The Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy [ARPA-E] was set up by bipartisan action in 2007, funded by Obama in 2009; expanded by Congress in 2009; and survived attempts by Trump to kill it in both 2017 and 2018.
ARPA-E is a skunkworks project that gives out grants for advanced sustainable energy research that's beyond the initial phases but still too nascent to be commercialized. They've focused on long-term energy storage (a key piece of the picture with renewables) and the portfolio of inventions that have emerged from their funding is mind-bogglingly cool.
Vox's David Robert runs these down, from the wide variety of thermal storage technologies to the flow batteries, to more exotic ideas like fuel cells and pumped water systems.
Of course, Trump hates the agency, both because it is seen as a creature of the Obama regime and thus must be destroyed, and because it will hasten the demise of fossil fuels.
It’s all in what you heat and how much of the energy you get back out. At Michigan State University, they will heat “a bed of magnesium manganese oxide (Mg-Mn-O) particles.” Brayton Energy, in Hampton, New Hampshire, will heat molten salt. Echogen Power Systems, in Akron, Ohio, will heat “a ‘reservoir’ of low cost materials such as sand or concrete.” The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in Golden, Colorado, will heat “inexpensive solid particles to temperatures greater than 1100°C” and then get the energy out using “a high performance heat exchanger and closed loop Brayton cycle turbine,” which certainly sounds cool.
Antora Energy, in Fremont, California, will heat “inexpensive carbon blocks” (to 2000° C!). Antora is somewhat unique in that it will get the energy back out not through a turbine, but with “thermophotovoltaic” solar panels “specifically designed to efficiently use the heat radiated by the blocks.”
Thermal storage doesn’t get a lot of press in the energy world — heat is somehow less sexy than electricity — but it has enormous potential to speed decarbonization. It would be awesome to see one of these techs catch on.
(via Naked Capitalism)