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Saturday, November 09, 2013
Playing with Fire: Kahuku Windfarm to Install Molten Magnesium Batteries
By Andrew Walden @ 3:48 AM :: 6500 Views :: Energy, Tax Credits

by Andrew Walden

Kahuku has already been through this before, as we in 2010 predicted it would: Xtreme Power: A Pig-in-a-poke For Hawaii Wind Farm

Now, 16 months after the inevitable Kahuku wind farm battery fire spewed molten lead across the sacred 'aina, First Wind, the company that couldn't see the August, 2012 fire coming even after two earlier fires, is doing it again.

In the First Wind wind farm fire, the lead in the storage batteries did not become molten until it caught on fire and burned to the ground over the course of several days--but with this groovy new technology, the metal is already pre-heated.  You see, boys and girls, First Wind's new batteries are intended to be installed already on fire.  They are made of molten magnesium and molten antimony.   And with the Hawaii DoE's shiny new test scores, all 4th graders must have learned that magnesium melts at 1202 degrees Fahrenheit and antimony melts at 1166 degrees Fahrenheit.

It gets better.  Faced with their third Kahuku windfarm fire, Honolulu fire fighters in August, 2012 weren't too thrilled at the prospect of crowding into a burning building tightly packed with toxic lead acid batteries just to save a tax scam so they wisely stood upwind and poured water on the fire from outside for days on end.

But unlike the chilly lead acid dry cells of yore, the new batteries operate 'normally' at the temperature of a searing fire, and even better (drumroll please) magnesium burns bright and hot when it contacts water (clash cymbals).  So not only will the fire department have to come up with some alternate means of extinguishing any fire, but First Wind will have to make sure the roof doesn't leak anytime over the next 20 years or so.

But its not really that bad.  The chance that this technology will ever make it to Hawaii is nil.  As one observer explains: "Whenever someone tells you about a miracle new battery just ask what the UPC code is, until it has one consider it vaporware."

Here is the news release, edited to enhance accuracy:

Governor Deval Patrick Joins Ambri for Opening of Manufacturing Facility

News Release from Ambri, Marlborough, Mass., Nov. 7, 2013

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick joined other state and federal officials in a ceremonial ribbon cutting for Ambri, an innovative electricity storage startup company, which opened its first battery manufacturing facility today. At the plant, located in Marlborough, Massachusetts, Ambri will demonstrate the next-generation equipment and processes (translation: Nobody has ever made this work before) that (we want you to think) will provide the foundation for global manufacturing of its low-cost electricity storage systems (because you will give us more money if you believe).

"Ambri's expansion is an example of how a little bit of public investment can catalyze private sector growth and innovation," said Governor Patrick.  (Translation: Only the government would pay for this.) "I thank Ambri for choosing to expand in Massachusetts, and congratulate all of the dedicated people of Ambri who made this day happen." (And I appreciate their campaign contributions.)

"We are honored that Governor Patrick is joining us for this celebration," said Phil Giudice, CEO of Ambri.  (But since I worked in his administration, I'm not too surprised.)  "Ambri was founded with the goal of (making a lot of money by telling people we are) creating a more efficient, more sustainable, and lower cost electricity system for the entire world. This manufacturing facility is a big step toward fulfilling our vision.  (If it fails, we've got nothing but those tax dollars you gave us.) Here, we (want you to believe that we) will demonstrate that Ambri's Liquid Metal Batteries can be produced at comparatively low capital cost, (Low? Heck, they've never even been produced at any cost) and make large-scale energy storage a practical reality."

Ambri's new factory will produce the Company's first prototype systems for deployment in 2014 and 2015. (Yep.  We're trying to build a prototype.) In 2015, (if the prototype works out) Ambri plans to commission its first full-scale manufacturing facility, which will position the company for worldwide growth. The company will begin the search for a location for its full-scale manufacturing facility next year (or not).

One of Ambri's first prototype systems produced in Marlborough will be installed at the Joint Base Cape Cod (thanks, Obama), where it will (not)enable the base to reduce electricity costs (even if it works), improve power quality and grid resiliency, and integrate additional onsite renewable generation (or it might catch on fire and burn the base down, but hey.) That deployment will be funded through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center's InnovateMass Program (Ca-ching!).

"Massachusetts is home to over 5,000 leading clean energy companies like Ambri that are working (making campaign contributions) each day to drive innovation and grow the Massachusetts clean energy sector, which now employs 80,000 workers," said MassCEC CEO Alicia Barton. "We're proud to celebrate this milestone with Ambri and look forward to seeing their first prototype deployment go forward right here in Massachusetts, a true home for innovation."

(As Clean Technica says, "Okay, a lot of verbiage there and not much substance on the progress Ambri has been making....")

Ambri also announced today plans to deploy another prototype energy storage system in Hawaii next year (if we can build the first prototype, that is). That system will be deployed in partnership with Boston-based renewable energy developer First Wind, with funding from the Hawaii Energy Excelerator, (ca-ching!) which is sponsored jointly by the Department of Energy and the Office of Naval Research (thanks, Obama).

"Consumers in Hawaii are plagued by high electricity prices because their generation system is based primarily on diesel fuel. Wind and solar resources paired with energy storage can (not) completely replace the diesel infrastructure, resulting in lower (higher) electricity prices and a more (less) reliable electricity grid," said Phil Giudice. "We are excited to work with First Wind and the Hawaii Energy Excelerator team to make this (transfer of your tax dollars) happen."

"Ambri's energy storage technology will (likely never) help Hawaii integrate more renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, on island grids. As Hawaii transitions from an oil-based electricity system to one fueled by 70% clean energy, the Energy Excelerator is committed to funding the world's best (connected cronies pitching) innovation needed to get us there," said Dawn Lippert, Founder and Senior Manager of the Hawaii Energy Excelerator.

About Ambri

Ambri is developing a unique electricity storage solution - the Liquid Metal Battery (LMB) - which is unlike any technology available on the market today.  (This is hot technology because another word for liquid is 'molten'.)  Ambri's LMB technology was invented at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the lab of Professor Donald Sadoway. Ambri was founded in 2010 to scale the technology to a commercial product. (If it worked,) Ambri's LMB will (still wouldn't) enable widespread use of renewable energy sources, reduce electricity costs and enable power systems to operate more reliably and efficiently. Ambri's investors include Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates and Total (all looking for tax credits to avoid taxes).   More information is available at

YouTube: Ambri Hawaii Sales Pitch

VB: Hawaii’s Energy Excelerator pours $5M into innovative cleantech startup


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