ARPA-E Launches Five New Programs with $130 Million in Funding


The U.S. government’s incubator for transformational early-stage energy inventions, the Advanced Research Projects Agency– Energy (ARPA-E), launched its fourth round of funding with five new program areas last week. U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced last week that up to $130 million will support five program areas: smart-grid control systems, advanced power electronics for solar panels, breakthrough biofuel technologies, thermal storage applications, and alternatives to rare earth materials.

ARPA-E received $180 million overall funding for fiscal year (FY) 2011 as a result of the recent budget deal struck by Congress. As the initial FY 2011 budget proposal in H.R. 1, the appropriations bill, allocated only $50 million to ARPA-E, this funding level was a testament to the program’s success in incubating early-stage clean energy technologies given current budget constraints. In his testimony before Congress regarding a $650 million funding request under the FY 2012 budget, ARPA-E Director Arun Majumdar emphasized the agency’s novel approach to project development—identifying research gaps, conducting technology workshops, rigorously assessing candidate technologies, and subjecting proposals to a peer review process—which culminates in rapid negotiation of contracts and project funding.

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