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An accelerator lab for battery startups launches

Can the startup accelerator model work for battery companies? The folks behind CalCharge, the brainchild of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) that hopes to attract some 30 battery companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, think so.

Through CalCharge, battery tech developers will be able to enlist the help of researchers and use equipment at Berkeley Lab and other research institutions, participate in seminars and forums, recruit engineers and other employees and network with each other to trade information. Companies can do all this on their own, of course, but they might find better results when they go through an organization that pools resources to serve a larger community.

“What I’ve been hearing for a while is that in the Silicon Valley and the software industry, there is an ecosystem to bring everybody together,” said Venkat Srinivasan, head of energy storage and distributed resources department at Berkeley Lab. “We recognize that battery companies want an ecosystem to work together.”

Battery companies generally target three markets: consumer electronics, electric cars and grid energy storage. While Srinivasan declined to divulge which startups plan to be members, there’s quite a few in the Bay Area (see our list of 25 battery makers).

Battery technology development has generated interest from prominent venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in recent years because of federal and local policies that mandate lower tailpipe and industrial emissions and a greater use of renewable energy. The federal government has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars for engineering and manufacturing lithium-ion batteries for electric cars since 2009. Grid energy storage is a promising market because the technology complements wind and solar farms by taking in electricity from these intermittent sources and releasing it to the grid as a steady source of energy. Delivering wind and solar at a steady pace helps utilities to balance their supply with demand.


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