DOE Offers $100 Million for Innovative Energy Research Projects

March 3, 2010

DOE issued three Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) on March 2 that offer $100 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for the third round of its Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) program. The FOAs, announced at the first ARPA-E summit in Washington, D.C., are focused on innovations in three areas of technology: grid storage, power converters, and cooling systems for buildings. The goal is to promote U.S. leadership in the emerging global market for these advanced energy technologies, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing U.S. electrical consumption by as much as 30%.

Specifically, the ARPA-E program aims to support the development of modular, cost-effective, grid-scale energy storage technologies, including advanced system prototypes and proof-of-concept projects that address critical shortcomings of existing grid-scale energy storage technologies. For power converters, the ARPA-E program seeks fundamental advances in soft (non-permanent) magnets, high-voltage switches, and high-density charge storage. By coupling these to advanced circuit architectures and scalable manufacturing, the program aims to leapfrog existing power converter performance while offering reductions in cost. The program breaks down power converters into three categories: chip-scale power converters; kilowatt-scale power converters for grid-tied photovoltaic systems and variable-speed motors; and medium-voltage energy converters for high-power applications, such as electrical substations and wind turbine generators. For building cooling technologies, the program seeks cooling systems that use refrigerants with low global warming potential, efficient air conditioning systems for warm and humid climates, and vapor-compression air conditioning systems for hot climates. Technologies should ideally be suited for both retrofits and new cooling systems. Concept papers must be submitted by April 2, but the deadline for complete applications has not yet been determined. See the DOE press release and the FOAs.

Funded last year with $400 million from the Recovery Act, ARPA-E previously selected 37 projects from its first solicitation in early 2009. That initial opportunity sought transformational innovations in energy storage, biofuels, carbon capture, renewable power, building efficiency, and vehicle designs. ARPA-E's second solicitation, announced in December 2009, yielded nearly 500 concept papers focused on new approaches for biofuels, carbon capture, and batteries for electric vehicles. As part of the ARPA-E summit, DOE also released a new video showcasing Sun Catalytix's first-round project to develop a unique technology that mimics photosynthesis. The technology splits water into oxygen and hydrogen, which can be used for fuel. See the ARPA-E Web site and the Sun Catalytix video on YouTube.