The U.S. Department of Energy has announced up to $30 million in funding for a new program focused on the development of transformational electrochemical technologies to enable low cost distributed power generation.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems (REBELS) program will develop fuel cell technology for distributed power generation to improve grid stability, increase energy security, and balance intermittent renewable technologies while reducing CO2 emissions associated with current distributed generation systems.

“ARPA-E is re-imagining distributed generation by pushing the boundaries of fuel cell technology to improve grid resiliency and reliability,” commented ARPA-E acting director Cheryl Martin.

Current fuel cell research generally explores technologies that operate either at high temperatures for grid-scale applications or low temperatures for vehicle technologies. The REBELS projects will focus on developing intermediate temperature fuel cells (ITFCs) through innovative designs, fuel activation approaches, and low cost materials to facilitate widespread distributed power generation. The projects will also explore multi-functional fuel cell systems that can store energy like a battery or use electricity to convert natural gas to liquids.

Specifically ARPA-E anticipates currently that there will be three specific areas of interest in REBELS:

  1. Low cost, efficient, reliable ITFCs for small distributed generation applications
  2. ITFCs that are capable of in-situ charge storage in an electrode to enable battery-like response to transients, and
  3. Electrochemical devices that produce liquid fuels from methane using excess renewable resources.

Fuel cell systems based on existing Department of Energy R&D programs, such as low temperature polymer exchange membranes and high temperature solid oxide fuel cells, will not be areas of interest.

The Funding Opportunity Announcement is expected to be issued by year-end.