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batteries and energy storage technology

Bolivia takes first steps in lithium manufacture

Thu, 01/17/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Bolivia will receive a US$2.9 million Chinese-made pilot plant for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries in the next few weeks, with production expected to start up in the second half of this year, according to government officials.

Uyuni Salt Flat

According to Corporacion Minera de Bolivia official Luis Alberto Echazu, the plant will be used to train Bolivian technicians, who will learn how to operate an industrial plant that will be constructed in the future.

The project is part of a government plan to develop the Uyuni Salt Flat, located in the southwestern Andean province of Potosi, on its own to produce batteries for electric cars, computers and cell phones.

President Evo Morales is promoting the development of the lithium industry without foreign partners, but he has proposed a partnership with Japan to manufacture electric cars in Bolivia that would use domestically made lithium-ion batteries.

The Uyuni Salt Flat, a dried-up sea bed that stretches over a more than 10 000sq kilometer (some 4 000-sq mile) area, is the world's largest reserve of the planet's lightest metal.

The Bolivian government says the salt flat contains 100 million tons of lithium reserves, although the U.S. Geological Survey puts the figure at just nine million tons.

The Morales administration has been working since 2009 to install a pilot plant to make lithium carbonate at Uyuni and its goal is to show results in ‘industrialising’ the metal before 2014.

Exide gets a warning from ratings agency

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Moody’s, the credit rating agency that gave Exide a tough time a decade ago is once again putting the company’s financial performance under the microscope.

Exide Technologies has seen weak operating performance over the last two financial quarters that has resulted in a poor credit rating.

Moody’s Investor Services changed Exide’s rating outlook from stable to negative. The company’s rating is categorised as highly speculative in the categories of Corporate Family and Probability of Default Rating, as well as its liquidity rating.

In an attempt to remedy this, and raise its credit rating back to its previous level, the company has closed battery transportation and recycling facilities in Tennessee, Texas and Pennsylvania. The company hopes the savings on operational costs from closing these facilities will improve earnings for 2013.

These combined actions will bring North American capacity down to demand level and limit the company’s exposure to volatile core costs related to recycling.

The company could be in further trouble if it cannot manage fluctuations in commodity costs; if the global demand for battery products dips; or not being able to offset lower demand with restructuring savings could lower operating performance.

If Exide cannot achieve a sequentially consecutive improvement in operating profits, Moody’s could further downgrade it.

The company can be considered for a stable rating when it can sustain EBIT (total expense from interest payments) over 1.0x; generate positive free cash flow; and maintain an adequate liquidity profile.

The sale of the smelter in Frisco, Texas should gain the company US$37million, which will strengthen the company’s US$74 million in cash on its September 2012 balance sheet.

Exide's ‘highly speculative’ Corporate Family Rating of B3 reflects the company's business focus on markets that enjoy greater stability. The automotive aftermarket replacement battery market represents about 75% of Exide's transportation revenues (44% of total revenues). About half of Exide's revenues are generated in North America where industry reports indicate shipments of both aftermarket and OEM batteries have increased on a year-to-date basis through October 2012. 

Eaton introduces 93PM three-phase UPS series

Tue, 01/15/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Eaton has launched the 93PM series of three-phase UPS covering power ratings from 30 to 50 kVA.

In double conversion mode, the Eaton 93PM units are designed to perform at a 96.7% efficiency. With its Energy Saver System technology, Eaton claims the UPS automatically adapts to incoming power conditions (aka Eco Mode), increasing efficiency to 99%, switching to double conversion or battery mode with a typical transition time of two milliseconds.

The Eaton 93PM claims high power and energy density; the devices are capable of providing the full load with power from the internal batteries for 10-20 minutes. Internal batteries allow the 93PM to achieve a minimal physical footprint of only 0.5 m2, saving valuable space that users can allocate to other business critical equipment.

Additionally, the units are equipped with Eaton’s Advanced Battery Management technology to ensure maximum uptime. ABM optimises battery recharge time, eliminates overcharging, continuously monitors battery condition to extend battery service life by 50%, enables early fault detection and provides optimal maintenance planning. If required, the backup time can further be extended with line-and-match external battery cabinets to provide power for more than an hour.

UK fuel cell company turns profit after 20 years

Tue, 01/15/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

UK-based Intelligent Energy is the in Britain, and one of the few companies in the world, to make a profit from fuel cell development.

Intelligent Energy has been developing fuel cell technology to be used in cars, power stations and portable electronic devices for 20 years.

Just two years ago Intelligent Energy made a £15million loss, which it has now turned into a £7.8million profit after revenues surged in 2012 by 269%. This demonstrates the considerable growth in the fuel cell industry in recent years.

Intelligent Energy credits a joint venture with Suzuki to manufacture fuel cells for cars as enabling it to become profitable.

It is also leading a consortium to introduce zero carbon emission fuel cell electric taxis to London, is working on fuel cells for back-up power systems to replace traditional diesel generators and has a joint venture with SSE to develop fuel cell combined heat and power systems for use in the home and industry.

Green Grid white paper offers fresh perspective on UPS ‘eco mode’ for data centres

Fri, 01/11/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

The Green Grid has published a white paper on how Eco Mode can improve data centre efficiency and overall Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) when appropriately deployed.

The paper, Evaluation of Eco Mode in Uninterruptible Power Supply Systems, offers an extensive look into UPS systems, and makes recommendations to data centre managers regarding other power distribution equipment to ensure a reliable power system.  

In order to help understand and deploy what is typically the highest-efficiency mode, the white paper breaks down key elements such as UPS technology and performance, critical power systems configuration, IT power supply ride-through, and utility grid reliability. The white paper explores each of these ideas and their trade-offs, helping data centre operators understand Eco Mode from the ground up.

According to The Green Grid, transfer-time is “one of the most salient performance characteristics for eco mode.” This is the amount of time during which the UPS will not output any power.  

Global UPS market to reach $9.84bn by 2015 - report

Thu, 01/10/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

The global UPS market will reach $9.84bn by 2015, according to a report by analysts TechNavio.

TechNavio's report, ‘Global Uninterruptible Power Supply Market’, sees the key vendors dominating the UPS market space as Schneider Electric, Emerson Electric, and Eaton.  The other vendors mentioned in the report are Riello, Toshiba, Swelect Energy Systems, Mitsubishi Electric, GE and TDK.

An analyst from TechNavio's Engineering team said: ''The use of next-generation power storage technologies is one of the emerging trends in the UPS market. Such next-generation power storage technologies aid the environment-related efforts of companies.

“Thus, instead of using electricity, many greener methods such as solar and wind energy might be used to charge the batteries in UPS systems. Also, next-generation technology helps to discharge the energy back to the grid when battery power is not in use.''

One of the key factors contributing to this market growth is population growth. However, the increasing cost of raw materials could pose a challenge to the growth of this market, the report says.

Wärtsilä to supply 225 MW power plant to Texas utility

Thu, 01/10/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Finnish gas engine manufacturer Wärtsilä is to engineer and supply a 225 MW power plant to South Texas Electric Cooperative (STEC) in the USA.

The STEC Red Gate power plant will be located in Hidalgo County, Texas and is scheduled to be in commercial operation by summer 2014. The plant will be powered by 12 Wärtsilä 50SG engines running on natural gas.

The new Red Gate power plant is designed to meet BACT (Best Available Control Technology) pollution standards as mandated by the United States Clean Air Act.  Wärtsilä  said one of the benefits of the 50SG engine is that its high simple-cycle efficiency is achieved with minimal water consumption.

Wärtsilä has also signed a maintenance agreement to provide technical and operational assistance with maintenance planning, technical advisors, spare parts, and an on-site inventory.

Chinese rare earth exports

Thu, 08/02/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

China has published a white paper confirming its position on rare earth elements following a complaint filed to the World Trade Organisation.  The US, EU and Japan protested China are limiting their export of rare earth elements to protect domestic industries. China has rebuked this claim and cites mounting environmental damage by over-mining as the reason for slowing its mining programme.
The country is now being criticised for manipulating its estimation of reserves held. Previously they claimed to have 30% of the global reserves but now state it is closer to 20%. The Chinese government is fearful of the environmental impact of over mining.  The country has already come under much scrutiny for its poor environmental track record so vigilance should be welcomed. However some critics fear the re-estimation and slower mining of reserves could have more to do with keeping prices up than concerns for the land they come from.
Industries rely heavily upon rare earth elements and will have to look elsewhere for resources if China is to stand by its conviction.  Greenland could hold the answer, there is an estimated quarter of the elements required globally hidden beneath its ice.  Alternatively countries could follow suit with South-East Asia and by ‘urban mining’ – reclaiming used materials from landfill sites.

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