This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

April 27, 2011

DOE Offers $130 Million for Advanced Research Projects

Up to $130 million will be available from DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in its fourth round of funding, DOE announced on April 20. The funding will support research to find rare earth alternatives and breakthroughs in biofuels, thermal storage, grid controls, and solar power electronics. The five new technology areas will join ARPA-E's seven existing programs in power electronics, battery technologies, building cooling, non-photosynthetic biofuels, grid energy storage, and carbon capture.

Each new area has specific goals. Under the new Plants Engineered to Replace Oil technology area, ARPA-E is seeking to create farm-ready plants that capture more energy from sunlight and convert that energy directly into fuels. If successful, the program will create biofuels for half their current cost, finally making them cost-competitive with fuels from oil. For the High Energy Advanced Thermal Storage program, ARPA-E is seeking advancements in three focus areas: high temperature storage systems to deliver solar electricity more efficiently around the clock; fuel produced from the sun's heat; and HVAC systems that use thermal storage to improve the driving range of electric vehicles by up to 40%.

Also as part of the newest initiatives, ARPA-E is supporting the Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies, an effort to find replacements for naturally occurring yet scarce minerals with unique magnetic properties that are used in many emerging energy technologies. ARPA-E seeks to fund early-stage technology alternatives that reduce or eliminate the dependence on rare earth materials by developing substitutes in two key areas: electric vehicle motors and wind generators. In addition, ARPA-E launched Green Electricity Network Integration, which will fund innovative control software and high-voltage hardware to reliably control the grid. The effort aims to deliver controls able to manage 10 times more available wind and solar electricity than is currently on the grid as well as to develop resilient power flow control to enable more electricity through the existing transmission lines. Finally, Solar Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology (Solar ADEPT) will be ARPA-E's portion of the DOE SunShot Initiative, which seeks to reduce the total cost of utility-scale solar systems by 75% by the end of the decade. The Solar ADEPT program focuses on integrating advanced power electronics into solar panels and solar farms to extract and deliver power more efficiently. See the DOE press release and the ARPA-E website.