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Progress for Italian smart grid system

Mon, 02/11/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

NEC Italia SpA has announced an agreement with Italian utility service provider Acea Spa to develop lithium-ion energy storage systems (ESS) for Acea’s substations.

NEC will provide one 180kW/ 100kWh substation and one 100kW/ 50kWh substation to Acea in Rome, due to be operational in September 2013. The ESS, which will greatly advance Rome’s smart grid system, will provide improved quality of utility services, reduce energy losses and improve the management of energy from distributed sources such as wind and PV.

The larger of the two systems will be connected to Acea’s low-voltage electricity grid to provide backup power in the event of a power outage. The smaller system will be connected to the mid-voltage grid to regulate and even out energy from distributed generators by compensating for power fluctuations.

“NEC is proud to partner with a visionary company like Acea, who understands the importance of Smart Grids for successfully meeting the demands of utility companies as well as reducing environmental burdens,” said Ugo Govigli, Vice President, Smart Grid Solutions, NEC Europe. “These ESS were designed entirely by the NEC EMEA Energy competence centre which was established in Italy in 2011. We expect these developments to pave the way into new energy market segments throughout EMEA.”?

Origin, but not cause, of Dreamliner battery fire announced

Fri, 02/08/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has announced the origin of the fire on the Japan AirLines Boeing Dreamliner, January 7th. The battery was believed to have had an “initiating event” in one of its eight cells; this was assessed using the flight data recorder and evidence form the thermal and mechanical damage.

The cell identified as the starting point “showed multiple signs of short-circuiting, leading to thermal runaway condition, which then cascaded to other cells.” The evidence suggests the cells reached 260oC.

Chairman of NTSB, Deborah Hersman, said potential causes of the initiating short circuit being evaluated include battery charging, the design and construction of the battery, and the possibility of defects introduced during the manufacturing process.

The cause of the short circuit remains unknown and further investigations will focus upon design and certification requirements of the battery system.

During its certification process Boeing considered the types of failures that might affect the battery, following tests it found no evidence that cell-to-cell spread or fire would be a problem and that smoke emitting from the cell would not occur during more than one in ten million flight hours.

Scrap lead prices creep up in US

Fri, 02/08/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

The price of scrap lead in the US is slowly creeping up. This is attributed to slightly higher demand, meaning the price of scrap is up by one cent per pound.

According to the American Metal Market the value of used lead-acid batteries is expected to continue to increase throughout February as smelters pay more for the scrap.

The closing price of lead on the London Metal Exchange at the end of January was $2386 per tonne, this is a continuation of the slowly rising price. Until now the scrap price has not risen but with demand growing the price is able to follow the primary trend.

Exide collaborate to change fortune

Wed, 02/06/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Exide Industries is extending its relationship with Japanese automotive battery maker Shin-Kobe Electric to improve the quality of the batteries it makes.

Exide has been under pressure to boost sales following a slowdown in the automobile industry. Poor performances over two consecutive financial quarters saw Exide warned by credit rating agency Moody that its rating could slide.

TV Ramanathan, MD and CEO of Exide, said the collaboration will lead to the implementation of new manufacturing processes for higher productivity and quality. It is hoped more effiecient manufacturing will lower the company's production costs.

The company has an existing technical joint venture with Shin-Kobe that this deal is built upon. It is not the first push for the company to improve its manufacturing standards, in 2012 it asked East Penn to collaborate to review its lead-acid batteries production.

Exide announced that Shin-Kobe would provide technology and extensive technical support and assistance to Exide to manufacture automotive batteries to a higher quality at its various Indian plants.

Solid electrolyte for lithium-ion

Wed, 02/06/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Scientists as Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a solid electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries that will provide greater energy density. The substance is made by manipulating lithium-thiophosphate so that it could conduct ions 1000 times faster than in its natural bulk form. The researchers used nanostructuring to alter the structure of the crystals that make up the material.

By altering it in this way, the solid electrolyte was not flammable as a liquid electrolyte would be. Chengdu Liang, who led the study, said: "Cycling highly reactive lithium metal in flammable organic electrolytes causes serious safety concerns," Liang said. "A solid electrolyte enables the lithium metal to cycle well, with highly enhanced safety."

The team developed the solid electrolyte by refining lithium-thiophosphate until it could conduct ions at a faster rate than in its natural state.

"We started with a conventional material that is highly stable in a battery system - in particular one that is compatible with a lithium metal anode," said Liang.

One of the research paper’s coauthors, Adam Rondinone, said the method can be scaled up to create large amounts of the material based on the same nanostructuring.

Lead surplus no more?

Thu, 07/19/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

Lead supplies could fall into deficit for the first time in five years.  Recycling of car batteries has stunted demand for raw resources but, with a growing market in Asia for electric bikes, industry demand for lead is rising.  

The 2012 global lead market is set to record a surplus of 144,000 metric tons. The price has declined in recent years due to this surplus, with value falling from US$2 700/t to $1 900/t from last year.

Demand for electric bikes should reduce the surplus and push prices up, lead producers would welcome this as prices have fallen steadily since 2007 when it was valued at US$3 890/t on the London Metal Exchange.

With lead producing factories closing in China and environmental concerns hindering expansion, the demand for lead is outstripping supply. 

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