February 04, 2011
By: by Eric Anderson, Business Editor, Times Union
ALBANY -- It's considered the Achilles' heel of clean energy. And 150 entrepreneurs, policymakers and researchers gathered Wednesday at the University at Albany to discuss what to do about energy storage.
They heard about personal-size ultracapacitors that could be recharged again and again, seemingly forever, so that you'd never have to buy a replacement battery for your cellphone or laptop.
And they heard about heavy-duty batteries that will soon be manufactured by General Electric Co. in Schenectady, large enough to store utility-quantity amounts of electricity and strong enough to power a freight train.
In between were technologies such as flywheels and compressed air.
The inaugural "entrepreneurial boot camp," as the series of six programs will be called, focused on energy storage. The series is being presented by the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering's Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center.
Future programs will focus on photovoltaics (Feb. 24); energy efficiency (March 10); Clean tech startups (March 31); legal issues and policy (April 14); and cyber security for smart grids (April 21).
The ultracapacitor company hails from Oneonta, and its president and CEO, Mark McGough, said he's on the verge of hiring engineers and other technology folks as the company moves to commercialization.
Glen Merfeld, whose title is platform leader, energy storage technologies, for GE Global Research, was there, as were James Groelinger, the executive director of the Clean Energy Alliance; Karim Zaghib, of the Hydro-Quebec Research Institute; Shaun Johnson of the New York Independent System Operator; and Unnikrishnan Pillai, a nanoeconomics professor at CNSE.
Pradeep Haldar, who heads the technology applications center, called energy storage the Achilles heel, saying that it was expensive to store energy, and that regulatory and infrastructure issues must also be overcome.
But others on the panel said the world can't continue to expand its use of coal because of the pollution it would cause, and that growing demand for such clean renewable sources as wind, hydro and solar would drive demand for energy storage.
Plus, said one panelist, apparently referring to the nation's aging electric infrastructure, "if we're successful at making the grid less reliable, you'll find a lot more demand for storage technologies."