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NY battery developers get boost, but sector remains financially volatile

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Eight companies around New York state will receive $250,000 each from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), to develop working prototypes of energy storage technologies.

All of the chosen companies are a part of the NY Battery and Energy Storage (NY-BEST) consortium. The funding boost is aimed at bringing a wide range of storage solutions a step closer to commercialization.

Battery storage is the critical component in the front-end use of renewable energy, and executive director of NY-BEST, Bill Acker says it could transform the sector.

“Our entire electricity industry is built around having enough capacity to deal with the hottest day of the year. It’s the largest supply chain in the world without a warehouse. Having the ability to store electricity dramatically changes how the grid can operate and make it much more efficient, make it much more cost effective.”

Acker says it also has the potential to transform the transport industry, and they are very excited that the state has the foresight to invest in the industry.

NY-BEST recently commissioned a study from the ECG consulting group. The study looks into the economic impact of developing an energy storage industry in New York, and it says New York has a lot to gain.

“In the Base Case scenario, revenues of New York companies could reach $2.5 billion in 2020 with 10,000 jobs. In the Optimistic Case, revenues of New York companies could reach $3.7 billion, more than 45% higher than in the Base Case. Employment increases correspondingly to nearly 14,400 jobs in 2020. Beyond 2020, significant growth is forecast to continue to 2030 which could result in greater employment growth to approximately 30,000 jobs in the Base Case and 45,000 jobs in the Optimistic Case.”

However, the report also says that timing is crucial.

“NY-BEST and New York State need to recognize that the speed of taking action is very important because the energy storage markets are expected to grow rapidly and other states and countries are also competing to attract and develop companies that can successfully compete in these emerging rapidly growing markets.”

According to Acker, New York is already ahead of the curve in this industry, and he says it has the potential to benefit the state.

“We’re actually one of the leaders in the nation for research in energy storage and this can have a great economic impact for our state.”

New York businesses:

The eight companies selected for the awards are located all over New York state in New York City, Ithaca, Troy, Oneonta, Schenectady, Rochester, and Albany.

Albany business E2TAC (Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center), will receive one of the $250,000 allotments from NYSERDA.

Like all the other recipients, E2TAC must match the funding with private investment.

They will be putting the half a million dollars into enhancing lithium-ion capacitors, which can be used for anything from powering a hybrid vehicle, to powering simple electronics.*

Lithium-ion capacitors are different to their battery counter part, they have a higher power density and are considered safer when in use.

Acker says all eight companies are working on development across a large range of energy storage technologies.

*This announcement came at the same time as lithium-ion electric car battery producer A123 Systems filed for bankruptcy. The New York Times reports that the filing was unexpected because the Massachusetts-based company had reportedly had an majority stake buy-in offer from a Chinese manufacturer.

NPR's Morning Edition filed on the story this morning.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail
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