Charlotte seen as ‘path to the energy future’

David Doctor of E4 Carolinas
David Doctor of E4 Carolinas

Gregory Kallenberg, a maker of energy documentaries, sees a role for Charlotte in finding middle ground on the sometimes contentious issue of energy policy.

“(For a sustainable energy future) it’s going to take a group like we had here and a region like Charlotte that is leading the energy future,” Kallenberg said Wednesday at a World Affairs Council event. “The path to the energy future runs right through Charlotte.”

According to panelists at the event, a major part of Charlotte’s advantage in the energy field comes from battery innovation at companies like Siemens and Celgard.

“I don’t think Charlotte realizes the concentration of the battery industry in the Carolinas,” said panelist David Doctor of E4 Carolinas, a not-for-profit that promotes collaboration among the region’s energy companies.

A short film that Kallenberg showed to the audience – part of the “Rational Middle Energy Series” – trumpeted battery innovation as the “holy grail” for wind and solar energy sustainability. The sun’s not always out and the wind’s not always blowing, so storage is key for the feasibility of these energy sources.

John Zhang, Chief Technology Officer of Celgard, said his company leads the world in developing more efficient battery separators, a necessary component for bulk batteries.

To Zhang’s left, though, sat Ronald Schoff of the Technology Innovation of Electric Power Research Institute Schoff disagreed with the notion that more bulk battery storage is a cure-all.

“The idea that the future of wind and solar is dependent on battery storage is, in my view, not realistic,” Schoff said.

Schoff pointed to European countries like Denmark that use a massive amount of renewable energy without large concentrations of bulk batteries and said that America’s massive energy grid can work as its battery. The larger the grid, he said, the more places for extra electrons to go when not being used.

“I love energy storage but... you do have the built-in ability in our power system to deal with intermittancy,” Schoff said.

Schoff was optimistic about the country’s energy future, expecting the U.S. to become more efficient in its energy usage and for nuclear power to advance.