GE's recently invested $150 million in the production of batteries in their manufacturing facility near Niskayuna, N.Y. The new battery technologies are set to be part of GE's Transportation sector and provide energy for rail, marine, mining, telecommunications and utility sectors. The facility is set to manufacturer upwards of 10 million sodium-metal halide cells each year, or enough energy to support 1,000 GE hybrid locomotives. The locomotives are set to be commercialized by 2010.
GE's investment coincides with the new administration's initiative to improve the public transportation sectors like high speed rail as seen on the map below. If all goes as planned, GE has positioned themselves quite nicely to help move towards a low carbon economy. But this isn't out of the kindness of their heart. They expect their sales to be $500 million by 2015 and eventually upwards of $1 billion over time.
Click on image to enlarge.
In addition, battery energy has been widely viewed as the future for private vehicles. Battery operated vehicles and new vehicle infrastructure companies are coming up with the solutions to move our personal vehicles away from fossil fuels. One particular company thinks they have the solution for the future. Better Place specializes in electric vehicle services by providing a network of "charge spots, battery switch stations, and systems which optimize the driving experience and minimize the environmental impact and cost" (See this site for more details). Currently, test pilots are being run in Israel, Denmark, Japan, Ontario, California, and Hawaii.
For many, batteries seem to be the solution to our transportation sector's woes against fossil fuels. But, the real question is how will those batteries be charge? Batteries are power storage devices not power generators. Batteries need to plug into the electrical grid that is already overstressed and heavily dependent on fossil fuels, in particular, coal. A cleaner emitting transportation sector is meaningless if the energy needed to power the vehicles is derived from coal. As a result, cleaner, less emitting power generators should be the immediate focus. However, there is a way to take some stress off the grid through your homes. Home roof tops can provide the means for solar storage by converting it into hydrogen for fuel cells. These fuel cells act like a power station for your home and a plug in for your battery powered vehicle. Refer back to my first blog on solar storage with hydrogen fuel cells in your homes (See "Solar Power to the Rescue"). It is still in conceptual stage but does provide a solution to power the batteries.