Carbon Transport, Hydrogen, Inverters & More Cleantech Projects Land DOE Funding
The U.S. Department of Energy recently injected hundreds of millions in grants to several clean energy projects. Here’s a briefing.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has made available millions of dollars in grants to support clean energy projects nationwide.
A recent grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will be used to demonstrate grid-forming inverters at the Oregon-based Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility, a 300-megawatt co-located wind and solar plant paired with energy storage. Image used courtesy of Portland General Electric Company
The agency’s latest funding allocations target clean hydrogen, carbon transport and storage, and technologies to improve the power grid's reliability, such as inverters. The DOE announced a separate $150 million investment to fund renovations at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.
The four announcements total $486.8 million and mark the latest of several rounds of cleantech-earmarked funding unveiled by the DOE in recent months. Here’s the latest.
$59.8M to Improve Hydrogen Performance, Lower Costs
First, the DOE unveiled $42 million in funding for 22 projects focused on clean hydrogen production, storage, and deployment.
The projects aim to demonstrate high-density and low-pressure hydrogen storage systems, reduce hydrogen fuel cell costs for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, develop solar fuel technologies utilizing water-splitting, and improve hydrogen emissions detection/monitoring.
Clean or “green” hydrogen is produced with little to no emissions, running on carbon-free sources such as renewables and nuclear to add long-duration energy storage and additional flexibility to the grid.
The recipients span 14 states and several sub-categories:
Solar fuels from solar thermochemical and photoelectrochemical water-splitting: Eleven projects received $19.2 million, with all but one getting $1 million each in federal cost-sharing. Another $8.3 million will establish a HydroGEN Laboratory Consortium supplying technical assistance to these projects. All recipients are universities except Massachusetts-based Saint-Gobain North America, a sustainable construction company.
Sensor technology for monitoring/measuring hydrogen losses: $8.6 million was doled out to six universities and companies to develop and validate hydrogen leak sensors. Private-sector recipients include California-based chemical monitoring sensor developer Indrio Technologies, research and development (R&D) firm Palo Alto Research Center, and conglomerate General Electric Company.
Materials-based hydrogen storage demonstrations: GKN Hydrogen Corp. received $2 million for a metal hydride storage project supporting on-site infrastructure at WGL’s Washington Gas. OCO Inc. landed $2.5 million for a formic acid-based hydrogen production and distribution system.
High-performing, durable, low-platinum group metal (PGM) catalysts and membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles: Three recipients received $3 million each. The University of California-Irvine will develop an advanced low-PGM cathode catalyst with self-healing properties for high-performance and durable MEAs. General Motors will design catalyst nanostructures and interfaces to boost durability in a low-PGM fuel cell MEA. The State University of New York at Buffalo will design highly durable ternary PtCoM intermetallic catalysts supporting heavy-duty MEAs.
The DOE also committed $17.8 million to create a Stanford University-led research consortium bringing together universities in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada to develop data, modeling tools, and other methods to improve the electric grid and advance shared clean energy goals, with a focus on addressing cross-border dependencies and interconnections.
$150M for NREL Renovations & Modernization
The DOE recently committed a $150 million investment, funded through the Inflation Reduction Act, to support expanded clean energy R&D at the Colorado-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Martin Keller, director of the NREL, said the funding would enable critical upgrades to lab infrastructure, accelerating more than three years of planned capital to modernize the lab’s infrastructure and initiate key renovations and maintenance. It will also expand the site’s electrical and water line capacity.
The funding has two priorities: $93 million will modernize research infrastructure and advance NREL’s Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems research platform. Another $57 million will fund laboratory renovations and maintenance to help reduce emissions from NREL’s activities.
The new funding comes as a major expansion is underway to build the Research and Innovation Laboratory, featuring 15,000 square feet of multi-purpose lab space for clean energy and efficiency research, such as plastics upcycling, batteries, and advanced energy materials.
A rendering of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s upcoming Research and Innovation Laboratory building. Image used courtesy of NREL
$251M for Carbon Transport and Storage
The DOE also extended $251 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to 12 projects focusing on expanding carbon dioxide (CO2) capture, transportation, and conversion/storage for the power and industrial sectors. The DOE estimates the projects will help capture and manage hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 emissions annually.
The projects span seven states and are divided into two sections:
Nine recipients landed $242 million to develop large-scale carbon storage projects with enough capacity for at least 50 million metric tons of CO2. The largest award ($40.5 million) went to the University of Wyoming for a commercial-scale carbon capture and storage hub sourcing CO2 from trona mining and direct air capture. Second is the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center ($38 million) for site characterization and permitting on a storage facility sourcing CO2 from ethanol production and electric generation. Another two projects grabbed over $30 million each, including BP for two storage sites in Texas and the Colorado School of Mines for a storage hub to lower emissions from cement, hydrogen, and power plants.
Three projects received $9 million to fund engineering design studies for regional pipeline networks to efficiently transport CO2 from power and ethanol plants to reuse for permanent storage or to manufacture building materials, fuels, and chemicals. Michigan startup Carbon Solutions will study a statewide pipeline in Wyoming (model pictured below) to transport up to 120 million metric tons of CO2 annually. Texas-based Howard Midstream Energy Partners will assess a system moving 250 million metric tons of CO2 to multiple storage locations along the Gulf Coast. Georgia-based Southern States Energy Board will study a regional transport system along the Texas Gulf Coast to move 8 million metric tons of CO2 annually.
A preliminary model of the Wyoming Trails Carbon Hub, a pipeline system to transport carbon dioxide to sequestration hubs. The project recently received a $3 million grant from the DOE to support the study/design phase. Image used courtesy of Carbon Solutions
The DOE also announced a $2.25 billion funding opportunity to support commercial-scale carbon storage infrastructure development. This marks the second opening of the Carbon Storage Validation and Testing program, now modified to include storage complex feasibility and site characterization, permitting, and construction. Applications are due on July 6.
$26M for Grid Reliability Technologies
The DOE awarded $26 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to eight grid efficiency and reliability projects to streamline the transition to solar, wind, and energy storage. The projects span 15 sites and will focus on technologies that can automatically respond to power grid interruptions and sudden changes in demand.
The projects will test various grid reliability technologies to improve how wind and solar plants transport energy reliably across networks and minimize high-voltage power line disruptions. They’ll also monitor and test controls, such as inverter-based resources, allowing the grid to restore power efficiently in blackouts.
The recipients include universities, laboratories, utilities, and other companies. The highest award ($4.5 million) went to Portland General Electric Company to demonstrate grid-forming inverters at the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility in Oregon, a site combining wind, solar, and storage systems. With the integration of new inverters, the facility would represent the nation’s first grid-forming hybrid power plant connected to a bulk power system.
The second-highest award ($3.9 million) went to California-headquartered Veritone for a project using an AI-enabled distributed energy resource management system to predict, optimize, and control inverter-based resources in New Mexico.