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Why Lithium-ion batteries will be central to the renewables revolution

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Posted April 18, 2018

Lithium-ion battery. Image credit: cintersimone via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Renewables are becoming an increasingly important aspect of our energy production. As renewables expand, collecting and storing energy will become an even more important part of the energy supply chain.

Our ability to produce energy is rapidly beginning to outstrip our ability to store it. As renewables become a more common method of powering our world the “base load” that we need to power our homes and businesses will become less stable. The solution to this problem might lie in the development of new Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

The problem is that the materials for these batteries are hard to source. It is companies like Elcora Advanced Materials (TXSV:ERA, OTC:ECORF) who are helping to provide the materials necessary to create the batteries we will need in order to keep the lights on as we shift to more sustainable energy sources.

Li-ion batteries are particularly efficient

Renewable energy has become an increasingly important energy generation tool for countries around the world. As concerns about global warming have mounted many governments have offered generous subsidies to encourage the development of new energy sources. All this means is that the renewable energy sector could be worth as much as $777 billion by 2019. Renewable energy has become so efficient that in January 2018 it briefly covered 100% of Germany’s energy needs.

The problem is that while the energy produced by coal or nuclear power plants can be lowered or raised at will renewable energy sources prevent unique problems. It is impossible to turn the wind or sun on or off and sometimes you produce far more energy than required and occasionally you will not produce enough. One solution to this problem is to create balanced energy sources that take advantage of multiple different kinds of energy generation. This can help but it still only represents part of the puzzle. The real solution will rely in the creation of more efficient batteries.

Most ordinary batteries aren’t able to hold the charge necessary to ensure that enough power can be stored to ensure that the lights stay on even when the sun isn’t shining. Thankfully, Li-ion technology offers a potential solution. Li-ion technology will allow huge industrial batteries, known as flow batteries, to store up to ten times the amount of energy compared with other solutions.

California is already experimenting with using Li-ion batteries to help boost the amount of energy generated from renewable sources. By using a combination of flow batteries and smaller batteries placed in homes and offices it should theoretically be possible to store sufficient power to cover any downtime because of poor weather conditions. The use of domestic Li-ion batteries will be particularly important as it will allow homes to store excess energy generated by inbuilt solar panels.

The take-up of Li-ion batteries has been limited by their expensive nature

The problem with Li-ion batteries is that they are generally quite costly to produce and the materials can be difficult to extract. This is where companies like Elcora are able to help.

One of the key components of Li-ion batteries is graphite anode powder. Elcora’s mine in Sri Lanka has been shown to have several different Li-ion chemistries that are able to offer high-power and high-energy capabilities at a competitive cost when compared to many of its competitors. The graphite in Elcora’s mine is particularly high in quality, which reduces the amount of chemicals needed to refine it for use in Li-ion batteries and therefore reduces the environmental impact of creating them.

In November 2017, Elcora entered into a strategic partnership with Lockheed Martin to provide the energy sector leader with the high-quality graphite required in order to develop more efficient Li-ion batteries that could help to hasten the global adoption of renewable energy sources.

The adoption of renewable energy is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today, and energy storage is one piece of a much larger puzzle. Elcora and companies like it will play an important role in ensuring that the high-quality materials necessary to produce efficient Li-ion batteries are available.

Written by Anna Reyes

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