Our lives are powered by lithium-ion batteries. From sending emails to checking social media to driving to friend’s houses, batteries keep 21st-century life in motion. This reliance is set to increase over the coming decades. As we move towards a coal-free future, batteries will increasingly be used in conjunction with renewable energy production. One problem with renewable energy sources is that turbines generate electricity only if it’s windy and solar panels work only when the sun shines. Batteries help us get around this problem as they can store energy and release it when demand is high. This week it was announced that the UK’s biggest battery was going to be built at Whitelee wind farm near Glasgow. The battery will store power generated by 215 turbines and should prop up the National Grid even when the wind is not blowing. This is expected to be the first of at least six similar projects across Scottish Power’s renewable energy sites. It follows the world’s largest battery installation in Adelaide in 2017. The project was built to store energy alongside Neoen’s Hornsdale windfarm, near Jamestown. At the end of last year figures presented by the Australian Energy Week suggested the new system had reduced the price of power outages by 90 per cent. These developments are often exciting but the raw materials used to build this technology come with their own environmental costs. Currently 75 per cent of the world’s lithium comes from Australia, Chile, Argentine and China. Some analysts fear that South America could become the new “Middle East” as battery power starts to replace coal. “Bolivia would become far more of a focus of world attention than Saudi Arabia ever was,” according to experts from Meridian International Research. A key element in lithium-iron batteries is cobalt in the positive electrodes (or cathodes). More than 60 per cent of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Chinese companies are running many of the country’s industrial mines using more than 35,000 children – some as young as six – to do the dirty work. They are risking their lives to mine cobalt for big electronic firms, many of which are likely to be aware of the appalling conditions they work in.
Independent 12th June 2019 read more »
A vast “super battery” is set to be installed at the UK’s largest onshore wind farm where it will store power generated by 215 turbines. The battery – which will be half the size of a football pitch – has twice the capacity of any battery in the UK and the move has been hailed as “significant step forward” for greener electricity. Bosses at ScottishPower have been given the go ahead to install the purpose built battery at its Whitelee wind farm, near Glasgow. The 50 megawatt lithium-ion battery will store energy generated from the site’s wind turbines, and will help maintain a supply of green electricity even when the wind is not blowing. At its peak, the wind farm can generate 539 megawatts of electricity, enough to power just under 300,000 homes – or all the households in Glasgow. South Lanarkshire Council granted planning permission for the project in May, with that decision now being backed by the Scottish government.
Independent 11th June 2019 read more »