U.S. Energy Innovation Week in Review: July 28 – Aug 3

This week in energy innovation includes non-hydro renewable generation records, natural gas infrastructure R&D, fuel cell partnership, battery research discoveries, plans for a battery “gigafactory,” and new technology for materials science:

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  • Co-sponsorship watch (courtesy of AEIC’s energy innovation bill tracker):
    • H.R. 2996 Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act: Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA), Rep. Daniel Maffei (D-NY), and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY)
    • H.R. 4426 Clean Energy Victory Bond Act: Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Rep. Gloria McLeod (D-CA)
    • H.R. 4162 Job Creation through Energy Efficient Manufacturing Act: Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA)
    • S. 1030 STORAGE Act: Sen. John Walsh (D-MT)
  • Electricity from non-hydro renewables (wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, landfill gas, and municipal solid waste) exceeded hydropower each month from September 2013 to April 2014, according to EIA. The agency predicts 2014 will be the first year in which utility-scale non-hydro renewables exceeds hydropower generation in the U.S.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a set of initiatives created to reduce methane emissions from natural gas production and infrastructure. The plan includes RD&D on leak detection technology and natural gas equipment manufacturing; natural gas compressor efficiency standards; and greater outreach associated with DOE’s advanced fossil energy loan guarantee solicitation. Additionally, DOE will recommend changes to cost-recovery for natural gas infrastructure. The measures were drafted after a series of roundtable discussions between the White House and DOE.
  • Exelon Corporation announced that it would make equity investment in 21 MW of Bloom Energy fuel cells through its Constellation subsidiary. The deal represents the first major investment in fuel cell distributed power by Exelon and is a tax equity transaction; similarly, the deal represents Bloom’s first formal partnership with a utility operator. Exelon will sell services to commercial and industrial customers through an “electrons-as-a-service” program (similar to a PPA), retaining ownership of the fuel cells and signing 15-year contracts for service.
  • Two separate groups of researchers made discoveries that would contribute to better batteries. Researchers at Stanford, including former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, developed new nanoscale materials that would increase the efficiency and durability of lithium-ion batteries. Meanwhile, researchers in Japan found that adding cobalt to lithium-ion battery structures increases energy density by as much as seven times that of existing battery technology.
  • Tesla and Panasonic announced their formal agreement to build a battery “gigafactory” that would have capacity to produce lithium-ion batteries at unprecedented scale, intended initially for use in electric vehicles. Reduction in prices would be achieved through economies of scale, research and development of new battery types, and improvements in energy density. Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed battery prices would drop to $100 per kilowatt-hour under the new partnership, a price that would make electric vehicles cost-competitive with internal-combustion-engine vehicles.
  • DOE’s Ames Laboratory added a new technology that will accelerate scientific exploration of advanced energy-related materials. The technology, a dynamic nuclear polarization solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (DNP-NMR) spectrometer, is the first of its kind to be used for research efforts in the United States.