As befits the head of a company advancing ion-lithium battery technology, Dr. Christina Lampe-Onnerud, founder and CEO of Cadenza Innovation, exudes positive energy. She terms the seven-year startup, whose “Collaboration Center” is in Bethel, as a “think tank-like company with an execution track record” that hopes to be breaking even within a year.
She touts her firm’s technology as producing a battery that is “smaller, more compact, higher energy density, lower cost, and safer” than its competitors. When asked if Cadenza has solved the heat and fire issues associated with ion-lithium devices, she said, “Yes, 100 percent.”
Her pitch is gaining traction in the marketplace. Last year the company licensed its “Supercell” technology to a Chinese manufacturer, Shenzhen BAK Power Battery, which is producing them for that gigantic market to run buses and cars. A similar deal has been struck with an Australian firm and Cadenza has done a demonstration for Fiat Chrysler, one of the many “partners” Cadenza lists on its website.
Cadenza also is manufacturing about 1,000 of its Supercells at its Bethel laboratories to be used early next year for a demonstration of large-scale energy storage at the New York Power Authority headquarters in White Plains. New York State, which is funding the project, has set a target of establishing a capacity to store 1,500 megawatts on its electrical grid by 2025.
If the price is right, grid storage would allow utilities to produce electricity more efficiently and more cheaply, without incurring the cost of ramping power plants up and down as demand fluctuates.
The Supercell on Lampe-Onnerud’s desk is the size of an old fashioned tape recorder— and although surprisingly heavy for its size it still can be lifted with one hand. She terms it a Lego-block of energy that can be combined and tailored in different architectural configurations depending on the application, whether powering a forklift or storing the intermittent kilowatts generated by offshore wind farms or the Niagara Falls power station. For example, power produced during a windy night, when demand is slight, is banked in batteries for release during peak periods.
Lampe-Onnerud, 53, has a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry and is a native of Sweden. She came to the United States 17 years ago to be a post-doctoral fellow at MIT in Cambridge and is now a dual citizen. Before starting Cadenza in 2012 she was the CEO of Boston-Power, a Massachusetts firm that makes laptop batteries. In between battery companies she worked for Bridgewater Associates and its founder Ray Dalio.
In Sweden, where her late father innovated electrical grid technology for that country’s large power utility, ABB (ASEA Brown Boveri), Lampe-Onnerud was the only girl in her high school science classes. She was into STEM before it got cool. At her home, ABB engineers and researchers were frequent dinner guests.
Today ABB is among Cadenza’s “partners.” Not insignificantly, the firm’s Bethel landlord is Duracell Inc., which is headquartered in the same complex. The firms share a cafeteria (where employees interact and talk batteries) and other facilities.
Lampe-Onnerud won’t say what the exact relationship is between her firm and her various partners or Cadenza’s total capitalization (the website does report combined funding of $500,000 from Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts).
But collaboration is clearly rampant. Cadenza has 32 employees, but “roughly 70 consultants, and through partnerships another 200 to 300 people” working on Cadenza projects, according to its CEO
In addition to being an inventor and businesswoman, Lampe-Onnerud is an accomplished musician. She sings, plays the piano and cello, and is the conductor of Silk’n Sounds, a 45-member a cappella group in Hamden that performs and competes internationally.
Indeed, cadenza is a music term that connotes improvisation — how the work of a soloist enhances and contributes to an orchestra’s overall performance.