U.S. dollars flow toward renewable energy innovation

Energy storage and solar power are hot. And to speed up adoption of renewable energy technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy is committing funds. As much as $144 million was recently allocated for research and development of innovative renewable tech ideas.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) set aside $37 million to back 16 projects seeking to expand current battery and fuel cell storage. The new program, Integration and Optimization of Novel Ion-Conducting Solids (IONICS), will work on creating solid ionic conductors that store and convert energy more efficiently for use in transportation batteries, grid-level storage and fuel cells.

“Solid ion conductors made of affordable, easily produced materials could replace today’s mostly liquid electrolytes and expensive fuel cell parts, helping create a next generation of batteries and fuel cells that are low-cost, durable and more efficient,” said ARPA-E Director Ellen D. Williams.

Universities and technology companies across the United States, among them Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 3M and Sila Nanotechnologies, will participate in the program.

At the same time, up to $107 million is being channeled through the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. Forty projects that will improve photovoltaic (PV) performance and reliability and bring affordable products to market will receive grants.

The goal of SunShot is to drive down the cost of utility-scale solar energy without incentives — to $.06 per kilowatt-hour by 2020.

Nineteen projects improving upon existing solar technologies and emerging innovations will receive $17 million from the PV Research and Development Program.

The Technology to Market program is putting $25 million toward 21 rapid solar innovation projects. The program strives to link tech to services and businesses, recruit investors and streamline the regulatory process.

A consortium led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, including Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, will receive a $30 million SunShot grant to develop durable PV module materials. The object is to reduce the cost of electricity from photovoltaics.