The U.S. Department of Energy in recent weeks has announced more than $500 million worth of federal investments in clean energy research and development projects focusing on solar power and storage for the electricity grid, batteries for electric vehicles, and other technologies to reduce tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks.
The announcements are part of an ongoing ramp-up of federal investment in clean energy R&D in the wake of a sweeping overhaul of federal energy innovation programs that came late last year when lawmakers passed the Energy Act of 2020 to combat climate change and bolster U.S. competitiveness in the burgeoning clean energy economy.
Among the latest group of announcements was a $40 million investment in 40 solar technology projects focusing on photovoltaics (PV), which convert light to electricity via semiconductors, and concentrating solar power (CSP), which captures heat from sunlight and uses that thermal energy to generate electricity.
“Research to develop stronger and longer-lasting solar panels is critical to addressing the climate crisis," said Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm.
DOE separately announced $209 million for 26 lab projects focused on electric vehicles and reducing the cost, size, and charge time of their batteries. A week later came $199 million for 25 more projects aimed at putting cleaner cars and trucks on U.S. roads and highways. That included $127 million for heavy-vehicle manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors to develop electric concepts for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and freight systems, plus $71 million for 20 projects focused on accelerating the expansion of EV charging and infrastructure.
“DOE is working with manufacturers and industry partners to reimagine vehicle transportation across the country to achieve our climate goals—from lowering carbon emissions to increasing efficiency and affordability,” said Granholm. “This investment and the innovations that come from it will help shape our clean energy future and strengthen domestic manufacturing that support good-paying careers for hardworking Americans.”
Also among the spate of recent announcements was $105 million for small businesses to deploy and adopt clean energy technologies. The funding will be administered by DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) programs to encourage diverse participation in the process of technological innovation and facilitate tech transfer between research institutions and small businesses.
Funding for the recently announced projects came from DOE’s fiscal year 2021 budget. The Biden administration has requested a 6 percent increase in fiscal year 2022, although it remains to be seen how far that request will get in Congress.