By Scott Kriner, Green Metal Consulting
The US Government has its Departments and Agencies that work on a wide list of topics to improve the United States of America. Many are in the news on a regular basis, which reveals the inner working of these Departments and Agencies. For example, here is a list of these groups that are somewhat familiar to us:
• Department of Agriculture (USDA)
• Department of Commerce (DOC)
• Department of Defense (DOD)
• Department of Education
• Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
• Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
• Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
One of the largest Departments that we rarely hear about is the Department of Energy. The absence of press releases on activity and announcements should not be taken to indicate a low amount of work on their hands. Many of the projects under the DOE have a direct or indirect positive impact on the building construction industry.
Recently the DOE released several press releases that provide a hint at the type and intensity of major activity taking place. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced that DOE will award 219 grants totaling $34 million to 183 small businesses in 41 states. Funded by DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technical Transfer (STTR) programs, the first phase grants allow small businesses to research technical feasibility of innovations that advance the mission of the DOE. Additional awards of up to $ 1million will be available in 2019 for developing novel prototypes or processes to validate their phase 1 research.
A glimpse of the research topics being investigated by the DOE gives one an idea on the breadth of the work underway
• Low-loss, high-flux saturation cores for power
• High voltage lithium ion battery with improved life and safety
• High-capacity, stable, low-volatility lean solvents for CO2 capture
• High-radiation-resistant, low-cost superconducting strands for fusion magnet applications
In another press release DOE announced the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewal Energy (EERE) Nine EERE technical offices are funding ten projects that include Advanced Manufacturing, Bio-Energy, Fuel Cells and Buildings. A program for Technologists in Residence (TIR) will facilitate strategic, long-term relationships between industry and DOE’s national laboratories that result in high impact, collaborative, early stage Research and Development. The intent is to create industry relationships with industry that can result in significant R&D.
The network of the national research laboratories includes Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). These laboratory resources and others are busy with numerous projects that involve industry of all sorts.
The metal construction industry is no stranger to some of the national laboratories located across the country. The Metal Construction Association and the Metal Building Manufacturers Association worked with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for over 10 years on a variety of research projects that applied to cool roofs of all types, Above Sheathing Ventilation, passive cooling and heating, Phase Change technology platforms for photovoltaic panels, and full-size energy optimization evaluations on low floor building.
This is one example where we shouldn’t get too upset for how our tax money is being spent, or in this case shared, among laboratories and industry.