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Shell Has A Bigger Clean Energy Plan Than You Think — CleanTechnica Interview

Shell’s clean energy transition plan is going to wallop other oil and gas stakeholders, with an assist from the US National Renewable Energy Lab.

Royal Dutch Shell has gotten some pretty good reviews for the laundry list of clean energy items in its new decarbonization plan, but there is one little item that hasn’t gotten much attention, and it could have an impact on all those other oil and gas giants out there. Back in 2018, the company nailed down a partnership with NREL that leverages 40 years of clean tech research and industry connections, and they’ve been busy at work shoveling new clean tech into the market as fast as they can go.

clean energy storage

On of three new startups in the GCxN clean tech incubator, Icarus RT is developing a system that harvests and stores clean energy for power generation (photo cropped, courtesy of Icarus RT).

NREL & Shell Pair Up For World-Changing Clean Energy

For those of you new to the topic, NREL, is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, located in Colorado. One of a sprawling web of federal research laboratories across the US, the lab got its start back in the 1970s when the US had a goal of reducing dependence on imported oil. Now all that experience is going to help cut ties with everybody’s oil, and natural gas, too.

Shell teamed up with NREL in 2018 to establish an incubator called the Shell GameChanger Accelerator Powered by NREL, or GCxN for short.

The aim is to identify early stage cleantech startups with cutting edge solutions to the Earth’s carbon problems, and winch that technology out of the lab with financial resources and access to A-list facilities and technical experts.

Once that technology sees the light of day, the clean energy cat is out of the bag. That’s going to help Shell step up its decarbonization game and pull the rest of the field along with it, too.

GCxN is “focused on discovering and advancing emerging clean technologies with the potential to dramatically alter the future global energy landscape,” GCxN enthuses.

The Clean Energy Cat Is Out Of The Bag

CleanTechnica took a look at GCxN’s approach to accelerating cleantech last year, and they have been very busy since then. The clean energy category includes energy storage, energy efficiency, and practically anything else that interacts with renewable resources.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the three latest additions to the GCxN roster with the program’s manager, Adam Duran. In a phone conversation earlier this week, Duran emphasized how each company could impact the broader clean energy field.

First up is Seattle-based BlueDot Photonics, which is also part of NREL’s newly announced perovskite solar cell consortium.

The use of perovskite for solar cells is just one part of the innovation. The other, Duran explained, is the company’s manufacturing method.

“It’s promising technology, nascent technology that they are developing quickly. They are working on a creative manufacturing technology that will help reduce costs,” he said. “It’s a novel approach to how they go through the production. This is an opportunity to take their laboratory technology and start thinking about what it would look like to do production-sized panels.”

Clean Energy + Energy Storage

Another addition is Icarus RT. Based in San Diego, Icarus is developing a bolt-on system that collects waste heat from solar panels.

“It’s a heat pump using an organic fluid that takes heat from solar panels, kind of like a radiator,” said Duran. “It’s a combined system, so it is all integrated in back of panel. The storage is on the ground, so it has a relatively small footprint.”

The Icarus system is a clean energy three-fer. By shunting excess heat away, the system improves the solar conversion efficiency of the solar panels (solar panels function more efficiently when cooled), and it also extends the lifetime of the panels by preventing heat-related degradation.

Where’s that third thing? Oh right, the storage. The heat is converted to electricity for after-hours power generation.

Large Scale Energy Storage With Flow Batteries

The third company is Michgan’s Jolt Energy Storage, which is working on a clean energy solution to lower the cost of energy storage on a utility-scale basis.

Jolt’s technology is based on the electricity that pops up when two specialized liquids flow adjacent to each other. Flow batteries work by recycling the same liquids over and over again, so they don’t degrade the way lithium-ion batteries do. When they’re not in use, the liquids sit in separate tanks and don’t interact with each other.

Jolt’s contribution to the field includes carbon-based liquids that eliminate the need for more expensive substances, among other innovations.

“The main idea being to recycle and reuse,” said Duran. “They are coming out of one of our partner labs [Argonne National Laboratory] and are now transitioning to GTXn for commercialization. There is a strong pipeline of industry applications, and the focus is on the broader theme of large scale energy storage.”

“NREL has been the number one in the network dedicated to energy efficiency and renewables, so we have a really good relationship with other national labs. We can work together to leverage each others strengths and capabilities,” Duran concluded.

As for Shell, the company has been making some big moves into the clean energy field, including solar power, offshore wind, and electric vehicle charging, so stay tuned for more.

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Photo (cropped): Solar panels with integrated thermal collection curtesy of Icarus RT.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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