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DOE Awards $63 Million to Advance Clean Energy Commercialization

September 22, 2010 - 11:00am


DOE announced on September 15 its award of more than $63 million to support the commercialization of clean energy technologies, including $57 million for small businesses and $5.3 million for universities. The awards to small businesses include nearly $11 million provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They will help 33 small businesses across the country develop manufacturing processes to scale up the production of their new clean energy technologies. Those technologies include 21 renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, as well as six new technologies for power grids, three for next-generation nuclear power, and three for cleaner fossil energy. The awards are the first under DOE's Small Business Phase III Xlerator program, which builds on the successes of DOE's Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

The renewable energy technologies include an algae-based biodiesel; four fuel-cell technologies, including two designed for biomass fuels; a high-temperature electrical insulation for geothermal energy applications; three solar cell technologies; and four wind power technologies. On the efficiency side is a lighting product using organic light-emitting diodes; innovative capacitors, permanent magnets, and lightweight materials for advanced vehicles; and four industrial technologies, including a low-cost microchannel heat exchanger, advanced laser-based sensors, a more energy-efficient way to make styrene, and a process that will allow ethanol producers to reduce their use of energy-intensive distillation. These 21 commercialization projects will receive nearly $38 million out of the total $57 million to be awarded. See the DOE press release and a detailed description of the 33 selected projects.

DOE also announced its first-ever funding for universities and nonprofits to build and strengthen "innovation ecosystems" that will accelerate the movement of cutting-edge energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies from university laboratories into the market. For instance, the University of Central Florida will hold the "MegaWatt Ventures" event, incorporating a technical showcase with a business plan competition and business and prototyping services. Teams will tap into the intellectual property portfolios and research expertise held by Florida universities. Each year, 10 teams will be awarded $10,000 each and will be given six months to complete a prototype and assemble a start-up team. The 10 teams will then compete for a $100,000 prize, with the aim of providing an incentive for commercializing the university-developed technologies. In its third year, MegaWatt Ventures will be expanded to include all universities in the southeastern United States.

Similar entrepreneurial efforts will be led by the Clean Energy Trust of Chicago, Illinois, for Illinois scientists and entrepreneurs; by the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems of Cambridge, Massachusetts, for university-originated technologies across New England; by the University of California, San Diego, which will hold an annual Regional Energy Innovation Challenge; and by the University of Utah, which will create the Energy Innovation Commercialization Center for participating western universities and research institutions. The projects will receive a total of $5.3 million in federal funding over three years, which will be leveraged with grantee investments to support $9 million in total projects.