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Federal Grants to Spur Clean-Tech, Smart Grid Innovations

smartgridgrantsThe Obama Administration has released billions of dollars under the federal stimulus act to drive technological innovation in the areas of clean technologies and smart-grid networks.

The head of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the first federal grants for high-risk, high-reward clean-tech ventures including innovative technologies such as using bacteria to create gasoline, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Other high-tech projects cited in the article include the development of high-density lithium-ion batteries for hybrid vehicles, electric cars and electronic gadgets; advanced biofuel from seaweed, and organisms that use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into sugars and another organism to create gasoline and diesel from the sugars.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said these “are out-of-the-box approaches and we’re trying to hit home runs, not just base hits.”

The administration’s initiative has support from the Silicon Valley’s clean-technology community, which sees federal funding as critical in getting basic research off the ground, paving the way for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to turn their ideas into multibillion-dollar companies, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

The grants are managed through the recently established Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The first round of funding for a total of $151 million was given to 37 projects in small business, research groups and large corporations, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The agency received total initial funding of $400 million under the federal stimulus act.

President Barack Obama also announced $3.4 billion in government grants to help build a “smart” electric grid that will save consumers money on their utility bills, reduce blackouts and carry power supplies generated by solar and wind energy, according to the White House, reports Reuters.

Administration officials say this is the largest award made in a single day from the $787 billion stimulus package approved by Congress, and will create tens of thousands of jobs while upgrading the U.S. electric grid, reports Reuters.

The grants, which range from $400,000 to $200 million, will go to 100 companies, utilities, manufacturers, cities and other partners in 49 states, slated to provide 18 million smart meters, 700 automated substations and 200,000 smart transformers, reports Reuters.

The winning companies, including Constellation Energy’s Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas and Electric Co. subsidiary, have secured an additional $4.7 billion in private money to match their government grants, creating $8.1 billion in total investment in the smart grid, reports Reuters. The projects are expected to run over 12 to 36 months.

Funds are expected to be in the accounts of the winning companies within 60 days, reports Reuters.

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