Stories by Maggie Teliska

Expert Voices

Insurers are easing adoption of large-scale energy storage

parts of a flow battery
Parts of a flow battery at the Fraunhofer Institute in Pfinztal, Germany. Photo: Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images

German insurance company Munich Re will now offer long-term insurance on battery performance in energy storage systems, a move that could reduce barriers to investment in energy technologies.

Why it matters: Large-scale renewable energy systems are expensive and complex, and in some cases their manufacturers have declared bankruptcy before the end of their systems' maintenance and warranty periods. Insuring against such risks — as well as those associated with relatively untested new battery chemistries — could spur adoption of innovative technologies by utilities and transportation providers and in off-grid applications.

Expert Voices

Disney World solar farm reflects theme parks' push for sustainability

Florida, Orlando, Epcot Center, View Including Sphere And Topiary.
The Epcot Center at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

Disney Orlando flipped the switch on Feb. 27 on a brand new 50-megawatt solar farm, which produces enough electricity to power 10,000 homes.

Why it matters: Amusement parks and resorts consume a great amount of energy during the day during peak hours. Installing renewable energy systems using renewables in a visible way not only reduces carbon emissions, but also displays a commitment to sustainability to park-goers. 

Expert Voices

Lower graphite production in China could mean higher battery prices

A graphite worker walks across the Jin Yang graphite factory in the town of Mashan, China on May 28, 2016.
A graphite worker walks across the Jin Yang graphite factory in the town of Mashan, China, on May 28, 2016. Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images

China has steadily been forcing producers of graphite — a material commonly used in smartphone and laptop batteries — to close in response to rising pollution, as mining companies fail to improve the conditions of local land and water resources. 

Why it matters: Batteries account for roughly 30% of the global demand for graphite, and China produces 70% of the world's graphite supply. As demand for the material continues to grow, battery prices may rise, which would impede progress toward the $100 per kilowatt hour lithium-ion target that many companies, including Tesla and BMW, are looking to achieve.