The U.S. Department of Energy last week committed millions of dollars to accelerate the technical and commercial readiness of renewable and energy storage technologies. Commitments include the largest single federal award to date for emerging U.S. marine and hydrokinetic technologies.

Marine and Hydrokinetic Projects to Get $37 Million

Twenty-seven marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) projects in 17 states are to receive more than $37 million in federal funds, according to a DOE announcement on Sept. 9. The technologies generate renewable electricity from free-flowing rivers and streams, ocean tides and waves, and temperature differences in the ocean. They range from concept studies and component design research to prototype development and in-water device testing.

One of the largest awards—$10 million—was made to a $21.1 million project by Ocean Renewable Power Co. (ORPC) that entails building, installing, and monitoring a commercial-scale array of five grid-connected TidGen project devices on the sea floor in Cobscook Bay off Eastport, Maine, in two phases over three years. The project is expected to advance ORPC’s cross-flow turbine tidal energy technology, producing a full-scale, grid-connected energy system and will gather critical technical and cost performance data for one of the most advanced tidal energy systems in the U.S., the DOE said. The completed project will comprise an array of interconnected TidGen hydrokinetic energy conversion devices, associated power electronics, and interconnection equipment into a system fully capable of commercial operation in moderate- to high-velocity tidal currents in water depths of up to 150 feet.

A $10 million award was also granted to Public Utility District No. 1 of Washington State’s Snohomish County. That project, with a total cost of $20.1 million, will deploy, operate, monitor, and evaluate two 10 meter–diameter Open-Centre Turbines, developed and manufactured by OpenHydro Group, in Admiralty Inlet of Puget Sound. The project is expected to generate 1 MW of electrical energy during periods of peak tidal currents with an average energy output of approximately 100 kW.

Grants also included $2.4 million to the $4.8 million PowerBuoy system, a full-scale 150-kW wave energy converter that New Jersey–based Ocean Power Technologies is planning to deploy in the Oregon Territorial Sea. Developers will seek to obtain critical technical and cost performance data during the two-year project.

Other selected projects will be led by companies and institutions in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

$5.2 Million to Develop Wind Forecasting and Turbines

The DOE announced on Sept. 13 that it would award more than $5.2 million over two years to five projects that will support wind energy development in the U.S.
Two of the projects, focused on short-term wind forecasting, will receive a total of $3.4 million over two years: AWS Truepower LLC will lead a project that will focus on a region of high wind energy use in Texas, while WindLogics Inc. will lead a project targeting portions of several upper-Midwestern states.

In addition, three projects will receive a total of more than $1.8 million to develop midsize wind turbines, with Clean Green Energy LLC developing a 200-kW vertical-axis wind turbine; Northern Power Systems developing a 450-kW wind turbine; and Texas Tech University developing a 500-kW model that can be tilted upward without using cranes. Vertical-axis wind turbines resemble upright eggbeaters and have maintenance advantages because the generator is located near the ground. (Watch for a Global Monitor story on this technology in the forthcoming October issue of POWER.)

$9.6 Million for Transformational Energy Research Projects

In a Sept. 10 announcement, the DOE said it had selected six transformational energy research and development projects to receive a total of $9.6 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Selections, made by the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), include a dehumidifier based on a nano-structured solid polymer that is permeable to moisture but impermeable to air, and next-generation permanent magnets with a lower content of critical rare-earth metals to increase the efficiency and power density of electric machines. Awards were also granted to a unique cryogenic carbon capture system for fossil fuel power plants (see POWER’s forthcoming October issue for details on a similar system), and an airborne wind turbine, consisting of a high-performance wing that carries a turbine and is tethered to the ground.

The final two selections are a dynamic liquid prism that can be adjusted using an applied electric field, allowing concentrating photovoltaic systems to track the sun without the use of mechanical systems, and a thermal energy storage system for concentrating solar power systems that uses supercritical fluids to potentially store twice the energy of an equivalent-size molten-salt system.

$20 Million for Geothermal Technologies

The DOE on Sept. 15 awarded $20 million to seven projects to research, develop, and demonstrate cutting-edge geothermal technologies. The grants will help demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of non-conventional geothermal energy technologies in three research areas: low-temperature fluids, geothermal fluids recovered from oil and gas wells, and highly pressurized geothermal fluids.

Three projects of the seven received $2 million each. These included grants to GreenFire Energy to provide field evaluations of a low-temperature carbon dioxide–based geothermal plant; to Modoc Contracting Co. for the creation of a complete “cascaded” use of geothermal resources, from low-temperature power generation through several direct-use applications, including a direct heating system, greenhouse operation, and fish farm); and to Oski Energy, which has proposed to test an innovative power cycle technology that uses a mixture of ammonia and water as the working fluid.

According to the DOE, low-temperature resources are widely available across the country, but most low-temperature geothermal resources are not hot enough to be harnessed through traditional geothermal processes, including dry steam or flash steam power plants, which typically use water at temperatures greater than 360F (182C).  The award-winning projects take advantage of geothermal fluids that won’t “flash” on their own for electricity generation but that could be used in binary-cycle power plants. In binary-cycle technologies, the water from the geothermal reservoir is used to heat another “working fluid,” which is vaporized and used to turn the turbine or generator units.

Highly pressurized or geopressured fluid geothermal production is a type of geothermal resource that occurs in deep basins where fluid and gas occur naturally under very high pressure. These geothermal reservoirs often contain dissolved natural gas that may not be economical to produce alone but can be economically developed in combination with geothermal energy production. Geopressured reservoirs are located along the Pacific coast, in Appalachia, beneath the Gulf of Mexico, and in other deep sedimentary basins in the U.S.

Sources: DOE, POWERnews