Reading the Clean Energy Tea Leaves

The DOE awarded $57 million to support clean energy technology commercialization projects for 33 small businesses across the country. These projects were funded as part of the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Small Business Phase III Xlerator program.

Part of the fascination with such a list is that, since money is attached to each project, it gives you clear evidence of what’s been deemed viable in the clean energy world. (And, by omission, what has not.) It’s like reading really expensive tea leaves. It may be a little biased. This was a small business program and shows what clean energy technologies the entrepreneurs are excited about. But the DOE had to make some judgment of what technologies are relevant.

I’m going to dispense with the company names here, and just present you with the tea leaves (topic and amount of money) for your own assessment of where clean energy technology is going. If you want the full list, you can go <a href=http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/news/progress_alerts.cfm/pa_id=400>here.</a>

  • Biomass Technologies: Harvesting/Dewatering Technology for Algal Biofuels $3,000,000
  • Buildings: Solid State Lighting Products made from Organic Light-Emitting Diodes $2,000,000
  • Fuel Cell Technologies: Advanced Materials and Bio-Fueled Solid Oxide Fuel Cells $6,600,000
  • Geothermal Technologies: High-Temperature-High-Volume Lifting $1,900,000
  • Industrial Technologies: Mitigation of Heat Losses, Fouling, and Scaling in Key Manufacturing Unit Operations; Integrated Reaction-Separation Using Non-Thermal Processes $3,150,000
  • Solar Technologies: Lowering the Cost of Photovoltaics $4,600,000
  • Vehicle Technologies $7,000,000
  • Advanced Wind Technologies Systems $9,400,000
  • Nuclear Energy—Advanced Instrumentation and Control, Radiation Resistant Sensors, and Wireless On-Line Monitoring Systems for Nuclear Power Plant Applications $8,200,000
  • Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability $5,000,000

Well, okay, a little editorial.

I noticed that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not on the list. This is striking because so many companies and individuals see CCS as the ultimate technology to allow us to go on living a fossil-fueled existence. But it seems that if you follow the money, CCS isn’t among the favored. I’m also wondering where the wave power and tidal power projects are. They get a lot of press coverage, but don’t show up here.

On the other side, the Industrial Technologies topic is a mouthful. Can anyone but an engineer love that topic? Still and all, it shows that there is a lot of energy efficiency to be gained just by changing what we’re doing on a real nitty-gritty level. Not all energy work is as graceful as a wind turbine.

If anyone wanted to write their own conclusions, I would be very interested in hearing them.

Paul Birkeland lives in Seattle, WA, US, and develops Strategic Energy Management Systems for government, commercial, and industrial organizations through Integrated Renewable Energy.

Graphic: <ahref=”http://www.energylan.sandia.gov/photo/photos/1440/144066D.jpg”>Sandia Labs</a>