President Trump recently revealed his true feelings about renewable energy when he envisioned securing US borders with a wall topped by solar panels. The root concept is that renewables can pay for themselves, but it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine that they can pay for massive new infrastructure projects as well. Be that as it may, the Trump Administration is forging ahead with another round of $32 million in funding for small business, a good chunk of which is going to support companies with big plans for pushing the renewable energy envelope.
$32 Million For Renewables, Energy Efficiency And Clean Tech
Considering that the central policy-making philosophy of the Trump Administration appears to consist of destroying programs and initiatives identified with the former President Obama, there’s a heavy dose of irony to the new round of $32 million in clean tech funding.
The monies come from the Energy Department’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Businesses that received funding can qualify to receive additional rounds of funding. As emphasized in the press release, “most of the projects that have advanced into Phase II were previously selected for Phase I funding” under the Obama Administration.
So, funding for small clean tech business is one of the few areas in which the Trump Administration is following through on Obama era programs. Go figure.
Most of the awardees are also new on the CleanTechnica radar. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the clean tech projects that are receiving funding.
Renewables To The Rescue
To be clear, the new round of funding includes an eclectic assortment, and several of the projects are focused on reducing waste and pollution from fossil operations. The fossil category also illustrates how the conventional fuel industry dovetails with renewable energy.
For example, Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc. of Pennsylvania is developing a an energy efficient desalination process that deploys “low quality” solar thermal energy. The system can also treat brackish water, so there’s a potential for the oil and gas industry to deal with its wastewater problems, including wastewater related to fracking as well as conventional drilling.
Another solar enabled, low cost, high efficiency desalination project comes from Aquaneers of Brooklyn, which is developing a photothermal solar cell.
On the “pure” solar side, Extensible Energy of California was awarded funds to develop software for that will enable commercial properties to get the most out of their on-site solar arrays.
Interestingly, this project caught the eye of the Energy Department because it will “allow the electric grid to support a higher percentage of solar generation.”
That’s interesting because, although Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been a relentless cheerleader for renewables and clean tech, he has allowed his agency to front for a Trump Administration “grid study” that appears to be front loaded to favor fossil energy.
The so-called study — which seems to have enlisted no grid industry stakeholders or other experts — is being written and orchestrated by two hires from the fossil fuel lobby.
Some Juicy EV Tidbits, Too
Where were we? Oh right, the small business grants. Wind and biofuels also get a share of the renewables pot, and then there is a whole other group of awardees dealing with various aspects of clean technology.
Among the projects related to EVs, United Silicon Carbide, Inc. of Monmouth Junction, New Jersey is focused like a laser on silicon carbide (the company motto is “our name says it all”), with a line of products designed to reduce energy loss associated with electric drives. The Energy Department funding will enable it to develop a power conversion module with an eye on the US and global electric vehicle markets.
Materials specialists Coulometrics of Chattanooga, Tennessee scored with funding for a “lean” concept for low cost manufacturing aimed at lithium-ion batteries. Group hug for US taxpayers — the new process tackles two sticky issues for Li-ion batteries, those being safety and stability, and the payoff could be a game-changer:
Expected outcomes are lower cost batteries, higher retained performance under extreme conditions, and a roadmap toward rapid commercialization and domestic production of next generation Li-ion battery materials.
The company is developing a power conversion module with an eye on the US and global electric vehicle market.
Li-ion technology also gets love from Saratoga Energy Research Partners, LLC of Berkeley, California. This one is particularly interesting because it involves carbon capture and recycling.
The company is working on a “breakthrough” low-cost manufacturing process that will take carbon dioxide and covert it into low-cost, high quality graphite specifically for use in EV-sized Li-ion batteries.
Other Items Of Interest
Speaking of that forthcoming grid study, the Extensible project is not the only grid-related awardee in this round of funding.
Nhu Energy, Inc. of Florida is developing a “breakthrough” control system that will:
…drastically improve the value proposition for distributed energy resources such as solar PV, storage, electric vehicles, and price- responsive load, to enable significant improvements to electric power system resiliency, economics, and environmental impact.
Brooklyn’s ProjectEconomics, Inc. is focusing on shared solar as the “key to unlocking access to solar for the households and businesses that can’t go solar because they are renters or don’t have adequate roofs.”
The company’s new software is aimed at helping energy providers scale up their community and shared solar programs.
That certainly ups the ante for the Trump Administration grid study, It’s expected to be released any day so stay tuned for that.
As for the Energy Department, we’ve been wondering how long Perry can sustain his support for renewables under pressure from his boss at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
In addition to facing fierce criticism over the grid study, this week alone Perry has been fending off attacks over his curious position on on carbon dioxide and climate change, and sooner or later he’s going to have to deal with William C. Bradford, another another Trump Administration appointee who has stirred up trouble for the agency.
Image (cropped): Nhu Energy.
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