Energy storage is essential to reaching our renewable energy goal of 50 percent - and eventually 100 percent.

CalCharge - New Energy Storage Technologies

Danny Kennedy | CalCharge


Please tell us a bit about CalCharge --- who are you and what do you do?

CalCharge is a public-private partnership working to accelerate the development, commercialization, and adoption of new energy storage technologies. We connect energy storage companies large and small with the resources they need to reach breakthroughs faster. CalCharge is wholly owned by the California Clean Energy Fund, an independent non-profit and influential pioneer in clean energy investment.


What is CalCharge doing to facilitate the energy storage ecosystem?

CalCharge helps facilitate the energy storage ecosystem in three key ways.

  1. Our first-of-a-kind collaborative research and development agreements provide streamlined access to two national labs: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. We are currently working on a similar agreement with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. That means that when innovators have big ideas they can access resources and experts in a matter of weeks, instead of months, and figure out what works. This saves a tremendous amount of time, paperwork, and money, and knocks down a barrier to innovation that will give firms the opportunity to achieve meaningful breakthroughs in battery technology.
  2. We've developed the first masters in engineering that focuses on energy storage technologies in the world at San Jose State University. The well-rounded curriculum means people will be trained in all aspects of batteries, from manufacturing to policy to integration. There's a serious shortage of educated personnel available to meet the needs of the growing battery industry, and CalCharge aims to change that. Last week we welcomed UC San Diego as a new member, a top-tier engineering school, which plans to create the second masters in energy storage with CalCharge.
  3. We act as a center of gravity for the energy storage industry in California. One of the most persistent barriers in the innovation lifecycle occurs during the transition from lab-scale prototyping to commercial scale manufacturing. To address this critical gap, CalCharge convenes stakeholders to identify the technology challenges impeding the development of US advanced manufacturing in energy storage – asking questions like what off the shelf machine can make that for you at scale. We focus on shared technology challenges in the areas of materials scale-up, cell design, battery pack design battery management systems, and manufacturing processes.


What barriers are standing in the way of energy storage adoption?

Battery technology has been being improved upon for decades. Over that time, the urgency to crack the energy storage code has grown: it is the lynchpin technology to decarbonizing our electricity and transportation sectors. Right now, innovators are making huge strides as Lithium Ion battery chemistry, for example, nears its 25thanniversary. The next step is to develop the proper financial vehicles to help deploy these technologies to all kinds of customers. Just as solar went from being a capital expense to an operating expense, so too will storage.


Are there specific technologies and applications that you are focusing on?

CalCharge is technology and application agnostic. CalCharge member companies work in the consumer, transportation, and grid markets. We're the sandbox where big thinkers can come together and get the resources they need to realize their ideas. We like to say we take innovation to installation, so we’ll do whatever it takes to get a good tech to market.


What is the significance of a utility joining the CalCharge fold?

Last week, Governor Brown signed into law the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 that mandates half of our electricity must be generated from renewable sources by 2030. In order to meet this ambitious goals, utilities need to evolve - and energy storage will be a key part of that. Southern California Edison gets that, and wants to keep its finger on the pulse of energy storage technology as it uses more and more clean energy to serve its clients. This commitment to energy storage technology is awesome, and is sure to be emulated by more utilities in the future.


Who else should be interested in joining CalCharge and why?

CalCharge offers a great value proposition for giant corporations, academic institutions, and utilities. But perhaps those that would benefit the most are small companies with big ideas. If you're a start-up, you may not have access to the type of the test, manufacturing and characterization equipment you need - and the national labs can provide that to you. It's an easy way to come in and utilize some of the facilities that already exist without needing to pay for it, invent it, or install it yourself. It's an exciting innovation not only for the companies, but the national labs that are able to engage with the companies on a much faster cycle time.


What will be the next big development in energy storage?

The next big development will be financial product innovations around this technology set. If you take a look at the proliferation of solar, financial innovations have been just as important as the technological innovations to make solar an accessible option for communities and homeowners. Financial innovations will allow cutting edge technologies to get to market and that, in turn, will help spur further technological innovations.


How important is large scale energy storage to achieving the California goal of 50 percent renewable energy by the year 2030?

Energy storage is essential to reaching our renewable energy goal of 50 percent - and eventually 100 percent. Every aspect for the 21st century economy is driven by energy in some form. As fast as the clean energy sector has been growing over the last decade, it needs to be put on steroids to combat climate change. Incorporating clean energy is incredibly important to our long term sustainability and resiliency, and energy storage is the key to making that happen. 


About Danny Kennedy, President of CalCharge

CalCharge is a groundbreaking public-private partnership working to accelerate the development, commercialization, and adoption of new energy storage technologies for the consumer, transportation, and grid markets. CalCharge brings together emerging and established companies, academic and research institutions, government agencies, and other key stakeholders to spur advanced manufacturing and increase the growth of the energy storage sector. 

Prior to CalCEF, Danny worked as a cofounder of Sungevity, Inc., the largest privately held solar company in the US that he moved to California to start in 2007. Sungevity, which he still advises, has grown to employ more than 1,000 people and serve tens of thousands of happy customers in four countries.

Read more about Danny here.

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