ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit 2010

ARPA-E: $100 Million for Buildings, Energy Storage, Dispatchable Energy

By Michael Kanellos, Rick Thompson, David Leeds, March 2, 2010

Chu and Majumdar lay out the agenda in D.C.

Washington, D.C.--ARPA-E, the advanced projects division inside the Department of Energy, will hand out $100 million to accelerate research to promote building technologies like energy efficient air conditioners and concepts for the grid like "soft magnetics, high voltage switches, and reliable, high-density charge storage" that can store and/or deliver megawatt hours worth of power quickly as part of a second round of grants.

The funding announcement kicked off the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit taking place in Washington this week. ARPA-E, modeled after the Internet-creating agency called DARPA inside the Department of Defense, was founded last year to seed next-next-generation projects. Last October, it gave out $151 million in grants to among others, start-ups working on direct solar fuel (liquid fuel from carbon dioxide and sunlight) as well as novel storage technologies. The grants average around $4 million. ARPA-E will have a grant budget of $400 million.

We wrote yesterday about a concept that PARC will show off at the conference -- an air conditioner powered by sound waves. It could cut energy consumption in the U.S. by 13%, according to PARC.

ARPA-E will likely be a favored agency as long as Steve Chu remains Secretary of Energy. For years, Chu, who came out of Bell Labs, championed the idea of funding for advanced research. ARPA-E is run by Arun Majumdar, a former UC Berkeley professor who worked with Chu. What concepts might these two favor? It's hard to predict, but both worked at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, where energy efficiency for buildings was a primary topic of research. Majumdar also conducted research that led to the formation of waste heat start-up Alphabet Energy. Chu has also been a proponent of synthetic biology: genetically engineering microbes to produce synthetic fossil fuels or industrial chemicals. Amyris, which may file to go public soon, was fostered at Berkeley.

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