Portland State is leading a regional consortium of 23 companies, government agencies and nonprofits that are committed to turning the region into a global powerhouse for smart, grid-level, energy storage. The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced this week that it will fund this effort with a $500,000 Strategy Development Grant under the novel Tech Hubs program — one of only 29 awarded from nearly 400 applications nationwide.

The Pacific Northwest Smart Energy Strategy Development Consortium will promote investments in clean energy storage and the software technologies that make energy available at a moment’s notice.

EDA’s investment will uncover where relatively small investments have big impacts on the region’s ability to become a global leader in smart and connected energy storage. The consortium will develop concrete plans to fill any gaps in the energy storage ecosystem, focusing on economic growth and on making well-paying jobs accessible to everyone in the region. The consortium’s planning work will be used to apply for second phase funding of up to $75 million from EDA.

The Tech Hubs Strategy Development grant acknowledges the Portland region’s critical mass of energy storage companies.

“We are thrilled to see the clean energy industry in the Portland area recognized with this award,” said Kimberly Branam, executive director of Prosper Portland.  “We have focused our economic development efforts on climate innovation and equity, and this federal investment positions the region to further increase its global competitiveness. The area’s blend of climate tech startups, support organizations, power engineering firms, innovative utilities, and software and electronics companies offers a unique opportunity to test, prove out, and scale the emerging energy storage industry.”

The consortium partnership also emphasizes the role that Portland State plays in supporting and advancing the regional economy. Angela Jackson, PSU’s director of industry and entrepreneurial engagement, will serve as interim Regional Innovation Officer for the project.

“PSU’s leadership in these clean energy planning efforts demonstrates our commitment to the economic future of the Portland region,” said Ann Cudd, Portland State University President. “PSU is dedicated to ensuring that the region has the talent, research and entrepreneurial energy it needs to grow this industry. We want to partner with the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to ensure that the Portland region leads the globe in innovations in smart grid technology. This work is also aligned with our commitments to sustainability and equity.”

Smart grid energy storage is all about timing.

“Most people associate clean energy with wind and solar. If they think of energy storage at all, they imagine a large battery pack in one’s garage. But utilities also need batteries,” said project lead Antonie Jetter, faculty in engineering and associate dean for research at PSU’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science. “Your local utility needs more supply in the late afternoon, when people come home, turn on the heat, and plug in their EV. They cannot rely on solar or wind to be there in that very minute because they depend on the weather. Battery Energy Storage Systems, or BESS, provide a buffer that keeps the grid stable.”

Last spring, the National Science Foundation (NSF) identified PSU and the Portland metro region as a leading national hub for research and innovation in smart grid technology, for which BESS and related technologies are essential. In awarding this grant, the EDA connected these research and innovation capabilities with those of commercializing, scaling and becoming globally competitive in smart grid and BESS over the next decade. EDA funds will be used to further expand the consortium and refine plans for key initiatives.

In addition to Prosper Portland, the Portland State-led Tech Hubs consortium consists of the following public, private and nonprofit partners:

  • Bonneville Power Administration
  • Business Oregon
  • ESS Inc.
  • Galois Inc.
  • Greater Portland Inc.
  • IBEW Local 48
  • Intel
  • Metro
  • Oregon State University
  • PacifiCorp
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Port of Portland
  • Portland General Electric
  • Portland Seed Fund
  • PowerSwitch
  • Powin
  • RAIN Catalysts
  • Technology Association of Oregon
  • University of Oregon
  • VertueLab
  • Worksystems