Alternative Energy is Scaling to Build a Cleaner Future

Posted: July 21, 2023

During our time at the Automate 2023 trade show in Detroit, MI, there were many conversations with customers considering automation for upcoming projects revolving around alternative energy. While alternative energy is not new, it is becoming more prevalent as the push to become more environmentally friendly and the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels takes a stronger focus. 

Money is heavily flowing in alternative energy right now. The Inflation Reduction Act offers tax credits and incentives in the United States to drive R&D and manufacturing investments to establish the local supply chain to meet the growth objectives in the various sectors. Europe and Canada are offering fresh incentives to accelerate a cleaner future too.  

Three Popular Alternative Energy Sources

Solar Energy 

Solar energy takes power from the sun and converts it into thermal or electrical energy. Since the mid-'70s the amount of time needed for a solar panel to produce as much energy as was involved in its creation has fallen from about 20 years to 2 years or less (The Economist). As a result, manufacturers are moving to scale and produce solar panels regionally.  

Recent legislation, government incentives, and carbon neutral targets, are accelerating the investment in companies utilizing automation to ramp up and speed up their manufacturing. 

Hydrogen Fuel 

In a fuel cell, hydrogen (that is continuously supplied) reacts with oxidant oxygen. This produces water, electricity and heat. The electrochemical reaction that occurs is called cold combustion and is particularly efficient. Hydrogen fuel cell development has been active at leading transportation OEMs for decades. 

Legislation in states like California is leading the charge on alternative energy sources, especially in heavier, high-class transportation such as trucks. California has set goals for sales of zero-emission high-class vehicles to be at a certain percentage (between 40-75% depending on truck class) by 2035, and completely zero-emission by 2045.

The fuel cell manufacturing process is complex and uses expensive raw materials. Automation is essential to producing fuel cells with extreme precision, speed, and lack of waste.  

Lithium-ion Battery 

With ever improving energy density of battery cells, as well as the use of lightweight materials and simpler designs, the lithium-ion battery powered sectors are the primary beneficiary of environmentally targeted legislation and economic incentives around the globe to localize the supply chain and scale or ramp up manufacturing capacity. This is where automation becomes essential.  

With sustainability in mind, and a shortage of materials, there is an increased focus on recycling and reusing lithium-ion batteries. Not only is it better for the environment, but reusing the metals (lithium, nickel, and cobalt) found in batteries that have reached the end of their life will help meet the increased demand for electric vehicle batteries. OEMs and raw material suppliers are increasingly focused on not only supply of virgin materials but recycling as well. As more electric vehicles are added to the road, and their associated batteries reach the end of their useful life, recycling will be even more essential.  

Why JR Automation? 

More companies are turning to automation to solve their staffing shortages, improve product quality, get products to market faster, and to improve safety. JR Automation has over four decades of experience creating innovative custom solutions for our customers developing new technologies. We welcome the opportunity to partner with you to bring your innovative technology to market.  

Contact us to explore how automated solutions can be used to improve your company's processes.