Battery manufacturers – and would-be competitors – are experimenting with all manner of alternatives these days – from nanotechnology to Prussian Blue dye (used to color fabric, paints, etc.) to make cheaper, more powerful, longer lasting storage devices.
The same forces are attracting massive investments in lithium battery technology, a market which is expected to grow from $17.5 billion in 2013 to $76.4 billion in 2020. Venture capital funding and government grants are currently supporting at least 13 battery technology start-ups, many of them founded by professors and students at MIT, Harvard, Stanford and other top research universities.
A good example is the Pittsburgh, startup Aquion Energy. Partially funded by Bill Gates, the company is developing a saltwater battery. The development group operates out of a former Sony TV factory, led by Carnegie Mellon professor Jay Whitacre. The company’s Aqueous Hybrid Ion (AHI) battery will cost the same as the cheapest batteries on the market, last twice as long, and is made of materials so safe they can be eaten (though they’d taste terrible), the battery backers boast.
Meanwhile, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are testing lithium-air batteries that are lighter and smaller than conventional batteries, yet offer three times the energy density.
So how do investors get in on the development action? In the article below, Oil & Energy Investor analyst Dr. Kent Moors provides several key pieces of advice for investors. Keep a keen eye on changing development, and monitor who develops or licenses new battery technology. Track how quickly these new developments come to market. He advises investors to pay close attention to the little organizations that are at the cutting edges of the technology, giving useful tips and advice to fellow investors on how best track companies like Tesla, and all would-be competitors.
Why 2016 is the Year of the Battery, and How You Can Profit From It
Renewable power is on the rise. U.S. wind power capacity grew by 13% in 2015, and total renewable electric power is expected to grow by 11.3% in 2016.
Utility-scale solar power capacity alone is expected to almost double from 2014 to 2017. And in Europe, renewable power generation increased by 84% from 2003 to 2013.
But the great stumbling block for solar energy, as well as wind power and electric vehicles, has always been storage. The sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. And we don’t always need power when they do.
Batteries can bridge this gap by storing renewable power for when its needed, but conventional batteries, even the most high-tech ones, are inefficient and expensive, and don’t last more than a few years.
But in 2016, that’s all changing.
Recently, researchers at Ohio State University announced a breakthrough battery that’s 20% more efficient and 25% cheaper than anything else on the market.
That’s just one of the battery breakthroughs that could transform the energy industry… and create some of the most exciting opportunities I’ve seen.
Because whoever figures out the “holy grail” of energy storage is going to make an absolute fortune, and not just in the energy industry. The implications are far-reaching across almost every industry you can imagine (and some you can’t).
Batteries activated by water, batteries made out of dirt, and batteries fueled by the same dye used to make blue jeans blue are right behind.
Here’s the current picture of the best, the little organizations that are at the cutting edge of this opportunity, and my picks for those who want to be the earliest investors before the market catches on…
Tapping Solar Energy When the Sun isn’t Shining
Solar power has always had one major drawback: when the sun isn’t shining, the electricity stops.
Homeowners can either draw power from the local power company, which is much more expensive than the “free” energy solar panels provide, or they can store electricity in banks of lead acid or lithium-ion batteries.
Both are expensive and inefficient.
A bank of batteries with enough capacity for two days of usage, along with the electronic controls they require, can cost $5,000-15,000, and last 5-12 years. Because solar panels typically last 20 years or more, homeowners can count on replacing back-up or auxiliary power batteries two to four times during the life of their solar panels.
And in conventional set-ups, 20% of the electricity solar panels generate is “lost” before it even gets to the batteries.
A breakthrough recently published in the scholarly journal Nature Communications by Ohio State University researchers could change all that.
It sounds deceptively simple. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, a team led by researcher Yiying Wu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has combined a solar panel and rechargeable battery into one unit.
“The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a battery to store the energy,” Wu said. By combining the two, Wu’s team can produce a battery that eliminates the usual 20% efficiency loss between panel and battery, at a cost that’s 25% less than existing technology.
The battery has one other high-tech wrinkle. To boost efficiency, Wu noted, “Basically, it’s a breathing battery. It breathes in air when it discharges, and breathes out when it charges.”