Last month, the Department of Energy announced $57 million in awards to 33 small businesses dealing in the world of clean energy production in order to “accelerate commercialization of clean energy techniques, increase American competitiveness and create jobs.” The money is intended to help businesses who already have proven new technologies to bring up production in order to allow these businesses to hire new people and move further within their industry.
While many people carp about the government going out of its way to hurt small business owners through its policies, the DoE’s money is going, 100%, to small businesses working with larger ones, with universities, and with laboratories. The DoE is awarding money in amounts between $500,000 and $3 million, helping them to continue expanding in the face of a brutal job market and difficult economy.
Some of the organizations cited as recipients include Renewable Algal Energy, LLC, in Kingsport, Tennessee, which develops technology to transform algae into biodiesel and took the largest award at $3 million. Universal Display Corporation of Ewing, New Jersey, received $2 million to continue development of organic LED-based lighting products (such as bulbs and fixtures), moving a step further from the fluorescent bulbs now popular in much of the world.
Several companies dealing in fuel cells, such as Dynalene, Inc, Giner Electrochemical Systems, InnovaTek, and TDA Research Inc. received awards for biomass and bio-fueled solid oxide fuel cells as well as high performance membranes and nanoparticle-based fuel cell coolants. Vehicle technology awards went to Electron Energy Corporation, Materials Innovation Technologies, LLC, and Strategic Polymer Sciences, who received substantial awards for motor magnet, lightweight vehicle material, and compact high temperature DC bus capacitors, respectively.
Conventional green power also proved to be a substantial part of the DoE’s awards. Geothermal technology saw a $1.9 million award go to Composite Technology Development, Inc. Solar power awards focused mostly on solar cell manufacturing and making the process more affordable; Applied Nanotech received an award to help further their development of high capacity manufacturing of non-contact metallic inks for solar cells, Microlink received an award for multijunction solar cells, and Ultrasonic Technologies received one to help develop ultrasonic vibration technology for silicon solar panels. Given that people want solar power, this kind of progress should see at least a somewhat enthusiastic response.
Wind awards revolved around both manufacturing and the potential appeasement of current NIMBYers, frustrated by the large, loud machines that have devalued their properties. Native American Technologies received an award for the “self-erecting wind turbine tower,” putting an end to trucks hauling gigantic blades down highways. Webcore Technologies, LLC received an award for its engineered core material-based wind turbine blades, intended to bring down costs and weight, which may within a few years help wind power shake the bad reputation it’s developed among cranky homeowners.
The awards also see us moving toward a new generation of nuclear power with an emphasis on increased safety. Analysis and Measurement Services, Inc. received two awards, one for an on-line monitoring system in boiling water reactors and another for a system allowing wireless condition monitoring in water reactors. Luna Innovations, Inc. also received an award for ultra-high temperature fiber optic thermal sensors. All of these point to the re-emergence of nuclear power as we continue to exhaust our fossil fuel supplies, but that concerns over radiation exposure and meltdowns will be a top concern for getting voters to support their manufacture and operation. What’s perhaps most surprising about these announcements is how immediately practical the products being developed appear to be, and how useful almost all of them will likely prove, in some capacity, in the 2010s and beyond.
A. Hall is a guest blogger for Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on criminal justice degree online for “Guide to Online Schools.”