5 Interesting Green Ventures That Have the US’s DOE Backing Them

5 Interesting Green Ventures That Have the US’s DOE Backing Them

There’s a lot of promising green energy startups and concepts out there that end up getting shuttered because of a lack of funding. Whether the lack is because they failed to raise publicity or their ideas being too ahead for their time, there are a multitude of reasons as to why a perfectly good idea might end up not getting any funding.

This is where the US Department Of Energy (DOE) steps in. With a budget ranging between $4 billion to $6 billion depending on the source, the DOE looks to “spur on development of innovative clean energy technologies and create new economic opportunities for all Americans.”

In light of this, today we’ll be taking a look at the most promising ventures that the DOE has put their money behind.

Through thick and thin, the DOE funds First Solar’s thin-film solar

With $21 million in funding secured from the DOE, Cadmium Telluride thin film solar manufacturer First Solar has grown to become an industry leader in thin-film solar technology. Thin-film solar has multiple advantages over solar, including lower degradation rates, up to 4% higher energy yields in humid or extremely hot climates, lower power loss in shaded conditions and no power loss from cell cracking, LID or LeTID mechanisms that affect traditional solar. The panels also have a 250% lower carbon footprint and a 300% lower water footprint compared to regular panels, with 2x faster energy payback times. Once the panels are decommissioned, global recycling services can recover upwards of 90% of the materials for reuse.

Overall, thin-film has been a success, with First Solar warranting the fact that it got funded not once, but twice.

Wanna make aluminum green? A $500 million grant to help

Pulling all the stops, the DOE decided to drop $500 million on the Century Aluminum Company, designated for the establishment of a new aluminum smelter as part of the Industrial Demonstrations Program. The initiative aims to fortify local economies, generate and sustain high-quality employment opportunities and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

With the aid of this funding, Century intends to construct the first new primary aluminum smelter in the United States in 45 years. Effectively doubling the United States’ primary aluminum industry once completed, the project holds the promise of bolstering domestic supply chains for materials vital to the transition towards green energy, including those necessary for electric vehicles, renewable energy production and storage, construction and sustainable packaging.

While the project wouldn’t have been profitable enough in the short term for any private investors to pitch in, it’s almost perfect for the US government. It bolsters Biden’s build back better program by generating 1000 full-time positions once complete in addition to creating more than 5500 construction jobs.

Energy Storage is pretty cool. $300 million Fuel It

Pivoting away from companies and the general concept of energy storage, the DOE has put in $325 million for investing in long duration energy storage. The funding is a part of Biden’s government Investing in America agenda and will help fund 15 projects across 17 states and the Red the Red Lake Nation, a Native American tribe based in Minnesota. Funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, these demonstration projects are aimed at advancing LDES, mitigating risks associated with disruptions to the grid during extreme weather events, and help communities develop reliable and affordable energy systems.

According to the DOE, projects selected to receive funding will feature a range of intraday (up to 36 hours) and multiday(160+ hours) storage solutions. Projects that focus on renewable batteries- tech that’ll make the EV industry more sustainable will also be eligible to receive a slice of the funding pie.

The most promising project to receive funding under this act has been the Multiday Iron Air Demonstration (MIND) in Becker, MN and Pueblo, CO in partnership with Form Energy. The project seeks to deploy two 10-megawatt 100-hour LDES system at retiring coal plants in Minnesota and Colorado.

The hottest in renewables, quite literally

Geothermal energy has to be one of the most promising technologies out there, with the only caveat being high costs required to set up plants. A recent DOE analysis shows that advancing EGS could provide 90 gigawatts of firm, flexible power to the U.S. grid by 2050—enough to power the equivalent of more than 65 million U.S. homes—as well as support heating and cooling solutions nationwide. The DOE looks to ease the pain that is the initial investment in geothermal energies, selecting 3 projects to receive up to $60 million to demonstrate the efficacy and scalability of enhanced geothermal systems. “These projects will help us advance geothermal power, including into regions of the country where this renewable resource has never before been used,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

The three projects are:

Fervo EnergyFervo Energy: Located in Utah and adjacent to the DOE’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE), this pilot aims to produce at least 8 megawatts of power from three wells at a site with no existing commercial geothermal power production.

Mazama EnergyMazama Energy: Utilizing a first-of-its-king super got EGS on the western flank of Newberry Volcano in Oregon, this demonstration will hopefully help advance the science needed to operate in extreme heat conditions.

Chevron New EnergiesChevron New Energies: Using innovative drilling and stimulation techniques to access geothermal energy near an existing geothermal field in Sonomy County in northern California, this EGS pilot demonstration is likely going to be used to demonstrate the efficacy of geothermal energy.

These projects are the first round of selections under the EGS Pilot Demonstrations funding opportunity announcement. The second-round funding opportunity will cover EGS demonstrations in the eastern United States.

A lock is only as strong as the door around it

Of course, to supplement the installation of renewable sources around the country, the United States’ power grid has to be up to snuff as well. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has not only selected eleven projects to receive $34 million for tools to advance a clean, reliable electricity grid working on wind and solar energy but also announced a $10 million funding opportunity to streamline the interconnection of clean energy to the grid.

The projects selected for Operation and Planning Tools for Inverter-Based Resource Management and Availability for the Future Power System (OPTIMA) are as follows:

  •    Florida International University (Miami, FL): $2.4 million
    •    Washington State University (Pullman, WA) $2.4 million
    •    Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA): $2.8 million
  •    University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT): $3.3 million
    •    Iowa State University (Ames, IA): $3 million
    •    Midcontinent Independent System Operator (Carmel, IN): $3 million
    •    National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, CO): $3.2 million
    •    National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, CO): $3.3 million
  •    Quanta Technology (Raleigh, NC): $3.8 million
    •    Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ): $3 million
    •    Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, WA): $3.6 million

The $10 million Solar and Wind Interconnection for Future transmission (SWIFTR) funding opportunity is in place to promote the addressing of interconnection challenges. It also aims to improve software tools making the interconnection study process for proposed renewable energy plants more efficient and offering developers with important data on transmission system characteristics.

By Yash Singh

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