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World’s first solar panel road opens in Normandy village


Route in Tourouvre-au-Perche cost €5m to construct and will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during two-year test period

France has opened what it claims to be the world’s first solar panel road, in a Normandy village.

A 1km (0.6-mile) route in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche covered with 2,800 sq m of electricity-generating panels, was inaugurated on Thursday by the ecology minister, Ségolène Royal.

It cost €5m (£4.2m) to construct and will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during a two-year test period to establish if it can generate enough energy to power street lighting in the village of 3,400 residents.

In 2014, a solar-powered cycle path opened in Krommenie in the Netherlands and, despite teething problems, has generated 3,000kWh of energy – enough to power an average family home for a year. The cost of building the cycle path, however, could have paid for 520,000kWh.

Before the solar-powered road – called Wattway – was opened on the RD5 road, the panels were tested at four car parks across France. The constructor was Colas, part of giant telecoms group Bouygues, and financed by the state.

Normandy is not known for its surfeit of sunshine: Caen, the region’s political capital, enjoys just 44 days of strong sunshine a year compared with 170 in Marseilles.

Royal has said she would like to see solar panels installed on one in every 1,000km of French highway – France has a total of 1m km of roads – but panels laid on flat surfaces have been found to be less efficient than those installed on sloping areas such as roofs.

Critics say it is not a cost-effective use of public money. Marc Jedliczka, vice-president of Network for Energetic Transition (CLER) told Le Monde: “It’s without doubt a technical advance, but in order to develop renewables there are other priorities than a gadget of which we are more certain that it’s very expensive than the fact it works.”

Jean-Louis Bal, president of renewable energy union SER, said: “We have to look at the cost, the production [of electricity] and its lifespan. For now I don’t have the answers.”

Colas said the panels have been covered with a resin containing fine sheets of silicon, making them tough enough to withstand all traffic, including HGVs. The company says it hopes to reduce the costs of producing the solar panels and has about 100 other projects for solar-panelled roads – half in France and half abroad.

IEA moves to enhance global gas security

TOKYO — While the rise of the liquefied natural gas market has accelerated the globalization of natural gas, the energy security implications of this transformation have attracted much less attention. Through an extensive analysis of global gas data, a new report from the International Energy Agency seeks to provide more transparency into the LNG market.

There is no doubt that global gas markets are well supplied today. While this is positive for global gas security, the new analysis from the first Global Gas Security Review, released today in Tokyo, warns that LNG markets are less flexible than is commonly believed.

A growing share of LNG capacity is offline – mostly because of a lack of enough gas to feed into the system but also because of security and technical problems – meaning the market has less extra capacity than assumed. Between 2011 and 2016, the level of unusable export capacity has doubled, disabling about 65 bcm of gas, which is equal to the combined exports of Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s third- and fifth-largest exporters. A period of low oil and gas prices could further worsen the situation.

However, the Global Gas Security Review finds that LNG contract structures are becoming less rigid, increasing market liquidity. In 2015, about 40% of LNG contracts had fixed destination terms, down from 60% for contracts signed up to the year 2014.

While shorter term contracts are gradually becoming more common, buyers are also accepting longer contracts in exchange for increased flexibility in the final destination in order to better respond to market conditions. Flexible contractual structures are important for gas security as they enable to aggregate gas volumes at a lower cost from various regions.

LNG’s share of the global gas market is set to increase in the coming years. In fact, LNG supplies have grown at a faster pace than total gas consumption. Providing a factual picture and analyzing its implications for gas security matches well with the IEA’s core mandate about energy security.

“The growth in the global gas trade, along with the diversification of supply sources, is improving the security of supply,” said Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency. “But there is still a need to be vigilant on gas security as the changing nature of the market means that regional demand and supply shocks may now be felt in more distant places than ever before.”

The report provides detailed case studies on Europe and Japan. For Japan, it show that while gas markets reacted relatively effectively to the loss of nuclear generation in Japan after the Fukushima nuclear accident, the factors that made that possible cannot always be counted on in the future.

The Global Gas Security Review builds on an extensive set of data and other substantial inputs from industry and will be produced on an annual basis. It is accompanied by country specific statistics; data on outages of LNG export capacity by type and region; flexible LNG demand by importers; flexible LNG supply by importers, producers and portfolio players; and flexible gas demand and supply in Europe.

Eight African Home Solar Startups Win $4 Million in Scaling Off-Grid Energy Enterprise Grants


Launched by President Barack Obama in 2013, Power Africa is achieving unprecedented success in expanding access to electricity and spurring sustainable development across the African continent, particularly in remote rural areas south of the Sahara, where best estimates say two of every three people lack access to electricity.

Attending the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Marrakesh, Power Africa Coordinator Andrew M. Herscowitz on Nov. 14 announced $4 million in new Scaling Off-Grid Energy Grand Challenge Enterprise (SOGE) Grant awards for eight African startups that are preparing to launch or expand their presence in sub-Saharan Africa’s fast-growing home solar energy market.

Launched under the Power Africa umbrella by USAID’s U.S. Global Development Lab, the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Shell Foundation, the $36 million SOGE provides seed funding for African solar energy start-ups to support geographic expansion, test new business models and tap into private and public financing.

Expanding Energy Access and Putting Africans on a Clean Energy Development Path

It’s anticipated that proceeds from the latest round of SOGE grants will create as many as 120,000 new off-grid solar electricity connections in African communities.

Some commonly and long-held myths are being laid to rest as Power Africa and program participants progress towards realizing a goal of installing 30,000 MW of new, more efficient emissions-free energy capacity and 60 million new home and business electricity connections across the continent.

Prominently, these inclusive, local community-driven public-private sustainable development partnerships are proving that cash-poor rural Africans are not only willing but able to pay for access to electricity, and that entrepreneurial African solar energy providers can make innovative use of solar energy technology and develop business models that can generate healthy, reliable returns on investment.

Rural Africans are already paying for energy — typically kerosene — and at prices that eat up substantially higher portions of their average monthly incomes than is the case for Americans or Europeans, Chris Jurgens, USAID U.S. Global Development Lab director for the Center for Transformational Partnerships and USAID lead for SOGE explained during an interview.

“Kerosene isn’t cheap, it’s dirty and it can be dangerous,” he noted.

Moving Up the Energy Ladder

SOGE grant award winner d.light started out specializing in pico-solar products and services. They have since moved, or are moving, on to expand geographically and offer complete home solar solutions of varying sizes and configurations, as well as a variety of off-grid, DC home solar devices and appliances, such as LED lighting, fans, TVs and even refrigerators.

“Pico-solar products, such as solar lanterns, are the first rung on the ‘energy ladder’ — small scale home solar solutions that can power LED lighting and perhaps charge cell phones are the next step up and it continues on up from there,” Jurgens told Renewable Energy World. “Given they have positive experiences with their initial off-grid home solar products and services, we’re finding out that rural residents are keen to take the next step up the energy ladder.”

Home Solar Growth Factors

The rapidly declining cost of solar PV panels, inverters, batteries and other home solar energy system components is the most fundamental factor supporting development and growth of nascent home solar markets across the region, Jurgens continued.

“The second thing that has really gotten over the barrier of rural Africans’ ability to pay for electricity is mobile communications and e-payment technology,” he said.

As a rough guide, the home solar systems offered in nascent markets across the region can cost anywhere from $75-$250. The popularity and widespread use of mobile e-payments in countries such Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda is enabling a new class of consumers to purchase electricity as they do mobile communications, in small, easy to digest payments.

These “pay as you go” business models make leasing or purchasing affordable and very convenient. More rural residents are signing up for and making greater use of them, thereby entering or becoming more engaged in local and national economies as a result, Jurgens said.

A third critical supporting element is the response and support from leading multinational corporations and international development agencies. The leading household solar enterprises — many of which are Power Africa partners — have proven very successful when it comes to leveraging the results of initial seed funding to attract investments from both private and public sector organizations.

Creation of a Positive Socioeconomic Feedback Loop

Kenya-based D.light, for instance, recently raised $20 million in venture capital in the U.S. In addition, Acumen, Microsoft and the UN Foundation recently joined the SOGE program as supporting partners.

A positive, mutually beneficial feedback loop is emerging as a new class of rural Africans gain access to electricity, start or expand local businesses and build up credit histories. Home solar market players are leveraging all this when they approach banks and other consumer finance providers to bolster their chances of obtaining loans and at lower interest rates than would have been possible otherwise.

All this bodes well not only in terms of lifting emissions-free off-grid home solar into the mainstream of developing African economies, but doing so in ways that foster inclusive, sustainable and local socioeconomic development.

At the Halfway Point: The Effect of California’s Energy Storage Mandate


At a recent conference attended by various participants in the power industry, including regulated utilities and independent energy producers, an astute speaker quipped that “energy storage proponents are quickly becoming the cool kids in the room.” Everyone chuckled knowingly, because policy makers in various jurisdictions, especially California, are driving the power industry to make energy storage happen in a meaningful way.

California’s investor-owned utilities are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into innovative energy storage projects in an effort to satisfy the state’s energy mandate. Although a handful of storage technologies are getting a big boost from that effort, there is little doubt that roughly 75 percent of the state’s energy storage needs in the coming decades will be met by pumped storage hydro, the traditional—and still the most economical—storage solution.

Demand and Mandate for Energy Storage

California’s RPS benchmarks set the timeline for bringing energy storage online. Without storage, sources of renewable power are susceptible to curtailment because they lack the load-following characteristics required by the grid. Additionally, daily load ramping requires spinning reserves or other forms of stand-by power sources that can be brought online quickly to match customer power use at the beginning and end of the work day. Energy storage added to the renewables portfolio helps solve those problems by making renewable power available when needed to match demand.

California’s energy storage mandate (AB 2514) added a twist to existing demand for energy storage. Adopted in 2010, the bill required California’s three largest power generating utilities to contract for an additional 1.3 GW of energy storage power generation (meeting certain criteria) by 2020, coming online by 2024.

Although California already leads the way in promoting energy storage, lawmakers determined that more efforts were necessary to support the policy and, in September 2016, adopted four new laws (AB 2861AB 2868AB 33and AB 1637) to foster and streamline California’s storage market. These laws (i) improved the conflict resolution procedures for interconnection disputes, (ii) directed utilities to consider the role of energy storage as a distributed energy resource that can provide benefits to the grid, (iii) focused on the role of bulk storage (such as pumped storage hydro, compressed air and batteries) in integrating renewables into the electrical grid, directing the California Public Utilities Commission, in coordination with the California Energy Commission, to evaluate the potential for all types of long duration bulk energy storage resources to help integrate renewable generation into the grid, and (iv) expanded funding incentives for customer-sited storage projects.

Supply Pipeline for Energy Storage

According to records available from the Department of Energy, the following California energy storage projects are announced or underway:

Source: Sandia National Laboratories, via, administered by Strategen Consulting LLC. Used under license.

Total power output from the table above is approximately 3.1 GW, of which 2.6 GW, roughly 84 percent of that total, comes from projects outside the gambit of the California storage mandate. AB 2514 expressly excludes pumped storage hydro >50MW, which comprises 2.3 GW. The CAES project uses gas combustion, which is off-pace with the bill’s preference for clean and green storage solutions; and PG&E has not submitted it for qualification under the mandate. Clearly, the investor-owned utilities are contracting to fulfill the state’s gross megawatt requirements for storage, notwithstanding AB 2514. The real impact of AB 2514 is the impact on non-traditional storage solutions.

Disrupting the Grid with Distributed Storage

Gross megawatts does not tell the whole story. Although lesser in power, the remaining 16 percent of pipelined storage illustrates a new mindset in grid management that looks for localized solutions to localized problems. If anything, AB 2514 is pushing the grid to pay more attention to the “where” and “how” of power supply more than “how much.”

A quick pass through the list above shows a breadth of storage technologies in the works. Although the list above is limited to projects greater than 5 MW, the deployments include lithium-ion, zinc-air, thermal, and even flywheel technologies.

Additional solutions not captured in the chart above include over 60 projects with power ratings less than 5 MW. These include a network of batteries by Green Charge Networks for over 30 electric vehicle charging stations.

Also not captured in the list above, at least one utility has inked megawatt-scale energy conservation contracts (provided through smart building management services) awarded to AMS and NextEra.

Southern California Edison has turned its AB 2514 efforts into a public relations campaign, in conjunction with California lawmakers, telling a story about the complexity of valuing storage that ultimately resulted in a decision to purchase more than five times the amount of qualifying storage required by California’s mandate.

Although nearly four years have passed on AB 2514’s procurement schedule (summarized below), only the 2014 benchmarks are complete. Contracting targets for 2016 are approved, but bidding is still in process.

Looking forward, the projects discussed above remain the exception rather than the rule. Utilities and regulators are still trying to wrap their heads around how to value and price energy storage.

At the same time, it is too early to determine whether distributed storage will disrupt grid management or be swept aside to molder on the sidelines. Only the first round of four scheduled procurements under AB 2514 is complete; the second is underway. Already, one of the constituent utilities has determined to integrate distributed energy storage now and is acquiring storage contracts far in excess of the mandate. Time will tell whether that approach is foresight or foolishness.

For the time being, traditional storage continues to dominate the grid’s requirements. However, the first four years of AB 2514 storage projects may ultimately “stick,” i.e., prove their value to the grid notwithstanding the mandate. In that case, the projects currently underway will provide the experience and insight for rethinking power delivery at every level.

With support from policy makers such as those in California, as technology improves and costs become more competitive, the “cool kids” in energy storage could conceivably help to reshape an entire industry.

Randy J. Hill (left) is Of Counsel at Stoel Rives LLP and a member of the firm’s energy initiative.  He is serving his third term as one of seven Governor-appointed directors (and is currently Chair) of the Idaho Energy Resources Authority.  He is also a member of the Energy Storage Task Force of the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance.

Elliott J. Williams is an IP litigator and patent attorney at Stoel Rives and a member of the firm’s energy initiative.

Setting the PACE for Commercial Solar Growth

Pictured above is De-Meter’s inaugural project for Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center, a 200kW combination rooftop and carport distributed generation installation in San Leandro, CA. Credit: De-Meter.

Editor’s note: Property assessed clean energy financing (PACE) is a strong, growing funding option for solar installations. The following iscommentary from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy on one successful PACE finance structure.

Big box retailers are leading in commercial solar installations in the U.S., but solar’s energy-saving benefits aren’t limited to Fortune 500 companies. Hospitals, small businesses, shopping malls, multi-family and other commercial and industrial properties have a new tool to help them go solar: the PACE Lease.

De-Meter Power first developed the new financial tool through the SunShot Initiative Technology to Market program, which helps entrepreneurs bring innovative, early-stage technologies to the market.

The PACE Lease is a unique project finance structure that combines both property assessed clean energy (PACE)—a public enabled financing structure that provides upfront payment for a solar installation and enables property owners to pay back the funds via property taxes—with a long-term services contract called a power purchase agreement.

The PACE Lease enables project developers to internalize the benefits of a solar installation’s tax incentives and pass them on to customers as a fixed, low-cost annual payment for energy services over the course of 20 years. Using both tax equity financing and a services contract gives businesses a way to mitigate upfront capital costs, limit construction and maintenance risks, and lock in low-cost rates for the solar energy the system creates for years to come.

Because repayment for the solar system is tied to a line-item on a property tax bill rather than a property owner’s personal or corporate credit, default risks are much lower. Just like it’s easier for a customer to pay for a solar system incrementally if it’s tied to their electric bill, this form of on-bill financing for a company makes it easier for a company to pay and maintain a larger solar system. In addition, because the PACE Lease enables customers to obtain financing on terms traditionally offered only to those with the highest credit quality, the new financing mechanism is a scalable solution that can bring liquidity to the solar market and unlock solar for commercial and industrial properties across the country.

The PACE Lease has already been used to finance projects in California and Florida and the innovation has earned the company recognition from the International Energy Agency-Renewable Energy Technology Division as one of 2015’s most innovative solutions for expanding renewable energy use throughout the country.

Harsh climates spur solar materials innovation: Lux


Rapidly emerging harsh-climate solar markets are driving the industry to explore innovations in module materials that would boost the long-term performance of PV projects, new research from Lux Research has found.

Growth of PV build out in extreme climate regions such as Mexico, Chile, Turkey, South Africa, India, and Malaysia, the US consultancy says, is leading to an all-of-the-above technology approach to develop modules that can avoid the “widespread decrease” in output caused by  environmental factors.

Metal wrap-through modules with polyolefin encapsulation for hot and humid climates, and glass/glass technology with polyolefin encapsulation for cold and snowy locations are two of the next-generation concepts seen as key to offsetting the “degradation [that is] growing in importance because of its impact on financial models, long-term reliability, and adoption in regions with extreme climates”.

“New evidence of climate-dependent degradation is creating new opportunities for non-standard material adoption in module packaging,” says Lux Researchanalyst Tyler Ogden, who was lead author of the report, Extending Lifetime and Performance: Breaking Down the Photovoltaic Module.

 “Recently unveiled module lines from Yingli and BYD use new materials, while other new module assembly designs are likely to be offered over the next five years,” he adds.

Developers determine the financials of project based on the expectation that conventional PV systems will last 25 years – when a module output is forecast to be producing 80% of its original rated power – with the “key determinant” of a module’s degradation being how the cells are interconnected and what materials are used in their packaging.

“As PV deployment expands globally, questions have arisen around how degradation is environment-dependent and how prevalent modes of degradation can be prevented,” says Ogden. “This report looks at current trends in the research community and industry in addressing degradation and improving performance.”

Ogden points to Case Western Reserve University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US, as well as Austria’s Carinthian Tech, as leading organisations in researching technologies that will address degradation of PV modules.

Tucson Electric Seeks Offers on 100-MW Solar Project in Arizona


Tucson Electric Power (TEP) said Nov. 4 that it is seeking bids for the design and construction of large new renewable energy resources, including a community-scale solar array that could power more than 21,000 homes.

TEP issued a request for proposals (RFP) Nov. 4 that would enable it to purchase power from a solar facility with up to 100 MW of capacity under a 20-year agreement. The project, which could be built within TEP’s service territory or tied into existing transmission facilities, would boost TEP’s total community-scale solar energy resources by nearly 40 percent. The new solar facility would begin producing power in early 2019.

“We’re working to provide more solar power for more customers for less money,” said Carmine Tilghman, senior director of energy supply and renewable energy, TEP. “This new solar facility will help us achieve our renewable energy goals while preserving safe, reliable and affordable service for our community.”

TEP is working to deliver at least 30 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2030, doubling the state’s 2025 goal. TEP anticipates an additional 800 MW of new renewable capacity by the end of 2030, boosting its total renewable energy portfolio to approximately 1,200 MW.

Prices for solar power from large solar facilities purchased through long-term agreements are about one-fourth of what they were just five years ago, the utility noted. The costs of installing utility-scale solar systems fell by about 12 percent in 2015 alone, according to a recent U.S. Department of Energy study.

TEP also is evaluating proposals submitted for a new 100-MW wind facility that would be built and owned by a project partner. According to the proposal, TEP would buy power from the new facility for up to 20 years, more than doubling its current wind-powered capacity of about 80 MW.

“Although we’ll primarily rely on solar energy to expand our renewable energy resources, the addition of new, cost-effective wind-powered resources would help to ensure reliability for our customers while further diversifying our renewable generation portfolio,” Tilghman said.

In a request for proposals, TEP had stated that it was looking for projects that can tie into the company’s transmission facilities located in the Four Corners region and along the Arizona/New Mexico border from geographic areas with productive wind resources.

Both RFPs are being managed by New Hampshire-based Accion Group.

Renewable resources play an important part in TEP’s increasingly diverse generating portfolio. The company has ceased burning coal at the H. Wilson Sundt station in Tucson and will retire 170 MW of coal-fired capacity when Unit 2 at the San Juan station in New Mexico is shut down next year. TEP has options to eliminate additional coal-fired capacity over the next 15 years. TEP has approximately 330 MW of total renewable generating capacity.

TEP provides electric service to approximately 417,000 customers in southern Arizona. TEP is part of UNS Energy, which is under Fortis Inc., which owns utilities that serve more than 3 million customers across Canada and in the U.S. and Caribbean.

Walmart to be a Trusted Retailer through Solar and Other Sustainable Methods

Walmart is one of the U.S.’s largest retailers, winning trusts from customers on basis of its services and products. In a new roadmap that announced by the president and CEO Doug McMillion on November 4, Walmart aims to become the most trusted retailer by pointing to a “new era of trust and transparency,” or an agenda for sustainability.

Walmart targets to reduce 18% greenhouse gas emission by 2025 by using more renewable energy resources such as solar power as well as by altering its operation strategies.

The new roadmap covers a wide range of aspects from energy choice, operation, product retail, job creation, education to charitable activities. The schedule is set to be at 2025, and the whole announcement is as the following:

Walmart Offers New Vision for the Company’s Role in Society

At today’s Net Impact Conference, Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon outlined a roadmap that will guide the company’s role in society on critical issues over the next several years, pointing to a “new era of trust and transparency.” The roadmap adds fresh detail to Walmart’s sustainability agenda and contains new commitments that reflect a wider recognition of the company’s impact on communities and the planet.

Among other things, Walmart is doubling sales of locally grown produce in the U.S.; expanding and enhancing sustainable sourcing to cover 20 key commodities, including bananas, coffee and tea; and implementing a new plan designed to achieve science-based targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Walmart is the first retailer with an emissions-reduction plan approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative, in alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015. Under the approved plan, Walmart will use a combination of energy-efficiency measures, together with a commitment to source half of the company’s energy needs from renewable sources, to achieve an 18 percent emissions reduction in its own operations by 2025. Additionally, Walmart will work with suppliers to reduce emissions by 1 Gigaton by 2030, equivalent to taking more than 211 million passenger vehicles off of U.S. roads and highways for a year.

In his remarks, McMillon will also discuss company programs that will train hundreds of thousands of U.S. associates by the end of next year, providing them with skills needed to move from entry-level positions to jobs with more responsibility and higher pay, along with a new pledge to take a leadership role in promoting ethical recruitment and treatment of workers in the global retail supply chain.

Taken together, the initiatives are designed to make good on the company’s desire to become the most trusted retailer, not just by delivering affordable goods and a time-saving shopping experience, but with trust-building transparency and actions.

“We want to make sure Walmart is a company that our associates and customers are proud of – and that we are always doing right by them and by the communities they live in,” McMillon said. “That’s really what these commitments are about. And that’s why we’re so passionate about them.”

The roadmap builds upon the three environmental sustainability goals Walmart set in 2005: to create zero waste in company operations, to operate with 100 percent renewable energy, and to sell products that sustain natural resources and the environment. Those aspirational goals have guided how Walmart engages on those vital issues and progress has been made toward them. The new roadmap builds on progress to date, but also broadens the company’s vision of its role in society.


India ‘must install 10GW of renewables each year’

India needs to install more than 10GW of renewables each year between 2017 and 2022 to meet its green target.

According to a new study, total annual investments in Indian utility-scale projects crossed the $10 billion (£8.18bn) mark last year, a figure that will need to reach $14 billion (£11.45bn) to hit the country’s 175GW renewables target for 2022.

This money would pay for the necessary increase in utility-scale renewables from 39GW in 2015 to 135GW in 2022, states Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

Indian project developers are trying to raise this investment from a variety of financial organisations and by issuing green bonds.

The fast-growing rooftop solar sector will need another $50 billion (£40.89bn) to provide the remaining 40GW. Annual installations have increased by nearly three times (from 72MW to 227MW) in the past three years and this trend is expected to continue.

The cost of electricity from rooftop solar is falling, with prices now as cheap as $69Mwh (£56.43Mwh), with lower costs driving market growth.

Shantanu Jaiswal, Lead India Analyst at BNEF said rooftop solar power costs are “now competitive with tariffs paid by industrial and commercial consumers and often comparable to average residential electricity rates”.


Recycled Lead Produced at Commercial Scale Using Aqua Metals’ Non-Polluting Technology

Aqua Metals has produced recycled lead at commercial scale using its water-based technology — an industry first that Aqua Metals CEO Stephen R. Clarke says has “the potential to revolutionize lead recycling and make lead-acid batteries the only truly sustainable battery technology.”

The company produced the lead at its $30 million AquaRefinery in McCarran, Nevada. Instead of smelting, the most common way to recycle lead, AquaRefining uses an electrochemical process. The room temperature, water-based recycling method produces ingots of ultrapure lead. Because it uses a water-based process, it eliminates virtually all of the toxic waste issues generated by smelting and is safe for the environment, the company says.

Aqua Metals says it has verified that the lead produced in the AquaRefining module (pictured) is over 99.99 percent pure. The company will send its initial production samples to several US battery manufacturing companies, which collectively represent over 50 percent of US battery production, to allow them to conduct their own analysis.

Clarke said the production of lead with a commercial-scale AquaRefining module is “the most critical” piece of the AquaRefinery’s commissioning process. He added that the company plans to integrate the front-end battery-breaking portion of the facility in the weeks ahead.

The company manufactures AquaRefining modules at its headquarters in Alameda, California. It has built and delivered five modules to its Nevada AquaRefinery thus far and plans to install and commission a total of 16 modules for initial production capacity of 80 metric tons of lead per day.

Aqua Metals expects that the Nevada AquaRefinery will reach its initial production capacity within the coming months.

Earlier this year Aqua Metals signed an agreement with Interstate Batteries that will see the automotive battery distributor send more than 1 million automotive and other lead-acid batteries to be recycled at Aqua Metals’ AquaRefineries. Interstate Batteries also invested about $10 million into Aqua Metals.

Aqua Metals also has a strategic partnership with Battery Systems International and says it is in discussions with “nearly every major US based battery manufacturer and recycler, as well as data center operators and household Internet brands (which use lead-acid batteries for backup power).”

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