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Sumitomo installs first large-scale power system using used EV batteries

Sumitomo Corporation has developed and installed the first large-scale power storage system which utilizes used batteries collected from electric vehicles. This commercial scale storage system, built on Yume-shima Island, Osaka, will begin operating in February 2014.

Sumitomo Corporation created the joint venture company, 4R Energy Corporation, in collaboration with Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. in September 2010, to address the secondary use of EV lithium-ion batteries. (Earlier post.) The used EV batteries that will be recycled into this large-scale storage system have been recovered and have gone through thorough inspection and maintenance at 4R, to confirm safety and performance. This prototype system (600kW/400kWh) consists of sixteen used EV batteries.

Over the next three years, the system will measure the smoothing effect of energy output fluctuation from the nearby “Hikari-no-mori,” solar farm, and will aim to establish a large-scale power storage technology by safely and effectively utilizing the huge quantities of discarded used EV batteries which will become available in the future.


This project has been selected as a model project for “Verification of the battery storage control to promote renewable energy” for the fiscal year 2013 by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan.

Sumitomo will seek new business opportunities which can make use of the highly economical storage system, as well as work on developing new applications for used EV batteries. The company aims to actively promote this approach, which can both contribute to expanding the use of EV and encourage the use of renewable energy.



Also, utility scale solar PV will likely use tracking panels. These can tilt themselves to vertical to shed any snow in seconds.


I think the real limitation of solar isn't winter or snow but rather area. Not everybody can live the quarter acre dream, many more people will live in crowded built up areas. Those living in apartment complexes may be able to afford a more complete solar/RE solution by sharing the costs but single family homes overshaddowed by others would be better served by a compact H2-FC-CHP.

Nick Lyons

@ai_vin: We have solar panels on our roof, and benefit from 'net metering', that is, treating the grid as if it were a battery. A few facts on the ground:

1. Solar production under clouds is *far* lower than in direct sunlight. On 2/6 we produced ~14kWh. The next day it rained, and we produced ~2.6kWh. And of course for the majority of time, we produced 0kWh, because it was night and this is the winter.

2. One month last winter we produced 288kWh total. Same number of days later that spring: 658kWh. We use more power in the winter, so our production does not match our usage, even seasonally.

Solar and wind are not dispatch-able--you get the power when mother nature says, not necessarily when you need it. Our net-metering set up only works because our 'storage' is really backup generation from nuclear, hydro, and natural gas generation. Overnight storage (e.g. batteries) would probably double the cost of our system. Seasonal storage is not really available for us.


Well that only points to how important it is to design the *right system* for your local conditions.


going 100% renewable is crazy.
Saying things like "you get more solar in summer and more wind in winter" is infantile.
The grid has to be managed minute by minute, not year by year.
As has been pointed out, the only large scale storage is pumped hydro, but this needs special geography, and is not very abundant.

Japan has a very dense population and very little flat land.
They do not have a lot of space for solar farms.
(Maybe they could put them on south facing hill sides, I don;t know).
The trick is to set an achievable goal, such as 20-40% renewable.
This you could do (at considerable cost by adding in a load of solar and a load of wind, but keeping most of your fossil stations as dispatchable power.

Also, they could unite their grids (which work at different frequencies [east and west] and generally beef up their long range transmission capability to move power around the island.

This will cost a fortune and make electricity very expensive, but the Japanese could take it.
They have very variable demand - after Fukushima, they were able to get people to reduce usage in a way they you couldn't expect in western countries.

This may be their "secret weapon" dispatchable demand.

[ My own preference would be to add a reasonable % of solar and wind, and restart the safest (say 50%) nuclear plants, while beefing up their cooling facilities so a Fukushima type disaster couldn't happen ].

[ I know this is preparing for the last disaster, but, since we don't what the next disaster will be, this is a good start ]

I have NO idea why the Germans turned their nukes off early - they live in a stable country. [ Politics, I suppose ]


Actually mahonj the Germans DID try a 100% RE experiment.


And they showed they could match supply to demand minute by minute. All we need to do now is scale it up.


100% renewable electricity is possible. Norway is nearly 100% renewable electricity with hydropower. In 2013 Denmark made an average of 33% of its electricity from wind power and a record average 59% from wind power in December 2013. We will reach 50% from wind power annually in 2020 and it will be done without any pumped hydro storage or batteries in the grid. We do it by building more transmission lines to neighboring countries. Neither has Denmark started to use smart metering at any scale that would allow electricity consumers to use more or less depending on fluctuating electricity prices.

The point is there are no technical problems with including much more renewable energy in the grid we just need to make it cheaper in order to compete with coal and natural gas. Fortunately both solar and wind is getting cheaper every year.

Bob Wallace

New wind and new solar are cheaper than new coal and new nuclear.

Wind is cheaper than some paid off coal and some paid off nuclear. Solar is close behind.

Actually new wind and new solar are cheaper than paid off coal and nuclear if the external costs of coal and nuclear are included.

The cost of renewables has plummeted. What was true 2, 3 years ago is not true today.

Nick Lyons

Going 100% renewable, outside of places which can deploy big hydro, is going to be extremely expensive. Wind and solar capacity factors are mostly under 30%, meaning you have to build 3X the capacity than you would to deploy nuclear, which can do better than 95%. Even then, there are long stretches when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow, meaning you have also to build storage or some kind or dispatchable backup. Also, plant lifetimes are one half to one third that of nuclear, so capital costs are much higher than they look at first glance.

I will grant that it can be made to work, but it is not going to happen outside of the certain rich economies. Developing economies are building coal plants for baseload generation, because that is what is affordable and reliable, externalities be damned. Developing economies is where the bulk of the new power generation is going to be built going forward. We need a *cheap* low-carbon alternative, and that *could* be nuclear. Whether we will be smart enough to make that happen is a separate question.

NB: German CO2 emissions are going up, not down, as they replace nuclear with natural gas and *new coal plants*. How green is that?


Actually Germany’s coal construction plans predated the nuclear phase out. The switch to coal was in response to higher gas prices in Germeny. They have to import most of their gas and because of political unrest in their eastern supply chain at the time they switched to coal.

Nick Lyons

ai_vin: Germany is building new coal plants, which burn dirty domestic brown coal, that can follow load, so as to be backup for renewables (wind and solar). In Germany, the push for renewables has led to expensive electricity and increasing carbon emissions. What a deal.


Germany is also the EU’s largest hard coal importer, about 77% of the national consumption was imported in 2010. When the new plants were planned America was in their sights: The shale gas boom in the US made coal production relatively cheap. From 2007 to 2011 German coal imports from the US rose by roughly 150 percent, while imports from South Africa were cut by two thirds during the same timeframe. However, German hard coal imports dropped from just over 56 million in 2007 to around 46 million short tons in 2009. The official figures on gross power consumption for Germany from 2010 to 2012 show that power production from hard coal hardly moved at all – from 117 terawatt-hours in 2010 to 118 in 2012, and it was even slightly lower in 2011. So yes they are using more of their own brown coal. But they are burning it in new power plants and closing down older ones and even the new ones were built so as to be closed down as soon as possible. EuroCoal reports that lignite coal use should remain stable until 2020, but will likely disappear as an energy source by 2050 while the market for hard coal halves by 2020 and then halves again by 2050. Coal production in Germany is subsidised and the move is on to end that sooner rather than later.

Expensive electricity really isn't a problem here, it's actually a solution. High prices for electricity, like other things, encourages conservation. Energy efficiency lowers demand and makes 100% renewable more obtainable. The Germans view coal power only as a "bridge" so the increasing carbon emissions we see now are only a temporary problem.


On German coal use;

Is the price of electricity going up or down?


Let's put this another way: From 2011-2012 the Germans generated 8.3% less electricity from nuclear power and 15% less electricity from natural gas but only generated 5.1% more electricity from coal. The difference was madeup by renewable & conservation: From 2011-2012 German electricity production from renewable energy sources increased 9.3% to become 22% of total generation.

The recent increase in carbon emissions is small, 1.6% in 2012, when compared to their longer term reductions: During the period since 2005-2011 when electricity generation from renewables nearly doubled, German emissions fell 8.1%.

A longer view is critical here. Germany has reduced its emissions 27% since 1990 and surpassed its targets under the Kyoto protocol in 2009.


With the growth of their economy AND strange weather driving up the need for heating one should expect the Germans to be using much more energy, so rather than being a failure the growth of renewable energies has helped to keep the rise in greenhouse gas emissions in check.

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