• Have Bill Gates and Elon Musk Been Trumped by Arpa-E?

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Have Bill Gates and Elon Musk Been Trumped by Arpa-E?

Mar 09 2016

An American governmental agency formed under Barack Obama’s plan to instigate economic growth by funding new methods of energy production and storage believes it has made a breakthrough in industrial-scale batteries.

Such a development, if accurate, would mean that Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (Arpa-E, the agency in question) had won the multimillion dollar footrace with Elon Musk and Bill Gates to find a workable solution to the long-term storage of significant amounts of energy.

The “Holy Grail”

Ellen Williams, the director of Arpa-E, believes the company have achieved a momentous breakthrough in just seven years since the company was founded in 2009. If successful, the large-scale batteries could provide the storage facilities that are so vital to making wind and solar power a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

As things stand, the reliance of solar and wind on the elements – and the inability to store energy garnered during the day for use at night, for example – has severely hampered their progress in terms of investment and utilisation. Williams is hopeful that her company’s new technology will change all that, theoretically revolutionising the face of the American power grid and the means by which it derives its electricity within five to ten years.

“I think we have reached some holy grails in batteries – just in the sense of demonstrating that we can create a totally new approach to battery technology, make it work, make it commercially viable, and get it out there to let it do its thing,” she explained to the Guardian.

The development of such technologies would reduce our reliance on currently-used lithium-ion batteries, which are limited in capacity and expensive to produce. They could also lead to more capable super conductors, able to deliver energy more quickly and efficiently.

Ahead of the Chasing Pack

Arpa-E has been funding a number of different projects since its creation six years ago, normally concentrating on a single project for just three years at a time. Now, though, it is ready to show its faith in the new battery technology by redoubling efforts to popularise it among American electricity suppliers and providers.

Such projects have been dubbed “moon-shots” by critics for their unreliability and high risk factor, making them unattractive to potential investors. However, with governmental backing, Arpa-E appear to have trumped Musk and Gates in the race to unlock the secrets to industrial-scale energy storage.

Of course, Musk’s Tesla installed the first solar storage battery in a British home last month, thus representing a significant breakthrough in the future of energy generation and storage in the UK. However, storing energy for a single household is one thing; achieving similar results for an entire power grid is completely different and could have potentially seismic implications for the future of the energy industry.

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