Want to know the future of storage? ARPA-E is inventing it right now


Quick take: Many people remain skeptical about grid-scale storage. I believe there are numerous applications where it pencils out already. And I'm even more bullish about its long-term potential. There are simply too many startups and too many researchers throwing too much brainpower at the problem to think that we won't see rapid progress. If you want to get a sense of where we'll be tomorrow, you can't do better than to scan the projects underway by ARPA-E, the federal agency charged with funding research challenges that can be transformational game-changers.â€" Jesse Berst


In announcing $43 million in new ARPA-E awards, Energy Secretary Steven Chu says  the 19 projects represent cutting-edge technologies that address remaining challenges in energy storage that could "revolutionize the way Americans store and use energy in electric vehicles, the grid and beyond, while also potentially improving the access to energy for the U.S. military at forward operating bases in remote areas."

The remaining $13 million is going to seven small businesses to pursue energy storage advances for stationary power and electric vehicles. One example is Portland, Oregon-based Energy Storage Systems, which will construct a flow battery for grid-scale storage using an advanced cell design and electrolyte materials composed of low cost iron. The flow battery will have a target storage cost of less than $100/kWh, which could enable deployment of renewable energy technologies throughout the grid.materials composed of low cost iron. DOE says the flow battery will have a target storage cost of less than $100/kWh, which could enable deployment of renewable energy technologies throughout the grid. Two more examples in this category:

·         Pellion Technologies based in Cambridge, Massachusetts will develop a rechargeable battery for electric vehicles that has the potential to travel three times the distance of today’s Li-ion car batteries. According to the DOE announcement the batteries will be fabricated from abundant, low-cost metals that can be domestically sourced. If successful, this technology could revolutionize the distance electric vehicles can travel on a single charge.

·         ITN Energy Systems of Littleton, Colorado intends to dramatically improve current state-of-the-art Vanadium flow batteries for grid-scale energy storage. This project integrates a unique, low-cost membrane with a new flow battery chemistry to develop an efficient and affordable energy storage system for renewable energy generation sources like solar and wind for small commercial and residential consumers.


You can see summaries of all 19 projects here and read the DOE award announcement here.


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Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.

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