In the first few days of the energy blackout in Texas, renewable energy was blamed for the power failure, but we have learned that every form of energy suffered as a result of the weather and failed the people of Texas. Let’s leave the finger pointing to the politicians and talk about how to prepare for the next catastrophic weather event.
American technology and innovation are what will save us from the next potential disaster. New startups and departments of existing companies are working on new climate technology with an eye to the future. Oil companies are investing in Eavor which is proposing a geothermal radiator that can provide heat and power electricity by using the temperature of the earth and a closed loop system to harness it. Malta is a company pioneering energy storage so that energy produced by solar or wind can be stored when it is available and used when it is needed. And the inventor of the iPod, Tony Fadell, is investing in energy storage that utilizes silicon scrap waste from manufacturing for energy storage.
The US Department of Energy has announced funding to back research and development in two areas that will support improvements in manufacturing to build a more resilient electricity infrastructure and address climate change. One area is enhancing the manufacture of flow battery systems. Flow batteries are suited to grid energy storage needs. The other area is to advance electricity conducting materials manufacturing by identifying and verifying new materials to achieve enhancements in conductivity and showing how they can be affordably produced. This will help ease the addition of renewable resources and electric cars to the grid and support sectors like transportation and manufacturing. This funding will spur manufacturing growth in the United States. The resilience of the energy grid shouldn’t be beholden to international supply chains.
The DOE also announced construction of the Grid Storage Launchpad located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The GSL will bring US researchers and industry together to modernize the power grid, particularly through grid-scale energy storage. Having the space and the needed equipment in one place lowers the barrier to innovation by putting innovators in direct contact with one another to create and refine new areas of investigation.
These are just a few of the innovations on the drawing board. These innovations create jobs, too, the type of jobs the country needs. Steady work with good pay and benefits that can lift families and communities. More than 40% of US economic growth and employment is directly and indirectly attributed to innovation.
Innovation and creativity in these areas can speed our economic recovery and growth, provide jobs and tax revenue and mitigate climate change. The opportunity is now, and we need to be up to the challenge.