For years, the research and development wing of the Pentagon known as DARPA has employed some of the greatest minds in the world to push science fiction closer to science fact. So it makes sense to learn that the U.S. Department of Energy is looking to capitalize on this model by creating its own version – ARPA-E.
ARPA-E essentially acts as a sort of venture capital firm, investing in cutting-edge, innovative research and development related to renewable energy technologies. While it has been proven that alternatives to fossil fuels like wind and solar power do indeed work, developing cost-effective ways of harnessing these resources has been the ultimate challenge.
Michael Grunwald, a veteran reporter for TIME Magazine and author of the book "The New New Deal," chronicling the history and impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – or the stimulus package, as it has come to be known – recently sat down for an interview with The Atlantic. Grunwald examines alternative energy research today, noting that roughly $90 billion of federal stimulus money flowed into this sector, revitalizing it at a time when it was near collapse.
"That money has really launched a silent green revolution," he said. "For example, the renewable electricity industry was on the brink of death after the 2008 financial meltdown; the Spanish wind developer Abengoa had shut down its U.S. projects, and turbines were literally rusting in the fields. The day the stimulus passed, Abengoa announced it was investing $6 billion in U.S. wind farms."
Alternative energy technologies are becoming more affordable as innovative American companies push forward, developing manufacturing methods that improve efficiency while reducing cost.
There are countless renewable energy projects funded through ARPA-E that could change the American landscape forever. This blog will explore several of them in the coming weeks and months.