Posted: 03 Mar 2012 05:28 AM PST
ARPA-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."
Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
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