As renewable energy and storage become more affordable and available, we see an opportunity for a future integrated energy infrastructure. The ability to link this infrastructure will help accelerate finding economically feasible zero-carbon solutions across sectors.
How are we making a difference?
The Energy Technologies Area (ETA) is working on technological breakthroughs to optimize and ensure security and reliability of our growing connected energy systems. Whether through advancing long-duration energy storage to enable a smarter and more resilient power grid, demonstrating the capabilities of grid-interactive efficient buildings or leveraging mobility modeling and high-performance computational solutions to understand the long term implications of new technologies and travel patterns on energy use, ETA researchers offer unique expertise to advance integrated energy systems. Our researchers partner with numerous external stakeholders to ensure that the work we are doing at Berkeley Lab can have real-world applications in improving our power, buildings, and transportation sectors.
Cross-Sectoral Decarbonization Strategies
The Department of Energy's Decarbonizing Energy through Collaborative Routes and Benefits (DECARB) research advances capabilities and executes integrated analyses to inform decarbonization strategies for achieving an equitable, net-zero emissions economy in the U.S. by 2050.
This is a multi-year project that brings together researchers across ETA in partnership with multiple national laboratories. DECARB leverages ETA analysis and capabilities that examine the impact of energy technology pathways on costs and emissions, including energy systems integration research, projections of building sector demand and emissions, and distribution system impact.
ETA is supporting the transition from a traditional power grid that offered a one-way flow of electricity to a modernized power grid, which will allow buildings, vehicles and renewable energy generation, storage and distributed energy resources to be part of an integrated system. Our researchers are developing computational tools and techniques so these systems can cooperate for a common optimal goal of minimizing total carbon, with constraints on economic costs to realize multi-sector decarbonization at scale. Our researchers also work to advance long-duration energy storage technologies to enable more intermittent power from renewable sources to connect with the grid, ultimately making the evolving smart electric grid cleaner and more resilient.
Grid Level Storage
Long-Duration Energy Storage
Developing viable and affordable long duration grid-scale energy storage is key to a modernized power grid that is cleaner and more resilient. Our researchers are working to understand and optimize next generation fuel-cell and related energy-conversion and energy-storage components and materials, mainly through physics-based multi-scale modeling of cell behavior, advanced diagnostics of cell properties, and synthesis of novel key materials.
When considering Li-ion as a potential solution to the storage needs for sustainability and resilience, the disadvantage that stands out is that it is not fundamentally designed for long durations. In addition, the useful lifetime of Li-ion batteries is comparatively shorter than most other grid infrastructure.
Now is the time to rethink how large-scale energy storage technologies can be designed to use low-cost, abundant raw materials, scale to large sizes economically, and reduce material needs, where possible. For example, a thermal based storage system can take advantage of natural self-insulation that occurs at large scales but that does not occur at small scales, reducing insulation costs as the system grows larger. Similarly, battery technologies that can minimize the need for extra materials as the system size grows larger will facilitate the project economics of large systems. Within ETA, such concepts are being tested using a suite of technologies, including computer modeling for planning and detailed characterization tools for testing and diagnosis.
Integrated energy systems and a modernized grid will add the complexity of deeper links throughout the energy production-to-use chain. Our researchers work to expand on the role of security in integrated energy cyber-physical systems for detection of threats and system instabilities, as well as computational methods that mitigate them.
Our expertise in building research provides a strong foundation to expand our focus towards an integrated systems approach. From demand flexibility strategies such as grid-interactive efficient buildings to thermal energy storage solutions for building envelope applications, our researchers are pursuing building technologies and strategies that enable the pursuit of zero-carbon solutions.
Advancing Grid-interactive, Efficient Communities
ETA's Connected Communities program studies how Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings (GEBs), which combine energy efficiency with diverse, flexible end use equipment and other distributed energy resources (DERs), can maximize building, community, and grid efficiency while meeting occupants’ comfort and needs.
GEBs are an increasingly important resource to manage the electric grid in the U.S. by providing grid services. ETA's Connected Communities program explores integration and coordination of building efficiency, flexibility, and DERs across multiple buildings. ETA's California Load Flexibility Research and Development Hub (CalFlexHub) supports the scaled adoption of affordable, equitable, and reliable load flexible technologies.
A Consortium on Energy Storage for Buildings
Currently, as much as 50% of electricity consumption in buildings in the United States goes toward meeting thermal loads. Stor4Build is a multi-lab consortium funded by the Department of Energy's Building Technologies Office to accelerate equitable solutions in energy storage technologies for buildings. The consortium focuses on thermal energy storage while researching the integration of electrochemical battery energy storage solutions in buildings. Cross-cutting research will help accelerate the development, growth, optimization, and deployment of cost-effective thermal energy storage technologies that benefit all communities.
There are four research areas identified as foundational to all consortium activities: materials optimization and manufacturing; modeling and analysis; system optimization and integration; and market, policy, and equity. Led by industry-recognized experts at the national laboratories, the consortium will also include active participants from diverse stakeholder groups representing industry, utilities, nonprofit organizations, communities, building owners, academia, government, and other research institutions. The crosscutting team will address the need of developing equitable solutions to ensure benefits of storage technologies are clear for all communities, including those historically disadvantaged.
The rapid trend of transportation electrification leads to unprecedented electric vehicle (EV) charging load on the power grid systems, which may cause serious grid reliability issues for the already-aging grid infrastructure. EV mobility patterns further complicate the infrastructure system planning and operation problems. ETA’s researchers apply expertise in high-performance computing, machine learning for autonomy, mobility decision science and mobility systems, and emerging battery technologies to develop integrated systems solutions for sustainable transportation. New storage technologies are needed to respond to the scale of storage required to meet the demand for a variety of applications and cycle regimes in the existing and future transportation and grid infrastructure.
Urban Mobility Modeling
Envisioning Smarter Cities
Researchers in ETA's Sustainable Transportation Initiative have developed the Behavior, Energy, Autonomy, and Mobility (BEAM) Modeling Framework, an open-source software framework that enables scalable simulation of regional transportation systems. The tool allows transportation planners and service providers to simulate traveler behavior and technology deployment to understand congestion, energy, and emission implications of novel mobility technologies and services from individual scale to entire transportation systems. Watch our animated videos to learn how BEAM can help guide the sustainable and equitable deployment of new mobility technologies at scale.
Electric Vehicle Infrastructure
Decarbonizing Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles
EV adoption is accelerating rapidly, but essential infrastructure needs to be improved to support the demand. Berkeley Lab’s Medium-and Heavy-Duty Electric Vehicle Infrastructure - Load Operation and Deployment (HEVI-LOAD), developed in partnership with California, is a modeling tool that projects infrastructure needs for decarbonizing medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (>10,000 lbs).
HEVI-LOAD’s unique ability to project the quantity, type, and location of charging stations at the county, state, and regional levels, makes it a versatile tool for electric infrastructure planning and deployment. Based on the regional priorities and goals for transportation electrification within a state, HEVI-LOAD can project the charging infrastructure needs by electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles for different adoption scenarios. For instance, HEVI-LOAD combines regional decarbonization goals to develop charging infrastructure plans at the state, county, corridor, and site levels. These insights will eventually help stakeholders build action plans to meet climate and GHG emission reduction goals.
Batteries & Fuel-Cells for Long-Haul Trucks
The Future of Commercial Trucking
The commercial trucking industry is heavily reliant on diesel fuel, and even though diesel trucks account for just a small fraction of motor vehicles, they are responsible for almost one third of motor vehicle CO2 emissions.There are currently two main pathways to electrify trucks – fuel cells and batteries – and both are actively being pursued by researchers in ETA.
Heavy-duty vehicles account for almost one-quarter of the fuel consumed annually in the U.S. and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, contribute to 23% of U.S. transportation emissions of greenhouse gases. Successfully shifting our transportation sector away from fossil fuels will require advances in both battery and fuel cell technology, and our future transportation system will involve an integration of both since available infrastructure will vary based on geographic location.
Long-haul trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells are on the horizon, and Berkeley Lab scientists are playing a leading role in a new DOE consortium called the Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck (M2FCT.org) to advance this technology. Battery-powered electric trucks have seen the most dramatic improvements in technology in recent years, making the battery costs more affordable and competitive. According to experts in ETA, with appropriate policies around adoption incentives, charging infrastructure, and electricity pricing, widespread electrification of commercial trucking fleets is viable.
Berkeley Lab-led study assesses cost competitiveness of metal-organic framework materials to store hydrogen for large-scale backup power applications
Berkeley Lab study shows how battery-electric trains can deliver environmental justice, cost-savings, and resilience to the U.S.
Berkeley Lab researchers are developing a gamut of technologies for direct air capture