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FBE calls for more flow battery investment in Europe

Thu, 11/04/2021 - 10:23 -- Paul Crompton

Energy storage organisation Flow Batteries Europe (FBE) is calling for an annual $100 million investment into the development and deployment of long-duration storage technologies in Europe.

The appeal came as the UK government called for evidence on facilitating the deployment of large-scale and long-duration electricity storage (LLES).

The consultation, which ran from 20 July to 28 September, focused on LLES’ role in decarbonising power networks, and questioned if flow battery technology faced market challenges that may hinder its deployment at scale.

FBE— and an international not-for-profit association— says that large-scale manufacturing would reduce costs to a level that’s competitive with short-duration storage technologies including lithium-ion and lead-acid.

An FBE spokesman told BEST the $100 million would pay for a 1.5GW flow battery manufacturing factory— with the cost of setting up new flow battery manufacturing facilities much less than the investment in a lithium-ion manufacturing plant.

Kees van de Kerk, president of FBE, said: “Investment in large-scale manufacturing of flow batteries is urgently required to support the deployment of large-scale, long-duration energy storage if carbon emission reduction targets are to be achieved.”

FBE says that failure to support the early deployment of LLES would delay the development of the technology, and installing short duration storage options would defer their replacement by LLES for an extended period, making it harder to decarbonise the energy system by 2050.

Accelerating LLES and bringing investment forward would help prepare the manufacturing and materials supply chains, limiting the deployment of non-LLES conforming storage, say FBE.

FBE answers BEST’s questions

How much investment does FBE think the Europe needs in LLES for the next 5-10 years?

Currently, a Tesla Gigafactory produces 35GWh per year and costs $5 billion, most of which goes into EVs. Therefore, if scaled, 1GWh would cost around $140 million. According to IHS Markit, the global energy storage market will add up to over 30GW a year by 2030. 

If, say, we need 30GW of stationary storage a year, and only 5% of that is flow batteries, that would still mean 1.5GW coming from flow batteries. A flow battery factory is half the cost of a lithium-ion factory. A 1.5GW flow battery factory would cost about $100 million.

We therefore think that Europe should invest a minimum of $100 million per year in flow battery manufacturing, to keep up with other technologies. Ideally, we would also expect any country that has accepted an EV gigafactory to make a similar investment. 

How would this investment help LLES technologies compete with lithium-ion and lead-acid ESSs?

Funding, such as grants for investment in R&D and manufacturing, are often made on a technology basis, with proposals assessed and public investment made on the basis on perceived benefit and priority. Often, money follows money. 

This sometimes means that newer technologies have a lower profile and are less able to attract funding.

Private investment often follows the development of the initial R&D. Private investors’ look at public funding assessments as a check on their proposed investments. Both private and public funding and investments often lean towards technologies with a clear value stream. 

For energy storage, the value stream drivers have been based on short-term energy storage, for example power quality, frequency response and short-term reserve and electric vehicles. This has focused attention on shorter duration batteries, for example, lithium -on.

Longer-term storage does not have such a well-developed fiscal rate of return, so tends not to be so heavily investable. It is not just a problem for flow batteries – other long-term storage technologies are also in the queue for more investment. We argue that the cost of setting up new manufacturing facilities for flow batteries is much less than the investment in a manufacturing plant for lithium-ion.

Flow battery consultation

The UK government’s consultation called for information to understand the barriers within the LLES market, how these might be addressed, and the risks that may be associated with potential interventions to support their deployment.

While flow batteries are already deployed for LLES applications, long-storage technologies need adequate market provisions to ensure that they can be deployed along the energy system, said an FBE statement.

FBE is stressing the importance of the following policy priorities:

The definition of LLES should include not only the consideration of MWs and MWhs, but also the cyclability and endurance of the technology.

That LLES should be considered to have a minimum duration of five hours; with energy storage systems delivering energy at its rated power for a minimum of five hours over a minimum of 10,000 complete cycles.

Long-term energy storage projects should be established as a separate asset class, alongside generation, distribution and transmission, and consumption. Doing so would allow for a market price of capacity, as opposed to just a market price of power. Defining batteries as a separate asset class has allowed projects with long-duration natrium-sulphur batteries in the Middle East to become financially feasible.

Other countries around the world, such as China and the US, have already started investing in different LLES technologies. 

FBE remains open to a dialogue with policymakers and other interested stakeholders to help ensure that LLES technologies receive more attention and investment in the coming years. 

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Toyocolor to supply CNT to and SK Innovations European plants

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 15:18 -- Paul Crompton
Lioaccum series of conductive carbon nanotube (CNT) dispersions

Functional materials firm Toyocolor is set to supply carbon nanotubes to Korea’s lithium-ion battery maker SK Innovations’ plants in the US and Europe.

Toyocolor, the colorants and functional materials division of Japan’s Toyo Ink Group, will supply its Lioaccum series of conductive carbon nanotube (CNT) dispersions. 

Lioaccum dispersions are used as the conductive additive in lithium-ion cathodes to expand battery capacity that enables electric vehicles to increase driving distances and charge faster. 

In this instance, the CNT’s will be used in lithium-ion batteries for Volkswagen Group and the Ford Motor Company.

Toyocolor said in a statement that its researchers in Japan had achieved high conductivity levels by replacing carbon black in the battery cathode with a small amount of Lioaccum CNT dispersions as the conductive additive.

At present, Toyocolor is providing SK Innovation with Lioaccum dispersions produced at its plant in Georgia, US.

Supply to SK Innovation’s European plants is due to move to Toyo Ink Hungary, in Hungary, in the first quarter of next year. 

Toyo Ink SC Holdings, the parent company of the Toyo Ink Group, plans to invest around 10 billion yen ($9990 million) up to 2026, to strengthen its global battery dispersions production network. 

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Umicore secures EIB funding to develop European lithium-ion battery cathode plant

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 10:09 -- Paul Crompton

Materials technology firm Umicore has finalised a €125 million ($141 million) loan agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) as it looks to develop a lithium-ion battery cathode plant in Europe.

The proceeds of the loan, which has a maturity of eight years, will finance part of the Belgium firm’s investment in the cathode materials plant in Nysa. 

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European Commission approves €3 billion fund to support battery industry

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 14:34 -- Paul Crompton

The European Commission has approved a €3.2 billion ($3.5 billion) fund to promote the research and development of a battery ‘ecosystem’ in Europe.

Seven European countries will receive funding to develop cooperation, accelerate laboratory-to-market innovation and introduce a ‘fit-for-future’ regulatory framework.

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Former Tesla employees plans for Europe’s first Gigafactory

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 16:00 -- Paul Crompton

Two former Tesla workers are set to beat their former employee in making lithium-ion cells for electric vehicle and energy storage applications in Europe.

Northvolt AB’s ambitious plans to build Europe's first Gigafactory in Sweden were given a boost when investment firm InnoEnergy, announced a €3.5million (around 35MSEK or $3.7million) investment.

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Digatron opens Italian offices as expansion plans continue

Thu, 02/25/2016 - 14:46 -- Paul Crompton
Digatron opens Italian offices as expansion plans continue

Digatron Power Electronics has opened a new office in Italy as part of its continued growth and expansion in central and eastern Europe.

The new sales office in Milan and the hiring of Milanese Massimo Dotzo as its new sales manager is an important part of Digatron’s business strategy.

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Skeleton Technologies wins gold as best green startup

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 12:45 -- Paul Crompton
Skeleton Technologies wins gold as best green startup

Ultracapacitor manufacturer Skeleton Technologies has won gold for being the best ‘smart green startup’ in Europe.

Based in Bautzen, Germany, and Tallinn, Estonia, the company claims to be the only manufacturer that uses nanoporous carbide-derived carbon, or ‘curved graphene’, in its ultracapacitor cells.

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Fuel cell giant takes control of European JV

Tue, 08/11/2015 - 11:23 -- Paul Crompton
Fuel cell giant takes control of European JV

Fuel cell firm Plug Power has entered into a definitive agreement to take full control of a joint venture to develop, manufacture and market fuel cells in Europe.

Plug Power bought the remaining 80% of joint venture HyPulsion from Axane, SA, a subsidiary of Air Liquide SA, for $11.47 million in common stock, subject to certain post-closing adjustments.

Plug Power and Air Liquide founded HyPulsion in 2012 to bring fuel cells for forklift trucks to the European market.

The transaction is subject to certain customary closing conditions and is expected to close no later than August 2015.

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