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Batteries help recharge the economy

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Cleantech tracked $94 million in advanced-battery investments in the previous quarter, up substantially from a recession-affected $29 million in the last quarter of 2008 and up slightly from $90 million in the first quarter of that year.

Sara Bradford, a principal consultant for global research firm Frost & Sullivan, predicts that North America could be facing a renaissance in battery manufacturing.

In March, she wrote that the US battery industry “is humming with revived confidence” as a result of the federal stimulus package, which opens up $2 billion in loans for advanced batteries, among other incentives.
A move toward greener cars helped fuel this growth. Hybrids, plug-ins, and electric vehicles are “the big goal” of next-generation batterymakers says Kent Furst, an analyst for research firm Freedonia Group in Cleveland.

Another factor is renewable energy. Wind and solar power are “intermittent” sources – they only collect energy during blustery or sunny times of the day, not necessarily when people need it most. To continue serving communities even during weak moments, some in the energy industry have called for grid batteries that could store the green energy and dispatch it on demand.

A variety of innovative battery technologies have received funding so far this year, but the bulk of the cash has flowed to lithium-ion batteries. This common type powers most portable electronics, particularly laptops and cellphones. Lithium-ion is not a surprising favorite because, of all the mainstream battery chemistries, these pack the most energy for their size and weight.

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