Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lithium-supplier Galaxy Announces Agreement with K2 Energy

Galaxy Resources Limited announced that it has signed a technology license agreement with US-based lithium ion battery producer K2 Energy Solutions Inc..

Galaxy, which aims to become one of the world's leading producers of lithium compounds, wholly-owns and operates the Mt Cattlin mine, which is currently producing spodumene concentrate (a lithium aluminium silicate). Galaxy's Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate plant, once completed, will have a design capacity of 17,000 tpa of lithium carbonate, which Galaxy expects would make it one of the largest plants in China converting hard rock lithium mineral concentrates into lithium compounds and chemicals.

Under the Agreement, K2 Energy will provide Galaxy with battery technology expertise, licensing and commercial support for the construction and operation of Galaxy's proposed Jiangsu battery manufacturing plant in China.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A123 Systems to Supply Energy Storage System to Dongfang Electric

A123 Systems landed a contract to supply a 500kW advanced energy storage solution to Dongfang Electric Corporation (DEC), the third largest manufacturer of wind turbines in the People's Republic of China and the country's largest exporter of power equipment. Expected to be installed at DEC's manufacturing facility in Hangzhou city, China Zhejiang Province, by the end of 2011, the system is designed as a demonstration project to help DEC evaluate how advanced energy storage can address the challenges associated with the rapid growth of wind power in China.

"The government has set ambitions goals to increase wind power in China to about 170GW by 2020, and DEC looks forward to doing our part to help reach this target.
However, there will be infrastructure and interconnection challenges along the way that must be addressed," said Mr. He, general manager of Dongfang Electrical Machinery Co. "Advanced storage technology continues to show promise as a potential solution to the variability of wind energy generation, and installing this project with A123 will allow us to gain hands-on experience with grid-scale storage systems. Ultimately, we expect this to help us understand how we can leverage larger-scale energy storage deployments to facilitate the rapid adoption of wind energy across China."

This project will be A123's first energy storage system in China, where only about 72 percent of the country's total wind power generating capacity is connected to the power grid, according to data from the China Power Union. This is largely due to the unacceptable Low Voltage Ride Through (LVRT) capability--during periods of low grid voltage, wind farms are disconnecting and are slow to reconnect when voltage increases--and the general lack of ramp management technology, which results in the inability to predict the output of wind farms and leads to grid instability.

"We believe that China represents a significant market opportunity for our advanced energy storage technology, especially as a solution to addressing the LVRT and ramp-management problems standing in the way of the country's aggressive plans for wind power deployment," said Robert Johnson, vice president of the Energy Solutions Group at A123. "Today's announcement is a significant step toward developing a presence in China, and by aligning ourselves with an established organization like DEC, we believe we will gain a considerable strategic advantage. We are hopeful that DEC will find that our storage systems are optimal for enabling the widespread adoption of wind power, and believe this project could result in additional contracts going forward."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Carbon Fiber Electrodes Boost Lithium Air Batteries

MIT researchers have found a way to improve the energy density of a type of battery known as lithium-air (or lithium-oxygen) batteries, producing a device that could potentially pack several times more energy per pound than the lithium-ion batteries that now dominate the market for rechargeable devices in everything from cellphones to cars.

The work is a continuation of a project that last year demonstrated improved efficiency in lithium-air batteries through the use of noble-metal-based catalysts. In principle, lithium-air batteries have the potential to pack even more punch for a given weight than lithium-ion batteries because they replace one of the heavy solid electrodes with a porous carbon electrode that stores energy by capturing oxygen from air flowing through the system, combining it with lithium ions to form lithium oxides.

The new work takes this advantage one step further, creating carbon-fiber-based electrodes that are substantially more porous than other carbon electrodes, and can therefore more efficiently store the solid oxidized lithium that fills the pores as the battery discharges.

"We grow vertically aligned arrays of carbon nanofibers using a chemical vapor deposition process. These carpet-like arrays provide a highly conductive, low-density scaffold for energy storage," explains Robert Mitchell, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) and co-author of a paper describing the new findings in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

During discharge, lithium-peroxide particles grow on the carbon fibers, adds co-author Betar Gallant, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering. In designing an ideal electrode material, she says, it's important to "minimize the amount of carbon, which adds unwanted weight to the battery, and maximize the space available for lithium peroxide," the active compound that forms during the discharging of lithium-air batteries.

"We were able to create a novel carpet-like material — composed of more than 90 percent void space — that can be filled by the reactive material during battery operation," says Yang Shao-Horn, the Gail E. Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering and senior author of the paper. The other senior author of the paper is Carl Thompson, the Stavros Salapatas Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and interim head of DMSE.

In earlier lithium-air battery research that Shao-Horn and her students reported last year, they demonstrated that carbon particles could be used to make efficient electrodes for lithium-air batteries. In that work, the carbon structures were more complex but only had about 70 percent void space.

The gravimetric energy stored by these electrodes — the amount of power they can store for a given weight — "is among the highest values reported to date, which shows that tuning the carbon structure is a promising route for increasing the energy density of lithium-air batteries," Gallant says. The result is an electrode that can store four times as much energy for its weight as present lithium-ion battery electrodes.

In the paper published last year, the team had estimated the kinds of improvement in gravimetric efficiency that might be achieved with lithium-air batteries; this new work "realizes this gravimetric gain," Shao-Horn says. Further work is still needed to translate these basic laboratory advances into a practical commercial product, she cautions.

This diagram depicts the essential functioning of the lithium-air battery. Ions of lithium combine with oxygen from the air to form particles of lithium oxides, which attach themselves to carbon fibers on the electrode as the battery is being used. During recharging, the lithium oxides separate again into lithium and oxygen and the process can begin again. Graphic: Courtesy of Mitchell, Gallant, and Shao-Horn

Because the electrodes take the form of orderly "carpets" of carbon fibers — unlike the randomly arranged carbon particles in other electrodes — it is relatively easy to use a scanning electron microscope to observe the behavior of the electrodes at intermediate states of charge. The researchers say this ability to observe the process, an advantage that they had not anticipated, is a critical step toward further improving battery performance. For example, it could help explain why existing systems degrade after many charge-discharge cycles.

Ji-Guang Zhang, a laboratory fellow in battery technology at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, says this is "original and high-quality work." He adds that this research "demonstrates a very unique approach to preparing high-capacity electrodes for lithium-air batteries."

As the battery is used, particles of lithium peroxide form as small dots on the sides of carbon nanofibers (top), and eventually assume larger toroidal (donut) shapes as the battery continues to discharge (bottom), as seen in these scanning electron microscope images. Photo: Courtesy of Mitchell, Gallant, and Shao-Horn

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wanxiang and Ener1 Receive Chinese Government Approval for JV

Ener1, Inc., a manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries, and Wanxiang Electric Vehicle Co., Ltd., a division of the Chinese conglomerate Wanxiang Group Corporation, today announced that they have received approval from the Chinese government for their joint venture to co-manufacture lithium-ion energy storage systems for the China market.

Government officials, including Party Secretary Zhao Hongzhu from China's Zhejiang Province, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (see photo) and members of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, were on hand for the announcement as part of the Indiana-Zhejiang Business Symposium in Indianapolis. The delegation also toured Ener1's manufacturing plant in Mt. Comfort, Ind., which is one of three facilities the company has throughout the Indianapolis area.

"Indiana is committed to maintaining a climate where innovative businesses like Ener1 can succeed," Governor Daniels said. "We're very proud to have played a role in bringing these two companies together and look forward to their shared success as they develop the next phase of the electric car industry. Today's announcement is an example of one of many fruitful partnerships between Indiana and China and shows that the Hoosier economy has a global reach."

The new company – Zhejiang Wanxiang Ener1 Power System Co., Ltd – will initially focus on fulfilling existing contracts with State Grid, which is the largest power supplier in China. These projects include providing lithium-ion battery systems for a pure electric bus project for the city of Qingdao, a pure electric car project for the city of Hangzhou, as well as a grid energy storage system. As capacity increases, it is anticipated the joint venture will work with other existing customers, such as SAIC Motor, Dongfeng Motor, Faw Haima Motor, Chang'an Automobile, Guangzhou Automobile and Yutong. The joint enterprise is expected to achieve annual cell manufacturing capacity of 300 million Ampere hours (approximately 40,000 electric vehicle battery packs) annually by 2014.

"Wanxiang has built strong and deep customer relationships throughout China," said Dr. Lu Guanqiu, founder and chairman of Wanxiang Group. "We are pleased that we have found such a technologically-advanced business partner like Ener1 to help us produce battery systems for our transportation and power grid customers."

"We're pleased to begin working with our partners at Wanxiang, with whom we've developed a strong relationship over the past year, to bring our lithium-ion battery packs and cells to one of the fastest-growing markets," said Charles Gassenheimer, chairman and CEO, Ener1, Inc. "We believe our technical expertise, coupled with Wanxiang's manufacturing aptitude, will help us quickly deliver exceptional energy storage solutions for customers in China."

The company also introduced its new leadership team, including: Dr. Jun Chen, who will serve as chief executive officer of Zhejiang Wanxiang Ener1 Power System Co.; Mr. Junqi Du, chief operating officer; and Dr. Taison Tan, chief technology officer.

Ener1, Inc. is a publicly traded (NASDAQ: HEV) energy storage technology company that develops compact, lithium-ion-powered battery solutions for the transportation, utility grid and industrial electronics markets. Headquartered in New York City, the company has more than 700 employees with manufacturing locations in the United States and Korea. Ener1 also develops commercial fuel cell products and nanotechnology-based materials.

Wanxiang Group was founded by Dr. Lu Guanqiu, who (according to the company) is regarded as a legendary entrepreneur in China for taking $500 in start-up capital in 1969 to create a farm tool repair shop and transforming it into one of the largest non-government-owned companies in China. The company is the country's largest automotive components manufacturer, and a conglomerate with more than $10 billion (USD) in revenue covering businesses including financial services, alternative energies, agricultural products, international trading, natural resources, real estate, private equity and venture capital investment, and other areas. Wanxiang Group currently employs more than 30,000 employees worldwide, with 19 companies in 9 countries and a sales and marketing network covering over 50 countries. The Boston Consulting Group has listed Wanxiang Group as one of the 100 most successful companies in China.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Energy Storage is Key for Commercial Buildings

According to a new report from Pike Research, the market for energy storage in commercial buildings is poised for significant growth in the years ahead. Why? The market momentum toward greater energy efficiency in commercial buildings, the proliferation of smart grid technologies, and the growth of renewable energy installations both on a distributed basis as well as at the utility scale are all driving heightened interest in the opportunity for energy storage in commercial buildings. Buildings represent a large portion of total energy consumption, and many of their occupants are actively seeking ways of managing their energy costs through efficiency measures as well as innovative means of optimizing their expenditures under time of use (TOU) electricity rates and other variable pricing structures.

Pike Research forecasts, under a baseline scenario, that the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) market, which is currently the largest segment within this industry, will increase from $3.4 billion in 2011 to $4.8 billion by 2016.
Another key emerging segment includes ice-based thermal energy storage (TES) custom systems, which Pike Research anticipates will rise from $15 million in revenue in 2011 to $37 million by 2016. Under a more aggressive growth scenario, this market could reach as high as $92 million during the same period. Ice-based TES rooftop units in North America will also experience strong growth, increasing from $12 million in 2011 to $123 million by 2016 under a baseline forecast scenario.

“Energy storage presents a compelling opportunity for building owners and managers,” says research analyst Eric Bloom. “These systems offer the ability to manage operating expenses in the face of aggressive demand charges and dynamic pricing schemes, which are on the rise throughout North America.”

Bloom adds that, while UPS and TES will continue to lead the market in the foreseeable future, significant opportunity also exists for commercial buildings to utilize flow batteries and lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries for energy storage as the economics of those technologies continue to improve.

Pike Research’s report, “Energy Storage in Commercial Buildings”, explores the market potential for energy storage in commercial buildings including an examination of market issues, technology issues, and the competitive landscape in this emerging sector.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Panasonic Opens European Residential Fuel Cell R&D Center

Panasonic launched the Panasonic Fuel Cell Development Office Europe (PFCOE) in Langen, Germany. The facility, situated in Panasonic’s European R&D center in Germany (PRDCG), will focus on developing residential fuel cells for the European market in close collaboration with leading European utility companies.

Panasonic has been developing residential fuel cells micro CHP (combined heat and power system) since 1999 and launched the world’s first system, the ENE FARM, in May 2009 in Japan.

The center in Langen will focus on developing and adapting the fuel cells to reflect the different operational conditions between Europe and Japan. As the operation of fuel cells depends on the composition of natural gas, it is necessary for the fuel cell to be adapted to European gas conditions. The fuel cell micro CHP generates electricity through a chemical reaction between oxygen in the atmosphere and hydrogen extracted from natural gas (methane, CH4). The heat generated as a by-product of this process is also used for home heating and hot water supplies. In Japan, a house powered by an ENE FARM fuel cell can expect to save about 1.5 tons of CO2 emissions per year compared with a house powered by electricity from thermal power station and a gas heating system.

Laurent Abadie, Chairman and CEO, of Panasonic Europe said: “We have a global goal to become the ‘number one green innovation company in the consumer electronics industry’ by 2018. As part of this goal, we in Europe are committed to providing products to the market that enable our customers, around the world, to live in a more sustainable way.”

“Our fuel cell micro CHP are already used in our “eco ideas house” in Japan which is a concept house that shows how with the right technology we can all have homes that store, create and save energy with virtually zero CO2 emissions. We haven’t brought the fuel cells to the European market before but with our new R&D center dedicated to the advancement of fuel cell technology in Europe, we are one step closer to realising our goal for 2018 and ensuring that our customers have access to green technologies globally while building on Panasonic’s green energy business and sales.”