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US DOE soliciting applications for Battery and Energy Storage Innovation Hub; up to $120M in funding over 5 years

2 February 2012

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0000559) for a Batteries and Energy Storage Energy Innovation Hub. The Batteries and Energy Storage Hub will be the fourth such Hub established by DOE. Three Energy Innovation Hubs were launched in FY 2010: Fuels from Sunlight; Energy Efficient Building Systems Design; and Modeling and Simulation for Nuclear Reactors. (Earlier post.)

The goal of the Batteries and Energy Storage Hub is to accelerate the discovery of new electrochemical energy storage concepts and incorporate these into new prototypes for storing energy in a reliable, economic, and efficient manner. Rather than initially focusing on a single technology or incremental improvements to current technologies, the Hub is to deliver “revolutionary research that will result in new technologies and approaches.”

The Batteries and Energy Storage Hub will be funded up to a total of $20 million in the first year; up to $10 million of those funds can be devoted to infrastructure start-up for the Hub, including building renovation (but not new construction), lease arrangements, equipment, and instrumentation. DOE anticipates that the Hub will be funded up to $25 million per year for Hub operations in the final four years of the award period, pending Congressional appropriations, for a total of $120 million in funding.

Batteries and energy storage hold one key to our energy future. Few areas of science and technology are more crucial to our efforts to develop a fundamentally new energy economy with decisively reduced dependence on imported oil. Batteries and electrical energy storage technologies are pivotal and straddle two major energy sectors: the grid and transportation. Improved storage is essential to effectively integrate intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power into the electrical grid; it will also be a critical component of more efficient “smart grid” systems for electricity delivery. At the same time, radical advances in battery technology are needed to move the transportation sector, on a truly major scale, away from petroleum consumption and toward cleaner, more flexibly sourced, grid-based power.

Progress in battery and electrical energy storage technologies over the past decade has been impressive, and work continues apace, including research sponsored by the US Department of Energy (DOE or the Department) Office of Science (SC), the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and, most recently, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). But the improvements so far achieved, while meaningful and important, fall short of the genuinely transformational advances in technology that will be needed to usher in a new era of decisively greater reliance on renewable energy and reduced consumption of petroleum. There is a need to build on and accelerate the progress made thus far.

—DOE FOA

Federal management of the Hub will be led by Office of Science (SC) Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) in close coordination with the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in the review and ongoing assessments of the Hub R&D activities.

DOE intends for the Batteries and Energy Storage Hub to drive towards electrochemical energy storage solutions beyond the current limits. It will support cross-disciplinary R&D focused on transforming electrochemical energy storage, including the exploration of new materials, devices, systems and novel approaches for transportation and utility-scale storage.

While current battery research is typically focused on one particular problem or research challenge, the Hub will provide the resources and the diverse breadth of talent to consider holistic solutions. DOE intends that the Hub should foster new energy storage designs that begin with a “clean sheet of paper” – overcoming current manufacturing limitations through innovation to reduce complexity and cost.

The ultimate goal will be to overcome the current technical limits for electrochemical energy storage to the point that the risk level will be low enough for industry to further develop the innovations discovered by the Hub and deploy these new technologies into the marketplace.

—DOE FOA

Current electrical energy storage approaches based on electrochemistry suffer from combinations of limited energy and power density, lower than desired rates of charge and discharge, calendar and cycle life limitations, low abuse tolerance, high cost, and poor performance at high or low temperatures, the DOE notes in the FOA.

It is widely recognized that no existing electrochemical materials or systems currently satisfy the projected energy and power densities required for advanced vehicle technologies and for widely deployed utility storage needs. These different applications have widely varying requirements for energy, power, lifetime, and cost that may not be adequately addressed by one single technology.

—DOE FOA

The DOE notes in the FOA that commercial Li-ion batteries for electric vehicles are at about half of the long-term volumetric and gravimetric energy density targets of 300 Wh/L and 250 Wh/kg, respectively. Furthermore, the current cost of EV batteries is about $650/kWh—much greater than an estimated target of $125/kWh of usable energy for widespread implementation. In addition to limited energy density, these batteries also suffer from calendar and cycle life limitations, and perform poorly at high and low temperatures.

To accommodate degradation and ensure safety over the life of the battery, commercial batteries are often “overbuilt,” resulting in expensive, over-sized batteries.

To accelerate widespread penetration of electric vehicles into the market place, the current cost of batteries needs to be reduced by a factor of three. Achieving such dramatic cost reductions along with improved battery performance, durability and abuse tolerance will require significant advances in new materials, chemistries, engineering and manufacturing.

—DOE FOA

Two of the scientific and engineering challenges in the area highlighted by the DOE are:

  • New materials. Novel approaches are needed to develop multifunctional materials that offer new self-healing, self-regulating, failure- tolerant, impurity-sequestering, and sustainable characteristics. The current focus on limiting use (and enhancing recycle and recovery) of critical materials that have limited global availability provides additional motivation for discovery of materials relevant to electrochemical energy storage that can be created from earth-abundant sources.

  • New capabilities to measure directly, model, and “observe”s dynamic compositions and structures in real-time during charge transport and transfer processes. For example, in situ photon- and particle-based microscopic, spectroscopic and scattering techniques with spatial and time resolution at the relevant molecular and mesoscopic scales will likely be needed to meet this challenge. Insights into physical mechanisms, prediction of trends, and identification of new materials will result from the predictive knowledge of structural and functional relationships.

The Hub will be an interaction, information, and communication nucleus for the basic and applied battery and energy storage communities—people and information will flow into it and from it to ensure that the problems and issues being faced in today’s technologies are understood and to ensure that Hub research will spur innovation and problem solving broadly.

—DOE FOA

Applications are due 31 May 2012.

February 2, 2012 in Batteries, Policy | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

Department of Energy needs to be re-structured. This way of dropping money from the sky like candy just wastes money.

If we were in a world with Molten Salt Reactors already deployed, then power would be cheap and steady 24 hours a day, and there is no need to deploy any battery backup systems with conversion losses.

Too bad the existing nuclear industry does not want the Molten Salt Reactor because it would upset their current cozy arrangements. And the DOE keeps it de-funded to please the current players.

DOE and EPA should be abolished, with pieces & parts of the agencies put into other existing agencies.

Ask the average tax payer if spending 25 cents per person per year is excessive to advance the state of the art for batteries and I think most would say "here is a buck, keep on making progress".

I have put down more than a buck; I paid my $99 membership due in the Thorium Energy Alliance, and I have many contacts in the green energy movement. Many local leaders already know about Thorium and the Molten Salt Reactor, but I imagine not the national leaders.

I might add that timing is critical too. The Chinese Molten Salt Reactor research program has been going for one year without a US response. Can the US ever catch up?

The Chinese government invests $30 billion per year in solar, now they are making LOTS of solar panels and selling around the world why we have people argue that 1/1000th of that in the form of loan guarantees is socialism.

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