Saturday, November 21, 2009

DOE Bets $150 Million On Clean Tech

If you had $150 million to spend on boundary-busting energy research, where would you put the cash? The US Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has committed that amount with one lofty aim: to transform the planet's energy future: But which technologies are its best bets?
To find the answers, check out a story I wrote this week in New Scientist.
This was an interesting story to write in that the Department of Energy had just dolled out millions of dollars for projects so risky that most were expected to fail, yet even if a few succeeded, they could have a transformative effect on the planet's energy future.
What made the story more interesting is the vast majority of recipients, from industry giants to little known start up companies, had such a strong financial interest in keeping their projects under wraps that few would divulge what they were working on, even after they received secured funding.
To catch a sneak peak of the 30 odd projects that received funding-five of which came out of Cambridge, MA and the surrounding area-I filed a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Energy. The FOIA request turned out to be really helpful especially with Foro Energy, a geothermal company working on a top secret new drill bit. If the company, which received the single largest grant from ARPA-E, is successful they could unlock massive reserves of currently untapped geothermal energy buried miles beneath the Earth's surface.

Image Credit: US Department of Energy 

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