Europe's Biggest Battery Has a HUGE Problem

Written By Jason Williams

Updated May 15, 2024

Earlier this year, the Harmony Energy Income Trust, an investment firm focused on commercial-scale energy storage and renewable energy generation in Great Britain, made history.

It announced the biggest battery installation in European history in March of this year.

The 99-megawatt installation would be able to store enough energy to power as many as 450,000 homes for as long as two hours.

And earlier this week, the company made history again as it announced the completion of the project and its connection to the nation’s energy grid.

The company also recently deployed another slightly smaller, 49.5-megawatt storage facility in Scotland.

And the reason these new installations are so important is because the U.K. is busy building out its offshore wind capacity, with a goal of powering the entire grid with 100% green energy by 2035.

But sometimes the wind doesn’t blow and there’s no electricity produced. And sometimes the wind blows too hard and overloads the grid.

In those situations, without a place to store the excess power for later, wind farms are actually paid to shut down to reduce the load on the grid.

So these new battery storage facilities will help alleviate those issues as the country continues its push to cut greenhouse emissions completely.

And the U.K. isn’t the only country with such ambitions goals…

They’ve Got the Whole World

Pretty much every Western nation, much of Asia, and even the oil-rich Saudis have set targets to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions within the next decade or two.

But along with that shared commitment comes a shared problem. It’s the one that the U.K. hopes to solve with these battery installations. But they’ll need more than just a couple.

And when you factor in the rest of the world, then you’re talking about millions of these utility-scale storage facilities all around the globe.

But there’s another problem that the batteries don’t address. In fact, the batteries are kind of the cause of this issue…

And that’s the imbalance between supply and demand in the world of energy metals, especially lithium.

There’s just not enough lithium being mined to meet future demand, especially if everyone is installing gigantic lithium battery installations like these:

europe big battery

All of those white boxes that look like the trailers big rigs haul are Tesla Megapack 2XL batteries. They each cost about $1.4 MILLION and they each can store about 4 megawatt hours of electricity.

The majority of that cost is to cover the several tons of lithium needed to create a battery that big.

And, as you can see from the picture, just to get close to 100-megawatts, this installation needs about 55 of them, for a total cost of around $77 MILLION.

That’s just to buy the batteries, though. You still have to pay for the land, the installation, the electrical connection to the power grid, etc.

But while the cost is prohibitive now, it’s not even close to how bad things will be as demand for lithium outstrips supply.

With more and more nations fighting for access to a stockpile that’s not getting much bigger, we’re going to see lithium prices soar, and the highest bidder will get the batteries.

And with the average startup time for a new lithium mine being somewhere around 10 years…

And with current extraction techniques requiring an extra two years to produce any usable lithium…

That imbalance is going to last a while, unless something changes drastically…

Just Be Direct About It

But, while the world wonders how it’ll meet the surge in demand for this newly precious industrial metal, a handful of small lithium miners are perfecting a new technique for extracting it.

It’s a technique called direct lithium extraction, or DLE, where, instead of using traditional techniques like evaporation to separate lithium from liquids, they target the metal with specific solutions that act like a magnet.

So instead of pumping lithium brine into massive pools and then leaving it there for several years to evaporate down to a slushy soup, these companies can run it through a plant and get usable lithium within a few hours.

I’ve likened it to finding a needle in a haystack the easy way: by dragging a magnet through it.

And that’s pretty much how this new process works.

The lithium is pumped from the underground reservoirs where it lives. The solution (called brine) is then fed through an extraction plant where specific chemical attractants that act like a magnet for lithium bind to the metal and separate it from the water and other dissolved materials.

It’s a process that can take as little as two hours or as long as two days. It’s able to extract 90% of the dissolved metal (compared with 40% for evaporation methods)…

And the lithium it’s able to extract is far purer since the solution targets only lithium and can separate it from unwanted minerals like magnesium. That’s something traditional techniques simply can’t accomplish.

So not only does this new DLE process produce more lithium more quickly, but it also produces purer lithium AND makes formerly unrecoverable deposits economically viable.

In layman’s terms, it’s not only going to double the amount of lithium we produce from existing mines, but it’s going to double the number of new mines we could potentially open.

It’s going to make lithium deposits that were previously thought to be too “dirty” or contaminated to extract feasible.

And that’s actually how I found out about the new technology to begin with…

One Man’s Company’s Trash

You see, I was looking into small-cap lithium miners a year or so ago. I really like big companies like Albemarle, but you’re not getting 1,000% gains from those kinds of operations.

And the writing is on the wall: Any company that can extract usable lithium is going to be worth its weight in gold.

So, since small-cap stocks have a longer runway when they start to grow, that’s what I was looking for.

And I came across a teeny tiny firm with only one asset. The site was in South America in a field called Pocitos (the little guys).

But the thing that got me interested enough to call up the management was that the site they were exploring had already been explored… and abandoned.

The much larger company that had been there before, the one this tiny operation bought the asset from, decided that the lithium there was too contaminated with magnesium to economically extract.

They basically determined that, while they could extract it, they’d spend so much time and money doing so that they’d be losing a few thousand dollars for every ton of lithium they sold.

So I needed to know what the team at this little company thought they knew that the bigger, more experienced operator didn’t.

I had to find out why they were convinced they could make money mining this lithium.

So I gave them a call. And after a few rounds of chats with the CEO and lead investors, I got introduced to the reason they were so confident…

And that reason was the lead geologist on the project.

He’d been working for years with university researchers around the globe to create a solution that could target the lithium dissolved in brine deposits and help speed up extraction.

And his team not only succeeded in that goal, but also found that the solution they’d created targeted ONLY lithium and therefore separated it from every other dissolved substance in the brine.

That meant this contaminated reservoir that wouldn’t be economical to mine wasn’t uneconomical anymore.

And since this was the very first time a direct extraction technique would be tried in the field, nobody really knew about it or about how valuable it could make these “dirty” deposits.

So this tiny firm was able to go in and make a rock-bottom offer for the asset. And I mean so low that it would have been insulting if the other firm thought there was any value to the land.

But now they’ve tested the technique on-site (and found that it works even better in the field than in the lab) and are constructing a full-scale processing plant right next to it.

They’ve signed offtake agreements with several battery-makers who have agreed to buy literally everything they can produce.

And I’m pretty excited that I found them before they accomplished all that…

Because the next step is getting that lithium flowing out of the ground and getting those profits flowing into investors bank accounts.

And it’s going to be a huge step!

Not Alone

But the thing is that this company isn’t alone. In fact, there are several other small, even microcap mining companies out there developing their own proprietary versions of this new technique.

From Canada to Argentina, Australia to Zimbabwe, these small operations with nothing to lose but everything to gain are making major strides toward commercializing DLE technology at scale.

And as they accomplish their goals, they’re going to see a wave of profits like you wouldn’t believe.

So, after uncovering that first operation and learning about this technique they’ve been pioneering along with some of their peers, I started hunting for those peers.

And I found the operations with the most advanced projects — the ones that were poised to explode with profit in a matter of years, if not months.

One of them just got bought out lock, stock, and barrel by a multibillion-dollar firm for about two times what we paid for it only a year earlier.

And that was a hostile takeover where the other firm bought the shares directly from shareholders.

Had this been a normal M&A negotiation, I’m convinced the company could have gone for twice as much as it did.

But I’ll never turn down a 100% winner. And it’s given us fresh powder to put into some of the other tiny miners that are implementing this huge technological shift.

So, since my investors have already experienced the fruits of the labor I put into the research, I think it’s time I share the gains with you, too.

And with that in mind, I want to share the presentation and the report I put together to explain the opportunity to my investors and tell them about the companies driving it forward.

I hope you’ll take a little time out of your day today to see what I’ve uncovered, learn more about this impressive technology, and get yourself invested in the tiny companies that are poised to become giants.

But the final choice, as always, is yours to make.

To your wealth,

jason-williams-signature-transparent

Jason Williams

follow basic @TheReal_JayDubs

follow basic Angel Research on Youtube

After graduating Cum Laude in finance and economics, Jason designed and analyzed complex projects for the U.S. Army. He made the jump to the private sector as an investment banking analyst at Morgan Stanley, where he eventually led his own team responsible for billions of dollars in daily trading. Jason left Wall Street to found his own investment office and now shares the strategies he used and the network he built with you. Jason is the founder of Main Street Ventures, a pre-IPO investment newsletter; the founder of Future Giants, a nano cap investing service; and authors The Wealth Advisory income stock newsletter. He is also the managing editor of Wealth Daily. To learn more about Jason, click here.

Want to hear more from Jason? Sign up to receive emails directly from him ranging from market commentaries to opportunities that he has his eye on. 

Angel Publishing Investor Club Discord - Chat Now

Jason Williams Premium

Introductory

Advanced