NSF funding opportunity: Energy for Sustainability

Proposal window: October 1, 2017 – October 20, 2017
For more information: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505339

The Energy for Sustainability program is part of the Chemical Process Systems cluster, which includes also 1) Catalysis; 2) Process Separations; and 3) Process Systems, Reaction Engineering, and Molecular Thermodynamics.

The goal of the Energy for Sustainability program is to support fundamental engineering research that will enable innovative processes for the sustainable production of electricity and fuels, and for energy storage. Processes for sustainable energy production must be environmentally benign, reduce greenhouse gas production, and utilize renewable resources. Research projects that stress molecular level understanding of phenomena that directly impacts key barriers to improved system level performance (e.g. energy efficiency, product yield, process intensification) are encouraged. Proposed research should be inspired by the need for economic and impactful conversion processes. All proposals should include in the project description, how the proposed work, if successful, will improve process realization and economic feasibility and compare the proposed work against current state-of-the-art. Highly integrated multidisciplinary projects are encouraged.

Current topics of interest are the following:

Electrochemical Energy Systems:

Radically new battery systems or breakthroughs based on existing systems can move the U.S. more rapidly toward a more sustainable transportation future. The focus is on high-energy density and high-power density batteries suitable for transportation and renewable energy storage applications. Advanced systems such as lithium-air, sodium-ion, as well as lithium-ion electrochemical energy storage are appropriate. Work on commercially available systems such as lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries will not be considered by this program.

Advanced fuel cell systems with advanced components for propulsion for transportation are considered. Novel systems with non-commercial components are appropriate; emphasis is still placed on fundamental understanding of the key barriers to improved system level performance. Flow batteries for energy storage applications are appropriate. Similarly emphasis should be placed on fundamental understanding of the reaction and transport phenomena that impacts system performance. Photocatalytic or photoelectrochemical processes for the splitting of water into H2 gas, or for the reduction of CO2 to liquid or gaseous fuels are appropriate. Emphasis should be placed on fundamental molecular level understanding of key barriers that impact system level performance.

Organic Photovoltaics:

Low-Cost, environmentally benign photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity projects are considered. The program emphasis is for fundamental research on innovative processes for the fabrication and theory-based characterization of future organic PV devices (OPVs). Devices of interest include polymer and small molecule organic photovoltaics or dye sensitized photovoltaics for electricity generation.

Referrals to other programs within NSF:

  • Proposals that focus on thermal management of energy storage devices and systems should be submitted to the Thermal Transport Processes Program (CBET 1406).
  • Proposals that focus on thermal catalytic or thermal noncatalytic biomass conversion and advanced biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass should be directed to the Process Systems, Reaction Engineering and Molecular Thermodynamics (PRM) (CBET 1403)
  • Proposals related to the combustion of biomass, gasification, or the production of synthesis gas (syngas) should be sent to Combustion and Fire Systems (CBET 1407).
  • Proposals that focus on the fundamentals of catalysis for biomass conversion should be submitted to Catalysis (CBET 1401).
  • Proposals that focus on the biological production of fuels or electricity (e.g. biocatalysis, metabolic engineering, synthetic biology in the context of bioenergy, biological fermentations) should be directed to the Cellular and Biochemical Engineering program (CBET 1491).
  • Proposals that focus on improving device and system performance of primarily inorganic and hybrid PV technologies may be considered in other ENG programs including the Division of Electrical, Communications, and Cyber Systems. PV materials proposals that focus on the material science may be considered in the Division of Materials Research of the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.
  • Proposals that focus on the generation of thermal energy by solar radiation may be considered by Thermal Transport Processes (CBET 1406).

The duration of unsolicited awards is typically one to three years.  The typical award size for the program is $100,000 per year. Collaborative proposals that include a strong multi-disciplinary component are typically $150,000 per year. Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review.

Contact:
Carol Read
National Science Foundation
cread@nsf.gov
Phone: (703) 292-2418

NSF funding opportunity: Environmental Sustainability

Proposal window: October 1, 2017 – October 20, 2017
For more information: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505338

The Environmental Sustainability program is part of the Environmental Engineering and Sustainability cluster, which includes also 1) Environmental Engineering; and 2) Biological and Environmental Interactions of Nanoscale Materials.

The goal of the Environmental Sustainability program is to promote sustainable engineered systems that support human well-being and that are also compatible with sustaining natural (environmental) systems. These systems provide ecological services vital for human survival. Research efforts supported by the program typically consider long time horizons and may incorporate contributions from the social sciences and ethics. The program supports engineering research that seeks to balance society’s need to provide ecological protection and maintain stable economic conditions.

There are four principal general research areas that are supported:

  • Industrial Ecology: Topics of interest in Industrial Ecology include advancements in modeling such as life cycle assessment, materials flow analysis, input/output economic models, and novel metrics for measuring sustainable systems. Innovations in industrial ecology are encouraged.
  • Green Engineering: Research is encouraged to advance the sustainability of manufacturing processes, green buildings, and infrastructure. Many programs in the Engineering Directorate support research in environmentally benign manufacturing or chemical processes. The Environmental Sustainability program supports research that would affect more than one chemical or manufacturing process or that takes a systems or holistic approach to green engineering for infrastructure or green buildings. Improvements in distribution and collection systems that will advance smart growth strategies and ameliorate effects of growth are research areas that are supported by Environmental Sustainability. Innovations in management of storm water, recycling and reuse of drinking water, and other green engineering techniques to support sustainability may also be fruitful areas for research. NOTE: Water treatment proposals are to be submitted to the CBET Environmental Engineering program (1440), NOT the Environmental Sustainability program (7643).
  • Ecological Engineering: Topics should focus on the engineering aspects of restoring ecological function to natural systems. Engineering research in the enhancement of natural capital to foster sustainable development is encouraged.
  • Earth Systems Engineering: Earth systems engineering considers aspects of large scale engineering research that involve mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation to climate change, and other global scale concerns.

All proposed research should be driven by engineering principles, and be presented explicitly in an environmental sustainability context. Proposals should include involvement in engineering research of at least one graduate student, as well as undergraduates. Incorporation of aspects of social, behavioral, and economic sciences is welcomed. Innovative proposals outside the scope of the four core areas mentioned above may be considered. However, prior to submission, it is recommended that the PI contact the Program Director to avoid the possibility of the proposal being returned without review. For proposals that call for research to be done outside of the United States, an explanation must be presented of the potential benefit of the research for the United States.

The duration of unsolicited awards is generally one to three years. The typical award size for the program is around $100,000 per year. Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review.

Contact:
Bruce Hamilton
National Science Foundation
(703) 292-7066
bhamilto@nsf.gov

Grants Management: EPA Has Taken Steps to Improve Competition for Discretionary Grants but Could Make Information More Readily Available

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What GAO Found

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) manages competition for its discretionary grants through a process established by its competition policy and implemented by its program and regional offices. Under the policy, offices are to advertise discretionary grant opportunities on Grants.gov—a website for federal grant announcements—and may also advertise using other methods, such as trade journals and e-mail lists. The announcements must describe eligibility and evaluation criteria, and the process may be customized to assess (1) all applications against eligibility criteria and (2) eligible applications for merit against evaluation criteria. Under the policy, EPA established a Grants Competition Advocate, a senior official who provides guidance to and oversight of the offices. EPA officials said this position has been key to improving competition for discretionary grants.

From fiscal years 2013 through 2015, EPA provided nearly $1.5 billion in discretionary grants to about 2,000 unique grantees, with state governments, nonprofits, and Indian tribes receiving the largest shares, according to GAO’s analysis of EPA data. Of the $1.5 billion, $579 million was for new grants subject to the competition policy, and according to EPA, the agency met its performance target to competitively award at least 90 percent of these new grant dollars or awards annually. Some discretionary grants are not subject to the competition policy for several reasons—for example because they are available by law only to Indian tribes. Of the remaining approximately $920 million, $282 million was for new grants not subject to the competition policy, and about $632 million was for amendments to existing grants, such as for added work.

Publicly available information from EPA about its discretionary grants is neither easy to identify nor complete. For example, different information about the grants, such as dollar amounts, is available at four federal websites; but three of these websites do not have a way to search all the grants, and the fourth cannot identify the grants because EPA does not flag them in its submissions to the website. EPA officials plan to better flag these grants in the future; however, to obtain complete information, users would still have to search several websites containing different parts of this information. Also, GAO found that the unofficial reports EPA makes publicly available on the number of applications received for its grant competitions contain limited information. Moreover, these reports are not current because EPA relies on manual processes to collect the information from its offices, which can cause reporting delays. Further, GAO found that although EPA’s internal grants management system has a field for tracking grant types, a lack of clarity in EPA’s guidance may contribute to EPA staff’s inconsistent use of this field. Consequently, EPA cannot easily identify discretionary grants in its system or collect complete and accurate information on them. EPA is transitioning to a new system that is expected to be operational in 2018 and to provide the capability to collect more timely and complete information. However, EPA officials said they do not have plans to use the new system to improve their publicly available reports, which is inconsistent with effective internal and external communication suggested by federal internal control standards. More complete information could help Congress and other decision makers better monitor EPA’s management of discretionary grants.

Why GAO Did This Study

EPA annually awards hundreds of discretionary grants, totaling about $500 million. EPA has the discretion to determine grantees and amounts for these grants, which fund a range of activities, from environmental research to wetlands restoration. EPA awards and manages discretionary grants at 10 headquarters program offices and 10 regional offices. Past reviews by GAO and EPA’s Inspector General found that EPA has faced challenges managing such grants, including procuring insufficient competition for them and providing incomplete public information about them. GAO was asked to review EPA’s management of discretionary grants.

This report examines (1) how EPA manages competition for discretionary grants, (2) how much in discretionary grants EPA provided from fiscal years 2013 through 2015 and to what types of grantees, and (3) the information EPA makes publicly available on discretionary grants. GAO reviewed EPA’s competition policy and guidance, examined internal evaluations of grant applications for competitions that were selected partly because they accounted for large portions of discretionary grant dollars, analyzed EPA data as well as information EPA made available on public websites, and interviewed EPA officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that EPA develop clear guidance for tracking grants and determine how to make more complete information on discretionary grants publicly available. EPA agreed with GAO’s recommendations.

USDA Announces $252 Million Available for Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today invited potential conservation partners, including private industry, non-government organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, water districts, and universities to submit project applications for federal funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

Through this fourth RCPP Announcement for Program Funding (APF), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will award up to $252 million dollars to locally driven, public-private partnerships that improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability. Applicants must match or exceed the federal award with private or local funds.

“Through unprecedented collaboration, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program has established a new paradigm for working lands conservation that yields unparalleled results,” Vilsack said. “Working together, RCPP projects in every state are demonstrating the ways in which locally-led initiatives can meet some of our most pressing natural resource concerns.”

Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP connects partners with producers and private landowners to design and implement voluntary conservation solutions that benefit natural resources, agriculture, and the economy. By 2018, NRCS and its more than 2,000 conservation partners will have invested at least $2.4 billion in high-impact RCPP projects nationwide.

For example, three existing RCPP projects bring together more than 40 partners, including USA Rice, Ducks Unlimited, California Rice Commission, the Walmart Foundation and The Mosaic Company, to accelerate conservation on rice lands in six states facing water quality and quantity challenges. These projects, collectively called the USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership, aim to conserve water and wildlife habitat while sustaining the future of rice farming in the United States. With unique technical expertise and needs, each state is leading a partner-driven, local approach to conservation in rice agriculture.

In its most recent RCPP awards, NRCS last month announced that 88 high-impact projects across the country will receive $225 million in federal funding, with more than double that investment from partners. The new Gulf of Mexico – Forest to Sea RCPP project will conserve Florida’s pristine “Big Bend” area along the northeastern Gulf by implementing innovative conservation solutions with private working forest owners. Using an impact investment approach, The Conservation Fund and 12 partners will implement an easement and restoration plan on large forested tracts to address the natural resource concerns while allowing sustainable timber harvesting and maintaining local jobs. The project will serve as a model for further conservation and impact investing in the region and beyond.

NRCS Chief Jason Weller encourages partners to consider conservation finance and environmental markets as they develop RCPP project applications. “The growing field of conservation finance provides opportunities to inject significant investment capital into projects that protect, restore and maintain our natural ecosystems,” says Weller.

USDA is now accepting proposals for Fiscal Year 2018 RCPP funding. Pre-proposals are due April 21. For more information on applying, visit the RCPP website.

Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat. For an interactive look at USDA’s work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit http://medium.com/usda-resultsThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website..

NOAA 2017 Coastal Resilience Grants

NOAA is dedicated to investing in the tools and resources communities and businesses need to address the impacts of extreme weather and climate-related hazards, as well as to restore coastal habitat to enhance the resilience of coastal ecosystems and the communities that rely on them. NOAA has developed the Coastal Resilience Grants Program to strengthen our economy and provide sustainable and lasting benefits.

This competition represents the integration of two existing grant programs: the Coastal Ecosystem Resiliency Grants Program administered by NOAA Fisheries, and the Regional Coastal Resilience Grants Program administered by NOAA’s National Ocean Service. The competition will fund projects that build resilience, including activities that protect life and property, safeguard people and infrastructure, strengthen the economy, or conserve and restore coastal and marine resources.

The NOAA Coastal Resilience Grants Program will support two categories of activities: strengthening coastal communities and habitat restoration. Applicants can now submit proposals for both categories through the same funding opportunity.

  1. Strengthening Coastal Communities: activities that improve capacity of multiple coastal jurisdictions (states, counties, municipalities, territories, and tribes) to prepare and plan for, absorb impacts of, recover from, and/or adapt to extreme weather events and climate-related hazards.
  2. Habitat Restoration: activities that restore habitat to strengthen the resilience of coastal ecosystems and decrease the vulnerability of coastal communities to extreme weather events and climate-related hazards.

Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, regional organizations, private entities, and local, state, and tribal governments. The FY’17 Federal Funding Opportunity was modified on February 14, 2017, to state that applicants may conduct projects in the District of Columbia, however may only submit applications for the Habitat Restoration category, as authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act, 16 U.S.C. 1891a and Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1535. Typical award amounts will range from $250,000 to $1 million for projects lasting up to three years. Cost-sharing through cash or in-kind contributions is expected. Projects must be located in one or more of the 35 U.S. coastal states or territories.

USDA Announces $27 Million in Grants Available to Support the Local Food Sector

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) today announced the availability of $27 million in grants to fund innovative projects designed to strengthen market opportunities for local and regional food producers and businesses.

“These grants will continue USDA’s support for the local food sector as an important strategy for keeping wealth in rural communities,” said AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer.  “Entrepreneurs around the country are creating jobs and new economic opportunities in response to growing consumer demand for local food.  AMS is excited to partner with local food stakeholders to strengthen local economies and improve access to fresh, healthy food for their communities.”

AMS today announced the request for applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, which includes Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) grants, and the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP).  These programs and other resources across USDA are helping to revitalize rural America by supporting local and regional food stakeholders.

The FMPP provides funds for direct farmer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agritourism.  Over the past 10 years, the FMPP has awarded more than 870 grants totaling over $58 million.  The successful results of these investments are summarized in the Farmers Market Promotion Program 2016 Report. The LFPP supports projects focused on intermediary supply chain activities for local food businesses. LFPP was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase funding for marketing activities such as aggregation, processing, storage, and distribution of local foods.

The FSMIP provides about $1 million in matching funds to state departments of agriculture, state colleges and universities, and other appropriate state agencies. Funds will support research projects to address challenges and opportunities in marketing, transporting, and distributing U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally.

For more information about FSMIP, FMPP and LFPP, visit: www.ams.usda.gov/AMSgrants.  The website also contains a link to a grants decision tree, “What AMS Grant is Right for ME?”, to help applicants determine which AMS grant fits their project best.

The grant applications for FSMIP, FMPP and LFPP must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov/  by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, March 27, 2017.

Applicants are urged to start the Grants.gov registration process as soon as possible to ensure that they meet the deadline and encouraged to submit their applications well in advance of the posted due date.  Any grant application submitted after the due date will not be considered unless the applicant provides documentation of an extenuating circumstance that prevented their timely submission of the grant application, read more on AMS Late and Non-Responsive Application Policy.

Grant freeze to be narrower, shorter than expected — officials

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The Trump administration’s controversial freeze on U.S. EPA’s massive grant program is expected to end Friday, according to EPA officials.