February 2, 2010

DOE budget boosts research

The Obama administration's budget request for fiscal year 2011 includes nearly $500 million in new funding for renewable energy research.

The Department of Energy's portion of the budget includes $300 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E); $108 million in new funding for research in wind, solar and geothermal energy; $40 million of additional funding for the Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs); and $34 million to launch a fourth Energy Innovation Hub.

ARPA-E was launched in 2009 with $400 million from the Recovery Act. The agency didn't receive any funding in the fiscal year 2010 budget. ARPA-E supports high-risk, high-reward research in energy storage, biomass energy, direct solar fuels, vehicle technologies, carbon capture, renewable power generation, building efficiency and waste heat capture.

The EFRCs are slated to receive $140 million, up from $100 million in 2010. The program was launched in 2009 with $277 million in Recovery Act funding and plans for $100 million a year for five years from the budget. The 46 centers carry out basic research aimed at producing breakthroughs that will allow renewable energy to replace fossil fuels.

The new Batteries and Energy Storage hub will join the three Energy Innovation Hubs launched in 2009. Those hubs were created with $66 million and are slated to receive $73 million in the 2011 budget. The hubs support cross-disciplinary research that tackles barriers to transforming the country's energy systems. The DOE originally requested eight hubs in the 2010 budget, but only three were approved -- fuels from sunlight, efficient buildings design and modeling an advanced nuclear reactor.

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