Western economies may be on the threshold of a transitional shift towards exclusive reliance on sustainable energy sources. If this occurs – as many observers believe it must – it’s likely that it will eventually become a new global norm. In an era of climate change and depleted natural resources, our dependence on high polluting and finite fossil fuels is increasingly precarious. There is a growing consensus across democratic governments that dependence on fossil fuels for generating energy needs to be ended within a generation.
The challenges of implementing a global shift towards effective sustainable energy sources are enormous. Creating a reliable, resilient, and affordable sustainable power supply, that enables economic growth and serves domestic consumers, requires unprecedented technical innovation. Some of the finest minds in science and industry are eagerly embracing this challenge. The potential rewards for successful innovators are immense.
One of the key requirements for a global sustainable energy solution is a capacity for long-duration energy storage solutions. Renewable energy storage solutions need to be cost-effective, scaleable and must derive from sustainable production processes. Innovations in energy storage are at the heart of the renewable energy revolution.
The Global Renewable Energy Market
The projected value of the global energy market in 2030 is $1,977.6 billion. Put simply, the renewable energy market is expected to double in the course of a single decade. Energy underpins every form of economic activity and every aspect of human existence. There is arguably no other field or sector that currently offers the same opportunities for growth and profit.
The transition to renewable energy – wind and tidal energy, geothermal energy, solar energy, bioenergy, hydropower, and ocean power – requires huge investments in new infrastructures. Renewable energy is currently expensive – and therefore potentially unpopular at the consumer level.
Cost-cutting innovations in energy storage will help to make sustainable energy cheaper during the transitional process. They will also enable the scalability and dispersal of energy-generating projects that are currently essential to harness geographically diverse alternative energy sources.
Companies that can deliver innovative energy storage solutions enjoy a unique niche within the massive renewable energy market. They also have a unique opportunity to contribute to a major milestone in human development.
ICL’s Energy Storage Solutions Unit
The Achilles heel of the global renewable energy supply is energy storage. To put this in perspective, there are enough reserves of pumped crude oil to sustain the global economy for 45 days.
There are enough reserves of stored electricity to provide power for just 33 minutes. For a fundamental transition to sustainable energy to be genuinely viable, we need the capacity to safely store similar strategic reserves of electricity. Innovative renewable energy storage is a prerequisite for the transition to clean energy and a safer world.
ICL’s Energy Storage Solutions are helping improve electrical storage capacity. New bromine battery technology is transforming the potential of renewable energy. The ICL group grew out of early pioneering ventures in the mineral-rich Dead Sea area of the Israeli Negev Desert. The company maintains its unbroken historical link to the Dead Sea and today has access to some of the world’s richest concentrations of bromine.
Bromine (Br) is a chemical element whose fast kinetics make it ideal for battery manufacture and energy storage solutions. Bromine batteries are safe for domestic use and do not require special maintenance or fire precautions. The addition of special materials (so-called ‘Complexing Agents’) to the electrolyte ‘captures’ the bromine, making it safer with no risk of self-ignition. This can potentially transform the efficacy and scalability of renewable energy generation.
Understanding the Importance of ICL’s Energy Storage Innovation
Bromine batteries are innovative energy storage solutions and are already proving to be a strong ally in the field of sustainable energy development.
ICL’s Head of Energy Storage Solutions Ilan Behar gives some valuable insights into the strategic importance of the ESS unit, and ICL’s vision for the sustainable future of energy storage.
Insights into Energy Storage Innovation with Ilan Behar
Ilan, what are the key global drivers in the development of innovative energy storage systems?
For ICL, the drivers begin with our own passion for innovation and new technologies. It’s part of the company’s DNA and has been since the 1920s. On a global level, the main drivers are the rapid shift to renewable energy sources and the powerful impetus from the electric vehicle battery market. Demand for energy storage is massive, and there is huge competition among EV manufacturers. They all want to launch the definitive electric vehicle with a completely safe, super efficient – and intelligent – battery.
What is the ESS Unit?
The ESS is our Energy Storage Solutions which covers all the different opportunities related to battery materials across ICL’s businesses. It’s a remit that looks at dozens of projects and enterprises across the world. They find new opportunities to serve the end market and customers by leveraging these synergies, know-how, and capabilities. It’s a really exciting place to work and the ESS is a major growth engine for ICL Group.
What are the main objectives of this unit?
The ESS has certain key objectives. The first is simply to continue with what we’re already doing i.e. developing battery materials to create more efficient and sustainable energy storage solutions. The goal is to adapt and innovate and find new applications for the technologies. I can summarize the other objectives briefly:
- To make sure ICL is serving its customers (the energy storage market) in the best possible way.
- To oversee technologies that are undergoing incremental improvements, as well as explore more efficient and sustainable next-generation technologies.
- Understand future requirements for energy storage and prepare solutions for new markets and processes. The goal is to keep ICL at the forefront of the energy field in the years – decades – to come.
- To ensure that ICL itself is equipped to exploit future opportunities on a structural and organizational level. This means building and investing in our own capabilities and human assets. We want a capacity for rapid expansion in response to sudden opportunities, and for long-term growth.
What sets ICL’s strong foothold in the ESS Market?
ICL has a global reach and presence and a lot of experience in building international partnerships. We also bring our physical assets, specialist knowledge, and ingenuity to the equation. We also have significant financial resources to invest. All that aside, it’s the sheer quality of ICL’s people and their can-do attitude that sets ICL’s foothold in the ESS Market. There are a few key facts that offer some insight:
- ICL is a global company with over 50 plants worldwide. We’re located in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. Our multinational presence gives us a strategic advantage in serving different industries and promoting locally sourced materials.
- We have unparalleled access to natural resources in various parts of the world. We also have the capability to extract and process them.
How is ICL responding to the demand for energy storage given the increase in the usage of Li-Ion batteries?
We just received a $197 million federal grant as part of a $400 million investment in lithium-iron phosphate manufacturing. The focus of the investment will be the first large-scale LFP manufacturing plant in the United States. I think that’s an achievement that pretty much speaks for itself. We’re positioning ourselves to be the major US manufacturer for a rapidly emerging market and become a market leader. You can watch President Biden’s remarks on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the link below.
How was ICL’s entry into the Lithium Iron Phosphate market in China received, and will you expand your offerings? What efforts are being made to expand in the US, Europe, and other markets?
Generally, our entry to the Chinese Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) market has been received very positively. ICL’s China-based operations have been offering and selling our Phosphate specialty products such as salts and acids for a while now.
This supply of our Phosphate specialty products is a big part of the lithium iron phosphate (LFP) production in China. ICL is meeting demands by preparing to increase the capacity at our plants in China and continuing to support the cathode producers there.
The battery market is currently dominated by China and other Asian countries. These value chains still have to be developed in Europe and the U.S. The good news is that there’s rising demand throughout Europe and the U.S. for locally-made batteries and battery materials.
There is also a political impetus to support local sourcing and become less dependent on foreign products. ICL’s positioning in Europe and the U.S. provides great opportunities to develop our current local resources to serve these new evolving supply chains.
ICL Commitments to Innovations in Energy Storage
ICL is committed to developing innovative energy storage solutions. Our vision is to help create a world with a superabundance of clean, affordable, and sustainable energy sources.
The goal is to facilitate future economic growth and create the highest possible standard of living for the 8 billion people who live on this planet. ICL has been implementing sustainable solutions within its own organizations for over a decade and is working to make sustainability a precondition of all future projects.
We are also deeply committed to achieving the United Nations 17 Strategic Development Goals or SDGs. The 7th SDG is to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Our innovative renewable energy storage solutions are making a tangible contribution towards the achievement of that goal. We’re genuinely excited by the possibilities that our new technologies are creating and our dedicated ESS unit is focused on transforming these possibilities into profitable realities.