ARPA-E Backs 60 Projects With $156 Million

With the fiscal year about to end, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) doled out a big chunk of the money Congress gave it for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), dividing $156 million among 60 projects aimed at “accelerating innovations in clean technology while increasing America’s competitiveness” in five areas: biofuels; rare earth alternatives; thermal storage; grid controls; and solar power electronics.

The Obama administration had sought fiscal-year 2011 funding of $300 million for ARPA-E, which it sees as vital to the nation’s energy future, but emerged from the ferocious budget battles that engulfed Washington, D.C., earlier this year with $180 million. For 2012, the administration is seeking some $550 million [PDF].

image via U.S. Department of Energy

The projects backed with the FY11 funds are in 25 states, the DOE said. Half are led by universities, a quarter led by small businesses, and the rest managed by large firms, the national labs or nonprofits.

Here’s how the project funding broke down, according to the categories spelled out by the DOE in its announcement:

  • Plants Engineered To Replace Oil (PETRO) received $36 million, including $6.3 million to the University of Florida for a project that “will increase the production of turpentine, a natural liquid biofuel isolated from pine trees”;
  • Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies (REACT) got $31.6 million, including $2.3 million to the Pacific Northwest National Lab for work on a manganese-based magnet that could reduce “U.S. dependence on expensive rare-earth material imports, and reduce the cost and improve efficiency of green technologies”;
  • High Energy Advanced Thermal Storage (HEATS ) received $37.3 million, led by $2.9 million to MIT for “HybriSol,” a bid to “develop a thermal energy storage device, or a heat battery, that captures and stores energy from the sun to be released onto the grid at a later time”;
  • Green Electricity Network Integration (GENI) received $36.4 million, highlighted by $4.9 million to the Texas Engineering Experiment “to develop a new system that allows real-time, automated control over the transmission lines that make up the electric power grid”;
  • and Solar Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology (Solar ADEPT), which got $14.7 million, including $2.5 million to Ideal Power Converters, in Austin, Texas, for work on “developing light-weight electronics to connect photovoltaic solar panels to the grid.”

Information on all projects announced is available on the DOE website [PDF].

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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