The most surprising thing about the inaugural ARPA-E summit, held this week outside Washington D.C., is that the conference hall was full of losers. They were inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs who had applied for funding from the U.S. government’s exciting new energy-research organization but had been shot down.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy received 3,500 proposals, but only accepted 37. That leaves room for some compelling also-rans.
As a consolation prize, some of the most credible finalists got booth space in the exhibit hall. The most visible were those with ambitious plans for “kite power” — harnessing the powerful and consistent winds that blow high off the Earth’s deck.
Kite energy is way out there, both physically and in the public mindset, and it can be a hard sell, even to an agency like ARPA-E that funds risky projects. Who wants to put their money on the line for a four-rotor helicopter the size of a 747 that’s suspended several kilometers in the air?