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Electricity Generation and Delivery

AltaRock Energy Inc.

Millimeter-Wave Technology Demonstration for Geothermal Direct Energy Drilling

AltaRock Energy will overcome technical limitations to deep geothermal drilling by replacing mechanical methods with a Millimeter Wave (MMW) directed energy technology to melt and vaporize rocks for removal. This approach could increase drilling speed by 10 times or more, reducing costs while reaching higher temperatures and greater depths than those achievable with the best current and proposed mechanical technologies. Project R&D will include benchtop testing as well as larger scale demonstrations of directed MMW drilling at unprecedented borehole lengths and power levels. A detailed modeling and simulations campaign carried out with the experimental work will provide the basis for the design of larger, commercial-scale systems.

Alveo Energy

Open Framework Electrode Batteries for Cost-Effective Stationary Storage

Alveo Energy is developing a grid-scale storage battery using Prussian Blue dye as the active material within the battery. Prussian Blue is most commonly known for its application in blueprint documents, but it can also hold electric charge. Though it provides only modest energy density, Prussian Blue is so readily available and inexpensive that it could provide a cost-effective and sustainable storage solution for years to come. Alveo will repurpose this inexpensive dye for a new battery that is far cheaper and less sensitive to temperature, air, and other external factors than comparable systems. This will help to facilitate the adoption and deployment of renewable energy technology. Alveo's Prussian Blue dye-based grid-scale storage batteries would be safe and reliable, have long operational lifetime, and be cheaper to produce than any existing battery technology.

American Superconductor

Sustainable Economic mCHP Stirling (SEmS) Unit

American Superconductor (AMSC) in collaboration with team members Qnergy, Alcoa Howmet, Gas Technology Institute (GTI), MicroCogen Partners, and A.O. Smith Corporation will develop a Free-Piston Stirling engine (FPSE) powered by an ultra-low-emissions natural gas burner for micro-CHP applications. A Stirling engine uses a working gas housed in a sealed environment, in this case the working gas is helium. When heated by the natural gas-fueled burner, the gas expands causing a piston to move and interact with a linear alternator to produce electricity. As the gas cools and contracts, the process resets before repeating again. Advanced Stirling engines endeavor to carefully manage heat inside the system to make the most efficient use of the natural gas energy. The ITC design features free-piston architecture using flexure bearings thus eliminating rubbing parts and allowing for long system life under continuous use. The team will also develop novel materials that enable high-temperature engine operation, further increasing the efficiency of the system.

Antora Energy

Solid State Thermal Battery

The Antora Energy team will develop key components for a thermal energy storage system (solid state thermal battery) that stores thermal energy in inexpensive carbon blocks. To charge the battery, power from the grid will heat the blocks to temperatures exceeding 2000°C (3632°F) via resistive heating. To discharge energy, the hot blocks are exposed to thermophotovoltaics (TPV) panels that are similar to traditional solar panels but specifically designed to efficiently use the heat radiated by the blocks. The team will develop a thermophotovoltaic heat engine capable of efficiently and durably converting high-temperature heat into electricity. It will seek to double panel efficiency through new materials and smart system design, potentially enabling a cost effective grid storage solution.

Applied Materials

Kerfless Crystalline-Silicon PV: Gas to Modules

Applied Materials is working with ARPA-E and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to build a reactor that produces the silicon wafers used in solar panels at a dramatically lower cost than existing technologies. Current wafer production processes are time consuming and expensive, requiring the use of high temperatures to produce ingots from molten silicon that can be sliced into wafers for use in solar cells. This slicing process results in significant silicon waste--or "kerf loss"--much like how sawdust is created when sawing wood. With funding from ARPA-E, Applied Materials is developing a reactor where ultra-thin silicon wafers are created by depositing silicon directly from vapor onto specialized reusable surfaces, allowing a significant reduction in the amount of silicon used in the process. Since high purity silicon is one of the most significant costs in producing solar cells, this kerf-less approach could significantly reduce the overall cost of producing solar panels. Applied Materials is partnering with Suniva, who will use funds from EERE to integrate these low-cost wafers into solar cells and modules that generate low-cost electricity, and with Arizona State University, who will develop high-efficiency devices on ultra-thin kerfless substrates. This partnership could enable low-cost, domestic manufacturing of solar modules, allowing the U.S. to reduce the amount of equipment we import from other countries.

Aquanis, Inc.

ACTIVE AERODYNAMIC LOAD CONTROL FOR WIND TURBINES

Aquanis will develop advanced plasma actuators and controls to reduce aerodynamic loads on wind turbine blades, facilitating the next generation of larger (20+ MW), smarter wind turbines. The technology contains no moving parts, instead using purely electrical plasma actuators on the blade that set the adjacent air in motion when powered. This system can change the lift and drag forces on turbine blades to reduce blade mechanical fatigue and enable the design of larger and cheaper blades. Currently effective at laboratory scales, Aquanis plans to improve the plasma actuator capabilities and field test a prototype plasma actuator system on a wind turbine.

Argonne National Laboratory

Intermediate Temperature Hybrid Fuel Cell System for the Conversion of Natural Gas to Electricity and Liquid Fuels

ANL is developing a new hybrid fuel cell technology that could generate both electricity and liquid fuels from natural gas. Existing fuel cell technologies typically convert chemical energy from hydrogen into electricity during a chemical reaction with oxygen or some other agent. In addition to generating electricity from hydrogen, ANL's fuel cell would produce ethylene--a liquid fuel precursor--from natural gas. In this design, a methane-coupling catalyst is added to the anode side of a fuel cell that, when fed with natural gas, creates a chemical reaction that produces ethylene and utilizes leftover hydrogen, which is then passed through a proton-conducting membrane to generate electricity. Removing hydrogen from the reaction site leads to increased conversion of natural gas to ethylene.

Arizona State University

High Temperature InGaN Thermionic Topping Cells

Arizona State University (ASU) is developing a solar cell that can maintain efficient operation at temperatures above 400°C. Like many other electronics, solar panels work best in cooler environments. As the temperature of traditional solar cells increases beyond 100°C, the energy output decreases markedly and components are more prone to failure. ASU's technology adapts semiconducting materials used in today's light-emitting diode (LED) industry to enable efficient, long-term high-temperature operation. These materials could allow the cells to maintain operation at much higher temperatures than today's solar cells, so they can be integrated as the sunlight-absorbing surface of a thermal receiver in the next generation of hybrid solar collectors. The solar cell would provide electricity using a portion of the incoming sunlight, while the receiver collects usable heat at high temperature that can be stored and dispatched to generate electricity as needed.

Arizona State University

Sensor Enabled Modeling of Future Distribution Systems with Distributed Energy Resources

Arizona State University will develop learning-ready models and control tools to maintain sensor-rich distribution systems in the presence of high levels of DER and storage. This approach will include topology processing algorithms, load and DER models for system planning and operation, distribution system state estimation, optimal DER operational scheduling algorithms, and system-level DER control strategies that leverage inverter controls' flexibility. The project will alter distribution system operation from today's reactive, load-serving, and outage mitigation-focused approach to an active DER, load, and outage-managed, market-ready approach.

Arizona State University

PVMirror: A Solar Concentrator Mirror Incorporating PV Cells

Arizona State University (ASU) is developing a hybrid solar energy system that modifies a CSP trough design, replacing the curved mirror with solar cells that collect both direct and diffuse rays of a portion of sunlight while reflecting the rest of the direct sunlight to a thermal absorber to generate heat. Electricity from the solar cells can be used immediately while the heat can be stored for later use. Today's CSP systems offer low overall efficiency because they collect only direct sunlight, or the light that comes in a straight beam from the sun. ASU's technology could increase the amount of light that can be converted to electricity by collecting diffuse sunlight, or light that has been scattered by the atmosphere, clouds, and off the earth. By integrating curved solar cells into a hybrid trough system, ASU will effectively split the solar spectrum and use each portion of the spectrum in the most efficient way possible. Diffuse and some direct sunlight are converted into electricity in the solar cells, while the unused portion of the direct sunlight is reflected for conversion to heat.

Arizona State University

Stochastic Optimal Power Flow for Real-Time Management of Distributed Renewable Generation and Demand Response

Arizona State University (ASU) will develop a stochastic optimal power flow (SOPF) framework, which would integrate uncertainty from renewable resources, load, distributed storage, and demand response technologies into bulk power system management in a holistic manner. The team will develop SOPF algorithms for the security-constrained economic dispatch (SCED) problem used to manage variability in the electric grid. The algorithms will be implemented in a software tool to provide system operators with real-time guidance to help coordinate between bulk generation and large numbers of DERs and demand response. ASU's project features unique data-analytics based short-term forecast for bulk and distributed wind and solar generation utilized by the advisory tool that generates real-time recommendations for market operators based on the SOPF algorithm outputs.

AutoGrid, Inc.

Highly Dispatchable and Distributed Demand Response for the Integration of Distributed Generation

AutoGrid, in conjunction with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Columbia University, will design and demonstrate automated control software that helps manage real-time demand for energy across the electric grid. Known as the Demand Response Optimization and Management System - Real-Time (DROMS-RT), the software will enable personalized price signals to be sent to millions of customers in extremely short timeframes--incentivizing them to alter their electricity use in response to grid conditions. This will help grid operators better manage unpredictable demand and supply fluctuations in short time-scales--making the power generation process more efficient and cost effective for both suppliers and consumers. DROMS-RT is expected to provide a 90% reduction in the cost of operating demand response and dynamic pricing programs in the U.S.

Beacon Power, LLC

Development of a 100 kWh/100 kW Flywheel Energy Storage Module

Beacon Power is developing a flywheel energy storage system that costs substantially less than existing flywheel technologies. Flywheels store the energy created by turning an internal rotor at high speeds--slowing the rotor releases the energy back to the grid when needed. Beacon Power is redesigning the heart of the flywheel, eliminating the cumbersome hub and shaft typically found at its center. The improved design resembles a flying ring that relies on new magnetic bearings to levitate, freeing it to rotate faster and deliver 400% as much energy as today's flywheels. Beacon Power's flywheels can be linked together to provide storage capacity for balancing the approximately 10% of U.S. electricity that comes from renewable sources each year.

Bigwood Systems, Inc.

Global-Optimal Power Flow (G-OPF)

Bigwood Systems is developing a comprehensive Optimal Power Flow (OPF) modelling engine that will enhance the energy efficiency, stability, and cost effectiveness of the national electric grid. Like water flowing down a hill, electricity takes the path of least resistance which depends on the grid network topology and on grid controls. However, in a complicated networked environment, this can easily lead to costly congestion or shortages in certain areas of the electric grid. Grid operators use imperfect solutions like approximations, professional judgments, or conservative estimates to try to ensure reliability while minimizing costs. Bigwood Systems' approach will combine four separate analytical technologies to develop an OPF modeling engine that could markedly improve management of the grid. As part of this project, Bigwood Systems will demonstrate the practical applications of this tool in partnership with the California Independent System Operator (CAISO).

Boston University

Transmission Topology Control for Infrastructure Resilience to the Integration of Renewable Generation

The Boston University (BU) team is developing control technology to help grid operators more actively manage power flows and integrate renewables by optimally turning entire power lines on and off in coordination with traditional control of generation and load resources. The control technology being developed would provide grid operators with tools to help manage transmission congestion by identifying the facilities whose on/off status must change to lower generation costs, increase utilization of renewable resources and improve system reliability. The technology is based on fast optimization algorithms for the near to real-time change in the on/off status of transmission facilities and their software implementation.

Brayton Energy

1kW Recuperated Brayton-Cycle Engine Using Positive-Displacement Components

Brayton Energy will develop a 1 kW recuperated Brayton cycle engine to produce heat and electricity for residential use. To begin the cycle, compressed air is preheated in a recuperator before adding fuel, then the air-fuel mix is ignited in a combustion chamber. The high temperature exhaust gases then expand through the turbine, providing some of the work that drives the compressor and also produces electricity in a generator. Major project innovations include the use of a rotary screw-type compressor and expander that operate in a sub-atmospheric Brayton cycle i.e. below atmospheric pressure. In addition, Brayton will also use their innovative patented recuperator that is currently in production, and an ultra-low emission combustor.

Brayton Energy

Improved Laughlin-Brayton Cycle Energy Storage

The Brayton Energy team will develop a key component to enable a cost-competitive Laughlin-Brayton battery energy storage system that combines thermal storage and innovative turbomachinery to generate power. When the system is charging, an electrically driven heat pump will accumulate thermal energy in a high temperature thermal energy storage medium. During discharge, electricity is produced by heating a gas using the stored thermal energy and sending it through the generation turbine that drives an electric generator. Brayton Energy's innovation lies in its reversing, counter-rotating turbine design, in which each turbomachinery stage is designed to act as both as a compressor and turbine, alternating between charging and discharging cycles. This approach greatly simplifies the Laughlin-Brayton battery system, improves its efficiency and operability, and reduces the capital cost.

Brayton Energy

Low-Cost Dispatchable CSP Engine For Residential Power

Brayton Energy is developing an efficient and low-cost distributed residential-scale combined heat and power system. This project seeks to advance and combine several complementary technologies--including metallic screw compressors, high temperature ceramic screw expanders, and a high-effectiveness recuperator. This combination will result in an integrated system with performance surpassing existing state-of-the-art systems. Brayton Energy's proposed technology would continuously deliver 2 kW of electrical power and enable efficient and economical distributed power systems that would radically transform how we heat and cool our homes.

Brown University

Marine Hydro-Kinetic Energy Harvesting Using Cyber-Physical Systems

Brown University is developing a power conversion device to maximize power production and reduce costs to capture energy from flowing water in rivers and tidal basins. Conventional methods to harness energy from these water resources face a number of challenges, including the costs associated with developing customized turbine technology to a specific site. Additionally, sites with sufficient energy exist near coastal habitats which depend on the natural water flow to transport nutrients. Brown University's tidal power conversion devices can continuously customize themselves by using an onboard computer and control software to respond to real-time measurements, which will increase tidal power conversion efficiency. Brown University's technology will allow for inexpensive installation and software upgrades and optimized layout of tidal power generators to maximize power generation and mitigate environmental impacts.

California Institute of Technology

Prototype Tools to Establish the Viability of the Adiabatic Heating and Compression Mechanisms Required for Magnetized Target Fusion

Caltech, in coordination with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), will investigate the scaling of adiabatic heating of plasma by propelling magnetized plasma jets into stationary heavy gases and/or metal walls. This is the reverse of the process that would occur in an actual fusion reactor - where a gas or metal liner would compress the plasma - but will provide experimental data to assess the magneto-inertial fusion approach. By using this alternative frame of reference, the researchers will be able to conduct experiments more frequently and at a lower cost because the experimental setup is non-destructive. The team will investigate the jet-target collision using many experiments with a wide range of parameters to determine the actual equation of state relating compression, change in magnetic field, and temperature increase. The experimental work will be supplemented with advanced 3D computer models. If successful, these results will show that compressional heating by a liner is a viable method for increasing temperatures to the levels required for magneto-inertial fusion. The study will also provide critical information on the interactions and limitations for a variety of possible driver and plasma target combinations being developed across the ALPHA program portfolio.

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