Funding

Energy Department Launches Virtual Hackathon to Build the Next Big Solar Software Solutions

Last week, the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative launched the largest-of-its-kind, 60-day online hackathon to quickly build prototype solutions and products that address barriers to greater solar energy deployment and drive down the costs of solar energy. Approximately 700,000 coders, developers, and data scientists are expected to participate in this series of contests to build promising software prototypes to help more American families and businesses go solar.

The SunShot Catalyst Prize program was launched in 2014 to create connections and opportunities for collaboration among solar experts, business innovators, software developers, and entrepreneurs and introduce them to a vast array of software tools, capabilities, data sets, and application program interfaces (APIs) developed by the Energy Department and its national laboratories. Collectively, these innovators are now working via an online crowdsourcing platform to address near-term challenges to greater solar deployment and reduce soft costs that can quickly be tackled with data, apps, and automation.

In January, SunShot selected 17 promising teams with creative business plans for products and solutions that solve solar challenges in the “business innovation” phase of Catalyst. Now, during the “prototyping” contest, the selected teams are awarded up to $25,000 worth of tools to help them run coding competitions for 60 days on Appirio’s TopCoder crowdsourcing development platform. TopCoder provides Catalyst teams with access to the expertise of hundreds of thousands of designers, developers, and technical talent who can help them to build their minimum viable products.

Following the prototyping process, the teams will publically demonstrate their products before a panel of investors, judges, and their peers during the “demo day” in May and, based on their performance, the Department will award up to $500,000 in additional funds to advance these early stage solutions toward commercialization.

Learn more about how SunShot Catalyst is driving the next generation of software solutions to cut solar costs at catalyst.energy.gov. To participate and compete in the SunShot Catalyst TopCoder Challenge visit the TopCoder website.

Graduate Scholarships in Solid Waste Research Available for the 2015-2016 Academic Year

The Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF) is one of the largest sources of solid waste research funding in the U.S., allocating approximately $1 million annually in research grants and graduate level scholarships.

Thus far, over 50 students have been EREF scholars, many of whom are now in key academic and professional positions across the U.S.

EREF is pleased to announce that scholarship applications for the 2015-2016 academic year are now available. The application deadline is May 1, 2015 at 5:00 pm (eastern).

Applications will be considered from those who:

  • will be this year or are now a full-time master’s student, doctoral student or post-doctoral researcher, and
  • have a clearly demonstrated interest in solid waste management research. EREF defines solid waste management to pertain to municipal solid waste, construction & demolition waste, industrial waste (e.g. coal ash), WTE ash, etc. Note this definition does not include agricultural wastes or wastewater treatment plant sludge.

Scholarships recognize graduate students pursuing excellence in solid waste management research and education. Recipients are chosen based on credentials and potential contributions to the solid waste industry and its scientific community. Awards are based on:

  • Academic performance
  • Professional experience
  • Relevance of one’s work to the advancement of solid waste management science
  • Potential for success

Award amounts consider the cost of tuition at the recipient’s institution and any other funds received. Full scholarships may not be awarded to students who will be receiving full-tuition scholarships from other sources (excluding direct university assistance such as tuition remission or assistantship income) but may still be considered for partial awards.

Doctoral and post-doctoral scholarships are awarded up to a minimum of $12,000 per year and paid monthly. Doctoral/post-doctoral scholarships are renewable each year to a maximum of three years from the initial award date. Master’s scholarships are awarded up to a minimum of $5,000 per year and renewable each year to a maximum of two years from the initial award date. Scholarship renewal is dependent upon satisfactory progress as determined by the student’s academic advisor.

USDA Announces Funding for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that rural agricultural producers and small business owners can now apply for resources to purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. These efforts help farmers, ranchers and other small business owners save money on their energy bills, reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, support America’s clean energy economy, and cut carbon pollution. The resources announced today are made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” Vilsack said. “The funding we are making available will help farmers, ranchers, business owners, tribal organizations and other entities incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations. Doing so can help a business reduce energy use and costs while improving its bottom line. While saving producers money and creating jobs, these investments reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut carbon pollution as well.”

USDA is making more than $280 million available to eligible applicants through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Application deadlines vary by project type and the type of assistance requested. Details on how to apply are on page 78029 of the December 29, 2014 Federal Register or are available by contacting state Rural Development offices.

USDA is offering grants for up to 25 percent of total project costs and loan guarantees for up to 75 percent of total project costs for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. The REAP application window has been expanded. USDA will now accept and review loan and grant applications year-round.

Eligible renewable energy projects must incorporate commercially available technology. This includes renewable energy from wind, solar, ocean, small hydropower, hydrogen, geothermal and renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters). The maximum grant amount is $500,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

Energy efficiency improvement projects eligible for REAP funding include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, fans, automated controls and insulation upgrades that reduce energy consumption. The maximum grant amount is $250,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

USDA is offering a second type of grant to support organizations that help farmers, ranchers and small businesses conduct energy audits and operate renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include: units of state, tribal or local governments; colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning; rural electric cooperatives and public power entities, and conservation and development districts. The maximum grant is $100,000. Applications for these particular grants have been available since December 29 of last year and are due February 12.

The REAP program was created in the 2002 Farm Bill. Because of the success of the program, Congress reauthorized it in the 2014 Farm Bill with guaranteed funding of no less than $50 million in annual funding for the duration of the 5 year bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.

Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million for more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $361 million in REAP grants and loans for more than 2,900 renewable energy systems. When fully operational, these systems are expected to generate more than 6 billion kilowatt hours annually – enough to power more than 5.5 million homes for a year.

In 2013, owners of the Ideal Dairy restaurant in Richfield, Utah, used REAP funding to install 80 solar modules and two 10-kilowatt inverters, which convert energy from solar panels to electricity. The owners have saved, on average, $400 per month. These savings have helped them preserve their restaurant and livelihood.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.

Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship

Application deadline: May 1, 2015
For more information, visit http://www.whoi.edu/osj/

WHOI Ocean Science Journalism Fellowships were established in 2000. The next program will be held from September 13-18, 2015. The OSJ program is designed to introduce science journalists to the interdisciplinary and wide-ranging fields of oceanography and ocean engineering.

Through seminars, laboratory visits, and brief field expeditions, Ocean Science Journalism Fellows gain access to new research findings and to fundamental background information in engineering, marine biology, geology and geophysics, marine chemistry and geochemistry, and physical oceanography. Topics range from harmful algal blooms to deep-sea hydrothermal vents; from seafloor earthquakes to ice-sheet dynamics; from the ocean’s role in climate change to the human impact on fisheries and coastline change; from ocean instruments and observatories to underwater robots.

Our program is a one-week, residential experience open to professional writers, producers, and editors working for print, broadcast, radio, and Internet media. The ideal candidate will have at least two years of writing, producing, or editing experience for a general-interest audience. Freelancers, book authors, and writers from nontraditional media may also be considered, but should be able to show a substantial portfolio of work.

All fellows receive a travel allowance, as well as room and board for one week. International journalists are welcome to apply.

Application Information
We are now accepting applications. All applications and supporting materials must arrive by mail no later than May 1, 2015. Applicants are encouraged to apply early!

Please note that you still need to mail hard copies of writing samples after you complete the online application form.

ESTCP Solicitation for FY 2016 Funding: Installation Energy

ESTCP issued a solicitation on February 5, 2015, requesting proposals for demonstrations of installation energy technologies. Researchers from Federal organizations, universities, and private industry can apply for ESTCP funding via the appropriate solicitation below. All proposals must respond to a Topic Area associated with the solicitation. Topic Areas for universities, private industry, and Federal organizations outside DoD differ from DoD Topic Areas. ESTCP projects are formal demonstrations in which innovative technologies are rigorously evaluated. ESTCP demonstrations are conducted at DoD facilities and sites to document improved efficiency, reduced liability, improved environmental outcomes, and cost savings.

FY 2016 funds will be awarded through a competitive process to Federal and private organizations for the following topic areas:

  • Energy Generation, Storage, Dispatch and Management on Military Installations
  • Cybersecure Connectivity for Energy System Components and Military Installation Energy Infrastructure

All pre-proposals are due no later than 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time on April 2, 2015. More information about the solicitation, including instructions and deadlines, is available on the SERDP and ESTCP website.

WEBINAR FOR THE ESTCP SOLICITATION – FEBRUARY 13: ESTCP Director Dr. Anne Andrews and Energy and Water Program Manager Dr. Jim Galvin will conduct an online seminar “ESTCP Funding Opportunities for Installation Energy Technologies” on February 13, 2015, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. This briefing will offer valuable information for those interested in new ESTCP funding opportunities. During the online seminar, participants may ask questions about the funding process, the current ESTCP solicitation, and the proposal submission process. Pre-registration for this webinar is required. If you have difficulty registering, please contact the ESTCP Support Office at partners@hgl.com or 703-736-4547.

EPA Launches Finance Center to Improve Community Water Infrastructure and Resiliency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched the Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center today to help communities across the country improve their wastewater, drinking water and stormwater systems, particularly through innovative financing and by building resilience to climate change. The center was announced as Vice President Biden and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy toured the construction site for a tunnel to reduce sewer overflows into the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. by 98 percent. The center is part of the White House Build America Investment Initiative – a government-wide effort to increase infrastructure investment and promote economic growth by creating opportunities for state and local governments and the private sector to collaborate, expand public-private partnerships, and increase the use of federal credit programs.

“Infrastructure is central to the President’s plan to build on the progress the U.S. economy is making by creating jobs and expanding opportunity for all Americans,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “By modernizing the nation’s infrastructure we can protect our drinking water sources and enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change by avoiding financial and water supply losses from leaking pipes and reducing pollution from sewer overflows and wastewater discharges.”

Key Points

  • EPA’s center will serve as a resource for communities, municipal utilities, and private entities as they seek to address water infrastructure needs with limited budgets.
  • EPA will help explore public-private partnerships and innovative financing solutions.
  • Aging and inadequate water infrastructure hinders the ability of communities to provide clean drinking water, manage wastewater, reduce flooding, and provide recreational waters that are safe to swim and fish in.
  • Impacts of climate change — including intense and frequent storms, drought, floods, sea-level rise and water quality changes — create challenges for communities as they prepare water infrastructure that can withstand these impacts.

By the Numbers

Audio

Administrator McCarthy discusses EPA’s new center:
http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/bd4379a92ceceeac8525735900400c27/28ce3f2fe7f9df5285257dcf00577798!OpenDocument

Photos
https://www.flickr.com/photos/usepagov/sets/72157649907578489/

Details

The Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center will:

  • Explore innovative financial tools, public-private partnerships, and non-traditional finance concepts to better leverage federal funding programs. The Center will build on the highly successful State Revolving Fund and other programs of EPA and its federal partners.
  • Explore ways to increase financing of climate-resilient water infrastructure projects that integrate water efficiency, energy efficiency, water reuse and green infrastructure.
  • Support communities to develop sustainable sources of funding, particularly for stormwater activities.
  • Build upon existing work to support small community water systems to build technical, managerial and financial capacities through collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Closely coordinate with the EPA-supported Environmental Finance Centers and consult with the Agency’s Environmental Finance Advisory Board.

Water infrastructure includes the pipes, drains, and concrete that carry drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater. It includes industrial wastewater pretreatment facilities; wastewater treatment plants; municipal separate storm sewer systems; decentralized, onsite and septic systems; public drinking water systems; and private wells. It also includes green infrastructure, which uses natural land cover to capture rain where it falls, allowing it to filter through the ground.

More Information