2021 TAEBC Annual Meeting emphasizes value of partnerships, the Energy Mentor Network and transportation electrification efforts in Tennessee

TAEBC awarded the 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award to TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe

On March 25, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) hosted its virtual 2021 Annual Meeting, sponsored by Seven States Power Corporation. The event featured speakers from the Department of Energy, state agencies and the graduates of the Energy Mentor Network. TAEBC also awarded the 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award to Bob Rolfe, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD).

TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper kicked off the event’s festivities by providing an overview of the TAEBC’s accomplishments in 2020 and gave a glimpse at priorities for the organization moving forward into 2021.

“As our nation moves forward and accelerates on its vision for a clean energy economy, we believe that the state of Tennessee has the assets and the businesses to help inform that agenda,” said Piper.

Featured speaker: DOE’s Vanessa Z. Chan

Featured speaker Vanessa Z. Chan, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Chief Commercialization Officer & Director of the Office of Technology Transitions, spoke about her background, her office’s vision and specific ways DOE supports energy entrepreneurs. She discussed how Tennessee is the “perfect ecosystem” for technology growth due to the presence of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and other key stakeholders.

“My lifelong passion has been helping engineers and scientists aim their scientific prowess at real-world problems that they can transform,” said Chan. “If we combine the strength of a national lab like Oak Ridge with a strong university system and the people represented here by groups like TAEBC, you find yourself in a setting that is right for innovation.”

Chan also recognized the “valley of death” many energy entrepreneurs face in developing their technologies. She emphasized the three-prong approach DOE takes to addressing this challenge: programs, training and awareness-raising.

“Ultimately, driving commercialization and navigating through the valley of death requires public-private partnerships,” she said. “No one organization can drive through it on their own.”

During the audience Q&A, Chan answered questions on a range of topics, including one on how TAEBC can support her department and help the new administration achieve its goals.

“I would love for you guys to be reaching out to us regarding priorities you might have,” she answered.

Featured panel: Energy Mentor Network Spotlight

Next, the 2021 Annual Meeting featured an Energy Mentor Network Spotlight Panel about a recent DOE funding announcement. Earlier this year, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy awarded $6 million through the Building Technologies Proving Ground – Public Sector Field Validation Funding Opportunity to seven state and local governments for advanced building technologies, including the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

TDEC partnered with Stone Mountain Technologies (SMTI), an Energy Mentor Network graduate, to validate SMTI’s gas absorption hot water heat pump technology in a commercial setting. Other partners for the project include TAEBC, the National Association of State Energy Officials, the Gas Technology Institute and ORNL.

During the panel, Michael Garrabrant, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SMTI, and Ryan Stanton, Senior Consultant for Strategic Energy Initiatives at TDEC, spoke about the importance of Garrabrant’s technology, specifics of the project and the value of the Energy Mentor Network. It was Stanton’s connection to Garrabrant through the Energy Mentor Network that led to their eventual partnership.

“It demonstrates the impact the Energy Mentor Network can have on partnerships like this,” said Stanton. “Stone Mountain has developed this fantastic technology and it was a great opportunity to showcase it at a public building.”

Garrabrant echoed the value of SMTI going through the Energy Mentor Network, saying, “I don’t think it was a coincidence that during that period we were able to raise our first seed round of about $3 million from a strategic investor.”

Award ceremony: 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award

TAEBC awarded TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe with the 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award. The annual award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

“Today I’m humbled, I’m honored and most grateful to receive the Tom Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award,” said Rolfe in a pre-recorded statement.

Rolfe was selected for the award due to the instrumental role he’s played in bringing jobs in advanced energy to the state, particularly in electric vehicle manufacturing. Rolfe has spearheaded the goal of making Tennessee the top state in the country for electric vehicle manufacturing, as well as speaking and meeting with automotive manufacturers across the country to attract them here.

“Bob Rolfe has been a tremendous partner to TAEBC and the state’s impressive electric vehicle supply chain,” said Piper. “He is essential to making Tennessee a national leader in EV manufacturing and the advanced energy workforce. We’re excited for continued growth in advanced energy with the leadership from Commissioner Rolfe and all the efforts by TAEBC members and partners across the state.”

In 2019, TAEBC bestowed the first-ever award to Tom Ballard himself, during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub. The next year, TAEBC awarded Dan Hurst, CEO and Founder of Knoxville-based Strata-G, with the 2020 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting.

Loved the event? Missed it? Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about our members, advanced energy news and upcoming events. Also, if you’re not already a member, become a member today!

DOE’s Office of Science and ORNL team up for a conversation on “science and the community”

By Cynthia Merse, Senior Writer, Piper Communications

On October 20, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) hosted a virtual conversation about the role of the lab as an economic driver in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge community. The event’s featured speakers were Dr. Chris Fall, Director of the Office of Science, and Dr. Thomas Zacharia, Director of ORNL. Several prominent local leaders were also in attendance to ask questions and contribute to the discussion.

For this conversation, Dr. Fall wanted to learn what it means to have a national lab in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge community, what it means to be a good neighbor and a good employer, and how ORNL can play a role in driving economic development in East Tennessee.

The first topic of discussion was workforce development, specifically how to attract and retain scientific and technical talent. Dr. Fall and University of Tennessee (UT) President Randy Boyd noted the advantages of living in East Tennessee, such as low taxes and a great quality of life. Efforts around creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem were also discussed, including the connectivity that exists among resources like ORNL, UT, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

“We have a spirit of cooperation that will allow us to take that connectivity to a new level in our efforts to create and invest in businesses,” said Boyd.

The conversation then shifted to public-private partnerships. Boyd spoke about the RevV! program, which gives Tennessee manufacturers access to ORNL’s researchers and facilities to solve manufacturing challenges. Dr. Fall mentioned the new INFUSE program, which will enable companies to work with ORNL to develop cost-effective, innovative fusion energy technologies.

Dr. Zacharia noted several significant partnerships ORNL has with the private sector including Volkswagen and Microsoft. He recognized the need to capitalize on these partnerships to encourage “leading-edge technology companies to come and invest in the cutting-edge technology being developed here.”

The next major topic was the role of higher education in supporting and furthering ORNL’s mission. At the center of discussion was the recently established Oak Ridge Institute at the University of Tennessee and its potential as a force multiplier for UT and ORNL. As a talent pipeline, Dr. Zacharia said the Institute “has the potential to be a difference maker. It’s my hope that the Institute’s students will choose to stay in East Tennessee and create the next $3 billion industry.”

As the conversation drew to a close, attention turned to raising Oak Ridge’s profile as a destination to live and work. Dr. Zacharia noted that UT, ORNL, and TVA launched a survey to learn about East Tennessee’s entrepreneurial climate and identify several steps that can be taken to attract more entrepreneurs to the area.

“We’re not starting from scratch here,” Dr. Fall said. “We have all the raw materials: a diverse research university, a diverse research laboratory. What’s the one thing that’s going to drive folks to come here? Once we figure that out, we need to go all in at the state level, regional level, and university level and talk about Oak Ridge as that place to be.”

Advanced Energy 101 for LPCs: Combined Heat and Power

Combined Heat and Power: Advanced Energy 101 for LPCs. RSVP here. Did you miss the event? Watch the recording here.
Passcode: xm73Vk@x

About this Event

TVA responded to stakeholder input and market demand for more advanced energy options when it announced the Flexibility Proposal earlier this year. The Flexibility Proposal gives local power companies the opportunity to self-generate or procure distributed generation. Technologies and solutions seem limitless and ever changing as utilities try to navigate how to become energy companies of the future. So how do local power companies start exploring options that are best for them, their customers, and their specific demands?

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and Seven States are co-hosting an “Advanced Energy 101” webinar series for local power companies to learn more about distributed generation options, advanced energy and finance models.

The first webinar in our series is “Combined Heat and Power.” Panelists include:

  • Isaac Panzarella, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Southeast Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership (CHP TAP), located at North Carolina State University
  • Emily Robertson, Business Development Team Manager, 2G Energy
  • Ben Edgar, CEO, White Harvest Energy

Webinars will be presented via Zoom in an interactive format and include ample time for audience Q&A.

Tennessee companies receiving DOE SBIR, STTR Phase II grants

(Originally published on Department of Energy)

The Department of Energy (DOE) will award 105 grants totaling $116 million to 92 small businesses in 31 states, including some in Tennessee. 

Funded through DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, the selections are for Phase II research and development (R&D). 

Small businesses that demonstrated technical feasibility for innovations during their Phase I grants competed for funding for prototype or processes development during Phase II. 

In addition, prior Phase II awardees competed for second or third Phase II awards to continue prototype and process development. The median Phase II award is $1,100,000 for a period of two years.   

Those awardees include:

  • Coulometrics (Chattanooga)

Project Title: The development of a stabilized SEI layer for si-containing lithium ion battery anodes

  • Carbon Rivers LLC (Knoxville)

Project Title: Recovery of glass fiber reinforcement from retired wind turbine blades for recycled composite materials

Summary: An innovative process is being developed to convert waste from retired wind turbine blades, as well as other reinforced plastics, into new materials for manufacturing. If successful, this technology would allow for wind blades and other reinforced plastics to be diverted from landfills and into new lightweight materials for making products like fuel efficient vehicles.

DOE awards $20 million to new Oak Ridge Institute at the University of Tennessee

(Crossposted from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville)

The U.S. Department of Energy today awarded $20 million to the new Oak Ridge Institute at the University of Tennessee to expand the university’s partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to train the next generation of American scientists and engineers.

“This $20 million federal grant is in support of an institute that is the culmination of 40 years of effort to merge the strengths of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. “The Oak Ridge Institute will be a pipeline for a new supply of American-trained scientists and engineers, which our country sorely needs in this competitive world. It will also combine the resources and experience of the nation’s largest science and energy laboratory and a major research university. Already, the UT–Oak Ridge partnership has 250 joint faculty, five joint institutes and 250 PhD students in jointly administered energy and data programs. With such a strong foundation and such strong current leadership, I am betting that during the next 80 years, the Oak Ridge Corridor brand and the Oak Ridge Institute will be recognized as one of the most important science and engineering alliances in the world.”

For the past six years, Alexander has been chair of the Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee on Appropriations, which provides funding for the national laboratories.

“We are thankful to the Department of Energy for its support of this program that will deliver a top-tier interdisciplinary workforce talent in emerging fields for industry, government, and academia,” said UT System President Randy Boyd. “This is the first step in establishing ORI as a force to change our state and nation.”

Read more here.