California team awarded $122 million for solar project

In the growing effort to become less dependent on foreign oil and to reduce our carbon footprint, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman announced an award of up to $122 million over five years to a multidisciplinary team of cutting edge scientists to establish an Energy Innovation Hub geared toward developing methods to generate fuels directly from sunlight.

The undertaking will be led by the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). The project, The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), hopes to bring together some of the brightest minds in solar technology development to create a radically new solar energy-to-chemical-fuel conversion system and move this system from the bench-top discovery phase to a scale where it can be commercialized.

“The Energy Innovation Hubs have enormous potential to advance transformative breakthroughs,” said Deputy Secretary Poneman in a press release on the Department of Energy (DOE) website. “Finding a cost-effective way to produce fuels as plants do, combining sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, would be a game changer, reducing our dependence on oil and enhancing energy security. This Energy Innovation Hub will enable our scientists to combine their talents to tackle this bold and highly promising challenge.”

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) said in a statement on the DOE website, “I am so pleased that this California consortium will receive this investment in clean fuels research, which has the potential to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, increase our national security and create jobs in California.”

Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub is one of three Hubs that will receive funding in 2010. In May, the DOE announced that a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory will establish a Hub on modeling and simulation for nuclear reactors. The selection for the remaining Hub will be announced over the coming months.