ARPA-E announces $30 million for research projects to develop breakthrough solar energy technologies

(Nanowerk News) The Department of Energy announced that up to $30 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will be made available for a new program that will engage our country’s top scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to develop new technologies that deliver cost-effective solar energy when the sun is not shining. The technologies developed will help advance solar energy beyond current photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies to ensure solar power remains a consistent, cost-effective renewable energy option.
“ARPA-E’s new program will leverage the ingenuity of America’s best and brightest to develop technologies that are critical to the continued growth of the solar industry,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “As the President made clear in his plan to cut carbon pollution, energy innovations like these are a critical contribution to ensuring America’s future national, economic, and environmental security.”
The new program entitled Full-Spectrum Optimized Conversion and Utilization of Sunlight (FOCUS) seeks to develop two distinct technology options to deliver low-cost, high-efficiency solar energy on demand, specifically: (1) new hybrid solar energy converters and (2) new hybrid energy storage systems.
The first approach will develop advanced solar converters that turn sunlight into electricity for immediate use, while also producing heat that can be stored at low cost for later use. These hybrid converters will use the entire solar spectrum more efficiently than PV or CSP technologies. The second approach will develop innovative storage systems that accept heat and electricity from variable solar sources to deliver electricity when needed.
Including FOCUS, ARPA-E has announced a total of up to $145 million in 2013 for funding opportunities to improve vehicle manufacturing techniques, biologically convert natural gas to liquids, develop robust battery chemistries and architectures for electric vehicles, and create innovative semiconductor materials for improved power conversion.
ARPA-E was launched in 2009 to seek out transformational, breakthrough technologies that show fundamental technical promise but are too early for private-sector investment. To date, ARPA-E has funded 285 projects, across 33 states, with $770 million in funding.
Source: ARPA-E