A few years ago, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and CalCEF joined forces to launch CalCharge, the first-ever, public-private consortium designed to be a “center of gravity” for the California energy storage cluster. And this week, after growing to include more labs and labor support, CalCharge announced its new corporate members at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) advanced manufacturing event in San Francisco. I was on hand on behalf of CleanTechnica and have the full scoop below.
Members consist of a diverse array of multinational companies — such as Duracell, Hitachi, and Volkswagen — and Silicon Valley clean energy startups — such as Enovix, Halotechnics, and Primus Power. They develop everything from lithium-ion batteries to rechargeable flow batteries, and their products are big and small. But what unites them all is a desire to accelerate a clean energy economy through advancements in storage technology.
“We’re not a big firm yet, but we intend to have a big impact on enabling abundant clean energy,” said Justin Raade, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Halotechnics. “CalCharge is simplifying the process for us to access the facilities and expertise of the national labs to advance our technology development. They are saving us time and money, which will help us get to market more quickly.”
Before CalCharge there was a disconnect between what national labs offered and what companies needed. It could take months to realize whether a new storage idea was feasible — a time frame that was infeasible for many startups. “One of the beauties of CalCharge is this mismatch can go away,” said Venkat Srinivasan, Head of Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Department at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. “What we’ve done is streamlined the process. CalCharge gives you that connection between what industry needs and what national labs have to offer.”
With the process streamlined and the DOE pledging its financial support for new research into battery storage technologies, we may see a cleantech boom in Silicon Valley. This would mean good things for the environment and for the California economy. As Bernie Koller of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers pointed out, installation of all the proposed innovations will lead to more jobs for Californians. And many of CalCharge’s members not only plan to develop the technology in California, but manufacture in-state too.
“I feel like I have battery envy because Michigan was supposed to be the hub of all battery technology development,” said former Michigan Governor Jennifer Grinholm. “So if any of those guys decide they don’t want to manufacture in California, I’ve got a deal for you!”
The world will now have its eyes on California and the companies and labs associated with CalCharge. CalCharge members will not only have to focus on advancements in battery capacity and recharge time, but sustainable ways to create and recycle batteries themselves. But it’s all possible with the increased collaboration CalCharge now promises.
“California is home to one of the largest clusters of energy storage companies in the world,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “In the Bay Area alone there are more than 80 such companies and counting. CalCharge will connect California entrepreneurs, multi-national companies, and world-class scientists and provide them easier access to the resources and expertise they need. I am excited to see the progress CalCharge has announced, and we look forward to celebrating more achievements from this collaboration in the future.”