ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit 2010

DOE's Chu looks to past for energy breakthroughs

By Martin LaMonica, March 2, 2010 11:00 AM US Eastern Timezone

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland--Energy Secretary Steven Chu sees the solutions to today's energy challenges in the work of scientists in decades past.

Chu delivered the opening keynote here Tuesday at the first ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, where he used examples of historic technology breakthroughs as the model for making new discoveries in clean energy. The Department of Energy is seeking to re-create the structure of research that yielded great technology jumps, such as the precursor of the Internet or the laser.

ARPA-E, which stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, was funded for the first time last year. Its goal is to create breakthrough energy technologies on a relatively short time-scale. So far, ARPA-E has awarded more than $250 million in grants to companies and academic institutions, touching on a wide range of areas, including electric vehicles and underground storage of carbon dioxide.

On Tuesday, Chu announced that the ARPA-E is now taking solicitations for grid storage technologies to complement wind and solar energy, which are intermittent sources that can cause a significant drop in electricity flow in the grid.

"If you want renewable energy to be 30 or 40 or 50 percent (of power generation), you need much better energy transmission and much better energy storage," he said. "It is absolutely essential for renewable energy."

He also announced that ARPA-E has set up a program to fund development of air conditioners that are three times more energy efficient than today's machines. As people in the developing world purchase air conditioners, the question of efficiency becomes much more important, he said.

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