17

Silicon Valley biofuel company gets $2.5m grant

A Silicon Valley company is getting a $2.5 million federal grant to develop a pilot-scale “biorefinery” that will make jet fuel out of switchgrass.

The Energy Department announced the grant to Cobalt Technologies of Mountain View as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to find and use alternative fuels to lower costs and improve performance.

“Advanced biofuels are an important part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, improve our energy security and protect our air and water,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a news release. “The innovative biorefinery projects announced today mark an important step toward producing fuels for our American military and the civil aviation industry from renewable resources found right here in the United States.”

Domestic oil and gas production has increased each year the President has been in office, the Energy Department notes, but at the same time the administration is seeking other ways to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. According to the Energy Department’s Billion Ton Study, advanced biofuels could replace about one-third of the nation’s current transportation petroleum use.

The grant to Cobalt is part of an $18 million investment in four projects across the country in which pilot-scale biorefinery projects will use various non-food biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials, and algae to produce biofuels that meet military specifications for jet fuel and diesel. Recipients must contribute at least 50 percent matching funds for these projects.

Partnered with the Naval Air Warfare China Lake Weapons Division, Show Me Energy Cooperative and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Cobalt intends to build a pilot-scale facility to purify and convert butanol made from switchgrass into jet fuel. The company will both evaluate the process’ efficiency and its greenhouse-gas emissions.

15

Berkeley’s Steven Chu resigning from cabinet

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has announced he’ll resign from President Barack Obama’s cabinet as soon as a successor is confirmed.

Chu, 64, is a Bay Area local: a former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and a University of California, Berkeley professor of physics and molecular and cellular biology. Earlier, he taught at Stanford.

“Serving as Secretary of Energy during such a momentous and important time has been incredibly demanding but enormously rewarding,” he wrote in a letter to department employees today. “While I will always remain dedicated to the missions of the Department, I informed the President of my decision a few days after the election that Jean and I were eager to return to California. I would like to return to an academic life of teaching and research, but will still work to advance the missions that we have been working on together for the last four years.”

From President Obama:

“I want to thank Secretary Chu for his dedicated service on behalf of the American people. As a Nobel Prize winning scientist, Steve brought to the Energy Department a unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy represents for our economy. And during his time as Secretary, Steve helped my Administration move America towards real energy independence. Over the past four years, we have doubled the use of renewable energy, dramatically reduced our dependence on foreign oil, and put our country on a path to win the global race for clean energy jobs. Thanks to Steve, we also expanded support for our brightest engineers and entrepreneurs as they pursue groundbreaking innovations that could transform our energy future. I am grateful that Steve agreed to join in my Cabinet and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“Secretary Chu is a brilliant man who understands the importance of addressing the threat posed by climate change and has helped put America on a path toward energy independence and a clean energy future.”

0

Contra Costa receives $500,000 DOE solar grant

A Contra Costa economic development partnership was awarded a $521,529 Department of Energy grant to help streamline and digitize the permitting process for solar system.

Read on for the news release issued earlier today:

A clean technology initiative of the Contra Costa Economic Partnership has been awarded a major grant through the U.S. Department of Energy Rooftop Solar Challenge, a national program to encourage cities and counties to compete to streamline and digitize solar permitting. (See the DOE news release here: http://energy.gov/articles/doe-awards-12-million-spur-rapid-adoption-solar-energy-rooftop-solar-challenge.)

The Economic Partnership, in collaboration with the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County (www.wdbccc.com), officially launched a business-led effort in June 2011 to stimulate economic growth and job creation throughout the Greater East Bay. This initiative led to the formation of the Diablo Innovation Alliance (www.diabloinnovationalliance.org), a regional collaboration focused on driving economic growth and job creation in the clean technology sectors.

The DOE funds will be used to develop the first phase of a solar permitting process within Contra Costa County that encourages local jurisdictions to standardize permit requirements so they are easily understood, consistent, timely and cost effective. Subsequent phases and funding would involve the three-county region; successful implementation would serve as a best practice model for statewide adoption.

“The Economic Partnership is working closely with industry to accelerate market adoption and to reduce barriers to innovative solar and other clean energy programs throughout the region,” said Partnership Chair Alex Mehran. “We want to become a global center of clean technology and innovation, and this grant will help us begin to get there.”

“We are extremely excited about this new award and the boost that it provides to spur innovation and job creation in our region,” said Stephen Baiter, Executive Director for the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County. “By continuing to develop and promote policies that support sustainable and efficient energy sources, we will fuel increased demand for our rapidly growing solar industry cluster and get more people in the East Bay back to work.”

A second initiative involves development of a regional energy procurement plan that focuses on public-sector aggregated procurement of solar and other forms of clean energy, and is modeled on the successful Silicon Valley Collaborative Renewable Energy Procurement Project.

Bay Area legislators John Garamendi, Jerry McNerney and George Miller have been big proponents of the economic development initiative from its beginnings, and were part of the launch event on June 29 at Bishop Ranch.

“I am proud to have supported the Contra Costa Economic Partnership application for the Department of Energy SunShot program grant, and I congratulate them on winning the award,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek). “This program will move our country one step closer to energy independence. By streamlining the permitting process, the Economic Partnership will cultivate an environment for businesses to grow and create jobs in our community. Smart public-private partnerships like this will help us to Make It Locally and Make It In America.”

“This grant will put people in the East Bay back to work, creating jobs that we need in the region,” said Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton). “The work of the folks at the Contra Costa Economic Partnership is a wonderful example of how American ingenuity can get our economy back on track. I look forward to seeing the progress that will result from this grant. In today’s economy, the federal government needs to be a partner in spurring economic growth.”

“This announcement is great news for our community. I congratulate the Contra Costa Economic Partnership on their work to create jobs, help homeowners and businesses, and invest in the sustainability of our cities by making it easier to install clean energy in Contra Costa,” Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) said of the project.

About the Contra Costa Economic Partnership (CCEP): The CCEP is an association of  business, education and public sector leaders dedicated to creating and retaining quality jobs in  the Greater East Bay to maintain the region’s quality of life. It is the nonprofit arm of the Contra Costa Council (www.contracostacouncil.com).

1

Biden: DOE money seeded Bay Area investments

Five institutions that got Energy Department seed money in 2009-2010 – including two in the Bay Area – since have attracted more than $100 million in outside private capital investment, Vice President Joe Biden said today.

The money came from the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

“America is at its best when we innovate – and ARPA-E supports the very best of American innovation,” said Biden, who spoke today at the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0 in Las Vegas.

“These five companies are swinging for the fences, pioneering new technologies that could help answer the energy challenge and create jobs,” he said. “They illustrate how a small but strategic investment by the federal government can pay big dividends down the road and bring into the market groundbreaking new technologies.”

Primus Power of Hayward received $2 million in ARPA-E seed funding in July 2010, and in May 2011 raised $11M in a round of financing. DBL Investors and I2BF Global Ventures joined existing investors Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. It’s developing a “flow battery” using high energy fluids pumped throughout the unit, capable of storing renewable energy such as wind and solar power and then releasing that energy into the grid during peak load times.

Stanford University received $1.5 million in ARPA-E seed funding million and since has secured $25 million in private investments to support Professor Fritz Prinz’s work on commercializing a new type of energy storage device that will perform many of the same jobs as a normal battery, but deliver greater energy and power and withstand thousands of charges without showing a significant drop in performance.

ARPA-E will be making its next round of awards in September, including some to projects to keep America’s manufacturers competitive by reducing the need for expensive “rare earth” materials from China. Rare earths are naturally-occurring minerals with unique magnetic properties, used for modern necessities such as laptops and lasers as well as in clean-energy technologies such as electric vehicles and wind turbines. Up to $30 million will be made available for this area, in addition to funding for projects in advanced biofuels, thermal storage, grid control technologies and solar power.

1

Bay Area firms land energy research grants

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced 10 California projects – including nine in the Bay Area – will get $34.5 million for research that could change how the nation uses and produces energy.

The grants are part of a total $106 million handed out to 37 projects in 17 states through the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

“Thanks to the Recovery Act, dozens of cutting-edge research projects with the potential to dramatically transform how we use energy in this country will now be able to get underway,” Vice President Joe Biden said in announcing the awards. “By investing in our top researchers, we’re not only continuing in the spirit of American innovation, but helping build a competitive American clean energy industry that will create secure jobs here at home for years to come.”

The California grants announced today include:

  • $4,996,311 to the PolyPlus Battery Company of Berkeley to develop rechargeable Lithium-Air batteries for electric vehicle use;
  • $4,657,045 to Codexis Inc. of Redwood City for research in using enzymes and certain techniques to capture more carbon dioxide from the discharges of coal-fired power plants;
  • $4,373,990 to Applied Materials Inc. of Santa Clara for development of a new, low-cost manufacturing process for ultra-high energy lithium-ion batteries;
  • $4 million to the University of California, Los Angeles to use synthetic biology and metabolic engineering techniques to let microorganisms use electricity instead of sunlight for converting carbon dioxide into alcohol fuels that can be high-octane gasoline substitutes;
  • $3,948,493 to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to engineer a common soil bacterium to produce butanol and hydrocarbons from carbon dioxide and hydrogen and produce its own hydrogen by splitting water in the presence of electricity;
  • $3,665,000 to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to develop synthetic small-molecule catalysts that greatly speed up the absorption of carbon dioxide, allowing for g advanced solvents that bind the gas less tightly and so reduce the energy needed to release the gas afterwards;
  • $3,663,696 to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to use robotic instrumentation tools and computational algorithms to speed development of metal organic framework materials to better capture carbon dioxide at coal-fired power plants;
  • $3,204,080 to Pellion Technologies Inc. of Menlo Park to develop a the world’s first cheap, rechargeable commercial magnesium-ion battery for electric and hybrid-electric cars;
  • $1,000,000 to Stanford University to develop an “All-Electron Battery,” a completely new class of electrical energy storage devices for electric cars; and
  • $1,000,000 to Recapping Inc. of Menlo Park to develop a novel energy storage device – a high energy density capacitor – based on a 3D nanocomposite structure.
  • A third round of ARPA-E funding opportunities was announced in March with project selections to be announced this summer.

    1

    Stimulus funds for local energy-storage projects

    Bay Area companies have been awarded more than $49 million in economic-stimulus funds for energy storage projects aimed at improving the efficiency and reliability of the nation’s electrical grid, the U.S. Department of Energy announced this morning.

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $620 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money for 32 projects across the nation, leveraged with $1 billion in private-sector funds. California is getting about $175 million in ARRA funding to support more than $679 billion in projects.

    “These demonstration projects will further our knowledge and understanding of what works best and delivers the best results for the Smart Grid, setting the course for a modern grid that is critical to achieving our energy goals,” Chu said in a news release. “This funding will be used to show how Smart Grid technologies can be applied to whole systems to promote energy savings for consumers, increase energy efficiency, and foster the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.”

    Alameda-based Primus Power Corp. will get $14 million for a wind energy “farm” that will store energy for the Modesto Irrigation District, replacing a planned fossil fuel plant. The project’s total cost is $46.7 million.

    Berkeley-based Seeo Inc. will get $6,196,060 to develop and deploy a prototype battery system based on the company’s proprietary nanostructured polymer electrolytes; this new class of advanced lithium-ion rechargeable battery is expected to show improvements in energy density, battery life, safety and cost, and would be targeted for use in utility-scale operations such as community energy storage projects. The project’s total cost is $12,392,120.

    Fremont-based Amber Kinetics Inc. will get $4 million to develop and demonstrate a new flywheel technology for use in grid-connected, low-cost bulk energy storage; this effort, in partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is expected to improve on traditional flywheel systems to produce higher efficiency and lower costs competitive with pumped hyrdo technologies. The project’s total cost is $10 million.

    And San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co. will get $25 million to build and validate the design, performance and reliability of an advanced, underground compressed air energy storage plant using a saline porous rock formation near Bakersfield. The project’s total cost is $355,938,600.