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CalCharge – Building a Battery Innovation Ecosystem

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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A new public-private partnership was announced today between CalCEF and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The goal of this new partnership – dubbed CalCharge – is to create a regional ecosystem to spur innovation in energy storage (battery) technologies. This group will bring together private technology companies, academic institutions, and government resources in California’s Bay Area to help accelerate the timeline from market to bench through technology assistance, workforce training and market education.

According to Venkat Srinivasan, head of Berkeley Lab’s energy storage research program and CalCharge champion:

“There’s a lot of battery know-how in California, specifically the Bay Area, but technology startups need an ecosystem to thrive…The Berkeley Lab battery program, long known for its deep expertise in solving the problems in advanced batteries, is ideally positioned to work with battery companies in the region.”

Evidence of California’s “battery know-how” has been seen through its innovations and blossoming venture capital markets for battery technology over the past several years. From 2008 to 2010, California led the nation in battery technology patent registrations with 258 filings (more than the next three leading states, combined). From 2010 to 2011, venture capital investment in clean technologies rose by 24% to reach $3.5 billion in the state. The Bay Area alone is currently home to more than 30 battery technology companies.

CalCharge members will have access to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s world-class scientific facilities and personnel, including testing and diagnostics equipment. They will also have access to a streamlined and more affordable channel for Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) in hopes of decreasing the time it takes to get new battery technology innovations into the marketplace. Members will also have access to CalCEF’s policy and market expertise. According to Doug Davenport, development lead for energy storage at LBNL and CalCharge Co-Lead:

“We wanted to start CalCharge because we know that emerging energy storage companies are facing a complex market and major technical challenges… CalCEF is an ideal partner for [Lawrence Berkeley National Lab] because they bring a focus on policy and markets that truly complements our science and technology orientation.”

According to Srinivasan and Davenport, CalCharge hopes to eventually expand its work throughout California’s energy storage markets. But, the group will initially focus on building a strong base in the Bay Area.

CalCEF and LBNL are expected to present this new consortium tomorrow (May 30) at 9:40am at the Silicon Valley Energy Storage Symposium.

About CalCEF

CalCEF is a non-profit umbrella organization that works to promote the transition to a clean energy economy by creating institutions and investment vehicles that grow markets for clean energy technologies. The organization pursues statewide and national agendas via two affiliated entities (CalCEF Innovations and the California Clean Energy Fund) to design market strategies, business models, and public policies meant to rapidly advance clean energy adoption and then execute and scale these solutions via a fund-of-funds model, partnering with leading investment managers.

About Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Founded in 1931, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory works to address the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe.

Photo credit:

1. Photo of Thomas Conry loading a lithium coin cell for testing on an Arbin battery cycler..EETD BATT program – new Battery Labs in Building 62. By Lawrence Berkeley Nat’l Lab – Roy Kaltschmidt, photographe and used with permission.

Melissa C. Lott About the Author: An engineer and researcher who works at the intersection of energy, environment, technology, and policy. Follow on Twitter @mclott.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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