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

Michael Kanellos, Rick Thompson, and David Leeds in Greentech Media, March 2 2010

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.

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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