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September 5, 2023

Powering the Future: Innovations in Energy Storage

How a state-of-the-art facility is shaping the future of battery technology and transforming the energy landscape

In an era defined by decarbonization and electrification, the role of next-generation batteries is pivotal. They promise to enhance the reliability and resilience of our electrical grid, facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources, and provide crucial backup power during natural disasters. But how do we bring these game-changing batteries to life?

Enter the Grid Storage Launchpad (GSL), an upcoming facility set to open in 2024 on the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory–Richland (PNNL) campus. Funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity, GSL is poised to accelerate the development of advanced battery technology, making it more reliable and cost-effective.

Vince Sprenkle, an advisor at PNNL, envisions GSL as a hub where new technologies can evolve from basic materials to real-world, 100-kilowatt systems. These systems are pivotal in the quest for a decarbonized energy system, improving its resilience and reliability.

PNNL researchers are already hard at work testing novel battery technologies, exploring new materials, and devising safe deployment strategies for energy storage systems. These endeavors are paving the way for the commercialization and widespread adoption of long-duration energy storage solutions.

At GSL, researchers will expand their testing capabilities, supporting DOE’s Long Duration Storage Earthshot – a mission to deliver more than 10 hours of energy storage at 90% of today’s cost within the next decade.

But the path to innovation doesn't end with testing materials. Scientists also need to understand how different molecular structures behave as storage materials. This complexity is particularly evident in the study of organic-flow batteries, where solubility plays a critical role.

To tackle this challenge efficiently, PNNL researchers are developing a digital twin battery – a machine-learning model that simulates a battery's behavior, enabling rapid testing of various molecular variations. GSL's capabilities will provide crucial data for building this digital twin model, accelerating the development of cutting-edge battery technology.

Safety is paramount, especially when dealing with large energy storage systems. PNNL is spearheading the development of safety standards to guide manufacturers in designing and installing secure systems. GSL itself will incorporate advanced safety features to protect researchers and the laboratory in the event of system failures.

Moreover, PNNL is committed to community safety and is actively involved in educating stakeholders, including firefighters and city leaders, on handling emergencies related to energy storage systems. GSL will play a central role in developing safety courses tailored to local first-responders and stakeholders.

Neil Hodgson Coyle
Neil Hodgson-Coyle
Editorial chief at TechNews180
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