Electric Vehicles Are Driving Demand For Lithium – With Environmental Consequences
s the world moves towards a low-carbon future, there is a growing range of technological advancements facilitating the transition away from fossil fuels. Transportation and energy production are two sectors that desperately need to reduce emissions, and developments in electric vehicles and battery storage are rapidly changing both markets. Lithium, sometimes referred to as “white petroleum”, is a key component in energy storage and in recent years demand has skyrocketed . This week delegates are gathering in Chile, the country with the world’s biggest lithium reserves, at the 11th Lithium Supply & Markets Conference to discuss the latest advances in the industry.
Large scale batteries as a storage option for renewable energy on main electricity grids reached prominence after Elon Musk challenged himself to upgrade South Australia’s energy grid within one hundred days. It took only sixty-three days for Tesla to build a 100MW lithium-ion battery, the largest in the world, capable of kicking in as the state’s backup power source within less than a second. Using renewable energy as its prime power source, the battery helped improve the viability of renewables in South Australia, smoothing out issues with the intermittency of supply.
This mega-battery kicks in to stabilize the energy grid in the event of coal-powered plants or wind farms unexpectedly shutting down. In December 2017, a major coal generator in the neighboring state of New South Wales tripped, depriving the grid of over 689MW of capacity. However, the batteries kicked in within a second, assuring there would be no blackout.