Henry Ford started with an idea, a design, and one car. He eventually created a corporate icon that changed the world.
Almost every American Dream success story starts like this. An idea that is new and needed is nurtured and developed into something that changes our world. The most essential aspects of our lives – like transportation, communications, and energy production – have all evolved from humble beginnings into things we can’t live without.
The clean and renewable energy industry is at one of those critical junctures right now. The technologies to harness energy from the sun and the wind have advanced to a stage where getting our electricity from those sources is almost as simple and cost-effective as it is with traditional fossil fuels. The challenge that faces the industry, and is key to its continued growth, is how to store the electricity and deliver it when it’s needed.
Because of the intermittent nature of solar and wind production, the ability to collect and store energy when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, and release it to the grid when the markets demand is essential. Without it the industry will continue to have a competitive disadvantage to fossil fuels, whose power generation can be turned on and off as needed.
That’s where advances in battery technology becomes imperative, and how our state can become a world leader.
A report published by the American Jobs Project states that North Carolina already has 84 companies across the state that are involved in the development of battery storage or battery components.
“Many companies in the battery supply chain have already made North Carolina their home and the state possesses the foundation for a strong economic cluster,” the report says. “By facilitating local business growth, North Carolina could be the utility-scale battery manufacturing hub of the United States.”
The key to making our state the birthplace for the next wave of battery technology requires some encouragement and nurturing from the state and established utility conglomerates. While we may have a great number of battery companies across North Carolina, getting them to design and develop the next wave of technology will require some help.
The state needs to focus on that one company that will establish a technological foothold in North Carolina. It needs to help develop the next wave of technological advancements that will foster the growth of smaller and even more innovative companies.
State regulators and policy makers need to work with the established utility companies to integrate these new storage systems into the current regulatory framework and develop policies that promote the new technologies instead of inhibiting them.
A small project in the western part of our state may just show us how all of this could work.
Adara Power (Juice Box) Energy Storage System
The New River Light & Power Company is a utility owned and operated by Appalachian State University which provides electricity to the university, the town of Boone, and the surrounding community. They have reached an agreement with Adara Power (formerly JuiceBox Energy) to install a 8.6kWh Energy storage system.
Adara Power is a Silicon Valley based company that develops advanced energy storage and management systems to meet the growing demand for renewable energy storage. The company offers innovative clean technologies that reduce both energy costs and accelerates the transition to a resilient and reliable power grid.
The system is an intelligent lithium-ion battery system designed for safe, reliable, long lasting power management. It is designed, engineered, and manufactured based on Juice Box’s years of automotive lithium ion control systems engineering.
Appalachian State University delivers one of the Southeast’s most comprehensive sustainability education programs and the Adara Power Energy storage system is one of the first self-consumption systems to be used in the mid-Atlantic United States.
Brian Raichle, a Professor in Sustainable Technology in the Department of Sustainable Technology, is spearheading the project. “As electricity rates across the U.S. increase and as utilities adopt time-of-use pricing, economic benefits of self-consumption and smart grid services are emerging,” said Raichle. “The goal is to promote high penetration of renewables such as solar on the grid.”
This experiment at Appalachian State University, through their own utility company, could provide the information and experience that is needed to spark the development of a new technological ground zero here in North Carolina. We have all of the basic building blocks already in place and all we need is the leadership and will to build on that foundation.
We’ve seen it done successfully many times over the years here in North Carolina. We only have to look at the success stories from the Research Triangle Park and the NCSU Centennial Campus to know it works.
When major technology and research corporations, like IBM/Lenovo and Glaxo Pharmaceuticals, put down roots in the Old North State it creates an incredible incubator for the next explosion of entrepreneurial start-ups that become world leaders in their field. Energy storage technologies – batteries – are ready to be the next great success story.