Apathy an industry killer, says CEO

Battery technology is stuck in the 1970s and we are all to blame, says the co-founder and CEO of Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) Technologies. Well, he didn’t exactly say that, but Fernando Gomez-Baquero pointed the finger at “industry-wide apathy” in an interview which recently ran in ZDNet.

His point was that users are not demanding better results from batteries and manufacturers supplying everything from smart phones to electric vehicle modules are generally happy too churn out cheap, tried-and-tested, lower-quality products instead of taking risks with keenly-priced higher-tech options.

Gomez-Baquero also makes the point that mobile device manufacturers will need to take a global view of power management in order to make up for what he sees as the shortcomings of current lithium-ion batteries.

Graphene research excites investor

Graphene is making an impact beyond the lab and into the boardroom, it seems. Graphite mining company Focus Graphite has reached an agreement to develop next-generation rechargeable batteries with Hydro-Quebec’s Reseach Institute, reports Proactive Investors UK.

The three-year research and development deal will actually be between the Institute and Focus’s privately-held joint venture Grafoid, with the eventual objective of producing rechargeable batteries based on graphene and lithium iron phosphate materials.

Vanadium chief backs energy storage

Cynics might say a story that can be boiled down to “Man who runs huge vanadium mine says vanadium is the key to energy storage” is not really news, but we beg to differ. True, Ron MacDonald, executive chairman of American Vanadium, which owns the only vanadium mine in North America,  sees a big opportunity in supplying the market with vanadium-flow batteries.

But in a fascinating interview (below) conducted byMining.com he also highlights the overall importance of energy storage as an essential component to the renewables mix, and quotes a figure of between USD$400 billion and a $1 trillion of global investment predicted for in energy storage between now and 2021.

In fact, from our point of view the interview is yet another sign that understanding of the issues surrounding our sector is expanding rapidly, and that can only be a good sign for the future.

H2 company does deal with AEG

UK-based hydrogen technology and energy storage company ITM Power has announced it has signed an agreement with AEG Power Solutions to integrate its electrolyser technology with AEG’s power control electronics. Under the agreement, ITM Power and AEG will initially address five projects, ranging from imminent deployment to early proposal development.

This agreement with ITM represents the first time AEG’s power conversion technology will be coupled with polymer exchange membrane electrolysis, enabling rapid-response electrolysis at a scale appropriate for electricity grid balancing services, says ITM.

Leclanché obtains €5m bailout loan

Swiss lithium-ion battery producer Leclanché has announced that its German subsidiary, Leclanché GmbH, has obtained a €5 million (USD$6.5 million) bridging loan from the Bruellan Corporate Governance Action Fund, to cover its short-term funding needs. The loan expires in March 2013 and is secured with assets of Leclanché GmbH.

Both parties have agreed that following a capital increase to raise further funds for Leclanché SA, Bruellan has the right to convert the loan into shares of Leclanché.

Saft in new USD$98m deal with US military

Saft will be providing the US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) with lithium-sulphur dioxide batteries for portable devices such as radios,reports New Energy Network. The DLA will then pass the units onto the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

The contract Saft has secured will be worth up to USD$98 million over five years and adds to the recent top-up of $1.3 million the company secured from BAE Systems to develop energy storage solutions for hybrid vehicles destined for the US Army.

More good funding news for compressed air

General Compression has secured a USD$60 million investment which will partly go towards funding the company’s first grid-scale energy storage demonstration project, reports Recharge News. The 2MW compressed air energy storage (CAES) project, which is already underway in Texas, is aimed at storing surplus energy generated from wind power and is being backed by ConcoPhillips Company.

General Compression has also secured investment from Northwater Intellectual Property Funds, US Renewables Group, Duke Energy, Serious Change and the Wellford Energy Group.