The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has allocated $92 million to 43 energy research projects as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. This investment aims to improve how Americans both produce and use energy with focus on grid scale energy storage, power electronics, and energy efficiency. Universities, businesses, labs, and non-profit organizations located in 18 states were awarded grants in three rounds of awards begun last year.
A portion of the projects funded focus on developing modular, scalable storage devices (like batteries) for large scale collection of solar and wind energy. General Atomics in San Diego, California was one of the companies chosen to develop prototype batteries with their $2M grant.
Agile Delivery of Electric Power research projects intend to improve the efficiency and cost of power conversion and switching. This set of grants is all about miniaturization and increased energy efficiency. For example, the DOE awarded CREE Inc. in Durham, NC a $3.7 million grant to make advanced transistors more flexible and controllable. This technology could enable power stations to replace 8000 pound transformers with small electronic transformers weighing about 100 pounds each.
The last set of projects focus on innovative thermodevices – mostly figuring out to cool commercial buildings by more energy efficient methods. Commercial buildings consume about 40% of the energy generated in the United States and account for about 40% of CO2 emissions, according to the DOE. Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio plans to develop a new air conditioning system that uses water as an air conditioning refrigerant instead of the typical chemicals (i.e. greenhouse gases) and utilizes salt as a heat absorber. The company and the DOE project that this technology could increase air conditioning efficiency in commercial buildings by as much as 50%.