According to US climate envoy John Kerry, we’ll need “technology we don’t now have” to achieve net zero emission objectives by 2045. He’s half-right, to be sure.
Fighting climate change does necessitate inventive, technologically driven concepts that can be tested, copied, and scaled at breakneck speed.
But creating entirely new technology isn’t always the answer, and neither is the notion that we can use today’s technology to get to 100 percent sustainable energy.
That’s because the foundations for game-changing new technologies are already in place in research laboratories.
However, that technology will require testing and scaling infrastructure.
It requires a technique that permits research and technology development to coexist without fear of failure, as well as a proven approach for bringing lab ideas to market rapidly and efficiently.
BlueDot Photonics in Seattle, for example, has been able to create technologies and receive finance for producing next-generation solar cells that might enhance cell efficiency by up to 30% in a (relatively) short time.
Apart from the technology, the fact that BlueDot’s work evolved from a research proposal in a University of Washington chemistry lab to a viable firm with product testing in less than three years is why we should pay attention.
How did they pull it off? They put their concept to the test in a renewable energy lab.
In general, a test bed is a location where new technologies are tested, built, and demonstrated.
Consider it a proving ground for scientists, researchers, and companies.
Working with a test bed gives you access to highly trained scientists and cutting-edge technology to help you create and test new goods before they hit the market.
Historically, exorbitant costs and time delays have stymied climate change research and technology advancements.
There has also been a mismatch between technology deployers and researchers, implying that while both research and vehicles to test and implement it exist, the two don’t always collide.
Sustainable energy test beds have been developed as a strategy for overcoming these obstacles, bringing together top executors and bright ideas to develop and implement clean energy systems that are both timely and cost-effective.
To fully utilize current facilities and add others, a strong federal relationship is required.
President Biden proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure plan in March, including $35 billion set aside for climate technology research and development.
By passing this bill, we will be able to bring renewable energy alternatives to market before it is too late.
The University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute launched the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds in 2017 with support from the Washington State Legislature and private philanthropy to accelerate the development, scale-up, and adoption of new technologies in solar harvesting, energy storage, and system integration.
The Clean Energy Testbeds is an open-access institution established on the idea that users maintain all intellectual property.
It was named a national model in the 2019 Breakthrough Energy report on the “Landscape for Energy Innovation.”
It provides individualized instruction and instrumentation for creating prototypes, testing devices, and modules, and integrating systems.
This concept not only saves clean energy researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors millions of dollars in instrumentation and staff costs, but it also accelerates the time to market. As a result, the Earth will be healthier sooner rather than later.
Traditional techniques for transitioning new ideas from research to commercial products take well over a decade, and even then, they may only reach a small market sector, and expenses may be too high to scale to the scale required to have an impact.
More businesses, from student start-ups to huge enterprises, can experiment, fail, and succeed without incurring expensive fees, lengthy research iterations, or other time-consuming procedures.
The test beds aren’t only a concept from the Pacific Northwest.
The Battery Innovation Center, based in Indiana, is a test bed–style lab dedicated to the rapid development, testing, and commercialization of safe, dependable, and lightweight energy storage devices.
In addition, the University of Michigan’s Battery Lab collaborates with suppliers and manufacturers to scale up next-generation lithium-ion technology and test it for real-world applications.
CalTestBed in California and the Dominion Energy Innovation Center in South Carolina both include clean energy test beds.
With federal support, the developing renewable energy test bed concept will be successful (and enormously more influential) (read: funding and infrastructure).
In addition to increasing output at existing test sites, federal funding would enable the model to be replicated across the country, unleashing America’s full potential to reverse climate change.
the author is : Daniel T. Schwartz is the founding director of the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute and Boeing-Sutter Professor of Chemical Engineering. His research explores electrochemical systems, including the performance of batteries and fuel cells. In 2018, he received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from the White House. He is a Fellow of the Electrochemical Society, member of Washington State Academies of Sciences, and board and executive committee member of the CleanTech Alliance.