A new agency that received its first funding under the bill, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), has already announced some award recipients. Of the $400 million the agency received, it’s announced awards totaling $150 million, and has started taking applications for a second round of awards (“DOE’s Agency Learns from Some Early Mistakes”).
ARPA-E has funded several technologies with the potential to bring about big changes to the energy landscape. For instance, carbon nanotube ultracapacitors that could cut the cost of hybrids (“Ultracapacitor Startup Gets a Big Boost”), and carbon nanotube membranes that could make capturing carbon dioxide cheaper (“Carbon Capture with Nanotubes”). Another project could lead to a new kind of coal plant that doesn’t release carbon dioxide, and yet doesn’t raise the price of electricity (“Using Rust to Capture CO2 from Coal Plants”).
Several new battery technologies could have a similarly transformative impact. New sodium-ion batteries (“Sodium-Ion Cells for Cheap Energy Storage”) and liquid batteries could make storing renewable energy affordable, while metal-air batteries offer the promise of cheap electric vehicles that can go hundreds of miles on a single charge (“Betting on a Metal-Air Battery Breakthrough”). The DOE’s Office of Science is also funding a number of programs exploring cutting-edge energy science, and has announced $277 million in stimulus funding for 46 “Energy Frontier Research Centers.”
Meanwhile, the DOE has started to issue some of the $125 billion in loans and loan guarantees it’s in charge of. For example, solar panel maker Solyndra received a $535 loan guarantee. The DOE has announced a total of $8.5 billion in loans for developing advanced vehicles. These will go to Ford, Nissan, and two small companies: the electric car maker Tesla Motors and the plug-in hybrid maker Fisker Automotive.