NAATBatt Blog

The Sun May Promote Storage Technology Adoption in More Ways Than One

July 25th, 2014 by

Earlier this month, NAATBatt completed a highly successful program at Intersolar North America, touting to solar developers and integrators the benefits of adding a storage component to solar PV projects.  NAATBatt’s interest in solar PV is driven in large part by our expectation that as the cost of solar PV panels fall, and as the price of centrally-generated power increases, the rise of distributed, renewable energy generation is nearly inevitable.  But large scale distributed, PV electricity generation is only possible if storage is used in conjunction with it in order to address its inherent variability.  NAATBatt therefore sees the sun as driving one of the largest, long-term potential markets for advanced electrochemical energy storage technology.

An interesting story in the press today may portend another major driver of the storage market, this one also driven by the sun.  NASA reports that in July 2012 the earth narrowly missed being hit by a powerful coronal mass ejection (CME) event, which would have devastated the electricity grid, had it hit the earth directly.  The CME crossed a point in the earth’s orbit that the earth had occupied only a week before.  Had the CME occurred one week earlier, the earth would have suffered a direct hit.

Analysts believe that a direct hit by an extreme CME such as the one that missed Earth in July 2012 could cause widespread power blackouts.  Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.  A study by the National Academy of Sciences found that the total economic impact of such an event could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.

According to NASA, based on historical data, the chance of the earth suffering a direct hit from a CME event within the next 10 years is about 12%.

Human society in developed nations relies on the electricity grid to supply most of the conveniences, and many of the necessities, of modern life.  The grid is, as many have noted, the most complicated piece of machinery ever designed by man.  But it is also a new invention, untested the forces of nature over any significant period of time.

What is clear from the NASA report is that the grid as currently design is fundamentally flawed.  It is not robust enough to survive an extreme CME event, the occurrence of which is statistically probable within the next 50 years.  Failure to address this flaw would be catastrophic to human society as we know it today.

The solution is to make the grid more robust by reinforcing it with a network of redundant systems, including microgrids and distributed generation firmed by storage.  At least some of those systems might be expected to survive a CME event and, even if they did not, would provide a basis for more quickly restoring power and societal function.

Whether the United States and the rest of the developed world is willing to invest in reinforcing the electricity grid against CME events and other significantly more minor natural disasters (such as Superstorm Sandy) is still very much an open question.  But what is clear is that the price of truly reliable electricity is higher than what consumers are used to paying historically.

The storage industry needs to take the lead in educating the public about the danger to their safety posed by the current, flawed design of the electricity grid.  This will not be an easy story to sell; it is not a good news story.  But telling that story and selling that story will aid not only our industry but the well-being of the nations and societies that our businesses strive to serve.

NAATBatt Programs Continue to Identify Opportunities for the Advanced Battery Industry

July 17th, 2014 by

One of NAATBatt’s principal missions is to provide strategic market information to our members about commercial opportunities in advanced electrochemical energy storage technology. This past week has seen a flurry of NAATBatt activity designed to do just that, and we are quickly adding new programs for the balance of the year.

Last week, of course, NAATBatt served as a co-host of Intersolar North America in San Francisco.  NAATBatt worked with our partners at Intersolar to arrange opportunities for 12 NAATBatt members to speak as part of the storage track at Intersolar.  The NAATBatt members made their presentations to standing-room only audiences.  In addition, NAATBatt produced its own energy storage workshop on the last day of Intersolar, providing opportunities for an additional 18 storage specialists to speak to a standing-room only crowd of solar PV developers and integrators.

This week, NAATBatt co-hosted with the U.S. Department of Energy a Webinar on the new Section 1703 program that the DOE announced last April, which may make up to $4 billion in loan guarantees available for innovative energy storage projects in the United States.  The Webinar had a novel format.  Douglas Schultz, the Director of Loan Guarantee Origination in the DOE’s Loan Programs Office, gave a 25 minute overview of the new loan guarantee program.  But we then arranged to have Mr. Schultz grilled for 35 minutes by questions from three experts in project finance:  Alexander Drake of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Kenneth Hansen of Chadbourne & Parke and David Kirkpatrick of Marathon Capital.  Mr. Schultz’s answers provided a more comprehensive description of the new DOE loan guarantee program for storage than anything that has been provided to the industry before.  More than 220 storage developers, suppliers, service providers, financiers and equity capital investors from around the industry signed up to listen to the Webinar.

I am pleased this week to announce our next NAATBatt program, which will be held in partnership with NY-BEST:  an Energy Storage Supply Chain and Manufacturing Conference in Rochester, New York, on September 10, 2014, combined with a Members’ Site Visit Tour of the NY-BEST Battery Testing Laboratory (managed by NAATBatt member DNV-GL) on September 11.  Dr. Mark Johnson, Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Office of the U.S. Department of Energy, will keynote the conference.  We are planning a special members-only networking dinner on the evening of September 10, prior to the tour of the testing laboratory the following morning.  Information and registration for the Supply Chain conference can be found at:  Information about the members-only networking dinner will be made available shortly to all NAATBatt members.

On October 7-8, NAATBatt will host its first meeting outside the United States, when NAATBatt takes its members on tours of Hydro-Quebec’s battery laboratory in Montreal and Grafoid’s graphene laboratory and production facility in Kingston, Canada.  This will provide NAATBatt members with a unique, and exclusive, opportunity to see how graphene is produced and to understand the needs and capability of graphene manufacturers.  Graphene is widely touted as a game-changing new material (its inventors recently received a Nobel Prize) in batteries and a wide range of other applications.  But few people really understand how it is made.  Companies working in advanced materials and advanced battery technology would literally be foolish if they did not attend this unique, members-only program.  More information about it will be made available soon to NAATBatt members.

We continue to produce all these programs with a view to helping our members succeed in their businesses and to raising a tide in advanced battery technology that will eventually lift all boats.  I hope that you can join us for these upcoming programs.

Intersolar Stuns the Storage Industry

July 10th, 2014 by

In 2010, Sandy Kane, Carlos Helou and I manned the first NAATBatt booth at Intersolar North America.  We wanted to talk to solar PV developers and integrators about the business opportunities that storage technology could bring them.  The NAATBatt booth was in the basement of the Mascone Center near the restrooms.  Few people stopped by the booth.  And of those who walked by, most seemed to be walking quickly with something quite the opposite of storage on their minds.

My, what a difference four years makes.  As those of you who read this column know, this year Intersolar asked NAATBatt to help it produce a program on battery storage technology for the Intersolar North America conference.  I was very pleased with the quality of the speakers we were able to pull together.  The panels and speakers NAATBatt recruited were every bit as good as those that present at any of the major energy storage trade shows.  But the question was:  If the ballroom in which we held the presentations was not located on the way to the restrooms, would any of the solar guys show up?

The answer literally stunned every storage industry veteran who attended our program at Intersolar:  Not only did the solar guys show up, it was standing room.  I personally missed a good portion of the first panel that presented at the NAATBatt Storage Workshop on Thursday morning because I was running through the Moscone Center desperately trying to find chairs for the overflow crowd. The scuttlebutt at the Intersolar conference was that the tracks on storage were better attended than any of the tracks focused on other aspects of solar PV technology.

So what changed in four years?  A number of things, I think.  First, unquestionably, is the buzz. Storage has always kind of just made sense.  But in past years the realities on the ground never seemed to validate the theory.  Today, storage is really happening.  Projects are being put in the ground and utilities around the country are putting out real RFP’s.  Suddenly something that everyone always thought should happen is actually starting to happen, and people just want to hear what it is all about.

The solar industry has also become more sophisticated in thinking about its own business.  Gone are the days of seeing storage as some sort of competing renewable resource.  Today it seems there is a growing realization in the solar PV community that storage is a tool that, at the end of the day, can help solar PV developers and integrators sell more product.  Storage allows solar PV developers to sell a higher quality electricity product in commercial and industrial markets where power quality matters.  It also allows solar PV developers to sell more PV panels their existing customers:  A customer that can store PV-generated electricity and use it advantageously when the sun is not shining will buy more solar panels to generate that excess electricity than a customer that can only use PV-generated electricity when the sun is shining.

We are at the very beginning of a great, symbiotic and very profitable relationship with the solar PV community.  Higher rates of solar PV penetration will open more opportunities for storage.  But just as important, higher rates of storage penetration will open more opportunities for solar PV.  I am already looking forward to next year’s conference.

New GTM Research Report Highlights Growing Opportunities for Storage

July 4th, 2014 by

Next week, NAATBatt and several of our member firms will participate in Intersolar North America in San Francisco.  The highlight of that participation will be a workshop, on the morning of Thursday, July 10, at which NAATBatt members will highlight to solar PV developers and integrators the advantages of adding storage to their systems and speak to some of the issues and challenges that have discouraged solar PV developers from including storage to date.  If you have not yet signed up to attend the workshop, you can find more information about it and register to attend by clicking here.

In light of the upcoming Intersolar program, it was encouraging for me to read this week about the new report from GTM Research, which highlights the growing potential market for storage paired with distributed solar PV in the United States.  The report notes that distributed solar PV installations are expected to triple by 2017.  Whereas today only four states in the continental U.S. have seen solar reach two percent of feeder carrying capacity, within the next four years, that number is expected to grow to 11.  At least three of those states, Arizona, California and New Jersey, will see solar exceed 10 percent on some feeders, according to GTM.

GTM Research expects the growth of solar PV severely to strain existing distribution infrastructure at the local level in at least thirteen states by 2017.  To address these strains, GTM Research that the market for secondary distribution grid control equipment, including storage, may grow by as much as 10 times over the next five years.

The GTM Research report also sheds light on the growth potential of inside the meter storage to address the growing deployment of distributed energy inside the meter.  The GTM Research Report notes that while commercial customers account for only about 12% of electricity demand, they account for 37% of electricity revenue.  The financial incentive for commercial customers, as a group, to move off grid by turning to distributed generation (supported by power electronics solutions, such as storage) will be profound as electricity costs rise.

All of this sets the table nicely for our discussion in San Francisco next week.  I hope you can join us for what will be one of the first good views of a market that may reshape the storage market.

Offshore Workshop Highlights Opportunities for Advanced Batteries and Ultracapacitors

June 27th, 2014 by

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending a Hybrid Power Systems in the Offshore Domain workshop organized by DNV-GL in Houston.  The workshop brought battery and energy storage solutions providers together with offshore oil and gas field operators looking for solutions to problems that energy storage technology is well-positioned to address.

Programs such as the workshop, which seek to educate new markets about the uses and benefits of advanced electrochemical energy storage technology, are exactly the type of programs that NAATBatt is dedicated to encouraging, promoting and producing.  Congratulations to Davion Hill, Ben Gully, Rick Fioravanti and Christian Markussen of DNV-GL for pulling this together.

Based on presentations made at the workshop, and on comments made during the workshop by several attendees from the oil and gas side, it appears that the issues for which the oil and gas industry is most interested in exploring energy storage solutions are the following:

             Emissions Reduction.  This came as a bit of a surprise.  While it is well-known that hybridizing power generation systems can reduce systems emissions, the extent of oil and gas representative interest in this application of storage surprised a few people on the storage side.  Apparently the pressure for emissions reductions on oil drilling platforms and service vessels is greater than many appreciate.  New EU regulations were mentioned by a number of participants.  There are clearly oil and gas companies actively looking for battery solutions to help them address this issue.

             Power Efficiency.  Oil drilling platforms are uniquely inefficient microgrids.  Dependent primarily on costly, shipped in diesel for power, the transient nature of power on platforms means that generators often run at low, inefficient capacities since they must be sized for peak use.  That peak use can be substantial on a transient basis.  Driving the transient nature of power use on drilling platforms are such things as cranes, pumps and dynamic positioning systems.  These loads require large surges of power over relatively short periods of time.  Adding batteries to an oil platform microgrid can help address load surges and permit generators to run at higher, more consistent and more efficient capacity factors.  The positive impact on fuel costs can be substantial.  The oil and gas guys are beginning to understand this.

             Undersea Monitoring.  Backup power for seabed-based monitoring systems is also an area of substantial interest.  Today most seabed-based monitoring systems are powered by umbilical power lines extended down from the platform.  But the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster looms large in the mind of the oil and gas industry.   As one workshop participant explained, early on in the disaster, when BP might have been able to mitigate at least some of the damage, BP was largely dependent on TV images from unmanned submersibles to try to figure out what was going on.  BP had extensive monitoring devices located on the seabed floor near the Deepwater Horizon, which might have provided much better and more timely information.  But power to those devices had been knocked out when the original blow-out severed the umbilical lines carrying power to the seabed floor.  Providing back-up power for those monitoring devices is now a high priority in the industry.  Interestingly, several oil and gas representatives expressed great interest in possible ultra-capacitor-based solutions, driven by concerns about low temperature performance and limited cycle life of lithium-ion batteries.  Unfortunately, no representatives of ultra-capacitor manufacturers attended the workshop.

DNV-GL is pursuing a possible joint industry project to follow-up on the lessons learned at the workshop.  Interested persons may contact me or Davion Hill of DNV-GL for more information.  NAATBatt will also try to follow up on the workshop with more workshops focused on new markets for energy storage products.  The next in that series of workshops, of course, will be in San Francisco on July 10 at Intersolar North America.  I hope you can join us.

NAATBatt July 16 Webinar to Probe New DOE Loan Guarantee Program for Storage

June 20th, 2014 by

The Section 1703 loan guarantee program, administered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office (the “LPO”), has sprung back to life—and potentially in a big way for developers of energy storage projects.  Although the LPO has not accepted applications for renewable energy-related projects since 2010, a draft solicitation issued last April suggests that up to $4 billion in financing may soon be made available for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in the United States that “reduce, avoid, or sequester greenhouse gases.”  Importantly, the draft solicitation specifically calls out energy storage as an area of interest.

A lot of questions about the solicitation remain open.  The solicitation seeks projects that are “catalytic, replicable, and market ready.”  But what does that mean exactly?  The issue of credit subsidy costs (i.e., the requirement that the borrower effectively buy credit insurance) remains unresolved.  Also it is unclear how a program seemingly designed to support the financing of very large single projects can be tailored to support the deployment of multiple, smaller energy storage facilities and devices deployed on electricity distribution systems and behind the meter (where storage can, at least theoretically, have the greatest positive impact on the grid).

NAATBatt is going to help its members get to the bottom of these and other questions at 1:00 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, July 16.  At that time NAATBatt will co-host with the DOE’s Office of Electricity a 90-minute Webinar on the new loan guarantee solicitation.  Information about the Webinar will be sent out shortly be e-mail.  The program will be free for NAATBatt members.

This will be no ordinary Webinar.  Douglas Schultz, Director of Loan Guarantee Origination at the LPO, will be the principal speaker.  But the Webinar will not just be a Powerpoint presentation by Mr. Schultz about the LPO solicitation.  Instead, we have arranged for three highly experienced experts in government supported project finance–Kenneth Hansen of Chadbourne & Parke, David Kirkpatrick of Marathon Capital and Alexander Drake of Wilson Sonsini—to cross-examine Mr. Schultz and ask him some pointed questions about how the solicitation is really going to work, or not work, for storage developers and suppliers.

Our intent, of course, is not to put Mr. Schultz on the spot.  Rather it is to provide you, energy storage developers, users and suppliers, with the best and most actionable information possible about the new LPO solicitation in a 90-minute period.  You won’t get this kind of information anywhere but at a NAATBatt program.

I hope you will join me and my co-host, Imre Gyuk of the DOE Office of Electricity, on July 16 for what will be a unique, fun and extraordinarily informative Webinar.  Watch your e-mail: more information will be coming soon.

NAATBatt Storage Workshop at Intersolar Will Be an Extraordinary Program

June 13th, 2014 by

The program for the NAATBatt Storage Workshop at Intersolar North America in San Francisco on July 10, continues to develop and expand.  NAATBatt is delighted to have the opportunity to make the case for storage to the solar PV community at the largest trade show for that community in North America.  This is an important opportunity for advocates of storage technology to make the case for that technology to an industry that could soon become its most important customer.

But what started out as a simple workshop for solar PV developers and integrators has evolved into a serious program on electricity storage, the content and quality of which will be on par with any other industry program this year.  This is going to be a great opportunity, not only for solar industry, but for anyone interested in storage, to hear from some of the leading experts about the most cutting issues in the storage business.  And given the $100 registration price, this is going to be the Bargain of the Year in storage conference programming.

The NAATBatt Storage Workshop, which will be chaired by Nick Hennen of Digatron, will consist of four panels.  The first panel will examine issues and challenges in using storage in conjunction with residential and commercial PV systems.  Moderated by Charlie Vartanian of UET, panelists Jon Fortune of Sunverge, Aloke Gupta of the CPUC staff, and Lyman Morikawa of Morikawa & Associates will tackle such issues as how PV systems can participate in net metering programs and still use storage.  Ed Cazalet, CEO, TeMix Inc. and VP MegaWatt Storage Farms, Inc., is a new addition to this panel, and will suggest new mechanisms for extracting value from storage generally.

The second panel, to be moderated by Tom Melling of 1Energy Systems, will focus on how utilities can better use storage to enhance the value of solar energy they are putting onto their systems.  Tom will be joined on the panel by Kim McGrath of Maxwell Technologies and Terry Copeland of Nation-E.  The panel will focus in large part on emerging systems and software that will allow utilities to make better and more intelligent use of storage.

The third panel, to be moderated by Dave Lucero of EaglePicher Technologies, will focus on using storage to enhance of the value of IPP-owned and behind the meter systems.  Peter Thomas, Chief Strategy Officer for FIAMM, is a new addition to this panel as is Bo Poats, Vice President of Pace Global, LLC, a Siemens company.  Peter and Bo will join Arch Padmanabhan, head of stationary storage at Tesla Motors, and Mark Matthews, Vice President of EaglePicher Technologies, for what will be an extraordinarily strong and interesting panel.

The fourth and final panel, to be moderated by Troy Miller of S&C Electric, will focus on how solar PV and storage can work together to build cost-effective microgrids.  Joining Troy on the panel will be Bill Torre of UCSD and Matthew Muniz of Alameda County, California, both of whom operate large microgrids that already integrate solar PV and storage, and Bruce Ebzery of RedFlow Limited, which is actively putting flow batteries on microgrid systems around the world.

I am very proud of the program that NAATBatt has pulled together to support the storage industry and push its interests forward in one of the most promising markets for its products.  This is will be a truly extraordinary program featuring unique content and expertise.  Solar PV notwithstanding, this will be one of the best programs on the current issues and challenges this year.  I would strongly encourage everyone interested in the use of electricity storage technology on the grid to attend.

ESA Meeting Highlights Fundamental Changes in the Storage Business

June 6th, 2014 by

The 24th Annual Meeting of the Electricity Storage Association ended this week in Washington D.C.  Attendance at the meeting exceeded 650 persons, probably the largest energy storage conference ever held in North America, which would be story enough for this column.  But the remarks of two keynote speakers and their implications stood out and are worth recounting.

The first keynote speaker was Thomas Werner, President of SunPower Corporation.  The presence of a CEO at a major solar energy company at a storage meeting is noteworthy in itself.  The solar industry’s change of opinion with respect to storage over the last few years has been dramatic.  Mr. Werner explained why solar developers now see storage as a positive thing.  He explained that, in SunPower’s analysis, storage will encourage solar customers to self-generate more electricity and therefore buy more SunPower products.  Mr. Werner said that SunPower intended to be a systems integrator and was happy to incorporate as much storage into the systems it develops as possible.

Mr. Werner’s remarks were gratifying, particularly his strong endorsement of using storage on systems including solar PV generation.  But I was struck by his assumption that it would be the solar developers doing the systems integration and buying storage from storage vendors.

Of course, what Mr. Werner is referring to is the all-important battle for control of the ultimate customer, and his remarks, delivered with something less than complete confidence, assumed that solar companies will win that battle.  The battle is not an unimportant competition: the winner will have some degree of control over its margins while being able commoditize the goods and services of others in the supply chain.  Solar developers such as SunPower Corporation undoubtedly have a first mover advantage in this battle for control of the ultimate customer.  But I sensed in Mr. Werner’s remarks some uncertainty as to who would be doing the systems integration work on distributed generation systems. This probably indicates that the winner of the battle for the ultimate customer is far from being determined.

The second memorable keynote speaker was Jim Rogers, former CEO of Duke Energy.  Mr. Rogers also made a strong endorsement of storage technology, predicting dramatic growth in the sector by 2020.  Mr. Rogers spent most of his time talking about the challenges of the electricity business generally.  Declining demand for electricity (in the U.S.) compounded by the need to retire and replace virtually every generation assets on the grid by 2050 (except for some hydro) and probable volatility in natural gas prices will, in Mr. Roger’s view, lead to rapidly rising electricity prices.  This rising price environment, combined with the falling costs of distributed generation and behind the meter storage, will fundamentally challenge and disrupt the traditional electric utility model.

I was most struck, however, by Mr. Roger’s remarks about the new EPA regulations on carbon emissions.  He pointed out that despite the loud opposition to the regulations by the coal industry, the power industry has been muted in its criticism of the new rules at worst.  This is because the power industry already anticipated most of the coal plant retirements required by the new EPA regulations.  In short, what may appear to be a government mandated push towards renewable energy (and distributed generation and storage) really just reflects the underlying economics of the power business.  Business is already ahead of government on this issue.

The take away for me from Jim Roger’s remarks was that storage has really arrived. A technology that once depended almost entirely on government mandate, rules and procurement has become the subject of genuine market demand.  The new EPA rules simply confirm what the market itself already demands.  Strong macro market forces will drive the growth of storage and distributed generation going forward.  This is a welcome message for the storage industry and an important message to broadcast in the marketplace.

Renewable Energy Mandates Under Pressure

May 30th, 2014 by

Not long ago I received an e-mail from a storage advocate in Illinois inquiring about the possibility of advocating for a storage mandate in Illinois’ renewable energy portfolio standard.  My correspondent was clearly inspired by the 1.325 gigawatt mandate recently enacted in California and was hoping that other states, including Illinois, would soon follow down that path.

The reality of state renewable energy portfolio standards, and efforts to legislate cleaner and more efficient energy systems generally, is regrettably bleaker.  The trend in states outside of California is to cut back on the renewable energy mandates that already exist.  An article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal noted that bills to reduce or eliminate existing renewable energy mandates are pending in 14 of the 29 states that have such mandates in force.

In another blow to advanced energy technology, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down earlier this week FERC Order 745, which attempts to encourage electricity consumers to participate in demand response programs.  The court held, on a 2-1 vote, that the FERC had overstepped its authority, attempting to regulate the retail sale of electricity, an activity that lies solely within state jurisdiction.

Regrettably, advanced energy technology has become politicized, with Democrats generally supporting it and Republicans generally opposing it regardless of the technologies’ actual merits.  It goes without saying that this polarization is a poor foundation on which to build good energy policy.

The answer for storage advocates is to refocus our efforts on making a business case for storage rather than on making a case for mandates.  Thanks in large part to the falling costs of storage and distributed renewable electricity generation (made possible in large part by past government support and renewable energy mandates), that business case is looking easier and easier to make in certain applications.

I have written previously in this column about the inexorable rise of distributed electricity generation, the near toxic effect it will have on the traditional structure of centralized generation, and the great commercial opportunities for distributed renewable generation (particularly rooftop PV) and for storage that will result.  This is the story that storage advocates should be telling to customers and to the market, not a story about mandates.

NAATBatt will be doing its part to tell that story at Intersolar North America on July 7-10 in San Francisco.  The NAATBatt Storage Workshop on July 10 will make the case to PV developers and installers that storage technology exists today that can help them earn a better return on their investment.

Click here for more information about the Intersolar show and the NAATBatt Storage Workshop.  I hope to see many of you in San Francisco later this summer.

EnerDel Tour Draws Members to Indy

May 23rd, 2014 by

This was an active week for NAATBatt and the advanced battery community as a whole.  On Monday, the Electric Drive Transportation Association kicked off its 2014 annual meeting in Indianapolis.  This was the first time in the last seven years that EDTA held its annual meeting outside the Washington area.  The meeting was well-attended and took advantage of its proximity to the Indianapolis 500 Race, which will be held this weekend in the same city.  EDTA used this proximity to highlight the upcoming launch of the Formula-E series, a Formula One-style race series of all-electric vehicles that will launch later this year in Beijing.

There was much good news to celebrate this year in the electric vehicle world.  A speaker from the U.S. Department of Energy noted that battery costs for electric vehicles are now reported to be in the $325/kWh range—about 50% lower than just four years ago.  And sales of plug-in electric vehicles continue to grow.  More than 97,000 plug-in electric vehicles were sold in 2013, nearly double 2012 sales. There are already 16 vehicles from 11 different manufacturers on the market and eight new PEV models will be introduced for model years 2014 and 2015.

Immediately following the EDTA conference, NAATBatt members participated in a tour of the EnerDel battery pack assembly factory in nearby Greenfield.  More than 50 NAATBatt members heard presentations from EnerDel management about the company’s efforts to reposition its business from its early concentration in automotive applications to a more diverse set of product offerings in stationary storage (both inside and outside the meter), military and large consumer appliance markets.  Participants saw EnerDel’s pack assembly operations, testing laboratory, and product display center.  They were also treated to a video presentation about cell manufacturing operations at EnerDel’s nearby Hague Road facility.

It was particularly gratifying to see EnerDel personnel, who have gone through difficult times these past few years, exuding enthusiasm and optimism about their company’s future.  With the tide of electrochemical energy storage appearing to rise this past year, one can only hope that all boats will soon be floating higher.

I am pleased to report, based on the extremely positive feedback received from meeting participants that the NAATBatt formula of members site visit meetings followed by a members-only networking dinner continues to meet an important need of our member companies.  If you could not join us this week in Indianapolis, you really should join us at future site visit meetings and see what all the buzz is about.

Speaking of future members site visit meetings, I am pleased to announce that one of the next members’ site visit meetings will be held on October 8-9, 2014 in Montreal, Canada.  At that meeting NAATBatt members will have the opportunity to tour the battery laboratory of Hydro-Quebec, one of the largest and most sophisticated battery labs in North America.  They will also see the graphene production facility of Grafoid, very likely soon to be one of the largest producers of graphene in North America.  Don’t miss what will undoubtedly be the most unique and most extraordinary members’ site visit meeting that NAATBatt has ever held next October in Montreal.

The reason I have to qualify my announcement by noting that the Grafoid/Hydro-Quebec meeting will be “one of the next meetings” is that earlier this week, Xalt Energy, the old Dow-Kokam, contacted NAATBatt about opening its facility to NAATBatt members next September, immediately prior to the Battery Show in Novi, MI.  This will be a unique opportunity for NAATBatt members to visit on of the largest lithium-ion manufacturing facilities in North America just prior to the largest battery trade show in North America.  The announcement of this opportunity following the conclusion of the EDTA show is fitting because the Formula-E race cars highlighted at the EDTA show will reportedly be powered by Li-Ion cells manufactured at the Xalt Energy facility.

Thanks to all NAATBatt members who made the trip to Indianapolis this week.  I hope to see the rest of you in September at Xalt Energy and at Grafoid/Hydro-Quebec in October.