Calif. national lab joins energy storage cluster

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 27, 2015

LIVERMORE, Calif. — The national security-focused Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is the latest institution to agree to help the California energy storage industry conduct research.

The Energy Department’s LLNL will sign an agreement with the industry trade group CalCharge to make it easier for the group’s members to work with federal scientists, lab officials said yesterday.

“The image of a lab behind a barbed-wire fence is giving way,” said Joyce Losick-Yang, director of the Energy Department’s initiative to boost the 17 national laboratories’ contributions to the clean energy industry.

LLNL is the third national lab to pursue an agreement with CalCharge, after the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

CalCharge began in 2013 as a partnership between LBNL and the California Clean Energy Fund, a nonprofit investment fund created after the 1999-2000 California energy crisis. It’s aimed at helping California’s energy storage companies network, develop their technologies and fine-tune their business strategies. Its members include 18 manufacturers and potential customers like Duracell, Hitachi and Volkswagen, as well as younger companies like Primus Power and Farasis Energy Inc.

The agreement, known as a cooperative research and development agreement, is meant to help companies that may not have sophisticated legal departments navigate the complexities of working with federal agencies, which have concerns related to intellectual property and liability.

CalCharge President Danny Kennedy, who joined the trade group last week from solar installer Sungevity, said the agreement would allow companies to use the lab within seven weeks of expressing interest, rather than the one to two years it would typically take to agree on terms.

The agreement should be finalized within a month, said Patrick Dempsey, LLNL’s manager of strategic engagements.

Dempsey said he was at an event last week focused on unmanned aerial vehicles and that the drone manufacturers said battery power was their biggest roadblock.

“I think it’s holding back a lot of other industries,” he said.

LLNL has already been working on energy storage projects. It recently completed a study for the California Energy Commission on how energy storage can meet the varying needs of the grid over the course of the year, said Jeff Roberts, deputy director of LLNL’s energy program. The paper simulated weather patterns and California’s 2020 target of 33 percent renewable generation and estimated the value of energy storage and demand response relative to the avoided cost of conventional generation. It was published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers last year but hasn’t been released yet by the CEC, he said.