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Clean Power $150 million in new arpa-e grants for transformational energy projects

Published on March 3rd, 2012 | by Tina Casey


ARPA-E Has $150 Million in New Energy Funding for the Einsteins of Today

March 3rd, 2012 by  

$150 million in new arpa-e grants for transformational energy projectsARPA-E, the federal agency charged with propelling the U.S. into an alternative energy future, has just announced a new round of $150 million in funding for new energy projects that transform the way we generate, transport and store energy. As always with ARPA-E, the point is to connect the best brains in the energy business with financial resources to develop new technologies that don’t make sense to private investors.

New Energy, Old Energy

The new round of funding may reassure ARPA-E watchers who were disappointed in the last round. Announced just last week, that one included $30 million in funding for new technologies related to natural gas vehicles, specifically for lightweight tanks and other equipment that would make natural gas a more viable fuel for passenger cars and other small vehicle. Given the water contamination issues and other concerns involved with natural gas fracking, that doesn’t exactly sound like a long term solution, though on the other hand renewable sources of natural gas are beginning to emerge including landfill gas, sewage gas, manure gas, and gas from cheesemaking and other food processing operations.

More and Better Wind Power

Speaking of brains, some of the best brains in the private investment community are beginning to pump more money into wind power and the Department of Energy just launched a new $180 million effort to develop offshore wind farms, so the time is ripe for new technologies that get more energy bang for the buck out of wind. Aside from more efficient ways to capture wind energy, ARPA-E is also looking for new motors, magnetic materials, electronics, and other turbine components that lead to more efficient conversion of wind energy to electricity.

Future Energy: All of the Above

In addition to covering new renewable energy technologies, the latest round of funding also looks for new technologies that help ease the transition from fossil fuels, including new high efficiency power plants, fuel cells systems that are compatible with fossil fuels, carbon capture, water treatment, and new energy conservation technologies and strategies.

Future Energy: None of the Above

Of the eight categories and dozens of subcategories described in the new funding round, perhaps the most interesting proposals will come under Category 8, “None of the

Above,” which has only one subcategory, “Technologies That Do Not Fit In Any Of The Above Categories and Subcategories.”

Or, as ARPA-E director Arun Majumdar said in announcing the new funds:

“Today we are calling on our nation’s best and brightest to catalyze energy breakthroughs in all areas imaginable through this Open Funding Opportunity Announcement, which illustrates the true purpose of ARPA-E.”

Image: Einstein figurine. License Attribution Some rights reserved by • Happy Batatinha •.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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  • Byron

    Over the past few billion years of the Earths evoloutionary life, the actions through “cause and effects” refined the perfect environment for our human existence.
    The earth provided a continious cycle of clean air, clean water, life sustaining food for personal energy, and an abundant of free environmentally harmless energy to enable us to build supporting systems for the betterment of mankind the environment and the planet.
    To enable us as humans to develop a civilised society and an enhanced system of living we require energy.
    Every civilised society has its root monetary wealth based on a saleable energy source.
    Our main saleable energy source is fossil fuels, which as we know or logic tells us, that fossil fuels is not sustainable as its creative cycle is over billions of years.
    What happens to a civilisation when its root building block cycle cease to exist?
    The problem we have, is NOT that there is no reliable alternative environmentally friendly means of producing virtually free abundant never ending energy.
    The probem IS there are no one willing to invest in a system that will render money useless, while saving our planet from environmental disaster.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “Rendering money useless” is a silly idea.

      We’ve got problems to solve. But tossing out our medium of exchange would only make things difficult to impossible.

  • Origo1

    Water is the fuel of the future. It is the only portable non-carbon fuel in the world that is available in the quantities required to supplant gasoline. Water requires no exploration, drilling, refining, tanker transportation, service station infrastucture, mining, crop growing for ethanol, and does not produce radioactive waste or fly ash waste. It is recyclable, non-polluting, non-flammable, and as a fuel, will not consume atmospheric oxygen.
    I have submitted two systems to ARPA-E, both of which use water as a fuel.

  • Stan

    So…anyone curious why these phoney baloney programs don’t get much results? They’re just binkies…..pacifiers, so the general public will shut up and not start rebeling….it’s plain old trickery, cunning, and deceit.
    I’m an Elemental Scientist, and in MY field, there IS no room for baloney.
    The sad truth, is that our options for renewable power are all around us.
    But, like more efficent fuel technonlgy for automobiles, just try and get ‘er done.
    One thing in physics that has not really been addressed, is fundamental energy leveraging.
    Hell, these are the moronsthat can’t even make a fricken windmill stop killing birds…if I knew I was going to make some money off of it, I’d be running to the patent office. But they don’t actually care at all.
    Want a hint at fundamental energy leveraging? This is an overly simplified example, but nontheless true.
    Microwave ovens draw an average of 1000 watts, right? Have you ever noticed that if certain elements are in the water you are heating up, they can make the liquid violently boil over, compared to plain water? That indicates that more pressure can be arrived at, with the same energy input that produces very little pressure….same power in, more usuable power out. Put a small balloon on 2 necked bottles (like a soda bottle) Now, fill one 1/2 way with plain water, and the other with simple syrup (water and sugar)..and nuke ’em…..guess which balloon gets bigger faster….there’s a lot of energy in a covalent bond. More than just the tension buildup of a dipole (water, mercury, etc.)
    Ethelene glycol…antifreeze, using the same volume, exposed to the same heat energy, reaches a significantly higher temperature and therefore pressure threshold, with the same available BTUs of engine heat..first rule of infrared…”the more perfect the absorber, the more perfect the emitter”…it’s all around us people…..wake up.

  • Moses Lonn

    Thorium technology is still worth investigating. Fossil fuels are killing us. Look at the incredible mess that tar sand exploration and transport is making in Canada and the US. Unless there will be a whole lot less of us in the future, we’ll need to take advantage of every energy source imaginable to power our world. It appears that the only thing stopping US development of thorium/nuclear is our government agencies. We have seen all too clearly how government policy can be directed by monied interests. That’s why China, India and a host of other countries will be selling us reactors when we finally come up with a rational energy policy.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I think you’re ignoring the elephant standing on your toes.

      Nuclear power is too expensive. That’s what the CEOs of America’s utility companies are telling us.

      We don’t need nuclear. At least we don’t need to build any new nuclear.
      Wind is roughly $0.05/kWh

      Geothermal is under $0.10/kWh

      Solar is around $0.16/kWh and falling fast

      New nuclear is at least $0.15/kWh, more likely around $0.20/kWh and possibly much higher if we include government subsidies.

      We could, without building storage, run 70% of our grid using renewables with 15% from fossil fuels (natural gas) and 15% from a combination of nuclear and hydro.
      We already have the 30% NG, nuclear and hydro. What would be wise is to speed up our building of the rest of the 70% renewables that we need.

  • Moses Lonn

    Alright. Where the hell is thorium? Einsteins are running this show?

    • Bob_Wallace

      I suspect the really smart people understand that nuclear, regardless of the fuel, is not our energy future.

      Why build expensive, hard to site generation when we’ve got much more affordable options?

      • Moses Lonn

        Bob, watch this for five minutes. There’s a whole world out there that was figured out and operating fifty years ago. Cold war defense politics killed it because it didn’t generate weapons grade fissile material. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9M__yYbsZ4

        • Bob_Wallace

          Sorry, not swayed by Utoob fantasies.

          Regardless of fuel source, nuclear reactors cannot compete in a free market. They cannot produce power at a competitive price.

          Reactors are being build only where governments are forcing/financing them or where the cost of their power can be jammed down the throats of captive customers.

          It’s not the fuel. It’s the immense construction costs and the number of years accumulated interest during the ~decade that it takes to build a reactor.

          Yes, you probably can build reactors a bit faster in China. But we have higher safety standards and we don’t shoot people for not doing what they are told.

          Free world builds, the most experienced nuclear construction company in the free world is trying to get one up and going before the 14th year has slipped by. And they’re only significantly over budget.

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