The US energy ideas too crazy for private sector money
by Ed Crooks, Financial Times, March 18, 2015 (excerpts)
...Arpa-E, proposed under George W Bush but funded under Barack Obama.... Both administrations saw energy as a crucial component of national security and international diplomacy, and sought to keep the US at the technological cutting edge.
Cheryl Martin, Arpa-E’s former deputy director, who stepped down last week, says its role is to identify ideas that might seem “pretty crazy” to the private sector, but have real potential for commercialisation. “When you are running research groups as a business manager, you always run out of money before you run out of your science ideas,” she says. “Our role is to be bridging between the impossible and the plausible, in a place where [commercial businesses] just can’t come.”
Ambri, set up in 2010 ... is deploying its first prototypes, and has its first commercial (sic) contract, for the US military base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
Like more than 400 other ideas backed by Arpa-E since it began operations in 2009, however, it represents great potential, rather than achievement. Mr Giudice says: “We’re going to feel really good about what we have achieved when we have hundreds or thousands of batteries out in the market. And we’re not there yet.”
Arpa-E’s grant-winners have shown varying degrees of success, but none so far of the transformative breakthroughs the agency is seeking....
An even more radical approach to wind power given a grant by Arpa-E is being developed by California-based Makani. It uses tethered “kites” that look like model aircraft, each carrying four small turbines, which can move around to find the best wind conditions. It is already a success in one sense, as Google, which was an investor, took over the company in 2013 and has continued to develop the technology.
It hopes to start a pilot project in Hawaii this year, but it is still very early days for the technology: Makani reports only “over 100 hours” of flying time generating power so far. Plenty of issues remain to be addressed, not least the safety implications of having kites weighing more than a tonne flying around on cables up to 310m long....
read ... The Financial Times
Precisely as Explained:
Oct 9, 2014: Wind Scammers Go Fly a Kite 1,100 feet above Saddle
Nov 9, 2013: Playing with Fire: Kahuku Windfarm to Install Molten Magnesium Batteries