Jeff St. John, Greentech Media
A roundup of the innovative grid-focused technologies funded by the Energy Department’s blue-sky research program.
ARPA-E, the Department of Energy’s $770-million-and-counting investment into cutting-edge energy technologies, has mainly focused its funding on renewable energy (the SunShot initiative is an outgrowth of ARPA-E), biofuels, energy storage and power electronics.
But there’s also a fair share of smart-grid-specific technologies under the ARPA-E umbrella. In October 2011, the agency formed its Green Electricity Network Integration (GENI) program, aimed specifically at technologies to “modernize the way electricity is transmitted in the U.S.” The focus here is on integrating intermittent renewables like wind and solar power, both at utility and at distributed scale.
Power flow control hardware has been a particular focus of the GENI program — Smart Wire Grid, a startup that’s deploying distributed power flow control devices on transmission lines in a project with the federal Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), was one company highlighted at the conference. Another noteworthy GENI grant winner is Varentec, the Khosla Ventures-backed startup with a $5 million APRA-E grant that’s building digital power sensor and control technologies for the grid.