DOE Awards $92 Million for Groundbreaking Energy Research Projects

July 14, 2010

DOE announced on July 12 that it awarded $92 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for 43 cutting-edge research projects that aim to dramatically improve how the U.S. uses and produces energy. DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is coordinating the work in 18 states. The research projects are designed to accelerate innovation in green technology while increasing U.S. competitiveness in grid-scale energy storage for renewables, power electronics, and building efficiency. The latest round of ARPA-E grants focus on three research areas: Grid-Scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatchable Storage (GRIDS), Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology (ADEPT), and Building Energy Efficiency Through Innovative Thermodevices (BEET-IT).

GRIDS projects seek the affordable, large-scale energy storage needed to enable widespread use of wind and solar power. This program is searching for revolutionary new storage technologies that exhibit energy, cost, and cycle life that is comparable to that of pumped hydropower but which are modular and can be widely implemented at any location across the power grid. Ultimately, technologies developed through this program will be scalable to the gigawatt and gigawatt-hour levels of power and energy capacity. On one GRIDS project being funded, General Atomics and the University of California, San Diego will collaborate to develop a novel flow-battery technology that pumps chemicals through the battery cell when electricity is needed. The battery revolutionizes a century-old, lead-acid battery technology to achieve the low cost, high efficiency, and reliability needed for use on the electric power grid.

ADEPT is focused on dramatically improving the efficiency and cost of power conversion and switching, which are among the main causes of electrical efficiency loss across the electric power grid and in electrical applications from cars to computers. ADEPT projects explore integrated circuits that incorporate high-voltage transistors and high-performance magnetic materials. For example, Cree, Inc., a semiconductor manufacturer, is exploring silicon carbide power modules for grid-scale power conversion. This project will develop advanced transistors for electrical substations that can make the electrical grid more flexible. With advanced transistors, electrical substations could replace today's massive distribution transformers with suitcase-sized electronic transformers.

BEET-IT will focus on cutting building energy consumption. Structures now consume 40% of U.S. primary energy, that is, energy embodied in resources prior to undergoing any human-made conversions, and account for 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions. New, more efficient methods of cooling represent a great opportunity to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. Battelle Memorial Institute will research the absorption-osmosis cooling cycle and will develop a new air conditioning system that uses water as a refrigerant and salt as the heat absorber. The system uses reverse osmosis to efficiently separate water from the salt solution. This project will receive $400,000 in funding. These awards complete ARPA-E's grants under its Recovery Act funding, which in three rounds since last year has selected 117 projects for $349 million in funding. See the DOE press release, the project selections (PDF 459 KB), the technical descriptions (PDF 545 KB), and the ARPA-E Web site. Download Adobe Reader.