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Better with Batteries

Finding the Crown Joule

Written by Nick Hodge
Posted January 25, 2011

The energy market as you know it is on the verge of a vast transformation.

Complete domination of a centralized infrastructure by the big three — coal, oil, gas — is giving way to a distributed network comprised of dozens of new energy sources.

Every available resource is on the table as the days of cheap oil fade farther into the distance.

From the sun's rays up above to the tidal currents and earth's heat down below, the amount of energy we get from non-fossil resources is growing every day.

Finding and harnessing these resources is a trillion-dollar business. China alone has said it'll spend $1.7 trillion doing so in the next decade.

But there's one problem with these new energy technologies that's keeping them from taking over much sooner...

Unlike coal, oil, and gas, these new sources cannot be constantly burned to produce energy. Things like solar, wind, tidal, hydro, and others don't burn, so we can't control when they're available.

Yet they produce more energy than all the world's fossil fuel resources combined...

It's a well-known fact the sun produces more energy in an hour than the world uses in a year. Ample amounts are available from other resources as well.

Just take a look at the amount of energy available versus what we use:

Yearly Energy Fluxes & Human Energy Consumption

Solar

3,850,000 EJ

Wind

2,250 EJ

Biomass

3,000 EJ

Primary energy use (2005)

487 EJ

Electricity (2005)

56.7 EJ

The key is being able to harness and store this energy.

Finding the crown joule

Take those numbers seriously. They're the key to future energy and monetary wealth.

Every year, 3.85 million exajoules of solar energy hit the earth. We only use 487.

Not 487 million or 487,000 — just 487.

Whoever figures out how to store these resources efficiently will simultaneously alleviate global energy woes and create one of the most profitable products of all time.

That's why so much political and investment capital has gone into perfecting solar panels and installing wind turbines. It's why $243 billion was invested in the sector last year.

And it's why “cleantech” has gone from an obscure reference to an international buzzword.

But for all the money spent on these technologies, they've still come up short. Even though they're abundantly available, they still only account for a fraction of our actual energy use.

Solar panel efficiency has increased dramatically over the years. Wind turbines have gotten bigger and bigger, with 5 MW models now being built.

But those advancements still can't overcome the fact that the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow... Meanwhile, people always need energy.

Battery technology is about to change that, while ushering in a new era of energy and wealth.

~~SIGNUP_EAC~~

Everything's better with batteries

Research funded by the U.S. Air Force has already discovered a type of battery that can power a laptop for 30 years without a single recharge.

This is where the future of energy is headed.

You don't need to burn coal for electricity when you can harness the sun's 3.85 million exajoules of energy and store it for constant use at a later time.

The first such solar plant went online last year in Italy. Using the sun's energy, molten salt is heated to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The molten salt then boils water to drive a turbine that creates electricity. And since the salt can hold so much heat, the plant can generate electricity long after the sun's gone down.

That's not solar energy; that's solar energy with storage.

In Hawaii, Xtreme Power has used a 10 MW battery and unique computer software to make sure a wind farm can provide a constant supply of energy. The system will store wind energy when it's not needed, and the software will monitor grid demand and release excess electricity when needed.

That's not wind energy; that's wind energy with storage.

And that says nothing of the benefits batteries will have on the automotive sector... Nissan's new LEAF is rated at 99 MPG. Chevy's Volt is rated at 93 MPG.

Those aren't cars; those are cars with energy storage.

And guess what? They could even be charged with solar power stored on other batteries.

This is why the investment world is so excited about rare earth elements. They're crucial for batteries and modern electronics.

It's why investors are going on their second year of a love affair with lithium.

It's why, just last week, Obama visited a GE plant that will produce sodium batteries to power locomotives — yes, battery-powered trains — and why Biden was in Greenfield, Indiana, at the same time touring an Ener1 (NASDAQ: HEV) plant that will make lithium-ion batteries for the Think City electric car.

But these pale in comparison to a battery discovery recently made in a Chinese laboratory...

A new type of battery that could store wind and solar to make coal and oil obsolete, once and for all.

Piper Jaffray expects $600 billion to be spent on this technology in the next 10 years.

So getting in now will ensure you reap constant profits from the battery bull market that will ensue as clean energy and electric vehicles become business as usual.

Call it like you see it,

Nick Hodge

Nick
Editor, Energy and Capital

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