ARPA-E announces $60 million in funding opportunities for energy technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is announcing two new programs to provide technology options for a more secure and sustainable American energy future. The Advanced Research In Dry cooling program aims to develop low-cost, highly efficient and scalable dry-cooling technologies for thermoelectric power plants.

The Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture program seeks to rapidly accelerate biomass yield gains through automated, predictive and systems-level approaches to biofuel crop breeding.

“These new programs highlight ARPA-E’s commitment to transformational energy innovation,” said ARPA-E Acting Director Dr. Cheryl Martin. “We are excited to bring together these technology and business communities to catalyze the disruptive technology options necessary to address the nation’s top energy challenges.”

ARPA-E’s ARID program will focus on new power plant cooling technologies that could significantly improve the overall energy efficiency of thermoelectric power plants by enabling high thermal-to-electric energy conversion efficiency with zero net water dissipation into the atmosphere.

ARPA-E is making up to $30 million available to assist ARID project teams in developing innovative, ultra-high-performance air-cooled heat exchangers, supplemental cooling systems and cool-storage systems that can cost-effectively and efficiently reject waste heat. Projects will be expected to demonstrate kilowatt-scale prototype testing of cooling technologies to ensure projects can be scaled up to megawatt cooling capacity without performance loss.

The majority of the electricity generated in the U.S. today is produced by steam-driven turbine generators that rely on cooling systems, which use water to dissipate waste heat. Dry-cooling systems — which use air to cool and transfer waste heat -- are an appealing and potentially transformational alternative.

To date, technical and market challenges have hindered the widespread use of dry-cooling technologies. Some of these challenges are lower heat-transfer performance and operational control, as well as prohibitively high costs due to system size and maintenance. ARID project teams will work to overcome these key barriers to adoption.

ARPA-E’s TERRA program seeks to develop technologies that can increase the precision, accuracy and throughput of energy crop breeding to enable predictive algorithms for plant growth, more detailed measurements of plant physiology and more sophisticated bioinformatics for gene discovery and trait association.

ARPA-E is making up to $30 million available for the TERRA program to develop automated, predictive and systems-level approaches to enable the quick and easy identification of traits that can be leveraged to increase biomass yield through accelerated breeding cycles.

Increasing the nation’s capacity to produce better bioenergy crops will help to alleviate many of the challenges presently faced by current biofuel feedstock. Biofuels may serve as a promising alternative to fossil fuels — especially for the transportation sector.

They are a sustainable energy source, can be grown in the U.S. and have the potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Recent technological advancements have made it possible to extract large volumes of data from a variety of crops; however, even with these resources the data cannot yet be processed into the knowledge needed to predict performance in the field. Increased information and analytics could improve crop yields to help lower the cost of biofuel production.

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