Lumos Global BV signed a deal with Hinckley Group to recycle thousands of lithium batteries as the Dutch company specializing in off-grid power in West Africa sees strong sales growth amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Amsterdam-based company already delivered 10,000 lithium batteries to Hinckley to recycle at its facility, a first of its kind in the region, Chief Executive Officer Alistair Gordon said in an interview. Lumos sells home solar-power units that include a five-kilogram lithium battery. The company has been storing used batteries in warehouses while trying to come up with a recycling plan in recent years, Gordon said.
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“Lumos grew 39% during our fourth quarter with work from home driving power demand, the need to recycle defunct or end-of-life batteries have become all the more pressing,” said Gordon.
The firm has installed solar systems to 150,000 customers and plans to reach a million small businesses and homes by 2025. This creates a need to ensure that used batteries are not disposed off improperly and allowed to contaminate the environment.
Lumos expects to grow its customer base by 50% year-on-year in Africa’s most populous nation where about 85 million people are without reliable power. A basic system can be bought for 200,000 naira ($525) and paid off over 48 months.
The recycling process will reduce the box and battery cells to powder that is less dangerous and easier to handle and dispose of. Options to repurpose some of the batteries are also being considered. Hinckley’s Ojota facility, located in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, has a yearly capacity for 20,000 tons of e-waste.
The Nigerian government has shown strong support for the home-solar industry by committing to invest in five million systems, Gordon said. Africa’s battery demand is forecast to increase sevenfold, from 2 gigawatts in 2015 to 15 gigawatts by 2030. The systems need no infrastructure to provide immediate power capacity.
“In more rural areas we literally have people on boats with the system under the arm, or on the back of motorbikes to transport the power units,” Gordon said. The Lumos unit can run appliances such as fans, mobile phones and televisions, or — in the case of small businesses — sewing machines and hair clippers.
“When the unit or batteries reach end-of-life, or go faulty, we collect the batteries and now have a way to recycle it with the latest deal.”
(Updates with pricing on units in fifth paragraph)