Funding from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will be made available to accelerate innovation in green and renewable technology, increase US competitiveness and create jobs. It is the third funding opportunity under the Advanced Projects Research Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) which was established within DoE under the 2007 America Competes Act.
“This is about unleashing the American innovation machine to solve the energy and climate challenge, while creating new jobs, new industries and new exports for America’s workers,” says Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who announced the funding at the inaugural ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Washington.
The summit involves some of the country’s top energy leaders and members of the scientific research community who will discuss US leadership in clean and renewable energy technologies.
Focus on three technology areas
1. Grid-Scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatchable Storage (GRIDS):
ARPA-E is designed to develop new technologies to enable the widespread deployment of cost-effective grid-scale energy storage. While many applications for grid-scale storage exist, this programme will focus on energy storage technologies to balance the short-duration variability in generation from renewable energies.
By investing in grid-scale energy storage, funding will allow the USA to “assume global technology and manufacturing leadership in the emerging and potentially massive global market for stationary electricity storage infrastructure,” according to background documents
The programme will develop “revolutionary new storage systems” that provide energy, cost and cycle life comparable to pumped hydropower, but which are modular and can be widely implemented at locations across the grid. Technologies developed through this programme will be scalable to MW levels of capacity and the programme will complement other DoE grid-scale energy storage efforts by focusing on technology prototyping and proof-of-concept R&D efforts, rather than on pilot demonstration projects.
2. Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology (ADEPT):
ARPA-E will invest in materials for fundamental advances in soft magnetics, high voltage switches, and high-density charge storage. These investments will be coupled to advanced circuit architectures and scalable manufacturing processes with the potential to leapfrog existing power converter performance, while offering reductions in cost.
Categories of performance to be considered will include fully-integrated chip-scale power converters for applications including distributed micro-inverters for solar photovoltaics (PV); kilowatt-scale package integrated power converters by enabling applications such as low-cost inverters for grid-tied solar PV; and lightweight solid-state energy conversion for high power applications such as wind turbine generators.
Deploying advanced power electronics could provide as much as a 30% reduction in electricity consumption, or 12% of total US energy consumption.
3. Building Energy Efficiency Through Innovative Thermodevices (BEET-IT):
ARPA-E will develop energy efficient cooling technologies and air conditioners for buildings to save energy and reduce GHG emissions and funding will go to research on cooling systems that use refrigerants with low global warming potential and energy-efficient air conditioning systems for warm and humid climates. The development of these technologies will reduce GHG emissions and significantly increase US technological lead in emerging clean energy industries.
ARPA-E’s first solicitation was announced in early 2009 and resulted in funding 37 projects aimed at transformational innovations in renewable power, biofuels, energy storage, carbon capture, building efficiency and vehicles. The second solicitation in December 2009 has resulted in 500 concept papers which focus on new approaches for biofuels, carbon capture, and batteries for electric vehicles.
The Advanced Projects Research Agency - Energy was established within DoE with an initial budget of US$400m through ARRA. It is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which is responsible for technological innovations such as the internet and the stealth technology found in the F117A fighter aircraft, ARPA-E’s mission is to fund projects that will develop transformational technologies to reduce US dependence on foreign energy imports; reduce US energy emissions; improve energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy and ensure that the US maintains its leadership in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies.
ARPA-E will focus exclusively on high-risk high-payoff concepts which promise genuine transformation in the ways energy is generated, stored and used.