A new national center is being built in Richland, Washington, to hasten the transition to sustainable energy and modernize the electricity grid.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, was among those who ceremonially broke ground on the $75 million Grid Storage Launchpad on the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory campus on Thursday with a golden shovel.
The mission is to build on PNNL's expertise in grid energy storage, power grid modernization, and enhancing battery performance, reliability, and safety to become the world's premier energy storage research facility.
"A growing number of individuals know that long-term, low-cost grid storage is one of the milestones we must achieve in our country if we are to lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and build the grid of the future," Cantwell said.
President Biden has set a target for the United States to achieve 100% sustainable energy by 2035.
However, the country requires low-cost solutions to store solar and wind energy when the sun isn't shining and when the wind isn't blowing for not just hours, but days or weeks.
When it is needed, it must be integrated into the nation's electric grid to help make it more robust, secure, reliable, and adaptable.
In videotaped remarks, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the new Grid Storage Launchpad lays the country poised for "so many successes."
Working families will have lower cost power, decent paying jobs will be generated, and the world will be rescued sooner if the PNNL facility can help develop and put into operation long-lasting and effective grid storage, she said.
The launchpad aims to boost sustainable energy adoption, such as wind and solar, by enhancing battery storage technologies that will work with a more resilient, secure, and adaptable national power system.
PNNL Director Steven Ashby noted, "This national research center is created for collaboration." "PNNL experts will collaborate with elite researchers from business, academia, and national labs to address difficulties in storage technology dependability, performance, cost, and safety."
Researchers will aim to speed up the development of grid-scale battery storage systems, from fundamental materials to system components to grid-scale storage system validation under realistic operating conditions.
The Grid Storage Launchpad will test new commercial-scale systems independently to ensure that they work as planned.
The launchpad's researchers will create strict performance criteria to guide technology development, reducing the risk for battery developers and allowing them to move faster.
Capabilities of the PNNL Launchpad
Officials from the Tri-Cities Economic Development Corporation hope that the work done at the launchpad will lead to local manufacturing of new grid materials and systems developed there.
In 2019, an independent assessment team chose PNNL as the site for the national project.
The launchpad is being designed and built by Harvey | Harvey-Cleary and Kirksey Architecture, both of Houston, Texas. It is planned to open as soon as next year.
The 86,000-square-foot complex will house 35 research laboratories and 105 employees.
It will include testing chambers for evaluating prototypes and innovative grid energy storage technologies with capacities of up to 100 kilowatts under realistic operational circumstances.
There will also be a laboratory dedicated to investigating the underlying material properties of storage devices.
The function of energy storage in future grid scenarios will be examined, and design criteria for technologies will be developed, in a visualization lab with audio-visual displays.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, worked together to secure the project's $75 million funding.
The Clean Energy Fund in Washington gave $8.3 million for scientific tools that can provide real-time insights into the behavior of battery materials.
The funds were used to purchase two cutting-edge electron microscopes and a spectrometer, allowing researchers to observe changes in battery materials as they charge and discharge.