Trends to watch in the energy transformation of 2019

(This post was originally published on GreenTechMedia)

2018 is over, and a new year of energy evolution is upon us.

The past year laid a robust foundation for growth in 2019. It ended with six states and territories, including two of the three largest state economies, committing to 100 percent clean electricity. The solar industry weathered the much-feared tariffs without excessive bleeding. The list of cleantech failures was much shorter than in previous years.

There’s still plenty of room to grow. Solar only accounts for 1.3 percent of U.S. electricity generation, and wind produces 6.3 percent. Grid edge technologies are helping the grid adapt, but they’re still in limited real-world use.

Keeping in mind that contrast between heady potential and modest achievement so far, we shall venture into the prediction game to identify key clean energy developments to come over the new year.

More states commit to clean

GTM’s Emma Foehringer Merchant dubbed 2018 the year of 100 percent clean energy. Watch for another wave of jurisdictions to follow the past year’s trailblazers.

In 2018, California joined Hawaii in legislatively committing to a carbon-free electricity system. Governors in New Jersey, New York and Puerto Rico made their own executive commitments to that end. Washington, D.C.’s city council passed a target of 100 percent renewables by 2032.

For a while, debates over 100 percent clean energy policy broke down into intellectual tribalism, as different factions jostled over who had the better vision for a clean energy future. Meanwhile, skeptics could dismiss the whole exercise as a folly.

Read more on GreenTechMedia.

Reflecting on TAEBC’s 2018 accomplishments, what’s to come

We are just days away from welcoming in a new year, and the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) is celebrating its 2018 achievements.

By championing advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy, TAEBC is positioning the state and its members to increase our leadership role in the $1.4 trillion global advanced energy market.

TAEBC wants to reinforce our commitment to our members and stakeholders:

  • Inform the national energy agenda.
  • Help Tennessee become the #1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.
  • Foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups.
  • Support TVA and our local power companies’ efforts to become the energy company of the future.

We look forward to our annual membership meeting in Nashville, but until then let’s reflect on our top accomplishments from 2018.

  1. Energy Mentor Network companies at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads, Megan O’Connor, Co-founder & CEO, Nth Cycle and Anna Douglas, CEO, SkyNano, were named to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 cohort from the energy sector. Congratulations to them!
  2. TAEBC released its 2018 Economic Impact Report, detailing how the advanced energy sector is so strong in Tennessee that it outperformed the state’s overall economy–employing nearly 360,000 Tennesseans at more than 18,000 businesses that contribute almost $40 billion to the state’s GDP. Read the latest report here.
  3. Stone Mountain Technologies became the second official graduate from the Energy Mentor Network. The company, based in Johnson City, Tennessee, has developed replacements for furnaces, boilers, and hot-water heaters that save 30-50% off heating costs for homeowners and light commercial building owners.
  4. TAEBC’s 2018 Annual Membership Meeting, hosted by Bridgestone, was headlined by Scott Becker, Senior Vice President of Administration and Finance for Nissan North America. His presentation focused on Nissan’s contribution to Tennessee’s advanced energy economy, the growth the company has experienced since its original decision to locate in Tennessee, and Nissan’s vision in future automotive technology. Members also had the opportunity to hear from TAEBC’s newest board members: Trish Starkey with Schneider Electric, Marc Gibson with UT, and Chris Bowles with Bradley.
  5. TAEBC had a full calendar year filled with events that engaged both members and stakeholders alike including:
    1. TAEBC Vice President Cortney Piper, Anna Douglas with Sky Nano and Launch Tennessee executives were at Tennessee’s Capitol Hill earlier this year for Innovation Week on the Hill, connecting entrepreneurs and innovators with legislators to discuss key challenges facing small businesses.
    2. TAEBC hosted an information session on distributed generation in the summer.
    3. About a dozen representatives from the European Union delegation focused on energy, visited Tennessee for a three-day educational trip. TAEBC arranged a luncheon at Analysis and Measurement Systems Corporation (AMS) in Knoxville for discussions on Tennessee’s unique advanced energy economy and how the EU could learn from the state’s energy model.
    4. TAEBC hosted a lunch and learn with TVA’s Jeff Smith, giving members the opportunity to have an open dialogue with the new board member.
    5. The Energy Mentor Network’s mentors had an opportunity to meet the Innovation Crossroads newly inducted second cohort at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and hear more about their exciting technologies and innovations.
  6. TAEBC Vice President Cortney Piper attended TenneSEIA’s Tennessee Valley Solar Conference where she participated in an “Economic Development and the Solar Supply Chain” panel.
  7. Opportunities in Energy 2018 featured a panel taking a deeper look inside TVA’s partnership with Innovation Crossroads Cohort Three, an update from TennSMART’s efforts on accelerating the development and deployment of new intelligent mobility innovations in Tennessee, and power pitches from Energy Mentor Network companies as they presented their entrepreneurial solutions for our nation’s energy challenges!
  8. Welcome new members: Carter Hall, Core BioDevelopment, EnerNOC, GTA, Inc., Jane Pate, John Bruck, Randy Johnson, Ridgeline Venture Law, and Solar Site Design.
  9. The Energy Mentor Network has made significant progress since its founding in 2016. The Energy Mentor Network’s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee’s advanced energy startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise. Eight companies are actively enrolled in the network and more than 30 mentors are providing their expertise.
  10. TAEBC submitted comments to TVA in the spring for both the 2018 rate change proposal and the 2019 IRP.   

Save the date for the next TAEBC event, Tuesday, February 12, 2019 and help plan for a successful 2019!

Garrabrant provides update on SMTI during annual “Opportunities in Energy” forum

(Originally published on

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

It’s always good to see progress being made at start-ups that we have followed since launching in January 2012, and that was the case at last week’s annual “Opportunities in Energy” forum hosted by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC).

Michael Garrabrant, Chief Executive Officer of Stone Mountain Technologies Inc. (SMTI), told attendees that the 10-year old company now has 16 engineers and technicians on the staff, has produced 30 prototypes, and will have a dozen of its thermal compressors deployed as a key component of gas heat pumps for space, water and pool heating made by the end of the year.

“Everyone likes to come home to a nice warm house and hot shower,” the Johnson City-based Entrepreneur said. SMTI is one of the participants in TAEBC’s “Energy Mentor Network,” a program funded by Launch Tennessee.

Garrabrant says the technology that he has been developing since founding the company in 2008 is relevant for residential and light commercial. The thermal compressors will be manufactured by SMTI but deployed as part of a heat pump or other device produced by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

Read more here.

Don’t miss TAEBC’s Opportunities in Energy event!

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council invites you to its year-end, annual event “Opportunities in Energy”

Relevant topics to today’s ever-changing energy economy and how Tennessee is becoming a leader in the advanced energy sector fill the agenda including:

Featured Panel: A look inside TVA’s partnership with Innovation Crossroads, Cohort 3 For the first time, TVA is providing funding to support the next cohort of energy entrepreneurs for ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads. How will this partnership shape Cohort 3?

  • Amy Henry, Sr. Manager, Enterprise Relations and Strategic Partnership, TVA
  • Tom Rogers, Director of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Sam Shaner, Yellowstone Energy
  • Mitchell Ishmael, Active Energy Systems
  • Moderated by: Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA & Editor,

EMN Spotlight: Stone Mountain Technologies, Inc. Hear this EMN company’s power pitch on next generation heating technologies, and learn more about their experience in the Energy Mentor Network.

  • Michael Garrabrant, CEO, Stone Mountain Technologies, Inc
  • Gary Rawlings, Technology Consultant, Oak Ridge National Lab
  • Steve Seifried, Account Executive for the Tennessee Region, Ameresco
  • Ira Weiss, Principal, Weiss Associates & Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Energy Mentor Network

Protecting our Power
As cybersecurity becomes a growing priority across the country, how is TVA protecting the grid?

  • Andrea Brackett, Director of Cybersecurity, Tennessee Valley Authority

TennSMART: Shaping the Future of Intelligent Mobility
Hear about TennSmart’s progress in accelerating the development and deployment of new intelligent mobility innovations in Tennessee.

  • Brad Rutherford, Vice President of Sales, Local Motors
  • Bob Booker, Senior Manager, Corporate Services Divison, DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, Inc.
  • Ron Espinosa, Regional Director Mid-Atlantic, SoftServe Inc
  • Moderated by: Jesse Smith, Manager of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development, Oak Ridge National Laboratory 

TN Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report, 2018 Findings
The numbers are in and Tennessee’s advanced energy sector is continuing to thrive! This panel will discuss TAEBC’s latest economic impact report and what this means for the state.

  • Stacey Patterson, Vice President for Research, Outreach and Economic Development at the University of Tennessee
  • Denise Ganus, Future Offer Manager, Schneider Electric
  • Mary Beth Hudson, Vice President Wacker Polysilicon Division NCA, Site Manager Charleston at Wacker Polysilicon
  • Moderated by: Matt Murray, Director, Howard Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy

Energy Mentor Network Showcase
Meet some of our Energy Mentor Network companies as they present their entrepreneurial solutions for our nation’s energy challenges!

  • Shane McMahon, Lux Semiconductors
  • Justin Nussbaum, Ascend Manufacturing
  • Megan O’Connor, Nth Cycle
  • Moderated by: Anna Douglas, SkyNano

TCPoly developing thermally-conducted materials to improve heat dissipation

(NOTE: This is the final article in a five-part series spotlighting the work of the second cohort of start-ups comprising Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Innovation Crossroads” initiative. They arrived in the area in May to begin their two-year effort to further advance their early stage energy-focuses companies.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

“We decided we wanted to pursue a company and make something real out of our research,” Matt Smith, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of TCPoly Inc., told us.

The other part of the “we” equation is Co-Founder Thomas Bougher, a fellow classmate in the doctoral program at Georgia Institute of Technology. “We were doing our doctorates together and shared a small closet office with no windows for four years,” Smith said.

In October 2016, they launched TCPoly to develop a new class of high thermal conductivity plastic composite materials designed to improve heat dissipation, allowing for metal replacement and light-weighting, cost and component reductions, and improved performance and reliability. The materials also exhibit the unique ability to be 3D-printed, allowing thermal engineers to rapidly and inexpensively prototype multi-functional thermal solutions and enabling the design of heat transfer products that cannot be manufactured using traditional methods.

Today, Smith is participating in the second cohort of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads” initiative, while Bougher remains at the start-up’s home office in Atlanta. Both are engaged full-time in the new venture.

“We have complementary skills,” Smith says. His doctorate is in materials science and engineering, while Bougher’s is in mechanical engineering. They started the company with six 3D printers and a couple of polymer extruders housed in, you guessed it, Bougher’s garage.

Read more here.