5 ARPA-E Projects Raise $100M in Private Investment

Five companies that received seed funding from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in 2009 and 2010 have attracted more than $100 million in outside private capital investment.

Vice President Joe Biden crowed about the milestone during his speech at the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0 in Las Vegas on Monday.

The private sector financing reflects the progress these companies made over the past two years toward developing new technologies that could transform the way Americans use and produce energy, he said.

ARPA-E gave between $1.5 million and $6 million to each company to develop advanced grid scale batteries or innovative new approaches to biofuels or waste heat recovery.

The companies are:

Phononic Devices (Raleigh, NC): ARPA-E funding $3 million; private funding, $11 million.

Phononic is designing devices that capture waste heat produced by factories, power plants and vehicles, and convert it directly into usable electric power. These "thermoelectric" devices are also being designed to remove heat so they can be used as efficient cooling systems.

Primus Power (Hayward, CA): ARPA-E funding $2 million;  private funding $11 million.

Primus has developed a "flow battery" which pumps high energy fluids in the battery. It can store renewable energy such as wind and solar electricity and then release that energy into the grid when its needed.

OPX Biotechnologies (Boulder, CO): ARPA-E funding $6 million;  private funding $36.5 million.

Scientists at OPX are developing bacteria to produce liquid biofuels that produce electricity while consuming carbon dioxide. The biofuels are being designed to replace petroleum fuels at a competitive cost. The project combines OPX’s technological capabilities with expertise in bacteria from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Stanford University (Stanford, CA): ARPA-E funding $1.5 million; private funding $25 million.

Professor Fritz Prinz at Stanford University is commercializing an energy storage device that functions like a typical battery but delivers more energy, while withstanding thousands of charges without declining in performance.

Transphorm (Goleta, CA): ARPA-E funding $3 million; private funding $25 million.

Transphorm is developing compact, efficient semiconductor devices that can quickly switch between electrical currents. The aim is to reduce wasted power from electric motors, thereby reducing energy consumption.

These five companies are in addition to six others highlighted by DOE Secretary Steven Chu in February that also attracted over $100 million in private financing. 

ARPA-E will be making its next round of awards in September. Among those receiving grants will be a series of innovative projects that keep America’s manufacturers competitive by reducing the need for expensive "rare earth" materials from China.

Rare earths are naturally-occurring minerals with unique magnetic properties that are used for many modern technologies like laptops, lasers, electric vehicles and wind turbines. Up to $30 million will be made available for this program area, in addition to funding for projects in advanced biofuels, thermal storage, grid control technologies and solar power.

Report on Clean Energy Race

The White House also released a report this week on the United States’ position in the global clean energy race.

Despite an early lead in developing clean energy technology in the 1970s and 1980s, the US has lost ground in recent decades.

"Today, China leads in installed wind capacity, while Germany leads in installed solar capacity. Both countries currently invest more in clean energy than the United States," the report notes.

The White House report says long-term goals are crucial if the US is to retain leadership in the clean energy space and drive innovation and private sector investment.

It points to the Obama administration’s new fuel economy standards as an example, as well as a goal of achieving 80% of the nation’s power from clean energy sources by 2035.

It doesn’t report on the negative impact approval of the tar sands pipeline would have on reaching that goal. 

Read the report:

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