Sila: silicon anode battery breakthrough?

Sila Nanotechnologies was founded in Silicon Valley in 2011, to develop smaller and denser batteries, using silicon-comprising nano-particles in the battery anodes. Thus it claims to have made “the biggest battery breakthrough in 30-years”.

The technology is already starting to be used in wearable devices (e.g., the Whoop 4.0 fitness wearable) with 17% higher energy density and 33% smaller devices. A partnership with BMW was secured in 2018, and with Daimler in 2019, aiming to use silicon-anode technology in electric vehicles by 2025.

Overall, our patent review did support some further de-risking of silicon anode LIBs. We found several innovations that may hang together, although the specific breakthroughs, their intelligibility and the company’s overall focus are the biggest areas to explore further. Details in the data-file.

Photovoltaic silicon: the economics?

The purpose of this model is to break down the most likely contribution of photovoltaic silicon to overall solar panel costs. The model starts from quartz, which is smelted into silicon metal, purified into polysilicon, upgraded into mono-crystalline poly-silicon and ultimately used in solar cells.

We estimate silicon explains $0.1/W of the cost of a $0.3/W panel. There is no way silicon producers are making economic returns below $12.5/kg mono-crystalline polysilicon prices.

If environmental costs are reflected as well, then PV-silicon price could double. Specifically, the average kg of PV silicon in a solar panel is most likely associated with 140kg of direct CO2 emissions.

In 2022, we have also updated the analysis to capture the costs of re-shoring a Chinese PV silicon facility to the West, which we think would increase prices by 2.5x in the US and 4x in Europe, re-inflating solar levelized costs by 1-2c/kWh (wholesale basis).

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2022.