The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) just announced that it is spending up to $30 million on a new program that will develop a cost-effective way to harness solar energy even when the sun is not shining. The project will “engage our country’s top scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to develop new technologies” and “help advance solar energy beyond current photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies to ensure solar power remains a consistent, cost-effective renewable energy option,” according to the agency.
“ARPA-E’s new program will leverage the ingenuity of America’s best and brightest to develop technologies that are critical to the continued growth of the solar industry,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a recent statement.
“As the President made clear in his plan to cut carbon pollution, energy innovations like these are a critical contribution to ensuring America’s future national, economic, and environmental security.”
The program will develop hybrid technology that is so far known as FOCUS or the Full-Spectrum Optimized Conversion and Utilization of Sunlight. It will aim to develop two distinct technology options to deliver low-cost, high-efficiency solar energy on demand. It is hoped that these hybrid converters will use the entire solar spectrum more efficiently than PV or CSP technologies by using heat and electricity from variable solar sources.
As well as the FOCUS project, ARPA-E has announced a $145 million budget for the year that will be used to “improve vehicle manufacturing techniques, biologically convert natural gas to liquids, develop robust battery chemistries and architectures for electric vehicles, and create innovative semiconductor materials for improved power conversion”.
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