Department of Energy Awards $156 Million for Groundbreaking Energy Research Projects
(Department of Energy/ARPA-E) ARPA-E Projects in 25 States Will Accelerate Innovation in Clean Energy Technologies, Increase America’s Competitiveness and Create Jobs
Arun Majumdar, Director of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), today announced 60 cutting-edge research projects aimed at dramatically improving how the U.S. produces and uses energy. With $156 million from the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, the new ARPA-E selections focus on accelerating innovations in clean technology while increasing America’s competitiveness in rare earth alternatives and breakthroughs in biofuels, thermal storage, grid controls, and solar power electronics. Demonstrating the success ARPA-E has already seen, the program announced this year that eleven of its projects secured more than $200 million in outside private capital investment.
“These innovative projects are at the forefront of a new technological frontier that plays a critical role in our future energy security and economic growth, “said Majumdar. “It is now more important than ever to invest in game-changing ideas that will build the technological infrastructure for a new, clean energy economy.”
The projects selected are located in 25 states, with 50% of projects led by universities, 23% by small businesses, 12% by large businesses, 13% by national labs, and 2% by non-profits. Prior to today, ARPA-E has awarded $365.7 million in funds to approximately 120 groundbreaking energy projects within seven program areas. This most recent round of selections brings the total to 180 projects, 12 program areas and $521.7 million in awards at ARPA-E to date.
Summaries of the new programs and an example project from each are below. Information on all projects announced today is available HERE.
PETRO: Plants Engineered To Replace Oil ($36 million)
ARPA-E funds breakthrough technologies that optimize the biochemical processes of energy capture and conversion to develop robust, farm-ready crops that deliver more energy per acre with less processing prior to the pump. If successful, PETRO will create biofuels from domestic sources such as tobacco and pine trees for half their current cost, making them cost-competitive with fuels from oil.
- Example PETRO Project: University of Florida – Gainesville, Florida ($6.3 million).
The University of Florida project will increase the production of turpentine, a natural liquid biofuel isolated from pine trees. The pine tree developed for this project is designed both to increase the turpentine storage capacity of the wood and to increase turpentine production from 3% to 20%. The fuel produced from these trees would become a sustainable domestic biofuel source able to produce 100 million gallons of fuel per year from less than 25,000 acres of forestland. READ MORE and MORE (The Hill E2Wire) and MORE (Highlands Today) List of Projects
PETRO: Plants Engineered To Replace Oil ($36 million) list of project
University of Massachusetts,
Development of a Dedicated, High-Value Biofuels Crop
The University of Massachusetts, Amherst will develop an improved oilseed crop that uses carbon more efficiently than traditional crops. The plant will incorporate features that significantly improve photosynthesis and also allow the plant to produce useful, high-energy fuel molecules directly within leaves and stems, in addition to seeds. This will allow a substantial increase in production of fuel per acre of planted land.
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
Energy Plant Design
The University of California, Los Angeles, will re-engineer plants so that they use energy more efficiently. The team will streamline the process by which green plants convert carbon dioxide into sugar or biofuels. This technology could then be applied broadly, for example to crop plants, to improve yields of grain and biomass.
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
St. Louis, MO
Center for Enhanced Camelina Oil (CECO)
The team led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will develop an enhanced variety of the oilseed crop Camelina that produces more oil per acre. Camelina will be engineered with several genes that allow the plant to use light more efficiently, increase its carbon uptake, and divert more energy to the production of oil, which is stored in seeds and is convertible to fuels. The goal of this project is to combine all of these genes into one engineered variety of Camelina, and to prepare it for field trials. READ MORE
Texas Agrilife Research
College Station, TX
Synthetic Crop for Direct Biofuel Production through Rerouting the Photosynthesis Intermediates and Engineering Terpenoid Pathways
Texas A&M University will address a major inefficiency of photosynthesis, the process used by green plants to capture light energy. Specifically, the team will redirect otherwise wasted energy in plants into energy-dense fuel molecules. The fuel will be readily separated from the plant biomass through distillation. READ MORE
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
Developing Tobacco as a Platform for Foliar Synthesis of High–Density Liquid Biofuels
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its team will develop tobacco plants with leaves that contain fuel molecules. The team will engineer tobacco with traits conferring hydrocarbon biosynthesis, enhanced carbon uptake, and optimized light utilization. The tobacco will be grown using advanced cultivation techniques to maximize biomass production. READ MORE and MORE (PhysOrg) and MORE (CleanTechnica)
Arcadia Biosciences Inc.
Vegetative Production of Oil from a C4 Crop
Arcadia Biosciences will modify a number of genes involved in oil biosynthesis to induce grasses to produce vegetable oil. Oil is one of the most energy dense forms of stored energy in plants, and it is a liquid that can be extracted readily, separated, and converted into biodiesel fuel. Arcadia’s technology will yield biomass comprised of 20% oil and can be transferred into highly productive energy crops such as sorghum and switchgrass.
University of Illinois
Engineering Hydrocarbon Biosynthesis and Storage Together with Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency into the Saccharinae
The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign team will engineer sugarcane and sorghum to produce and store oil, a biodiesel fuel, instead of sugar. The team will optimize the intensity of the leaf color to more efficiently capture and use sunlight, improving energy yields by up to 50% compared to conventional crops. The team will also crossbreed these crops with the energy grass Miscanthus to increase their geographic range of cultivation.
North Carolina State University
Jet Fuel From Camelina Sativa: A Systems Approach
North Carolina State University will engineer the oilseed crop Camelina with traits that increase the yield per acre of biodiesel. The project incorporates both an alternative way to capture carbon from air and features that allow the plant to accumulate larger quantities of vegetable oil and other fuel molecules in oilseeds. When combined together, the fuel molecules plus vegetable oil isolated from the plant can be converted into a fuel mixture that is comparable to diesel or jet fuel. This variety of Camelina is expected to produce more fuel per acre of land than other conventional biofuel crops.
Plant-Based Sesquiterpene Biofuels
Chromatin will lead a team to engineer sweet sorghum, a plant that produces large quantities of sugar and requires less water than most crops, so that it can accumulate the fuel molecule farnesene. Genes from microbes and other plants will be incorporated into sorghum to allow the plant to produce up to 20% of its biomass as farnesene, which can be readily converted into a type of diesel fuel. Farnesene will accumulate in the sorghum plants similar to the way in which sugarcane accumulates sugar.
University of Florida
Commercial Production of Terpene Biofuels in Pine
The University of Florida project will increase the production of turpentine, a natural liquid biofuel isolated from pine trees. The pine tree developed for this project is designed both to increase the turpentine storage capacity of the wood and to increase turpentine production from 3% to 20%. The fuel produced from these trees would become a sustainable domestic biofuel source able to produce 100 million gallons of fuel per year from less than 25,000 acres of forestland. READ MORE and MORE (Scientific American) and MORE (Biofuels Digest)