Thursday, March 03, 2016

What's That? Bitumen's Dead?

Elon Musk and Bill Gates may have to settle for runner-up status in the race to develop the breakthrough technology in battery storage. It seems the gold is going instead to a US government agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E).

Ellen Williams, Arpa-E’s director, said: “I think we have reached some holy grails in batteries – just in the sense of demonstrating that we can create a totally new approach to battery technology, make it work, make it commercially viable, and get it out there to let it do its thing,”

If that’s the case, Arpa-E has come out ahead of Gates and Musk in the multi-billion-dollar race to build the next generation battery for power companies and home storage.

Arpa-E was founded in 2009 under Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan to fund early stage research into the generation and storage of energy.

Such projects, or so-called moonshots, were widely seen as too risky for regular investors, but – if they succeed – could potentially be game-changing.

The battery storage systems developed with Arpa-E’s support are on the verge of transforming America’s electrical grid, a transformation that could unfold within the next five to 10 years, Williams said.

The most promising developments are in the realm of large-scale energy storage systems, which electricity companies need to put in place to bring more solar and wind power on to the grid.

She said projects funded by Arpa-E had the potential to transform utility-scale storage, and expand the use of micro-grids by the military and for disaster relief. Projects were also developing faster and more efficient super conductors, and relying on new materials beyond current lithium-ion batteries.

The companies incubated at Arpa-E have developed new designs for batteries, and new chemistries, which are rapidly bringing down the costs of energy storage, she said.

“Our battery teams have developed new approaches to grid-scale batteries and moved them out,” Williams said. Three companies now have batteries on the market, selling grid-scale and back-up batteries. Half a dozen other companies are developing new batteries, she added.

Cheap, efficient and scalable battery storage has been the Holy Grail of renewable energy. That is the key to transitioning off fossil fuels not, as Mr. Trudeau suggests, selling ever more bitumen.


the salamander said...

.. couple years ago, cutting through a lovely huge cemetery, Mount Pleasant.. on my mountain bike.. near dusk.. I ground up a steep hill and started picking up my pace. Off to my right, rounding a curve comes a dude on his skateboard & after a glance & a friendly nod, assumed he'd join my roadway behind me. Split second later he passes me with a glance and a friendly nod. Took a full 30 seconds to comprehend he was battery powered.. & had a small remote control in his right hand.. never put a foot down, cruised on outta sight.. I'm at a nice easy pace, mebbe 10-12 MPH .. sheesh !

Yesterday saw a surfboard, same deal, carving over water like a mirror. Seems there a wider, more stable version as well. Two hours of cruising.. or trolling in the weeds for bass, a tiny cooler parked on the bow under a tiny folding canvas seat mebbe ?

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Sal. There are a lot of "e-assist" bikes on the market now. Apparently they appeal to office commuters. You can cycle to work without getting sweaty and ruining your suit. They're supposed to be especially helpful on hills.

I haven't been bass fishing in years. That was always my favourite, even more than going out around here for salmon. Pound for pound I don't think you can find a better fighting fish. And.. they're delicious. I guess you have to have had way too much salmon to say that.

Lorne said...

This sounds like incredible news, Mound. If true, it is indeed a basis for renewed hope.

The Mound of Sound said...

It could be, Lorne. There is enormous economic opportunity associated with it which offers the greatest hope that it could withstand the efforts of the fossil fuelers to kill it off.

Toby said...

The politicians keep talking about carbon taxes. Why don't they talk about ending carbon subsidies?

Steve said...

I have a had a feeling ever since the start of the great Saudi fire sale that oils goose was cooked,.

The Mound of Sound said...

That's a terrific point, Steve. Perhaps the Saudis have concluded that an alternative energy future is reality and it means the trading value of oil has to return to pre-OPEC levels, somewhere around $20 a barrel. The Saudis know it and they think protecting the floor demands they get rid of the dabblers.