CEI News

Global Corporations and Cleantech Startups Begin Testing Innovations at Washington’s Open-Access Clean Energy Facility

August 18, 2017

Global corporations, U.S. solar companies, and Washington startups have signed up to test their cleantech at the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds, created by the University of Washington (UW) Clean Energy Institute (CEI), during the facility’s first six months of operation. Companies using the Testbeds include Microsoft, Washington’s PureSolar, and several UW spinout companies. This diverse group of customers and UW’s faculty and students use the open-access facility’s unique suite of instruments to manufacture prototypes, test devices, and integrate systems.

“With this robust roster of Testbeds users, CEI is building a community of cleantech and advanced manufacturing innovators that will help Washington and the world accelerate the development of new technologies in solar harvesting, energy storage, and grid integration,” said Washington Clean Energy Testbeds technical director Devin MacKenzie. “We’re grateful to have this caliber of customers and look forward to helping them advance their critical technologies.”

CEI opened the 15,000-square-foot Washington Clean Energy Testbeds in February with funds from the Washington State Legislature. CEI’s goal for the facility is to reduce the time and capital needed to translate research discoveries into scalable energy products. To achieve this, CEI designed the Testbeds to centralize the instruments and expertise required for developing new manufacturing approaches, making prototypes, then rigorously testing and refining them for market readiness. The facility’s open-access model also allows for speed, as the application process to use the facility only requires an initial consultation with Testbeds’ management to ensure project feasibility and safety. Furthermore, users keep full ownership and control of their intellectual property. This operating model and the Testbeds’ set of capabilities distinguish it from other U.S. energy research and testbed facilities available to the public.

“The Washington Clean Energy Testbeds have everything we need as an early-stage company— enabling us to move into the solar marketplace with confidence in our products,” said PureSolar CEO Rich Phillips. “Working in this UW CEI facility has been seamless and the in-house researchers have helped us continue to be on the leading-edge of PV manufacturing.”

“The Washington Clean Energy Testbeds provide a unique set of fabrication tools and expertise that enable small companies to explore, evaluate, and characterize new materials and processes without the need for large and uncertain capital expenditure,” said MicroConnex’s vice president of engineering and technology Steve Leith. “For a small company like ours, the ‘try before you buy’ environment and opportunity to engage as a collaborator or a user, offer much needed flexibility in how we execute our tech development road map.”

In addition to expanding the Testbeds’ user base since its opening, CEI has added new instruments and capabilities to the facility. The 30-foot-long multistage roll-to-roll printer for solar cells, batteries, sensors, optical films, and thin-film devices custom built for the facility and funded by the Washington Research Foundation (WRF), arrived in late spring and is now operational. The instrument is one of the most advanced roll-to-roll systems in the world and the only one of its kind in the United States. CEI commissioned the instrument to support the development of low-cost materials and processes for ultra-low-cost solar cells that could be manufactured at large scales with a dramatically lower carbon footprint than silicon.

Other recent equipment acquisitions include a solar simulator and multiple environmental test chambers. The solar simulator is a large-scale photovoltaic performance measurement system capable of full module testing conforming to industry standards. The environmental test chambers allow for rigorous testing of energy system performance and lifetimes on the prototype and full module scales.

Altogether, the printing, coating, and testing capabilities at the Testbeds provide a unique platform for advancing cleantech manufacturing.

Current Washington Clean Energy Testbeds users include:

1-Material: Canadian company working to standardize Organic Nano Electronic (ONE) materials for organic thin-film applications.

4th Phase: UW spinout company focused on the use of a novel form of water for enhanced water filtration.

Battery Informatics, Inc. (Bii): UW spinout company developing the next generation battery management system.

Cloud Instruments: UW spinout company that offers a software analytics platform that applies machine learning to enable startups and manufacturers to build reliable batteries faster.

Demand Energy Networks, Inc.: Company headquartered in Liberty Lake, WA that provides turnkey solutions for optimizing distributed energy resource systems.

FOM Technologies: Danish company specializing in coating and testing equipment for research and development of functional materials.

MicroConnex: Snoqualmie, WA-based manufacturing company providing engineered fabrication solutions for flexible electronic circuits.

Microsoft: Global technology company that develops software, services, and devices.

PureSolar, Inc.: A manufacturer of high-performance, next-generation, smart photovoltaic modules and surfaces based in Washington state.

Sandia Solar Technology, LLC: A Colorado-based company working on Quantum Dot photovoltaic coating technologies for Operational Luminescent Solar Concentrator (LSC) applications for residential and commercial use.

The Washington Clean Energy Testbeds are part of two national manufacturing innovation institutes that involve consortiums of companies, academic institutions, nonprofits, and state, local, and federal governments. Testbeds management works with users to identify grant and project opportunities via these national institutes. These are:

CESMII: In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CESMII) brings over $140 million in public-private investment to radically improve the precision, performance, and efficiency of U.S. advanced manufacturing. CESMII is the ninth Institute of the Manufacturing USA, established by the White House to spur U.S. innovation, sustainability, and competitiveness.

NextFlex: Formed in 2015 through a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and FlexTech Alliance, NextFlex is a consortium of companies, academic institutions, nonprofits and state, local and federal governments with a shared goal of advancing U.S. manufacturing of Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE). By adding electronics to new and unique materials that are part of our everyday lives in conjunction with the power of silicon ICs to create conformable and stretchable smart products, FHE is ushering in an era of “electronics on everything” and advancing the efficiency of our world.

For more information on the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds, visit www.wcet.washington.edu.

About the Clean Energy Institute
The Clean Energy Institute (CEI) at the University of Washington (UW) was founded in 2013 with funds from the state of Washington. Its mission is to accelerate the adoption of a scalable clean energy future that will improve the health and economy of our state, nation, and world. To accomplish this mission, CEI supports the advancement of next-generation solar energy and battery materials and devices, as well as their integration with systems and the grid. The institute creates the ideas and educates the people needed to generate these innovations, while facilitating the pathways to bring them to market. cei.washington.edu

About the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds
The Clean Energy Institute (CEI) created the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds to accelerate the development, scale-up, and adoption of new technologies in solar harvesting, energy storage, and grid integration. This open-access facility for academic researchers and businesses houses labs for manufacturing prototypes, testing devices, and integrating systems. wcet.washington.edu

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“Providing clean energy to the inhabitants of our planet is a major challenge to future generations. The University of Washington is to be congratulated for establishing an Institute where faculty and students can work together to tackle the difficult global challenge of energy sustainability.”
– Mildred Dresselhaus, Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering, Emerita and Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“Energy competition is opening up in a variety of ways, the push for carbon control will continue, and the rate of technology advancement is exponential. All the things I’ve seen at the CEI are just perfect for the way we see things going in energy. You guys are at the cutting edge. We’re counting on you.”
– Ronald Litzinger, President, Edison Energy
Since its founding the Clean Energy Institute has contributed more than $1.1 million toward the education of 66 STEM scholars and recruitment of 12 students through our fellowship programs.