Meet a Nilar employee October

 

How would you describe yourself?
I consider myself to be social. In my work, I like to think I am creative while remaining detail-oriented.

 Could you tell a bit about your background/where you grew up?
I grew up in China, where I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and Technology. I moved to Sweden where I attended Uppsala University to acquire my master’s degree in Chemistry for Renewable Energy. I moved to Stockholm to attend Stockholm University. I have done 5 years of study towards a PhD in Chemistry.

What led you to work in the energy storage industry?
I have a general interest in the industry for a variety of reasons. I see problems in the world; some societies are lacking energy and others are suffering from a lot of pollution. Through my interest in biology, I want to be part of extending human life. My fascination with chemistry drives me to be part of growing renewable energy resources. Ultimately, I want to contribute to a more sustainable world.

How did your journey with Nilar start?
While studying at Stockholm University, I had the privilege of working on projects with Professor Dag Noréus, who served as my PhD supervisor. These projects involved research into the functionality of components within Nickel Metal Hydride batteries. It was through this work that I was able to familiarize myself with the company of Nilar. Before graduation, I was recommended to work there, and the head of R&D contacted me for an interview.

What’s most fun about your job?
I like that everything I work on is new and challenging. Especially the oxygen project, which can change the NiMH battery market. Developing a sustainable way to extend the cycle life of a battery, is revolutionizing the batteries and offering a new solution to the market.

What motivates you?
I am motivated by working in the research and development department. My job allows me to be very creative. Development of good ideas and new technologies are my main driving force.

What is the most common misconception about your role?
Many people think that batteries are for only electric cars. A lot of people are not aware of the diversity in the different chemistries or that they exist.

Tips that you would give yourself early in your career?
Focus is important for efficiency, so there needs to be a clear separation of play time and work time. Increase focus and efficiency by being good at organizing your time.

Achievement you’ve accomplished in your career that you’re especially proud of?
The oxygen refill project that I’m involved in. We have discovered a method that allows the cycle life of NiMH batteries to be extended; it makes me incredibly proud to be a part of offering a new solution that can revolutionize the battery market.

Who inspires you?
My PhD supervisor, Dag Noréus. He is very innovative and has good ideas. He gives me a lot of freedom to do things, encouraging me to work independently.

What movies do you like?
I really like sci-fi movies, Interstellar is a great motion picture – the plot is about finding a new planet for humans to live on.

A secret talent?
I am a specialist in antique Chinese porcelain. I have a passion to collect because of it’s artistic and economic value. I visit museums, take courses and follow auctions, I’m building up strong knowledge in the area of antique Chinese porcelain. The auction business in Sweden is very developed, there are many auction houses around Sweden. You can find many good antique Chinese porcelains for a relatively cheap price.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I aspire to be promoted to a management position, to be a project leader and lead a team. I feel I have many good ideas that compliment those of my colleagues. A higher-level status can mean I have more impact and influence.

What’s the best thing about working at Nilar?
I think my colleagues are very friendly and I have a lot of freedom in my work. I’m the only one in Gävle not being native Swedish speaker, however, I believe that in the future, more and more young international innovators will join Nilar. It’s growing very fast and we need talented young people from all around the world!


Nilar Industry Highlights October

The Financial Arm of the Energy Transition

In 2016, a momentous step in the recognition and fight of climate change began on Earth Day; this is when 175 nations came together at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York to sign the Paris Climate Accord. This signing event signified the culmination of years of UN climate negotiations to slow the rise of greenhouse gases. Since that historic day, many of the countries involved had the agreement ratified by their own governments and have started making adjustments in policy and regulations to accomplish their specific targets. Over time, the accord has influenced how many industries have approached their future planning as well. For the energy industry, one influential group, namely the banks and investment firms, could be considered the financial arm of the energy transition with their actions having an enormous impact.

In 2019, coinciding with the United Nations Climate Action Summit, there was a formalization of the Collective Commitment to Climate Change. This was a commitment by a founding assembly of 38 banks to align their lending and scale up their contribution to the objectives of the Paris Agreement.  This included a pledge to be publicly accountable for their impact and progress with defined time constraints. The logos of the founding members are collected below. Now, a year later, more than 185 banks worldwide have joined this movement towards achieving global and national sustainability goals.

During the UN General Assembly, one of the founding banks, Natixis, took their commitment a step further.  They made an announcement of a “Green Weighting Factor”, which is a mechanism to allocate capital based on climate impact. When applied, the calculated risk is decreased for green deals but increased for anything imposing negative environmental and climate impact. With this announcement, Natixis became the first bank to manage the climate risk on its balance sheet. They hope to develop this into a methodology that other banks could utilize.

Another global initiative triggered by the Paris Accord was the creation of the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF). This is a global partnership of financial institutions working to create a harmonized accounting approach to align portfolios with the Paris Accord. The PCAF created a global carbon accounting standard that provides detailed methodological guidance for calculating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions financed by loans and investments for major assets. The first draft of this standard was released in August 2020 and there is follow-up work occurring with dedicated international experts to tailor the standard to different global regions.

With all of the various financial commitments made within the energy transition over time, the World Resources Institute started compiling the information associated with the world’s 50 largest private sector banks. The data shown below represents the financial commitments for 23 of the 50 banks that had been made by July 2019, with the disclaimer that the time frames vary and the target dates are not equivalent; the original commitment date ranges are shown in the figure.  There were also discrepancies in the defined strategies and specificity behind each commitment. Although this includes only half of the largest private banks, it does signify that banks are embracing their pivotal role in financing the energy transition. According to the World Resources Institute, the Goldman Sachs Group was the first of these banks to make a commitment, starting in 2012.

With this trend of environmentally aware lending, there are climate activists that still point to the enduring lending activities of some of the larger institutions. A collective of environmentalist entities put together a report summarizing the financing in the fossil fuel industry, Banking on Climate Change 2020. Within the report, they summarize the financing associated with fossil fuel investment projects between 2016 and 2019, which is plotted below. The data reflects the need for banks to adopt stronger policies if the ultimate goal is to phase out fossil fuel financing.

In early October 2020, JP Morgan Chase communicated with all of its clients a desire to reduce emissions by 2030. They started by asking companies within their portfolio to provide operation data to better understand the carbon emissions. After analyzing this information, JP Morgan Chase planned to set specific targets for their clients moving forward within a year. They also will review their own internal operations to determine emission reduction opportunities. To ensure future investments are in companies with operations aligned with the Paris Accord, they specifically launch an advisory unit to validate their prospects. It should be noted that JP Morgan Chase had previously committed 200 billion USD to “clean financing” by 2025 and had already made progress since 2016. This new announcement clarified a shift in the approach to their existing portfolio moving forward.

With compounding pressure coming from climate activists, more financial entities have begun to pledge quantitative targets. BlackRock, the world’s top fund manager, accelerated their accountability efforts in disclosing climate financial risk by joining the Climate Action 100+ group. This investor initiative pushes GHG emitters to start taking action towards climate change reduction, which had been avoided through internal voting at BlackRock in the past.  Deutsche Bank set a goal to double their green investments by 2025. They also committed to equator principles, which is a risk management framework specifically for environmental and social risk in project finance. Deutsche Bank clarified that they are also revising their internal policy towards the oil and gas industry.

These shifts are also seen amongst the public sector financers. In November 2019, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the world’s largest multilateral development funder, announced that all of their future financing activities will align with the Paris Agreement to accelerate clean energy innovation, energy efficiency and renewable technologies. Over the next decade, they have designated 1 trillion Euro for climate action and environmentally sustainable investment. There was the creation of the InnovFin Energy Demonstration Programme, which is a financing tool that enables innovative demonstration projects past the pre-commercial stages. The EIB commitment was reaffirmed at the European Battery Alliance in May 2020 by noting that state-of-the-art batteries will be the heart of the energy transition.

The Paris Agreement was monumental in shifting the mindset of multiple industries. Although research and innovation are fundamental to the energy transition, financial institutions may be the ultimate key to move forward.


Nilar Industry Highlights September

Can the energy transition alleviate the economic downturn?

As time passes in 2020, there is a yearning for normalcy. Though “normal” is subjective, the sentiment is shared among all. Although many governments had strategic plans in place for a hypothetical pandemic, there is no true way to prepare the public, even if things go according to “plan”. When the pandemic first began, the hope was that all remediation approaches would suppress the outbreak and economic activity would bounce back. Now, more than half a year in, a more pragmatic view has been embraced. The initial lockdowns caused multiple industries to stagnate and unemployment to surge.  While the first stage of the pandemic was characterized by state-mandated lockdowns, the approaching months are likely to be driven by consumer fear and continued government restrictions on the travel, entertainment, hospitality and retail industries.

JPMorgan Chase estimates that the global gross domestic product has fallen by 15.6 percent within the first six months of 2020. The main issue in every industry is how one struggling business can propagate to other industries, leading to a chain reaction. For instance, the lockdown leads to a restaurant needing to transition to a carryout model. Despite the return of some customers, the revenues plummet and payroll can no longer be sustained; all the employees are laid off. The various supply chains for food to that restaurant have lost a customer, losing some of their revenue. As the restaurant closes, the landlord is now down a tenant during a time when no one is likely looking for new commercial space. This domino effect triggers changes in these support industries all from this restaurant closure. Scenarios like this led to large scale impacts worldwide. The following image was created by Politico to show the percent change of the GDP relative to the previous year for specific regions around the world. The drop between October and April reflects the start of the pandemic-related restrictions. The June values expose the consequences of continued mitigation measures. S&P Global expects the global GDP to contract 3.8% through the remainder of 2020. For a relative reference, the global GDP declined by 0.1% during the 2009 financial crisis. There is a 5 trillion USD annual loss expected through 2023 even with a rebound in global GDP.

IMF world economic outlook october

On a macro scale, the energy industry has taken a hit. Oil has been the most heavily impacted. Demand is so low due to the vast reduction in fuel consumption that the industry is losing money in barrel production. There are ripple effects to other energy sectors. Natural gas tends to be contractually tied to oil, so the oil decline drives their economics. Cost reductions in these markets lead to immediate decisions on where to invest during an economic decline. It can be hard to advocate for a transition to renewables when there is an overall economic crisis and the other sources of fuel are currently very cost effective.  In clean energy, more than half a million jobs were lost by May in the United States alone. Approximately 70% of these jobs were related to energy efficiency, such as in-person installation of equipment. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable capacity totals expected this year are 13% lower than 2019.

Currently, countries are starting to flicker back into business and the global economy is beginning to exhibit signs of improvement.  To be clear, there isn’t a belief that everything will return to Pre-COVID levels; many experts predicting that the end of 2021 is a more realistic expectation, assuming there isn’t a crippling second wave of infections.  Banks will continue to play a significant role to maintain stability through state-guaranteed loans and payment deferrals. A vaccination available globally will be a significant game changer, but, given the regulated and essential testing and trials needed to prove its efficacy and safety, it may be years before that is realized.

The economic crisis is bleak but not without optimism. Different market research entities from around the world have similar theories that one facet of recovery will depend heavily on the energy transition. The shutdown of transportation and industrial processes led to a significant visible reduction in pollution, which only revitalized the attention to climate policy and economic resilience. In Europe, their COVID recovery funds included 225 billion Euro solely dedicated to energy transition projects. China made a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2060. In the US, there have been aggressive plans proposed to achieve a net zero economy within 30 years. In Africa, the various renewable energy efforts in progress could meet a quarter of the continent’s needs by 2030, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The pandemic closures have the CO2 emissions projected to be 27.5 gigatonnes lower between 2020 and 2050. Despite this, the goal laid out in the Paris Agreement to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius would require a reduction at least ten times larger in scale. The following graph created by S&P reflects the current projected curve of emissions and the necessitated curve to achieve the 2-degree goal. Even though the Post-COVID-19 outlook seems to return to the same predicted trajectory, the drop seen in 2020 inspires hope. The reduction achieved in a 6-month period was the amount necessary over the next 7 years for the 2-degree scenario, which indicates that the sizeable decrease laid out in the Paris Agreement is achievable. There are many countries committed to making sure the Post-COVID-19 outlook is invalidated.

Carbon dioxide figures

As for energy storage specifically, according to the market research group, IHS Markit Energy Storage Service, global energy storage installations have grown by more than 5 GW within 2020. The revenue from hardware alone is expected to double by 2025, even with the module prices predicted to fall by 36%. Despite the industry slowdown, the advancement has not been stopped. The renewable energy sector may rebound quickly with dropping solar prices and more efficient generation. According to Power magazine, there are multiple factors which can lead to rapid recovery. Solar technology is becoming so low cost and widely manufactured that it is shifting to a commodity. Adoption of solar and storage pairings have driven more companies into partnerships, offering more solution availability and financing to the ordinary consumer. The advances in energy storage technologies in general have led to more flexibility and functionality in these collaborations. As installations become more prevalent, the workforce will have to grow and adapt. And, lastly, the pandemic has nurtured a feeling of social responsibility not only for virus mitigation but in addressing climate change, making the energy transition a priority. The road to recovery will benefit from the world embracing the energy transition.

 

 

 


Meet a Nilar employee September

A photo of a female employee with information regarding her What led you to work in the energy storage industry?

I applied for a job at Nilar because I think that the battery industry is very fast growing and interesting. It also caught my interest that Nilar had a production facility in Sweden. Prior to this job, I had worked within finances and I understood that, when working at Nilar, I would be able to be a part of building the financial department and have an influence on the establishment of processes and routines as well as creating the team.

What led you to work in finances?

I graduated as an engineer within industrial economy and have a master’s in business administration.  I always liked mathematics and working with numbers. It’s very satisfying to see, in a concrete way, what adds to what and get an overarching picture of situations.

What’s most fun about your job?

When working at a financial department, you indirectly work with all departments which gives you great insights into the company. Even though I’m positioned at our headquarters in Stockholm, I feel close to our production in Gävle. I’m not anonymous; most people know who I am and what my role is within the company.

What is the most common misconception about your role?

Since pretty much anything that goes through a company has an economical consequence and makes an imprint, the accounting principles goes through all departments. This can sometimes lead to employees thinking that you have an influence in fields that are not within your expertise and responsibility, such as the increase of salaries and other financial benefits of employees.

Favorite tv-show?

Billions.

What tips would you have appreciated before taking your first job?

Make sure that you are well read; it’s a lot easier to be confident when you feel like you know the subject by heart. Believe in yourself – don’t feel like you should excuse yourself for taking space. I see that being a bigger problem for women than men in general.

Who inspires you?

I look up to other women that are well educated and unapologetically put their best foot forward.

A fun project that you have been involved in?

I was a part of implementing Nilar’s group consolidation system, Aaro. I appreciated the technical aspects of the project and implementing the new system from scratch.

Your best memory from a company event at Nilar?

At one of our launch parties in Älvkarleby, we had a meeting where all departments got to share insights to what they were working on. It was interesting to see, in more detail, what the different departments were involved in. On top of it, we had a really fun party and I remember the weather being great.

A secret talent?

Baking. I once baked a Nilar battery cake. Have a look at this photo!

A photo of a cake in the shape of a battery

What are you looking forward to this autumn?

I look forward to a more regular lifestyle. Since corona, my everyday life has been very effected. I hope that the autumn will bring back a somewhat more normal feeling and lifestyle again.

What’s the best thing about working at Nilar?

Aside from the fact that the battery industry and the product we are offering are both very interesting, I would say the companionship between colleagues. We have a very good atmosphere at the office – I highly value that. We are often hanging out between departments… There’s a sense of togetherness between everyone.

 

 

 

 

 


Nilar Industry Highlights August

 

 

The advancement of recycling for the battery world

 

In the energy industry today, there are certain topics that are omnipresent: the enduring effects of the pandemic and the growing presence of energy storage. While the trajectory of one is unpredictable, the other is anticipated to grow like the solar industry.  Energy storage is not a new concept and has been slowly building in prominence. There are so many different styles of energy storage and so many different battery types saturating the market.  As old installations are decommissioned or replaced by newer models, the focus now transitions to what is next. What happens to the spent batteries?

There is a growing concern that batteries will become another landfill statistic. Although this worry is not actually based on the emergent popularity of energy storage but primarily the surge of electric vehicles, the problem is still the same. When a battery is improperly disposed of, there is a risk of it being damaged by all the movement within the trucks and facilities, leading to applied heat and pressure. This can cause the battery to spark and ignite a fire. According to Fire Rover, a fire prevention organization, there were 289 waste facility fires in 2017 within the US and Canada, leading to three deaths and eight injuries. These kinds of statistics will only increase as the supply and demand increases.

Beyond a potential fire risk, there are other reasons that this landfill pileup is problematic. The most obvious is the general increase of waste itself. According to the United Nations (UN), the world produces nearly 50 million tonnes of electronic waste (e-waste) annually.  These kinds of numbers can be difficult to visualize, so the following infographic was created by the UN.

Find image source here.

Without mitigation, this is expected to increase to an annual amount of 120 million tonnes by 2050.  The UN notes that only 20% of the global e-waste is dealt with appropriately, leaving the rest to hit landfills. The e-waste itself could be considered valuable. According to the UN, the e-waste is worth at least $62.5 billion annually. This value is based on the raw material, if it was recycled directly. There are a growing number of countries that have implemented WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) recycling programs to start combating this growing issue.

For the battery industry specifically, recycling is vaulting to the forefront. Lithium ion batteries are the fastest growing segment of the market. There are multiple reasons that the recycling of these batteries hasn’t been made a priority until now. There is less pressure from the general public with respect to pollutants because these batteries don’t contain a problematic toxic heavy metal like lead.  There is also the factor of cost; the manufacturing cost for a brand new lithium ion battery has dropped significantly over the last decade, decreasing by ~90% between 2010 and 2019.  This makes a new purchase cheaper than the applied recycling methods. In addition, their longevity in the field means that the surplus of end-of-life batteries is just starting to become apparent.

The standard recycling efforts of Lithium ion batteries are focused on the highly valuable metal cathode materials like Co, Li, and Ni. There are three primary sets of methods: pretreatment processes, metal-extraction processes, and product preparation processes. Pretreatment methods involve manual dismantling, followed by a process to separate the cathode material and the aluminum foil by breaking down the binder that holds them together. Product preparation implies that the processes lead to the recovery of metal salts instead of the direct metals. The principal metal-extraction methods used in lithium ion battery recycling are pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy. In simplistic terms, pyrometallurgy involves applying high heat to initiate separation where hydrometallurgy utilizes a leaching agent to dissolve the metal components for further separation.

All of these recycling methods have been successfully implemented to various degrees but not without their own limitations. The metal-extraction processes are important in the recovery of the metals but tend to lead to more environmental issues as they produce byproducts that are harmful to the environment and human health.  Pretreatment methods that involve manual dismantling lead to concerns with safety and efficiency and the separation processes result in secondary environmental pollution. In general, all of the recovery processes are complicated, which ultimately translates to expensive.

Lead acid batteries still have a stronghold within the battery industry. The production of lead acid batteries represents 85% of the total global consumption of lead. Given their ever-present role and the toxic heavy metal components, there is a well-established recycling process and widespread reuse of battery scrap through metallurgical reprocessing. The batteries are crushed into small pieces to separate the different components. These broken pieces are placed into a vat where there is natural separation; the plastic floats and the heavy materials like lead sink. The plastic is melted down and reformed into pellets for reuse. The lead pieces are cleaned and melted down. The impurities are separate out and the molten lead is reused in new batteries. The acid is processed or neutralized to be reused. Estimates are that 98% of a spent lead acid battery is able to be recycled.

Lead acid recycling has been hindered by environmental issues. Globally, there can be a lack of control of lead emissions and poor regulation. Even with regulation, the lead processing in either manufacturing or recycling can lead to contamination and occupational exposure. There is no known or defined safe level of exposure to lead.  In 2016 alone, lead exposure is estimated responsible for 495,550 deaths and 9.3 million disability-adjusted life lost years due to health impacts. The toxic effects can present themselves as gastrointestinal, hematological and neurological and the duration of these effects can be long and periodic. When precautions are taken, recycling can have less of an impact than mining.

Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) and nickel cadmium (NiCad) batteries are often grouped together due to the nickel component. The rare and toxic metal, cadmium, is present in NiCad while a metal hydride serves as the negative electrode in NiMH. Within current recycling processes, the NiCad plastic components are separated from the metal parts. NiCad metals undergo a high temperature metal reclamation, where the high temperature metals are placed in a bath and solidified into a cast while the low-melt temperature metals separate out. For NiMH, the components can be mechanically broken down, with the valuable metals recovered by hydrometallurgical processes.

Though all of these recycling processes are established for the various battery types, there is always a push towards improvement. As sales related to electric vehicles and energy storage continue to surge, the recycling processes need to evolve to be more efficient, more cost effective and more environmentally friendly. Regulations are also shifting to that effect. In the European Union, there is the Battery Directive (2006/66/EC). Amongst other things, this directive defines the measure and targets for collection and recycling activities while placing restrictions on hazardous materials. In the US, there are multiple regional regulations but, on the federal level, there is the Universal Waste Regulation defined by the Environmental Protection Agency. For the battery world, this defines what is considered hazardous and sets the framework to handle them. Also, there is the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996, which has a primary focus is the reduction of hazardous materials and the promotion of increased recycling capabilities.

As the need grows, there are innovations in recycling methods as well. For lithium ion batteries, there is a lot of variation in chemistries which makes it difficult to standardize a process. There are multiple recycling facilities coming online globally, tackling this issue. In Worcester, Massachusetts, Battery Resourcers is able to process ~0.5 metric tons of Li-ion batteries per day but they are working to increase that amount ten-fold. Instead of yielding multiple single-metal compounds like other recycling methods, this instead produces a mixture of nickel, manganese, and cobalt hydroxides. This type of mixture this simplifies battery preparation, which could lead to lower manufacturing costs. The Department of Energy (DoE) is prioritizing the pursuit of direct recycling methods at ReCell, which is a government-funded advanced battery recycling R&D center. Direct recycling involves recovering, regenerating and reusing battery components without breaking down their chemical structure.  The re-constituted materials would lower the battery manufacturer’s cost.

Meanwhile, in China, there is an exploration of a different avenue of recycling. This involves using a simple thermal decomposition process to salvage graphite anodes from depleted lithium ion batteries. This new strategy to focus on the anode material results in replenished components that find a second life in potassium-ion and sodium-ion batteries. The raw materials are more readily available than lithium and do not require cobalt. It should be noted that graphite has more favorable performance in lithium ion batteries, but this work lays the foundation to reducing the waste produced by spent lithium ion batteries.

For NiMH batteries, there has been extensive research performed at the University of Stockholm. They have found a way to mechanically wash and separate reusable electrode material from old, used NiMH electrodes. The outer corroded surface is removed while maintain the catalytic properties. In fact, the refurbished electrode material actually exhibits improved properties and quicker activation then brand-new electrodes that require a break-in period called conditioning. It was found that more than 95% of the NiMH electrode can be reused after a new recycling process.

The progress mentioned above is only a snippet of various efforts around the industry; it cannot be considered exhaustive. Though the need to recycle is not new, it has been invigorated by the growing environmentalist climate. Most manufacturers are constantly testing new chemistries and materials to not only improve their performance but to explore the most cost efficient and environmental construction. The reduction of e-waste is ultimately a step in the right direction for a better world.


Meet a Nilar employee August

 

What led you to work in the energy storage industry?
After graduating from high school with orientation in Social & Behavior Sciences, I started as a production worker at Nilar. Since I started, my role has developed within the company and I am now working as a Service Technician. I have really found my niche and my interest for the energy storage industry has just grown more and more each year.

What’s most fun about your job?
On a regular day at work, my tasks can range from handling support errands, visiting our customers sites for maintenance work, to installing and servicing our systems. I have been given the opportunity to travel across Sweden and internationally, though international visits are currently halted due to travel restrictions. What I think is most fun about my job is that no day is like the other. I really enjoy seeing how happy and grateful people that I visit become after getting serviced. I also like seeing the graphs showing how our batteries have been able to really lower their electricity costs amongst the other benefits the Nilar batteries grant our customers.

What is the most common misconception about your role?
When describing my job and the company I work for, I often have to correct people on the size of our battery energy storage solutions. A common misconception is that our batteries are similar to those you find in a TV remote or smoke detector. My opinion is that there is a lack of knowledge regarding what energy storage is and the different variations of batteries on the market.

Lessons you learned in your career?
Early in my career, I learned the importance of always providing impeccable service to the client. As a service technician, I meet a lot of different customers and I always endeavor to give great service. Most importantly, since I work with cables and high voltage batteries, the safety of our staff and customers is my number one priority.

Who inspires you?
Most definitely our customers. My mission is to always leave a customer safe, happy, and with peace of mind. Receiving commendations from our customers inspire me to continue giving the highest level of service every day.

Your best memory from the summer of 2020?
I visited Gotland for the first time. My best memory from there is the Crêpes I had at Fårö.

What is the coolest thing you’ve seen when working at Nilar?
One of our customers has a large system installed, containing many Nilar batteries. It has been interesting to follow their journey to become self-sufficient in electricity consumption. It’s cool to be a part of the project.

A secret talent?
I know the whole McDonald’s menu by heart. Their easily accessible “on-the-road” meals usually come in handy when travelling between customers.

Best tip to “get back in the game” after vacation and prepare for the autumn?
Exercise, preferably outdoors! Make sure that you go to bed on time. Enjoy the last weeks of light before the darkness is here to stay for the winter.

What’s the best thing about working at Nilar?
When I started working at Nilar, the production team was a lot smaller than what it is today. Now, we have installed custom-built automated production lines, increasing the production capacity. It honestly has been amazing to see and to be part of how Nilar continues to grow both in Scandinavia and across the international markets.

 


Nilar Industry Highlights July

What a Global Shutdown Reveals About Supply Chains

Prior to 2020, the concept of consumer energy storage was starting to explode. Although batteries had been around for more than 100 years, the world has only recently embraced the benefits of pairing solar installations with a battery system for the combined benefits. Renewable energy sources can only go so far since their supply can be intermittent. To put it bluntly, batteries will ultimately be the key to the green transition. With the growing popularity, it was only natural for multiple entities to start looking at the supply chains for the components of the most popular batteries. Therefore, it is beneficial to assess where the demand was prior to the pandemic effect.

Interest in batteries within electric vehicles and stationary storage has led to increased demand on various minerals involved in different battery chemistries. The demand is predicted to significantly surge over the next ten years. In the infographic below, created by Standard Lithium, the tonnes of material required for production will increase by 12-fold or more. Although the focus of this research surrounds lithium ion battery chemistries, the main shortage of these critical components can apply to other battery types, like NiMH.

At the end of 2019, 65% of the global battery production and half of the global lithium chemical production comes from China. This growing quality supply in China has nearly transformed lithium into a commodity and has helped in driving competitive pricing. When referring to a lithium ion battery, this is actually a broad term that encompasses multiple chemistries. Most of the commercially available chemistries are known to have high levels of cobalt. One of the main issues with this growth is that two-thirds of the world’s supply is mined in the Congo and, typically, not ethically sourced. Most battery manufacturers are trying to move towards chemistries that eliminate the use of cobalt but that will take time and the demand may exceed the supply beforehand.

As Lithium ion battery manufacturers are working to reduce components like cobalt, this shift actually increases nickel consumption. Nickel is known to be necessary in creating stable and long-lasting lithium ion batteries but is also the primary component of nickel metal hydride batteries. Nickel supply to the market is slowly heading to a deficit. Its role within stainless steel production remains strong. In addition, the popularity of the electric vehicle only increases the demand each year. Another factor to consider is that the world’s largest nickel producer, Indonesia, had implemented a nickel ore export ban, which went into effect in January. Though other nickel miners can optimistically see this as an opportunity to expand their production, any advancement will be slow, and the global supply will take a hit. Nearly all of the recent nickel supply growth has been within nickel pig iron, which would not be used within batteries. For the battery industry specifically, the quality of the nickel is critical.

The strain on the global supply of these materials was already underway as the world shifted into a pandemic state. The rapid Covid-19 spread in China inevitably led to eight provinces announcing work stoppages by mid-February. At that time, analysts were predicting a 10% drop in storage production capacity. According to Bloomberg, China controls three quarters of the global supply chain, with the current capacities as shown in the figure below. As the work stoppages began, the global dependency was exposed. Logistic slowdowns and border shutdowns are having a heavy impact on the automotive industry but batteries have not yet experienced any significant shortages in their raw materials primarily due to an oversupply from 2019. However, the end of the second quarter of 2020 will change that as mining companies in the battery supply chain will be driven to invoke the force majeure clause of their contracts.

Although optimism is challenging given the current state of the industry, it is not all grim. The escalating demand and the waning supply have brought emphasis and urgency to developments already underway. Recycling has come to the forefront over the last couple years, with analysts predicting that used Lithium Ion batteries will reach 2 million metric tons globally. In 2019, the European Union and United States had recycling rates less than 5% and Australia reaching up to 3%. However, things were starting to change. There was large consortium created in the UK dedicated to improving Li-ion battery recycling in 2018. Many of the educational institutions involved have already started trials on various recovery processes for high value materials. In early 2019, the US Department of Energy (DoE) announced the creation of a Li-ion battery recycling R&D center. Simultaneously, the DoE Battery Recycling Prize was launched, driving competition to create innovative solutions for collecting and storing discarded Li-ion batteries.

Worldwide, multiple scientists are exploring ways to revitalize old materials into new. Researchers at the University of Stockholm have found a way to mechanically wash and separate reusable electrode material from old, used NiMH electrodes. It was found that more than 95% of the electrode can be reused after a new recycling process and the material gains better properties in its second life. Once the process is more formalized, NiMH battery manufacturing companies can utilize these methods to reuse old batteries to make new batteries. For many lithium ion battery chemistries, the concentrations of cobalt, nickel, lithium and manganese actually exceeds the concentrations found in natural ores. This virtually makes a used battery equivalent to highly enriched ore. The variability in chemistries leads to difficulties in a standard process. In Worcester, Massachusetts, Battery Resourcers is able to process ~0.5 metric tons of Li-ion batteries per day and are planning to increase that ten-fold. The DoE is also investing in multiple entities pursing direct recycling methods. Meanwhile, in China, there is an exploration of salvaging graphite anodes from depleted lithium ion batteries for a second life in potassium-ion and sodium-ion batteries. Reuse of battery material is being pursued from multiple angles.

Countries will start to shift to more localized manufacturing where possible. The European Commission is working towards 20 to 30 new battery gigafactories within the EU. The US is working on the American Mineral Security Act, which will push the US to explore local resources and become mineral independent. The map below created by Standard Lithium shows the domestic raw material resources that can be harnessed towards a US supply chain.

In a recent EV market analysis, the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted that raw material reclamation efforts are stifled by a lack of movement in policy, where battery development and decreasing prices actually hinder the perspective on recycling. It is cheaper to make new batteries than go through all the various processes to reclaim for reuse. However, the pandemic is altering the public perspective. The current supply chain limitations and the visual signs of pollution reduction may prompt lawmakers to take action internationally.

The time for the world to embrace a circular economy philosophy is now. Incremental steps towards this way of thinking can go a long way in effecting change. The product’s end of life should be taken in consideration during the design phase. This can dictate the material selection as well as the assembly processes to make the product easier to take apart for recyclability or component reuse. At Nilar, we are striving to elevate our products to this level. Virtually all of the materials in our product are recyclable, with the salvage value of the nickel exceeding the processing expense. In conjunction with Stockholm University, Nilar has developed a method to refurbish electrolyte within the battery, extending the usable life significantly. This design feature is in an upcoming product line. Further testing with Stockholm University is proving that old electrodes can become new and improved, expanding the possibilities within the Nilar manufacturing process. Nilar is evolving into a circular economy approach, aspiring towards Gandhi’s words: Be the change you wish to see in the world.

 


Meet a Nilar employee July

 

What led you to work in the energy storage industry?
While pursuing my Master of Science in Business and Economics, of which one year abroad in Buenos Aires I was able to study marketing. When graduating, I looked for a position where I could get practical use of my newly achieved knowledge. One thing that made me want to apply to Nilar and work in the field of energy storage was being able to work for a company that develops a product of the future that also develop environmentally friendly products. Both these things makes me proud to be a Nilar employee.

What’s most fun about your job?
The most fun thing is being an essential part of the operations, being the one who has an overview of our sales and marketing related efforts. I like being a part of building a marketing department, creating and building processes and standards of the company’s way of working with marketing. I also appreciate that my work allows me to be very creative.

What is the most common misconception about your role?
Sometimes people seem to think that marketing is only related to brochures and catalogues. My role is a lot broader and includes profiling the company in close collaboration with the product and sales departments, to support the sales initiatives.

Early mistakes that you learnt from in your career?
Early in my career, It was difficult to differentiate good sales representative arguments from what are real facts and useful products and services for our company to invest in.

Who inspires you?
I am inspired by women who can combine a successful career with a rich social and family life along with a healthy lifestyle.

A good book you’ve read?
I would like to highlight a book called “Portionen under tian: bra mat för dig, din plånbok och planeten” (The portion under ten: good food for you, your wallet and the planet) written by Hanna Olvenmark. It’s a book that encourages you to be environmentally friendly by cooking based on seasonal ingredients, with every portion costing less than 10 SEK instead of buying takeout.

What is the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
During June, our plan was to exhibit at the industry fair “ees Europe”. Our plan was to release revolutionizing news at the fair, but the current global situation forced us to put things on hold. Together with the marketing team, now my work is focused on reevaluating and getting new inspiration on how we can launch these innovative news in the near future.

A secret talent?
For 8 years now, I have been DJing in my free time. I am part of the collective Okidoki and I recently became member of the music collab space Bageriet in Stockholm. You can hear my mixes on Soundcloud, under the name Vråmo!

Best tip to stay productive?
Start by setting up clear routines for your workday. If working from home, still dress up as if for a normal day at the office. Allow yourself to take breaks, just as you do when working at the office. Take time to be off work after working hours. If you get stuck on a task – training and outdoor activities is great to clear your thoughts!

What’s the best thing about working at Nilar?
Even though it’s still early in my career, my ideas are being heard and I get to contribute to setting processes for ways of working with marketing related projects. Because we are working in an industry that is in an early developing stage, me and my colleagues get to meet new challenges and a lot of times solve big questions. As a bonus, the team spirit at Nilar makes me look forward going to the office.

 

 


Roles in the Energy Storage Industry

As energy storage becomes more prominent in the energy industry, it is beneficial to gain a better understanding of the various entities involved. When a general consumer tries to make a purchase, it can be confusing with all the terminology. There are many different entities in the energy industry, and each serves a different purpose. The goal is to provide an explanation of what each role is and how they relate to each other.

End User
The end user is typically the one making the purchase. At times, there may be a contractor or project manager making a purchase on the end user’s behalf. Generally speaking, this is the entity using the energy whose requirements need to be met.

Energy System Financer
Given the general expense of a new power system installation, there may be a need for a loan of some sort. Most people relate loans to banks; however, early on, there was reluctance to provide funding to technology that was not fully proven. Therefore, companies were created by energy storage advocates to provide financing to help energy storage system installations. This entity would provide a loan to pay off the purchase and installation and would have a fixed payback system with the consumer.

Battery Manufacturer
As the title implies, this is a company that does the physical work behind assembling the battery. This company works with suppliers of various materials, like the electrode material and the electrolytes. Typically, there are metal and plastic suppliers that help in making the casing. There are different sealant suppliers that may be contracted by this company for sealing components. There are generally chemistry specialists on staff that study the specific composition within the battery and testing technicians that analyze the battery’s performance under different conditions. The Battery Manufacturer is able to take all those components and create a final battery product. Depending on the technology, the output from the Battery Manufacturer is either referred to as a cell or as a battery pack, if cells cannot be individual.

Battery Distributor
This entity helps move batteries from manufacturing to a buyer. The buyer can be a company that will use the batteries in a bigger assembly or a consumer who will put the battery to direct use. A distributor typically is the entity purchasing the batteries from the manufacturer and making it available to the consumer, helping transport it to an end user. There are also suppliers of batteries with storefronts that make the batteries available for walks-in purchase.

Battery Management System Provider
Depending on the battery chemistry, there may be a need to better monitor and control the operating conditions. A battery management system (BMS) is a set of electronics and a corresponding control program that is specific to the battery or set of batteries. These sophisticated controls monitor what goes in and out of the battery and have specific alarms created for regulation. The BMS is used to interface the batteries with a larger control system that integrates all the power resources of a house or building (referred to as an energy management system or EMS). A BMS is a necessity for advanced chemistries like NiMH and Li Ion that are not designed to vent during normal operation. They cannot sustain float charging like a lead acid battery, which can handle a continuous charging input well after it has reached 100%. For more advanced chemistries, the ability to float charge can only be done below a chemical equilibrium voltage. Therefore, the BMS provides sophisticated controls to ensure that the charging algorithm does not go outside the battery’s optimal operating conditions. Given these specific needs, many battery manufacturers have created a BMS specific to their battery to avoid any misuse.

Inverter Manufacturer
The inverter is a critical component within an energy storage installation. It transitions the direct current (DC) that comes from the battery to alternating current (AC) at a specific voltage and frequency for use in the specific region. The voltage and frequency vary by country or state so there is no standard inverter that can be placed in multiple regions. For instance, the single phase voltage of 230V and a 50 Hz frequency is normal in France, but 120V and 60 Hz is typical in the US. There are a few different types of inverters and the decision on type can depend on the intended use of the energy storage system. There are some that can allow the input from both a photovoltaic (PV) system and a battery system simultaneously, where others are built specific to the equipment. Either way, the manufacturer of the inverter typically has a direct relationship with the battery manufacturer and whatever entity is integrating and installing the components.

Energy Management System Provider
At a single location, there can be multiple power systems in place. An energy management system (EMS) is a central program that takes all the inputs and can control how they are utilized together. There are many EMS providers on the market with varying complexity. In general, the EMS system should be able to monitor the load needs of the home or building and apply power from any available installed system to meet the loads. For example, in a house with a PV system and an energy storage system, the EMS would have the PV system providing power during the day to mitigate peak load periods, with any excess used to charge energy storage. Then, once the sun is no longer available, the EMS can utilize the energy storage system to mitigate the home loads. The EMS programming has to be able to communicate with all the installed systems, so the EMS provider tends to have close relationships with manufacturers and distributors. Although these communication protocols are not all the same amongst different technologies, there is progress towards standardization which will help the industry as a whole.

System Integrator
There are companies who take the energy storage components from different manufacturers and aggregate them into a packaged solution to sell to consumers. In some cases, the system integrator actually manufactures one of the components and use that to create a bundled system. For example, a system integrator can design and produce an energy management system (EMS) either as a separate component or as part of a complete solution including batteries and an inverter to directly interface with the EMS.

System Installer
This is the company who takes all the components and installs them in the home or building where the system is needed. Typically, this will include an electrician who is making sure everything is code compliant. The installer should be knowledgeable of the applicable codes and regulations for the installation location.

Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)
In order to start a system installation, the party providing the installation will have to gain some sort of approval. The approving entity is referred to as the Authority Having Jurisdiction. This varies from region to region and country to country. There may be permitting and code inspection involved. It just depends on the system and how it is connected and planned to be utilized. For storage systems that may be used in net metering, where electricity is able to be fed back into the grid, there is a need to interconnect with the grid. This means that, at minimum, the utility will need to approve of the system interconnection.

After Sales Support
Once a system is purchased and installed, unexpected challenges can arise. Typically, the customer will have been provided a support contact phone number or email address from the entity through which they made the purchase. There should be someone to contact for general troubleshooting of an installation. The sales representative who sold the item should be able to provide preliminary information and connect the customer to the specific people that need to be active for the particular situation.

Operations & Maintenance Support
Some batteries have defined maintenance procedures and schedules. Typically, there is a manual provided to the consumer upon purchase that details out those needs. Some of these procedures can be carried out by the system owner, such as adding new water to a flooded lead acid battery. For more sophisticated support, the installer of the system should be able to help or at least put the consumer in touch with the appropriate parties.


The release of a new Nilar video

Have you seen our latest video?
Batteries are not created equally, it’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages when choosing the right battery for you. Watch this video to better understand why Nilar is the
self-evident choice for a safer energy storage.