The U.S. Department of Energy announced that up to $130 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will be allocated for five new program areas that could spark important breakthrough technologies:
- Plants Engineered to Replace Oil
- High Energy Advanced Thermal Storage
- Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies
- Green Electricity Network Integration
- Solar Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology
This is ARPA-E's fourth round of funding opportunities. Two months ago, the agency announced that six of its projects raised over $100 million in private capital investment.
In its first year, ARPA-E awarded $363 million in Recovery Act funding to 121 groundbreaking energy projects based in 30 states, with approximately 39% of projects led by universities, 33% by small businesses, 20% by large businesses, 5% by national labs, and 3% by non-profits.
Details on the 5 new program areas:
1. Plants Engineered To Replace Oil (PETRO).
Low-cost advanced biofuels are currently limited by the small amount of available energy captured by photosynthesis and the inefficient processes used to convert plant matter to fuel.
PETRO aims to create plants that capture more energy from sunlight and convert that energy directly into fuels. Up to $30 million will be made available for this program area.
ARPA-E seeks to fund technologies that optimize biochemical processes of energy capture and conversion to develop robust, farm-ready crops that deliver more energy per acre with less processing. The goal is for biofuel costs to be cut in half, making them cost-competitive with fuels from oil.
2. High Energy Advanced Thermal Storage (HEATS).
Over 90% of energy technologies involve transport and conversion of thermal energy. Advancements in thermal energy storage therefore would dramatically improve performance for many critical energy applications. Up to $30 million will be made available for this program area.
ARPA-E seeks to develop cost-effective thermal energy storage technologies in three areas:
1) high temperature storage systems to deliver solar electricity more efficiently 24 hours/ day
2) fuel produced from the sun's heat
3) HVAC systems that use thermal storage to improve the driving range of electric vehicles up to 40%.
3. Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies (REACT).
Rare earths are naturally-occurring minerals that are used in many clean energy technologies, but are very expensive because of rising demand and limited global supply. Prices of many have increased 300-700% in the past year.
If alternatives aren't found they could jeopardize widespread adoption of many critical energy solutions by U.S. manufacturers. Up to $30 million will be made available for this program area.
ARPA-E seeks to fund early-stage technology alternatives that reduce or eliminate dependence on rare earths by developing substitutes in two key areas: electric vehicle motors and wind generators.
4. Green Electricity Network Integration (GENI).
Up to $30 million will be made available for this program area.
The equivalent of one of every five electricity dollars is lost to power outages and 30% of the grid's hardware needs to be replaced.
ARPA-E seeks to fund innovative control software and high-voltage hardware to reliably control the grid, specifically:
1) controls able to manage 10 times more sporadically available wind and solar electricity than currently on the grid,
2) resilient power flow control hardware - or the energy equivalent of an internet router - to enable significantly more electricity move through the existing network of transmission lines.
5. Solar Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology (Solar ADEPT). Up to $10 million will be made available for this program area.
The DOE SunShot Initiative leverages strengths across the agency to bring utility-scale solar systems costs down 75% by the end of the decade. Solar would then cost about 6 cents per kWh, making it competitive with fossil fuel-generated electricity, and enabling solar to scale without subsidies.
ARPA-E's part in this initiative is the Solar ADEPT program, which focuses on integrating advanced power electronics into solar panels and solar farms to extract and deliver energy more efficiently.
ARPA-E aims to invest in key advances in magnetics, semiconductor switches, and charge storage, which could reduce power conversion costs up to 50% for utilities and 80% for homeowners.
The five technology areas announced today add to ARPA-E's seven programs in power electronics (ADEPT), battery technologies (BEEST), building cooling (BEETIT), non-photosynthetic biofuels (Electrofuels), grid energy storage (GRIDS), carbon capture (IMPACCT), and its initial open solicitation.
Here are ARPA-E's current funding opportunities and previously announced awards: