Energy storage could become big business in the US, but emerging businesses can’t find people with the necessary skills, so San Jose State University is starting Battery University this summer.
About 100 local experts are composing the curriculum, which will focus on developing cost-effective technologies for electric cars, renewable energy, smartphones and laptops, says a blog in the NY Times.
Energy storage is one of the prime areas for venture capital right now, along with smart grid and energy efficiency. The focus has changed to investing in enabling technologies that make it possible for the renewable energy industry to grow, instead of supporting those technologies directly.
There are about 40 battery companies in California who say they’re having a hard time hiring the right people.
“Start-up companies with new ideas are coming on board, but there is no work force to get those ideas to completion and to ultimately reach a point of success for the marketplace,” Venkat Srinivasan, head of the Energy Storage and Distributed Resources group at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, told Brita Belli in the blog. The lab is a partner in San Jose’s program.
Although most of the world’s batteries are made in China, Japan and South Korea, the US still leads on research, says Srinivasan.
The big challenge for advanced batteries, like lithium-ion, is how to increase performance while cutting the cost of manufacturing. Right now, a battery comprises about half the cost of an electric car and still has a shorter range than a gasoline-powered car.
This R&D requires specialized skills. If emerging companies have strong employees, the US could lead on battery manufacturing, he says.
Last year, the Department of Energy launched the Batteries and Energy Storage Hub to “develop radically new scientific approaches.”
“One of the critical pieces to being able to do that is whether we have a work force that is trained to know how to take something from innovation to infrastructure,” Jeffrey Anderson of CalCharge, told the NY Times. CalCharge is an energy storage innovation accelerator.
That’s the goal of Battery University:
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