The Department of Energy launched a new blog this week, the aptly named (yet uninspiring) Energy Blog. Among other announcements and musings (OK, really more statements than deep thoughts) is a call to develop three Energy Innovation Hubs, one of which will drive research to turn sunlight into fuels.
This is not the first time the Obama Administration has shelled out for sunlight fuels. Last October, ARPA-E, the advanced projects research group at the Department of Energy, gave out $23.7 million in grants to startups and universities experimenting in the relatively new field of direct solar fuels. The current award will give out up to $122 million over the next five years to one Hub for developing this one technology.
The Energy Innovation Hubs will be modeled after the Manhattan Project, the AT&T Bell Laboratories and on the three $25 million-per-year DOE Bioenergy Research Centers. The other two Hubs will research energy efficiency in buildings systems and modeling and simulation for nuclear reactors.
For the sunlight fuels, there are already various universities that are working on direct solar fuels, including the University of Minnesota, MIT, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Penn State. BioCee and the University of Minnesota wants to take sunlight, carbon dioxide and two organisms (cyanobacteria for sunlight capture and shewanella for metabolic transformation) to produce a liquid hydrocarbon, while MIT-spinoff Sun Catayltix uses sunlight to spilt water to produce hydrogen.
The DOE is hoping that these Hubs will be able to lay the groundwork with critical research to the point where the technology can be handed off to the private sector.
Among the other chatter from Scott Blake Harris, DOE blogger and General Counsel for the Department of Energy, is a call for public written comments on how to meet smart grid goals. The blog has a link to check out what's already been gathered and also to submit additional feedback via email by August 9, 2010 to help shape a report due out this fall about modernizing the grid.
The Energy Blog feels a lot like the DOE News page, although you don't find a lot of calls to tweet the DOE on the news page. The information, like updates on the Global Energy Efficiency Challenge (super-efficient appliances, energy efficiency for large commercial buildings, smart grid action, getting 20 million EVs on the road by 2020 -- all lofty ideals with vague roadmaps and funding), is presented in the nearly same format as it would be in other sections of the DOE website.
Also, as this is not Twitter, and certainly not Gawker, there is not likely to be any real additional breaking information, insider views or gaffes that come across this blog. Not unless you count the fact that their RSS feed tab was broken today.