Smart Grid Technologies of Tomorrow Get DOE Funding


By: SGN Staff

DOE has picked an exotic mix of 37 advanced energy research projects to receive Recovery Act grants totaling $151 million. Selected projects range from grid-scale liquid metal battery technologies to biofuel-producing bacteria.


The grants, administered through DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), were picked from an overwhelming number of candidates. These awards represent the first round of projects funded through ARPA-E, which received $400 million in initial funding through the Recovery Act. The 37 projects were selected from 300 full applications, which were requested from an initial deluge of 3,600 concept papers the agency received.


ARPA-E's mission is to develop "nimble, creative and inventive approaches" to drastically change the global energy environment while advancing U.S. technology leadership. The agency concentrates on high risk, high reward energy research that has the potential to join other Smart Grid technologies in the country's efforts to achieve its energy and climate goals.


Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, "After World War II, America was the unrivaled leader in basic and applied sciences. It was this leadership that led to enormous technological advances. ARPA-E is a crucial part of the new effort by the U.S. to spur the next Industrial Revolution in clean energy technologies, creating thousands of new jobs and helping cut carbon pollution."


The Recovery Act grants will go to projects with lead researchers in 17 states. Of those, 43% are small businesses, 35% are educational institutions and 19% are major corporations. The intent is to bring onboard the country's brightest energy innovators to develop a secure, low cost and green energy future for the country.


Some of the awarded projects include:

  • Liquid Metal Grid-Scale Batteries: Created by a leading MIT battery scientist, the all-liquid metal battery is based on low cost, domestically available liquid metals with potential to break through the cost barrier required for mass adoption of grid-scale energy storage as part of the nation's energy grid. If successful, this battery technology could enable round-the-clock power from America's wind and solar power resources, increasing grid stability eliminate blackouts.
  • Bacteria for Producing Direct Solar Hydrocarbon Biofuels: University of Minnesota researchers have developed a bioreactor with the potential to produce a flow of gasoline directly from sunlight and CO2 using a symbiotic system of two organisms. First, a photosynthetic organism directly captures solar radiation and uses it to convert carbon dioxide to sugars. In the same area, another organism converts the sugars to gasoline and diesel fuels. This development has the potential to create clean fuels.
  • Energy Storage: Envia Systems is developing high energy density Lithium-ion batteries with 3x better energy density than current batteries based on novel nano silicon-carbon composite anodes and manganese composite cathodes discovered at Argonne National Laboratory. These batteries could lower the cost and speed the adoption of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

The projects were selected in a review process that included participation from several panels of leading U.S. energy science and technology experts and ARPA-E program managers. Evaluations were focused on the potential for proposed projects to meet ARPA-E's goals and on their technical and scientific merit.

Grants range in size from $1 million to just over $9 million.


   All 37 projects at a glance

   New York Times article on award

   DOE backgrounder from SGN

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