RIT taking part in energy storage initiative

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Rochester Institute of Technology will play a role in a state initiative that targets growth in the energy storage and development industry. 

The university, through its Battery Prototyping Center, will be part of New Energy New York, a state hub for new battery innovation, manufacturing, and workforce development led by SUNY Binghamton. The Broome County university recently received federal funding for the first phase of development of the battery technology and energy storage sector.

The funds, which came via the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, aims to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters across the nation. Each grantee could receive up to $100 million.

Sixty finalists, each a coalition, proposed projects to develop or scale sectors and build and train workforces to create resilient economies. These finalists, chosen from a pool of 529 applicants, now compete in the second phase, with a goal to implement three to eight projects. 

New Energy New York, a project supported by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., aims to bolster emerging battery technology and the energy ecosystem in Upstate New York. Much of the growth will be centered on the first lithium-ion battery factory set to open by 2022 in the Binghamton/Broome County area, RIT officials say. RIT’s Battery Prototyping Center joins academic institutions, nonprofits including the NY Battery and Energy Storage Consortium, and government agencies: New York State Energy Research and Development AuthorityEmpire State Development and Broome County.  

A $2.5 million site, funded by NYSERDA and Empire State Development, the Battery Prototyping Center was established in 2015 to support early-stage development of next- generation lithium-ion cells and materials. Since then, the center has worked with more than 100 customers from government, industry and academia.

Companies can rent space and work with scientists on research and development projects. They can also receive training on equipment and processes to help launch their businesses. Under New Energy New York, the center is expected to lend expertise to research projects, building the workforce development initiatives and supporting the supply chain program.

The project expects to contribute to the demand for a secure lithium battery supply chain by 2030. The United States intends to be an active participant in the global quest for a sustainable future. In September 2020, the departments of energy, commerce, defense and state launched the Federal Consortium for Advanced Batteries. The consortium is tasked with accelerating the development of a domestic industrial base for advanced batteries, which is key to increased electric vehicle acceptance, for starters. With this plan, comes new manufacturing and supply chain jobs.

A recent report from the World Economic Forum estimates that the battery value chain will generate a total of 10 million jobs worldwide by 2030. This growth is linked to the electric vehicle use, powering sustainability. Batteries could enable 30 percent of the required reductions in carbon emissions in the transport and power sectors and provide access to electricity to 600 million people who currently have no access, the report states.

In Phase 2 of the New Energy New York project, SUNY Binghamton and its partners’ proposal will focus on expanding research, development, testing and workforce assets to meet the demand of the emerging battery manufacturing industry in the Southern Tier and Upstate New York. If fully funded, the project estimates that over a 10-year period as many as 8,000 new direct jobs would be created as a result of this effort, with the potential to support or sustain thousands of additional indirect jobs, officials say. 

The deadline for Phase 2 is March 15, 2022.

 Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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