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Lithium: Storing more clean power with less pollution

Posted on 20 September 2022 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

The renewable energy revolution will require the world to ratchet-up lithium production to make batteries for electric cars and devices. As with all mining, there are concerns about lithium mines, but some experts overstate the potential environmental cost while neglecting to mention a big advantage: mining for lithium is much cleaner than mining for coal.

Lithium is also much more efficient. Jim Krane, PhD, who teaches energy policy and geopolitics at Rice University, has crunched the numbers. “Over 20 years,” he said, “the same amount of mining would give you five times as much power if you did the mining for wind rather than coal.” Not to mention that using lithium to store renewable energy will slash or possibly eliminate the need to mine coal.

This video by independent videographer and Yale Climate Connections regular contributor Pete Sinclair explores how some lithium is already being obtained without any mining at all.  At the Salton Sea in California, geothermal power plants tap the brine and produce lithium as a byproduct. Estimates show that the Salton Sea holds enough lithium to provide all projected future U.S. needs for the battery metal, and 40 percent of the world’s future needs, according to experts cited in the video.

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Comments 1 to 4:

  1. Another potential source of lithium: "Seawater could provide nearly unlimited amounts of critical battery material. New technique uses electrodes to extract lithium from seawater" Refer here.

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  2. This article gives us some reassurance. Just a question though. In estimating 40% of the world's future needs how much has recycling been taken into account? I have heard/read negative comments regarding the future recycling of lithium. Perhaps you already have an article on this?

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  3. Just noticed that the article nigelj posted above partly addresses my question above. :-"Choi adds that the approach might also prove useful for recovering lithium from discarded batteries, giving the metal a second lease on life—and potentially supercharging the ascendancy of electric vehicles".

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  4. It's possible, at least for grid-scale batteries, to use Sodium instead of Lithium.  That's obviously very abundant in ocean water.  

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