up or ignite. They’re misshapen but harmless.

The small company, which mostly supplies batteries to the U.S. military, believes it has come up with technology to improve safety in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries — the power source for a growing number of electronic gadgets ranging from cellphones to laptops to electric cars to home energy storage.

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