NY and US Renewable Energy R&D Funding Nearly Doubles for Capital Region Businesses
Offshore wind (OSW) and hydrogen fuel cells sent state- and federally funded renewable energy research and development by Capital Region businesses into overdrive in 2020. Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) awarded $18.6 million in renewable energy R&D grants to Capital Region businesses – almost double the $10.8 million awarded in 2019, according to a Center for Economic Growth analysis of award data on Open Data NY and USASpending.gov.1
GE Research and Plug Power were the region’s renewable energy R&D leaders, receiving a total $15.3 million from DOE and NYSERDA. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council, an Albany nonprofit, was another big awardee, receiving a total $2,790,933 from DOE for two solar and energy storage-related research projects.
The $18.6 million total does not include $6.8 million awarded to Capital Region businesses by DOE in 2020 under non-renewable energy research programs, including fossil energy, energy conservation, advanced research projects.2
National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium
As New York State pursues the development of 9,000 megawatts of OSW energy by 2035, NYSERDA is steering R&D in this emerging industry as administrator of DOE’s National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium (NOWRDC). In 2018, DOE selected NYSERDA to administer the $18.5 million consortium, and GE Research in Niskayuna was awarded funding for three projects among the 20 selected under the consortium’s first RFP. A fourth GE search project was selected under NOWRDC’s second RFP.
Among those four GE Research projects, NYSERDA data shows only one was awarded funds in 2020: a $2,157,520 technology feasibility study on the impact of low-level jets on Atlantic coast offshore wind farm performance. So far this year NYSERDA has awarded GE Research $5 million for product development R&D related to the following:
- Radar-based Wake Optimization of Off-shore Wind Farms ($2,199,136)
- Enabling Condition Based Maintenance for Offshore Wind ($2,192,312)
- DC Collection and Transmission for Offshore Wind Farms ($599,998)
Other GE Research Awards
On top of the $2.2 million NOWRDC grant GE Research received in 2020, DOE in 2020 also awarded the Niskayuna research center a total $7 million for solar and wind R&D on the following:
- Near-Net-Shape Hot Isostatic Press Manufacturing Modality for sCO2 CSP Capital Cost Reduction ($2,876,737)
- Advanced grid-forming (GFM) inverter controls, modeling and system impact study for inverter dominated grids ($3,077,917)
- SiC Enabled High Frequency Medium Voltage Drive for Wind Power ($1,000,000)
Plug Power, a Latham-based hydrogen fuel cell maker, in 2020 received two DOE renewable energy R&D awards totaling $6.2 million. The grants were for fuel cell-related research, namely for domestically manufactured fuel cells for heavy-duty applications ($2,687,181). This project aims to develop a protype hydrogen fuel cell stack “that is a suitable drop-in replacement for heavy-duty diesel engine applications,” with R&D happening at Plug Power’s Latham facility. The Argonne National Laboratory will also conduct additional modeling and analysis support. Another project is for an integrated membrane anode assembly and scale-up ($3,467,664), which is funded under DOE’s H2@Scale initiative. However, R&D and manufacturing associated with this project will occur at Plug Power facilities in Newton and Concord, Massachusetts and Rochester, New York.
Small Business R&D
Among the seven DOE SBIR grants awarded in 2020, only one was funded through the agency’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program. Achillea Research in Schenectady received its first SBIR grant for $187,833 for Rapidly Attainable Increases in Transmission Capacity Using Power-Electronics. In 2020, NYSERDA also awarded $89,040 to Combined Energy, a startup with offices in Latham and Rochester, for R&D on an ultra-low voltage and bi-directional operation.
CEG and its Business Growth Solutions (BGS) unit leverage the Capital Region’s R&D assets to do the following:
Promote the region around the world at industry conferences;
Improve businesses’ access to labs at facilities, such as those at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and others affiliated with Innovate 518, a University at Albany-led collaborative effort of Capital Region incubators, accelerators, and entrepreneurial service providers.
Accelerate commercialization by leveraging tech scouting, gathering technology-driven market intelligence, engaging Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) for testing and development;
Develop prototypes with its Stratasys F270 3D printer at the Tech Valley Center of Gravity or provide hand-on access to it;
Assist in the preparation of grant applications for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and Small Business Technology Transfer Program; and
Identify potential investors and providing venture pitch coaching through the VentureB series.
1 DOE funding includes projects with a Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number of 81.087 (Renewable Energy Research and Development) and 81.049 (Office of Sciece Financial Assistance), which includes DOE Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. Only SBIR grants awarded under DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program are included in the 2020 renewable energy total. Office of Science Financial Assistance awards by program are listed here.
2 Non-renewable energy CFDA numbers include 81.010 (Office of Technology Transitions (OTT)-Technology Deployment, Demonstration and Commercialization), 81.036 (Inventions and Innovations), (81.086) Conservation Research and Development, 81.089 (Fossil Energy Research and Development),
81.121 (Nuclear Energy Research, Development and Demonstration), 81.122 (Electricity Research, Development and Analysis), 81.135 (Advanced Research Projects Agency), 81.129 (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technology Deployment, Demonstration and Commercialization).
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