ARPA-E Announces Over $9 Million in Funding to Technology Projects Working to Remove Harmful Greenhouse Gas From U.S. Power Grid

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced it selected four projects to receive a combined $9.4 million to develop technology focused on removing sulfur hexafluoride—a significantly more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide—from the U.S. power grid.

The four projects selected to receive funding include the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn.; Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Ga.; GE Grid Solutions, LLC in Charleroi, Pa.; and Toshiba International Corporation in Houston, Texas.

“The climate crisis is already devastating communities, and so it’s critical we continue to make bold investments in creative solutions to address it. I’m glad the Department of Energy is supporting UConn’s research to reduce harmful emissions from electric infrastructure. This kind of work puts us on a path toward a clean energy future, and I’m proud to support it,” said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

“Providing environmental-friendly and cutting-edge technological investments is key to Georgia’s ability to thrive and compete in the 21st century economy, and beyond. I am proud to see these federal funds headed to Georgia Tech, and excited to see how they help our state continue to break new ground in technology and innovation,” said U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).

“The future of American energy continues to be built right here in our community,” said U.S. Representative Lucy McBath (D-GA 6). “I am proud to stand with this Administration as we invest in the sustainable, efficient electrical grid of tomorrow, and I look forward to continuing our work to create good-paying jobs, build sustainable products, and reduce our carbon footprint."

You can learn more about these project selections on ARPA-E’s Exploratory Topics page or below:

University of Connecticut – Storrs, CT

Detection and Fixation: A Lifecycle-Management Framework Towards an SF6-Free Green Power Network - $2,734,381

The University of Connecticut proposes to develop a life-cycle management framework to accelerate and safeguard the transition of the U.S. power grid toward a sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)-free green power network. Although SF6 has several positive properties, it also has a global warming potential (GWP) 25,200 times that of CO2. Studies suggest the alternative environmentally friendly gas mixture g3TM as a promising potential replacement for SF6. The team will focus on leaks, aging byproduct detection, and fixations (capture and storage) for g3TM, but believes its proposed sensing technologies and life-cycle management can be implemented on all types of equipment. The technologies can be extended to retrofit existing assets for SF6 leak detection and end-of-life fixation.

Georgia Tech – Atlanta, GA

TESLA: Tough and Ecological Supercritical Line Breaker for AC - $3,428,827

Leakage from SF6-insulated circuit breakers and power equipment has been raising environmental concerns due to the high GWP of SF6. Georgia Tech proposes TESLA, an SF6-free high-voltage circuit breaker. Recent breakthroughs in the dielectric properties of supercritical fluid research show the promise of using it as a dielectric and arc-quenching medium for high-voltage AC circuit breakers instead of SF6. TESLA opens possibilities for an SF6-free electric apparatus. The team will design and build the proposed circuit breaker rated at 245 kV, 4 kA and validate the design and functionality using a synthetic test circuit.

GE Grid Solutions – Charleroi, PA

Development of an Eco-friendly Outdoor HVAC Power Circuit Breaker to Reduce Dependence on SF6 Technology in the U.S. Electrical Grid - $2,259,041

GE Grid Solutions plans to develop a SF6-free high-voltage AC outdoor dead-tank power circuit breaker. The circuit breaker will be rated at 245 kV and will also provide the basis for a two-break 550 kV rated design. It will use g3TM gas mixture for current breaking and dielectric withstand. This project is a critical step in launching a range of products that meet U.S. energy industry requirements without using SF6 technology. These products are essential to reduce the bulk electric system’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. The resulting products will be manufactured in the U.S.

Toshiba International Corporation – Houston, TX

Novel Approaches toward Improved Thermal Interruption Performance of CO2+O2 Natural Origin Gas Mixtures for Replacement of SF6 in High Voltage Equipment - $990,713

Using natural-origin gas mixtures of CO2 and O2 instead of SF6 gas in transmission and distribution circuit protection devices could reduce GWP from 25,200 to less than one. CO2-based gas mixtures have reduced thermal interruption performance compared with SF6. To achieve higher interruption ratings with CO2-based gas mixtures, Toshiba plans to (1) gather baseline thermal interruption data using an upgraded model circuit breaker with state-of-the-art architecture, (2) apply a novel interrupter architecture with external and persistent magnetic fields to improve arc cooling and reduce reliance on forced gas flow, and (3) design a novel contact system to minimize metal vapor production during arcing.