$130m US fund for ‘cutting-edge’ research in energy

The US Energy Department has announced a fund worth $130 million (£81m) for 66 “cutting-edge” research projects in the energy industry. The cash from the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

The US Energy Department has announced a fund worth $130 million (£81m) for 66 “cutting-edge” research projects in the energy industry.

The cash from the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) is part of its ‘OPEN 2012’ programme, which will support a range of technologies, including advanced fuels, building efficiency, carbon capture, renewable power and energy storage. The projects are expected to work towards helping the US solve its energy challenges.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said: “The 66 projects selected today represent the true mission of ARPA-E: swinging for the fences and trying to hit home runs to support development of the most innovative technologies and change what’s possible for America’s energy future.”

One of the projects include the development of a new type of storage battery, which will be led by Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Called a flow battery, it is expected to offer cost-effective, grid-scale to store electricity from renewable sources. This will include storing large amounts of electrical energy in the form of liquid chemicals in external tanks instead of battery containers. The battery will use inexpensive material which is expected to hold up to ten times more energy compared to other batteries.

Michael J. Aziz, the lead researcher foresees using next-generation flow batteries for local energy storage, such as in the basement of a house or office with rooftop solar panels or, on a larger scale, directly integrated into wind and solar farms. The technology could also beat the use of lead-acid batteries for solar energy storage in remote areas without access to a grid.

Mr Aziz said: “Storage of very large amounts of energy is required if we are to generate a major portion of our electricity from intermittent renewable sources such as wind turbines and photovoltaics. Currently no cost-effective solution exists to this large-scale storage problem. Flow batteries may make stationary storage viable in the marketplace and that will enable wind and solar to displace a lot more fossil fuel.”