Regular readers will see that battery tech stories are pretty frequent here, which points to the ongoing battles to continue to deliver more powerful and more cost effective batteries. The exponential growth prospects for EV’s and energy storage depend on this.

One approach is to develop batteries like the sodium-ion one, below, that avoid the use of scarce inputs such as lithium and cobalt, but the results are often compromised efforts. However there is also evidence of both lithium and cobalt reducing in price. Goldman Sachs are predicting sharp falls in the former and new sources are opening in the latter. this is more likely, in my view, to fire further growth in storage markets.


Highlands Rewilding raises £10.5m to restore 3,500-acre estate
Solar entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett announces major investment milestone for latest project that will restore large tracts of land in Scotland to provide nature-based carbon credits
Highlands Rewilding has raised the £10.5m needed to buy a 3,500-acre estate on the west coast of Scotland, as the firm steps up its efforts to restore forests, peatlands, and wildlife while generating revenues from sustainable timber production, eco-tourism, and the sale of corporate carbon credits.
The company, which was founded in 2020 by British solar entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett, had made an exclusive offer to buy the Tayvallich Estate in Argyll for £10.5m last year, securing an agreement from the sellers that it must raise the necessary funds by the end of February 2023.
Despite a fund raising exercise that “ran close to the wire” Leggett announced this week that the firm had managed to secure the required funds within the sellers’ deadline and now intends to close the deal to buy the estate by the end of this month before getting started on its nature restoration plans. (businessgreen)

photo: Highlands Rewilding

Downing add to Swedish hydro portfolio
Downing Renewables & Infrastructure Trust (DORE) announced this week that they had paid £5.1 million for two hydropower plants in Sweden, bringing the trust’s stock of dams in the country to 28.
The first acquisition is a c.2.5GWh recently renovated 107 year old plant at Högforsen, on the Gillerån river.  The second is a c. 6GWh hydropower plant in the municipality of Gottne, located on the Moälven river. Transfer of title on the second deal is due to be completed this month.
The acquisitions bring annual output from Downing’s managed Swedish hydropower plants to an average of 197GWh. (theenergyst)


Offshore renewables skills hub backed by wind developers
A skills and innovation hub set for the Highlands is being backed by floating offshore wind developers Renantis, BlueFloat Energy and Orsted.
The three renewables firms have become the first developers to join the board of the PowerHouse, which was established last year by Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF).
OCF recently had its green freeport bid approved, meaning it will soon benefit from light touch regulations and tax incentives.
The region was awarded the status alongside Forth Ports, at the expense of a joint bid by Aberdeen and Peterhead, which is thought to have come a distant fourth.
It’s hoped the move will create as many 75,000 jobs in Scotland, and breathe new life into the Highlands.
PowerHouse includes an applied research centre dedicated to developing floating offshore wind and green hydrogen technologies.
The Easter Ross facility is planning to establish a new national training centre in the Highlands, with the offshore renewables job market expected to boom. (energyvoice)

‘Europe’s biggest’ battery in East Yorkshire opens
Investment company Harmony Energy Trade Income (HEIT) has announced ‘Europe’s biggest’ battery energy storage system has been officially opened.
Located at Pillswood near Cottingham, East Yorkshire, the £75 million facility has been developed by HEIT employing Tesla Megapack technology.
The project has the capacity to store up to 196MWh of electricity in a single cycle – enough energy to power around 300,000 homes in Yorkshire for two hours, the company said.
The site is located adjacent to National Grid’s Creyke Beck substation, the same connection point proposed for phases A and B of the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Dogger Bank.
The first phase of the offshore wind farm is expected to go live this summer. (theenergyst)

Heat pumps get £14m boost
The government is providing more than £14 million to accelerate the rollout of heat pumps in the UK.
Four projects will benefit from £9.7 million to cut the cost of installations, with a focus on concentrated areas such as Cambridge and Bristol.
In addition, £5 million is being devoted to training 10,000 installers across the next two years.
Companies such as Panasonic will offer a £500 discount to participating trainees from the government’s grant.
This funding will be available in tandem with the £450 million Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which will give homeowners a possible £6,000 discount if they choose to install a heat pump. (energylivenews)


BMW say Mini Countryman electric to be built in Leipzig
BMW has promised that by 2025 the entire Mini range will be electric powered, so they need to get moving in rolling out their models. The Mini Electric, despite range only suited to city driving has sold well, so next up is the Countryman small SUV variant. This will be manufactured alongside the BMW iX1 at the Leipzig factory. The two will probably run similar power trains, although BMW are coy about details of the range and performance of the Clubman electric. Expect a range of about 250 miles.
The Leipzig factory is interesting in itself. The paint shop burners are designed to run on hydrogen and it has its own wind turbines to power the plant. BMW are building it as a model plant for sustainability.

Photo: BMW


BP Pulse and Apcoa to create EV hubs across Europe 
BP Pulse and Apcoa Parking Group have revealed plans to open more than 100 EV fast charging hubs in city centres across Europe over the next three years.
Under the agreement, BP Pulse plans to install ultra-fast charging at Apcoa car parks  – ‘Urban Hubs’ – in the UK, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Poland.
The project will include digital integration of the BP Pulse and ‘Apcoa Connect’ app in the UK and ‘Apcoa Flow’ app in Europe.
Registered users will be able to locate, access, book and pay for their charging and parking at the car park from their mobile, and the car park’s entry and exit barriers will open automatically as the vehicle approaches.
The first two Urban Hubs will open in Berlin and Bremen, Germany, in the third quarter of 2023, offering ultra-fast charging which will charge a minimum of six cars, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Some of the hubs will also offer a ‘driver lounge’ including hot and cold drinks, seating areas with phone charging points, free Wi-Fi and toilets. (theenergyst)

FOCUS ON: Blue Forests

First-ever World Seagrass Day focuses on conservation
Seagrasses are marine flowering plants that are found in shallow waters from the tropics to the Arctic Circle, covering over 300,000 square kilometres of the ocean floor.
Although not as colourful as coral reefs, or mysterious as mangrove forests, they provide a wealth of benefits to humans and marine life.
Seagrass meadows – often referred to as a type of “blue forest” – supply food and shelter to thousands of species of fish, seahorses, turtles, and other marine animals, and sustain some of the world’s largest fisheries.
Non-marine species, including some geese and ducks, rely on them too, as they graze on seagrasses during their autumn migration.
Seagrasses improve water quality by filtering, cycling and storing nutrients and pollutants, thus reducing contamination in seafood. As part of the marine ecosystem, they store up to 18 per cent of the world’s oceanic carbon.
They also reduce wave energy, serving as the first line of defense along coasts, protecting communities from the increasing risk of floods and storms.
Despite their importance, including in climate mitigation, seagrass meadows are in danger.
World Seagrass Day aims to raise awareness about the threats to these ecosystems, and promote their conservation, which is critical for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change. (unitednations)

photo: Unsplash/Benjamin L. Jones

CGI and Project Seagrass release new open-source algorithm
As part of its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategy, CGI has partnered with Project Seagrass, a global charity devoted to seagrass conservation, to develop an open-source algorithm that helps locate, quantify and track seagrass meadows initially across the UK region. The new algorithm launched obn Wednesday, the United Nation’s first-ever World Seagrass Day.
CGI and Project Seagrass have developed the algorithm to support academic and government plans for protecting vital seagrass ecosystems, which, in turn, help to mitigate climate change.
The open-source algorithm is designed to pinpoint and quantify seagrass meadows as part of CGI’s proprietary CGI GeoData360 Earth observation data processing platform, which leverages data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Copernicus Satellite Earth Observation Mission and processes it via the seagrass identification algorithm. The CGI GeoData360 platform and the ESA Earth observation imagery can be trained to create new algorithms which could be used to deliver seagrass identifications anywhere in the world with access to relevant data.
CGI and Project Seagrass have released the latest version of the open-source algorithm to enable community collaboration and continued development of the algorithm. (cision)

ECO – 3D-Printed Housing Development

Welcome to the world’s first 3D-printed neighbourhood
Amid the tech boom-fuelled sprawl in Austin, Texas, Wolf Ranch at first appears to be another colourfully named but architecturally unimaginative suburban subdivision. Until, that is, you turn a corner and stumble across giant robots building homes resembling waves frozen in concrete.
This 100-house addition to the 2,500 homes planned for Wolf Ranch is called “the Genesis Collection,” and as the world’s largest 3D-printed community, it is indeed sui generis. A collaboration between Lennar Corp., the US’s second-biggest home builder, and 3D-printing startup Icon, Genesis represents perhaps the most significant innovation in residential construction in decades. If it can scale, 3D-printed construction promises to deliver energy-efficient homes that can be built faster and more affordably, in novel designs and with minimal waste. The concrete structures are also more resilient to increasingly intense climate-driven hurricanes, wildfires and heat waves.
Labour shortages, rising material costs and pressure to reduce housing’s carbon footprint are driving a tradition-bound industry to innovate which led Lennar in 2021 to invest in Austin-based Icon. Their 46.5ft wide  Vulcan 11 robot consists of a crossbar that moves up and down between two 15.5-foot-tall towers that sit astride a foundation. Attached to the cross bar is a nozzle that shuttles from side to side. It layers a proprietary concrete mix called Lavacrete onto the external and internal walls rather like tooth[paste onto a toothbrush.
The Icon houses rise fast and require only a few workers to oversee construction. Noise and waste is minimal, so Lennar Corp are hoping to persuade the authorities that the machines be allowed to run round the clock. Watch how it works HERE. (bloomberggreen)

Photos: Icon


Ocean Cleanup, having proved the model, hopes to move up a gear
Trying to solve the world’s ocean plastic pollution problem has been a “long and painful journey” for Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat.
The 28-year-old founder of non-profit environmental organisation The Ocean Cleanup has been working on ways to filter plastic waste out of the Pacific Ocean’s “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” for nearly 10 years.
Boyan said the system has so far cleaned up almost 200,000 kilograms (440,000 lbs) of ocean plastic.
While this represents just 0.2% of the 100 million kilograms of plastic contained in the world’s largest patch of plastic rubbish, he said it was still worth it: “Everything big starts small, right?”
The team believes it will have collected 1% of the patch by the end of this year using its current system – but they are scaling up their operations to try to clean up patches faster.
They are developing System 3, a 2.4km (1.49 miles) long giant barrier, for use in the summer.
And The Ocean Cleanup hopes that rolling out 10 of these larger systems in the near-future could clean up to 80% of the North Pacific’s plastic debris by the end of the decade. They are also deploying resource into river cleanup as most plastic waste makes its way to see via one of the world’s 1,000 key rivers. (bbc)

photos: Ocean Cleanup

Impressive productivity on display at Tesla Investor day
During Tesla’s Investor Day, the company’s manufacturing leader, Tom Zhu, announced that Tesla had produced 4 million cars in total. The time taken to produce every million cars showed a remarkable increase in efficiency, with the first million taking 12 years, the second million taking 18 months, the third million taking less than 11 months, and the fourth million taking less than 7 months.
Zhu attributes this efficiency to well-planned manufacturing changes and Tesla’s continued expansion of new car and battery cell factories. Tesla also revealed that the company provided 9 terawatt hours of charging in 2022, with over 40,000 Superchargers installed, and half of the Superchargers in the EU open to non-Tesla vehicles.
Going forward, Tesla is planning for a new type of drive unit compatible with any battery cell type, the development of a motor that does not require rare earth metals, and the upcoming construction of a factory in Monterrey, Mexico. (insideevs)

China’s new coal plant approvals surge in 2022
China approved the construction of another 106 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity last year, four times higher than a year earlier and the highest since 2015, driven by energy security considerations, research showed on Monday. (reuters)


China and VW break ground with first Sodium-Ion powered EV
The Sehol E10X sounds like an insulating material rather than a car, but it is in fact a city car EV made by the JAC/VW partnership in China. The car looks unremarkable, but may just be ground breaking in that it has become the first EV to run on a sodium-ion battery, thus avoiding any use of lithium. Whilst sodium tech is attractive to battery companies as sodium is much easier to source and cleaner to produce than lithium but the resultant batteries have never been competitive in terms of energy density. However this one, made by HiNa is running a density of 120Wh/kg, which compares well with the 125Wh/kg of the first Tesla Lithium Phosphate battery (it has now been improved to 300Wh/kg, a useful target for the sodium battery). Another advantage of Sodium batteries is that they don’t lose more than 10% of performance in very cold conditions.

photo: JAC Motors