This week’s Current Climate, which every Saturday brings you the latest news about the business of sustainability. Sign up to get it in your inbox every week.
On Thursday, the Department of Energy announced that it is granting $540 million in awards to 54 universities and 11 national labs to research innovations in both clean energy technologies and also methods of manufacturing that produce lower amounts of carbon dioxide emissions. Among the projects include research into better commercial solar technologies, research into direct air capture of carbon dioxide, reducing the cost of hydrogen production and grid-scale long-term energy storage.
“The research projects announced today will strengthen the scientific foundations needed for the United States to maintain world leadership in clean energy innovation, from renewable power to carbon management,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.
The Big Read
Utah Fintech Entrepreneur Clay Wilkes And His Wife, Marie, Donate $20 Million For New Climate Center At University Of Utah
Wilkes, who built and then sold fintech firm Galileo Financial Technologies, says addressing climate change is urgent–and he’s hoping other universities take on the same challenge.
Discoveries And Innovations
PepsiCo has announced that it’s expanding its use of supply chain materials such as displays and shipping pallets that are made with biodegradable plastics manufactured by UBQ Materials.
Researchers from MIT have developed a battery architecture using inexpensive materials like aluminum and sulfur rather than rare materials like lithium. The batteries could be used for a variety of applications.
Concerns about climate change have spurred researchers to look for more environmentally responsible air conditioners. One possible new solution: air conditioners made with solid refrigerants, one of which Harvard researchers have developed a prototype.
Sustainability Deals Of The Week
Carbon Cycle: Carbon management firm Carbon Direct announced that it has raised a $60 million funding round, which will be used to expand its business of helping its customers reach their goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Rural Solar: Solar contractor ES Solar and energy storage company sonnen are working with power company Rocky Mountain Power to expand its Wattsmart program, which provides batteries to customers who purchase solar power systems.
Wildfire Fighting: German-based Dryad, which builds solar-powered sensors for early wildfire detection, announced that it has raised a $10.5 million series A funding round.
On The Horizon
Heat and low precipitation have brought the Colorado River to a “tipping point,” leading the Federal government to drastically reduce how much of its water is available for use. If trends continue, this could threaten a number of activities, including electricity production from the Hoover Dam.
What Else We’re Reading This Week
Green Transportation Update
California is the biggest buyer of passenger vehicles in the U.S. and is the top market for electric vehicles, with battery-powered models accounting for 15% of new car sales so far this year. But the Golden State has even bigger goals for zero-emission autos: This week it officially approved a rule that will ban sales of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, the most aggressive target set so far. The state accounts for about 11% of all new vehicle purchases in the U.S. and states including New York, Massachusetts, Washington and Oregon follow California’s auto pollution rules so the new law has the potential to become a de facto national standard.
The Big Transportation Story
Amazon To Buy Plug Power’s ‘Green’ Hydrogen In Deal With $2.1 Billion Stock Option
Hydrogen is getting a lot more attention from governments and heavy industries looking for an additional tool to cut carbon emissions. Now Amazon is making a big bet on the clean fuel with a plan to buy as much as $2.1 billion of “green” hydrogen–made from water and renewable electricity–from fuel cell maker Plug Power. As part of the deal, Amazon may also end up owning 16 million shares of Plug.