Forty-three research projects were selected to receive $92 million last week through the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program. The grants are the third and final set in the Obama Administration-funded program to help develop innovative, transformational energy technologies with the goal of taking these fledgling high-risk technologies from concept to the marketplace.
Development of new advanced-energy technologies is key to the goals of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who predicted that the grant winners will “play a critical role in our energy security and economic growth” into the future.
The grants are in three areas: grid energy storage to support renewable, intermittent sources of electricity; efficient movement and use of electricity; and efficient building cooling systems.
Many of the projects have a strong chemical flavor. For instance, a $2 million grant to General Atomics and the University of California, San Diego, aims to improve lead-acid battery technologies by exploring new electrode materials to increase the surface area available for chemical reactions and to limit corrosion. Such work will encourage lead-acid battery use for grid-scale applications.
The projects are located in 18 states. DOE reports that 57% of them are led by businesses; 36%, by universities; 5%, by DOE labs; and 2%, by nonprofits.
In all, DOE received $400 million through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 to create, administer, and issue grants through the ARPA-E program over the past year. In three rounds, it has offered $349 million in grants to 117 projects.
ARPA-E received 529 initial concept papers for this final round of grants and encouraged 164 teams to submit full applications. Eventually, 43 teams won. The successful applicants are now negotiating multiyear detailed plans and schedules with DOE funders. ARPA-E program managers assess success or failure of projects with the option of killing or modifying them over a three- to four-year period.
For next year, DOE is seeking $300 million from Congress to continue the program. Hard-fought battles are expected because ARPA-E can no longer rely on stimulus money and must compete with other DOE programs in a stagnant economy.