Government Focused on Advanced Energy Storage

Earlier this week, the Dept of Energy announced the recipients of $151 million in funding from the Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). In August 2007, Congress established the ARPA-E within the Dept of Energy to help “overcome the long-term and high-risk technological barriers in the development of energy technologies.”

In April, President Obama announced $400 million in initial funding for the agency as part of the total Recovery Act funding. Several types of projects were slated to receive funding under ARPA-E’s first Funding Opportunity Announcement, released on April 27, 2009. These included:Click for larger image.

  • Energy Storage
  • Biomass Energy
  • Carbon Capture
  • Renewable Power
  • Direct Solar Fuels
  • Building Efficiency
  • Waste Heat Capture
  • Vehicle Technologies
  • Water
  • Conventional Energy

As part of this week’s announcement, approximately $30 million of the $151 million will be devoted to energy storage.

According to the DOE, developing technology to store electrical energy so it can be available to meet demand whenever needed would represent a major breakthrough in electricity distribution. While much attention is focused on the smart grid, a May 2009 article on earth2tech.com compared an advanced electrical grid without energy storage to a computer without a hard disk – severely limited.

The following energy storage projects received funding from ARPA-E this week:

Liquid Metal Batteries: Scientists at MIT will develop a new all-liquid metal grid-scale battery.

Planar Na-beta Batteries: Eagle Picher in partnership with PNNL will develop a new high energy, low-cost planar liquid sodium beta battery for the grid.

Nanotube-Enhanced Ultracapacitors: FastCAP Systems along with MIT will develop a new nanotube enhanced ultracapacitor with potential for a 6x improvement in energy density and cost over the current industry state-of-the art.

Metal-Air Ionic Liquid (MAIL) Batteries: Arizona State University, in partnership with Fluidic Energy, Inc., will seek to develop a new class of ultra-high energy new metal-air batteries using advanced ionic liquids.

Silicon Coated Nanofiber Paper as a Lithium-Ion Anode: Inorganic Specialists, Inc., will develop ultra high capacity battery anodes for next generation Li-ion batteries (3x the state-of-the art) based on a novel low cost silicon-coated carbon nanofiber paper.

High Energy Density Lithium Batteries: Envia Systems in collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory will develop high energy density, low cost next generation Li-ion batteries using novel nano silicon-carbon composite anodes and high capacity manganese rich layered composite cathodes discovered at Argonne National Laboratory.

Whether these energy storage technologies will materialize is anyone’s guess. Time will tell.

The exciting element to ARPA-E is that DOE received over 3,700 submissions, with 300 having sufficient merit that they were asked to submit more detailed proposals. A total of 37 ARPA-E applications received government funding (6 energy storage applications). More than 500 reviewers put in 8,700 hours of work assessing the applications.

It’s comforting to know that so many experts are focused on this important topic.

For additional information about energy storage, check out the latest Congressional briefing on energy storage organized by the National Science Foundation and Discovery Magazine. (Disclosure: KEMA colleague Dr. Ralph Masiello is one of the speakers.)

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