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8 June 2022

The world of renewables this week

The International Energy Agency is rapidly going from pariah to advocate for renewables – having spent the first 40 years of its existence debasing renewables and preaching reliance on fossil fuels, it has now become a fully-fledged advocate – first it adjusted its stance on the rate of EV adoption last year, then it fixed its miserable forecasting approach to solar, now it has come out and lambasted global governments for not pushing “energy efficiency” enough in the current energy crisis. It will tell Ministers at its conference on Energy Efficiency this week that “it can save 95 exajoules a year by 2030.” It’s just a shame that it spent to long as an oil evangelist before that.

UK sales of plug-in EVs made up just 18.3% of total passenger car sales in May, but in year to date figures that’s as high as 20.6% almost double what it was this time last year. Total passenger car sales were off by over 20% in May from last year, but only 8.7% year to date. Meanwhile diesel car sales are off 50% year to date, so unpopular are they in the UK after Dieselgate. Battery Electric surged the most, up by 17.7% over last May and 71.2% year to date. The figures come from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) which also said that used EV second hand transactions grew 119.2% to over 40,000 – so people are now buying EVs in a used car market which has fallen since last year.

LG Energy Solution says it will broadens it next gen battery research by working alongside Gemany’s University of Münster and Forschungszentrum Jülich. This follows similar cooperation deals with UCSD in the US and KAIST in Korea. The research is focused on developing next-generation electrolytes and greening the process for lithium-ion battery manufacturing. LGES has gone all in on lithium ion battery and it desperately needs an edge against Chinese rivals like CATL. It has recently had a series of overheating incidents with battery it has supplied to the grid and to EVs, and has begun changing towards LFP designs.

When you think of Briggs & Stratton, you think of the engine in your lawnmower, that just seems to go on forever. But the company has an Energy Solutions division which has just released its SimpliPHI Energy Storage System. It is a proprietary hardware/software system named after the California manufacturer of energy storage systems it acquired last year. It consists of a 6 kW Inverter, a 4.9 kWh Battery and its EnergyTrak battery management system. We assume this is mostly about powering the engines it is best known for, in electric variations.

We first wrote about Energy Dome in December, as it picked up EU cash to build a pilot in its native Sardinia (an Italian Island). It uses compressed CO2 instead of compressed air, in a battery design involving a huge dome which can storage up to 200 MWh of energy days at a time, at an impressive LCOS of $50 to $60. The company says that it has completed the pilot and confirmed the performance of the CO2 Battery with an impressive round-trip efficiency, without degradation or site dependency. It gets its low cost from using off-the-shelf equipment available from an established supply chain. Its first commercial projects are expected to be deployed by the end of 2023.  Energy Dome has a number of commercial agreements, including with an Italian utility A2A and signed a non-exclusive license agreement with Ansaldo Energia, to build projects in Italy, Germany, the Middle East and Africa.

Rio Tinto and the Salzgitter Group have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together towards carbon-free steelmaking by studying the Rio Tinto Canadian and Australian iron ore products for use in Salzgitter’s SALCOS green steel project in Germany. The idea is to make iron ore pellets, lump and fines for use in hydrogen powered direct reduction steelmaking and replace Salzgitter’s carbon heavy blast furnaces from the middle of this decade.

E.ON and Deutsche ErdWärme say they will cooperate on the transition of home and industrial heat, providing green heat using geothermal in Germany. They say that deep geothermal (beyond 100 meters and up to 4,000) could cover 25% of Germany’s annual heat demand (over 300 TWh). They will start joint projects in the North Rhine-Westphalia. This week Deutsche ErdWärme said it has commissioned Italian EPC Turboden, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to build a geothermal power plant in Graben-Neudorf. Turboden is one of the leading manufacturers of Organic Rankine Cycle systems.

GCL Technology’s 2021 ESG report states that its granular silicon production at its Xuzhou factory is 14.8 kWh per kilogram – compare this to say 50 kWh for standard Siemens Process polysilicon production. One kilogram of polysilicon makes around 330 Watts of Si photovoltaic, so this disparity is worth at least several percentage points of final module cost.

Polysilicon prices have now reached $40 per kilogram within China, after yet another 1% to 2% weekly cost increase.

After a period in the past year or so in which solar-grade glass manufacturing production was not much higher than demand, the immense expansions being proposed by Chinese companies once again raises the prospect of overcapacity, and local governments across China may crease to approve new production lines. In Anhui Province alone proposed production capacity has reached almost 90,000 tons per day, which is twice the nationwide figure from 2021.

Chinese provinces continue to issue new, higher co-located energy storage requirements for solar and wind projects – the highest now seen is 25% of generation capacity, with 2-hour duration, and that level is more commonly seen as rewarded by incentive but not requires like the more common 10%.

Austria’s new green hydrogen plan advocates 1 GW of electrolysis capacity come 2030, consuming 6.5 TWh annually.