WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it has awarded $92 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for 43 cutting-edge research projects that aim to dramatically improve how the U.S. uses and produces energy. DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is coordinating the work in 18 states. The research projects are designed to accelerate innovation in green technology while increasing U.S. competitiveness in building efficiency, grid-scale energy storage for renewables, and power electronics. The latest round of ARPA-E grants focus on three research areas: Building Energy Efficiency Through Innovative Thermodevices (BEET-IT), Grid-Scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatchable Storage (GRIDS), and Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology (ADEPT).

BEET-IT will focus on cutting building energy consumption. According to DOE, structures now consume 40 percent of U.S. primary energy, and account for 40 percent of CO2 emissions. Therefore, new, more efficient methods of cooling represent a great opportunity to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. Battelle Memorial Institute will research the absorption-osmosis cooling cycle and will develop a new air conditioning system that uses water as a refrigerant and salt as the heat absorber. The system uses reverse osmosis to efficiently separate water from the salt solution. This project will receive $400,000 in funding.

GRIDS projects seek the affordable, large-scale energy storage needed to enable widespread use of wind and solar power. This program is searching for revolutionary new storage technologies that exhibit energy, cost, and cycle life that is comparable to that of pumped hydropower but which are modular and can be widely implemented at any location across the power grid. Ultimately, technologies developed through this program will be scalable to the gigawatt and gigawatt-hour levels of power and energy capacity. For one project, General Atomics and the University of California, San Diego will collaborate to develop a novel flow-battery technology that pumps chemicals through the battery cell when electricity is needed.

ADEPT is focused on dramatically improving the efficiency and cost of power conversion and switching, which are among the main causes of electrical efficiency loss across the electric power grid and in electrical applications. ADEPT projects explore integrated circuits that incorporate high-voltage transistors and high-performance magnetic materials. For example, Cree Inc., a semiconductor manufacturer, is exploring silicon carbide power modules for grid-scale power conversion.

These awards complete ARPA-E’s grants under its Recovery Act funding, which in three rounds since last year has selected 117 projects for $349 million in funding.

For more information, visit http://arpa-e.energy.gov/.

Publication date:08/02/2010