Saturday, July 11, 2009

Battery innovation thrives in area

Firms work with wind, cars, grids

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: July 10, 2009

As an energy producer, wind is fickle: Maybe it'll blow when you need it. Maybe not.

So the race is on to find more efficient ways to store the electricity wind produces when it's blowing, so the lights can stay on when it isn't. A Milwaukee company is smack in the middle of that race - a player in a high-tech sector that local economic strategists hope will become a growth engine for the region.

"Wind has incredible potential to be a significant portion of the nation's energy supply," said Kevin Dennis, vice president of sales and marketing for ZBB Energy Corp. "But to be a reliable resource, it ideally needs to be coupled with energy storage and to be flexible in how the power is managed and controlled out to the grid."

A joint venture between ZBB Energy and Eaton Corp. earlier this month shipped its first rechargeable energy storage system for the renewable power sector to Ireland, where it is being installed alongside a wind turbine that is already providing half the power needed by the Dundalk Institute of Technology.

While Milwaukee's highest-profile economic development strategy has centered on freshwater technology during the past year, a secondary effort seeks to make the seven-county Milwaukee area a center for advanced battery research, development and manufacturing - exactly the type of work already going on at ZBB and several other area companies.

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