What could transform our energy future? ARPA-E just put $130M in play to find out

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ARPA-E, the DOE agency charged with advancing breakthrough early-stage energy technologies, announced $130 million in awards that will support 66 projects around the country. The awards reflect the Obama Administration's "all of the above" energy policy, but we’ve highlighted five projects with smart grid implications we thought you'd be interested in.

 

The projects described below are just a few that intrigued us, but there are many others that relate to smart grid and energy efficiency. You can see descriptions of all 66 projects here (pdf).

 

Switching high power and high voltage optically -- $4.7 million

Silicon Power will develop a semiconducting device that switches high power and high voltage electricity using optical signals. This device will use light to trigger control circuits or mechanisms more rapidly, greatly simplifying the control of high-voltage equipment. Unlike current switching mechanisms that predominately use silicon, this device employs silicon carbide. Using these switches could improve high-power motors and renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar generators.

 

Micro-synchrophasors for distribution systems -- $4 million

The California Institute for Energy and Environment will develop a device to monitor and measure electric power data from the grid’s distribution system. Data collected from a network of these devices would provide new capabilities to monitor and control grid power flow, a critical element for integrating intermittent and renewable resources such as rooftop solar and wind energy. If widely deployed, these devices could also enhance grid reliability.

 

Modeling,  analysis to increase resiliency during cyber attacks -- $1.5 million

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will develop grid modeling, monitoring and analysis tools that increase the resiliency and reliability of the grid during cyber attacks. Electrical infrastructure modeling will be combined with cyber analysis to examine the impact of failures and malicious threats to grid infrastructure. These tools and analysis could lead to higher reliability, improved efficiency and facilitate renewable technology deployment.

 

Grid-scale storage battery using Prussian Blue dye -- $4 million

Alveo Energy will develop a grid-scale storage battery using Prussian Blue dye as the basis for active material within the battery. Prussian Blue is inexpensive, readily available, and most commonly known for its application in blueprint documents. Alveo will repurpose this inexpensive dye for a new battery that can endure more charges under more extreme circumstances without suffering internal damage, helping to facilitate the adoption and deployment of renewable energy technology.

 

High-performance magnets for wind turbines and EV motors -- $2.9 million

Electron Energy will develop a technology to manufacture permanent magnets that are both stronger and lower cost than those available today, based on a friction consolidation extrusion process. If successful, this technology would supply the growing market of wind turbine generators and electric vehicle motors with alternative higher-performance materials compared to the imported rare earth magnets currently used in these machines.

 

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