Thursday, January 21, 2010

Senate E & NR Committee Hearing on DOE R & D

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee held a hearing today to receive testimony from Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, right, on the research, development, priorities and imperatives needed to meet the medium and long term challenges associated with climate change.


With our precious research dollars, the Department of Energy is seeking breakthroughs such as the following:

• Gasoline and diesel-like biofuels generated from lumber waste, crop wastes, solid waste, and non-food crops;
• Automobile batteries with three times today’s energy density that can survive 15 years of deep discharges;
• Photovoltaic solar power with a fully installed cost four times cheaper than today’s technology;
• Computer design tools for commercial and residential buildings that enable reductions in energy consumption of up to 80 percent with investments that will pay for themselves in less than 10 years; and
• Large scale energy storage systems so that variable renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power can become base-load power generators.
In addition to our base programs, the Department has launched a broad research strategy that begins by drawing upon the incredible resources of our National Laboratories. The Department is also pursuing three new, complementary approaches to marshal the nation’s brightest minds to accelerate energy breakthroughs.

The first approach is the Energy Frontier Research Centers, which are multi-year, multi-investigator scientific collaborations focused on overcoming known hurdles in basic science.

The second approach is the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E uses a highly entrepreneurial funding model to explore potentially transformative technologies that are too risky for industry to fund. We have already funded several extremely exciting projects, including a liquid metal battery that could provide grid-scale energy storage, a new wind turbine that can achieve higher efficiencies with a smaller size, and a new approach to carbon capture inspired by an enzyme used by the human body to capture and transport carbon dioxide generated in our cells during metabolism to the lungs where it is exhaled.

The third novel funding approach, Energy Innovation Hubs, will establish larger, highly integrated teams working to solve priority technology challenges. This work spans from basic research to engineering development so that the ideas can be quickly commercialized.

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