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PostPosted: Dec 22, 2013 4:11 am 
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Long time lurker, first time poster, etc., I searched for these keywords and got nothing, but apologies if I managed to miss previous discussions.

A Liquid Metal Battery for Grid Storage Nears Production

What are the economics and scalabilities of this? I've seen guys in comment threads dismissing nuclear power entirely based on the perceived potential of deploying these batteries in 40' shipping containers alongside PV farms or the like?


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PostPosted: Dec 22, 2013 8:59 am 
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Scalability and economics, completely inadequate on the scale required:

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/201 ... d-battery/

That's for lead. Lithium technologies are far more expensive. Other technologies use materials that are rarer than lead such as antimony in case of liquid antimony-magnesium batteries.

Interestingly many of these technologies use molten salt as the electrolyte. Because of this alone (high temp corrosion resistant materials, high temp insulation) combined with the molten metal environments, they are not economical for large scale grid storage.

The amount of molten salt required would be several orders of magnitude greater than the molten salt required for MSRs/LFTRs to power the world.


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PostPosted: Dec 22, 2013 10:34 am 
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Sodium Sulphur batteries however might be able to do useful amounts ofg grid storage since they don't use any materials which it is concievable to run short of.

But nuclear still needs rather less storage than PV does.


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PostPosted: Dec 22, 2013 11:11 am 
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E Ireland wrote:
Sodium Sulphur batteries however might be able to do useful amounts ofg grid storage since they don't use any materials which it is concievable to run short of.

But nuclear still needs rather less storage than PV does.


Even for a no-rare material battery, the amounts of materials, especially engineered material (batteries are highly engineered things), would price this solution out of any realistic plan.

According to the story, the nation sized battery must have 336 billion kWh. Currently the cost of NaS is around $400/kWh. This makes 134400 BILLION dollars. 134 trillion. Ridiculous.

Even at a future cost of $100/kWh (not even plausible even according to advocates) it is still 33600 billion.

Even with nuclear @ $10/Watt this money would buy you 3360 GWe of nuclear. That would power everything in the USA including sufficient transport liquid fuel production, electrified heating etc.


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PostPosted: Dec 23, 2013 7:55 am 
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If I read it correctly, each IWT would need about 100 of the "Ambri Cores" to reliably STOP being a detriment to the stability and economy of the grid. It would not be enough to actually make the IWT energy reliable, just not detrimentally UNreliable.

_________________
DRJ : Engineer - NAVSEA : (Retired)


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PostPosted: Dec 23, 2013 9:05 am 
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KitemanSA wrote:
If I read it correctly, each IWT would need about 100 of the "Ambri Cores" to reliably STOP being a detriment to the stability and economy of the grid. It would not be enough to actually make the IWT energy reliable, just not detrimentally UNreliable.


The press release is worse than useless, I'm afraid. They don't even mention what metals are involved or any details about thes "ambri cores". It is complete sales talk.

We've previously discussed various articles from the IEEE Spectrum site. They are a bunch of clueless people playing at being serious reporters. The articles on dry cooling for example are painfully lacking in perspective.


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PostPosted: Dec 23, 2013 9:26 am 
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Here's a story about antimony (I presume this Ambri battery to be a magnesium-antimony cell).

http://www.adroitresources.ca/antimony/ ... price.html

A slight increase in demand caused a big price rise. Antimony is now over $12/kg, several times the cost of lead.

The USGS estimates around 6 million tons of reserves. Production around 0.2 million tons/year.

A USA nation sized antimony-magnesium battery would need something like 1 billion ton of antimony. More than 5000 years of today's production, and over 160x the current global reserve estimate.


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PostPosted: Dec 23, 2013 11:56 am 
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According to their web page http://www.ambri.com/technology/ they moved away from antimony.

Quote:
THE CHEMISTRY
Ambri’s liquid metal battery was initially based on magnesium and antimony as the negative and positive electrodes, respectively, and a low cost molten salt electrolyte. Since then, Ambri has transitioned to using higher voltage and lower cost chemistries.


I have been following Ambri for a while. They said they started with antimony but moved on to an unnamed combination of metals quite a while ago. Given the low abundance of antimony, I suspect that they just wanted to use it as an example so that they could discuss the technology without revealing what materials they were using.


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PostPosted: Dec 23, 2013 1:00 pm 
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So what metal are they using? If they can't even mention those basics they are dubious like EESTOR.

In the world of energy storage. If it sounds too good to be true, it always is. If there are no basics given, it is usually hype or scam.


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PostPosted: Dec 23, 2013 6:41 pm 
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I'm not as cynical as Cyril here. I am the one who gave him the battery link - it's a good link - but I'm not sure that applies here. If they did figure out a way to make a nifty battery with really cheap material, it's not entirely implausible.

However, this sets off other triggers, which Cyril correctly identifies. Without concrete details, it reminds me of scams like cold fusion. I'll be waiting until concrete details are given, such as materials, how much material per unit, construction methods and cost, and what is the likely price increase under a accurate analysis due to the massive increased demand. Nothing is stopping them from releasing these details. They just need to file some patents, and we can have all of the details. If patents are not being filed, then they have nothing I need to worry about.


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PostPosted: Dec 24, 2013 5:24 am 
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I'm only cynical because of the scale of the problem and particularly the cost problem at that scale.

If the challenge were to make a few thousand kWh of new battery storage technology, then that'd be a walk in the park. No reason to be cynical.

The challenge, in stead, is to make a 336 billion kWh "nation sized battery" for wind and solar to work in the way the advocates want (no nuclear, no fossil, only renewables).

It seems that almost no one realizes the scale of the energy problem in general. If we wanted to provide 2 kWe for 9 billion people (minimum needed even if we are extremely energy efficient, electric transport etc.) then that makes 18 TWe. That's 9 nation sized batteries of 336 billion kWh, 3000 billion kWh of battery.

How can anyone come to any other conclusion than batteries won't cut the mustard for global energy storage in a renewables powered world?


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PostPosted: Dec 26, 2013 2:02 pm 
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Cyril R wrote:
How can anyone come to any other conclusion than batteries won't cut the mustard for global energy storage in a renewables powered world?

Meh. If someone says they can, then I'll hear them out, but I will dismiss them if they don't have anything beyond "I just made this entirely new tech and I won't tell you any details".


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PostPosted: Jan 07, 2014 12:14 am 
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It's probably the case of the molten metal mix is a proprietary trade secret, yet to a certain degree is so simple that spelling out the components means everybody can guess. Patents let the cat out of the bag, but as a trade secret you can bully competitors all day. As long as the recipe or a sample doesn't leak (figuratively and literally), they can hold a tech advantage for a while. But wouldn't the composition ultimately leak out in regulatory filings to FERC when used by utilities?


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PostPosted: Jan 07, 2014 6:40 am 
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I think that utility level electricity storage is not the solution for intermittent renewables. The wind energy is best stored as lifted water or compressed air. Solar heat is best stored as fused salts. Appliances having battery may have spare batteries.
Liquid metal or salt batteries could be used as distributed storage.


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PostPosted: Jan 12, 2014 11:09 pm 
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If Ambri can make a battery with a life-cycle cost that is half or less that of lead-acid batteries, they could in fact be big sellers.

Of course Ambri cells are extremely unlikely to be cheap enough to provide cheap night-time solar power. However, a much more modest use could be feasible and profitable.

Consider the grid-benefit of putting 1 hour of storage on each PV installation. This would provide much needed ramp-rate control, so that solar and dirty-coal (or nuclear) can be used together without expensive fossil gas as a buffer for spinning reserve and fast up/down ramping. It would also provide frequency regulation and stability improvement, and help with black-starting the grid. Given that utility scale solar is about $2/W, an extra $0.4/Watt for a battery seems like a good add-on.

Lead-acid batteries today cost about $0.21/Watt*hour (see Solar Buzz batteries), but the short cycle life means a 30 year supply costs a several times more than this.

Note that the pizza-box shaped cells shown on Ambri's website are claimed to have high power capability - this is battery company lingo for sub-one-hour discharge rate capability.


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