Source: Lindsay McCormick, CleanTech Alliance, Feb 18, 2020
Dr. Jud Virden the Associate Laboratory Director for the Energy and Environment Directorate gave a presentation on his work at PNNL for the February 2020 CleanTech Alliance Breakfast Series, sponsored by Perkins Coie.
“The secret sauce is putting all the pieces together that don’t normally come together. Those pieces include policy, research institutions, state support, and private companies,” said Dr. Virden at the breakfast series.
Jud opened his remarks by talking broadly about DOE National Laboratories and their focus on energy, science and innovation, and nuclear safety and security.
“There are National Labs all over the country that are mission driven, have high-risk but potential for high-reward, and support US competitiveness.”
All national labs compete for research funding and PNNL proudly leads the pack and often outcompetes other labs thanks to strong support from the state and local companies.
PNNL has a staff of 4,700 and hired 157 people last year alone thanks in part to a 30% increase in the federal budget for research. They have over 1,193 peer-reviewed publications, 265 invention disclosures and $1 billion in spending in FY2019.
Jud spoke about how despite all the talk about curbing CO2 emissions, they’re still going up 0.6% per year and how more work needs to be done before we can start “turning the corner”.
Currently, billions of dollars are being put into electric battery cars and research into lithium ion battery systems.
“By the middle of next decade, we expect to see price parity between lithium ion electric vehicles and internal combustion engines and when that happens, it will be a game change,” Jud Virden said.
One of the biggest obstacles to curbing our emissions from transportation is that the vehicle fleet takes 15-20 years to turn over so even if everyone started driving electric cars tomorrow, it would still take a decade and a half for people with old cars to swap over to new electric ones.
Additional challenges include making sure our grid will be ready to handle the extra capacity and peaks in demand but with Washington having some of the cleanest electricity in the country, these challenges also present huge opportunities for us to lead the world.
While it took 25 years after the discovery of lithium ion technology for it to become commercially applicable and another 20 years to produce electric vehicles, there is hope that we can accelerate the timeline in coming years.
With the complete adoption of the telephone taking over 100 years and the adoption of the smart phone and tablet only taking a few years, it’s clear that the adoption of new technologies is rapidly speeding up and if clean energy innovations follow that trend, then PNNL is poised to be an indispensable asset by ‘putting the pieces together’ to create new jobs, keep electricity prices low and drive the global clean energy future.