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US Department of Energy funds sustainable crops projects

ARPA-E awarded $55m to fund 18 projects to accelerate technologies for efficient residential combined heat and power generation and bioenergy crop development.

The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) awarded $55 million to fund 18 projects that are accelerating technologies for efficient residential combined heat and power generation (CHP) and bioenergy crop development.

The 18 projects come from ARPA-E’s two new programs, GENerators for Small Electrical and Thermal Systems (GENSETS) and Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA), which both “demonstrate ARPA-E’s unique approach to developing innovative ideas to advance energy technologies,”ARPA-E director Ellen Williams said in a statement.

“By accelerating the development of residential CHP generators in GENSETS and by using cutting-edge robotics, plant physiology and information technology to make bioenergy crop development faster in TERRA, ARPA-E is pushing the boundaries of current energy technologies to create a more secure, sustainable and affordable American energy future.”

The agency provides $30 million to six projects under TERRA, a program that integrates agriculture, information technology and engineering to address major global challenges in developing crops that are sustainable, affordable and yield abundant plant feedstocks for bioenergy.

“The programme will encourage systems that couple large-scale physical and genetic characterisation with advanced algorithms in order to accelerate the year-over-year yield gains of traditional plant breeding and the discovery of crop traits that improve water productivity, nutrient use and our ability to mitigate greenhouse gases,” according to a statement.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is among the recipients of the funding. The university, with its partners Cornell University and Signetron, an engineering service provider, will develop small-scale, automated ground rovers with the capability to travel within the crops between rows, Agri Investor learned.

The remaining $25 million goes to the GENSETS program, which will boost the development of generator technologies to enable more affordable and efficient residential Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems that can be used for water and home heating.