Energy Department announces $6.5 million to scale up the energy efficiency of U.S. commercial buildings

Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Number: DE-FOA-0001518

The Building Technologies Office (BTO) has announced the availability of $6.5 million for DE-FOA-0001518, “Scaling Up the Next Generation of Building Efficiency Packages.” BTO seeks proposals driving innovation in real building technology demonstrations while also fostering the collaboration of dynamic demonstration teams. The General Services Administration (GSA) Green Proving Ground program is a key collaborator, will participate in the review committee, and offer demonstration host sites.

Successful applicants will propose high impact real building demonstrations led by strategically structured teams who will identify and verify the cost and energy performance of multi-system energy efficiency packages (groups of technologies that improve efficiency across two building systems: envelope, lighting/electrical, plug, process, heating, ventilation, cooling, refrigeration, energy management and information, sensors and controls).

The objective of this funding is to generate and disseminate data, case studies, and information that lowers perceived risk regarding the efficacy and economic benefits of innovative and under-utilized commercial building technology packages that can save significant amounts of energy in new and existing commercial buildings. Demonstrations of the technology packages funded through this FOA are likely to meet the investment hurdles for the commercial real estate market at scale, but may not at the current time, and will have the potential to significantly reduce energy consumption in U.S. commercial buildings. The technical and/or non-technical products of this funding will enable investment-level decision-making, and will accelerate the development of utility programs for packages of technologies that meet cost-effectiveness thresholds.

A Teaming Partner List is attached in EERE Exchange. Proposed projects or approaches may reference the goals in the BTO Multi-Year Program Plan. Interested parties should consider responding to the GSA Green Proving Ground Program Request for Information GS-00-P-17-CY-C-7001.

More information, submittal requirements, and instructions for applying to this funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001518) can be found on the EERE Funding Opportunity Exchange website. To be eligible for consideration, a concept paper must be submitted no later than 11/21/2016 5:00 PM ET. Questions about this FOA may be sent to

Submission Deadlines

  • Submission Deadline for Concept Papers: 11/21/2016 5:00 PM ET
  • Submission Deadline for Full Applications: 2/21/2017 5:00 PM ET

Informational Webinar

Please join BTO’s Commercial Buildings Integration Program for an overview of this funding opportunity. Register soon, space is limited.

  • November 2, 2016 at 12:00 PM ET


Funding opportunity: DOE’s Small Business Vouchers Program Begins Accepting Applications

The Energy Department’s Small Business Vouchers (SBV) program is accepting Requests for Assistance (RFA) from U.S. small businesses interested in working with a national laboratory to address a range of commercialization challenges within the following technical areas: advanced manufacturing, bioenergy, buildings, fuel cells, geothermal, solar, vehicles, water power, and wind. Vouchers totaling $12 million, which range from $50,000 to $300,000 in value, are available for rounds three and four of the program.

RFAs are due on November 10, 2016 at 11:59 pm EST. To learn more about the program, please visit

NREL No-Cost Solar Screenings and Implementation Assistance for Universities

In support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is offering no-cost technical assistance to universities seeking to increase solar energy on campus. Any U.S. higher education institution is eligible to apply. The program is designed to increase the deployment of mid-scale solar photovoltaic systems at universities, engage stakeholders to develop deployment solutions and empower decision makers. Applications are due Oct. 15.

Funding: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change Challenge Area

NIFA requests applications for the AFRI Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change (AFRI ANRCVC) Challenge Area Program for fiscal year (FY) 2016 to support research to facilitate the adaptation of agroecosystems and natural resource systems to climate variability and the implementation of mitigation strategies in those systems. The anticipated amount available for grants in FY 2016 is approximately $8.4 million.

There are two program areas, each with different application deadlines:

Climate and Land Use

Letter of Intent Deadline – September 14, 2016 (5:00 p.m., Eastern Time)
Application Deadline – November 17, 2016 (5:00 p.m., Eastern Time)

For FY2016, the AFRI Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate and Variability Challenge Area (AFRI ANRCVC) encourages proposals that address the patterns, processes, and consequences (including GHG emissions and other climate feedbacks) of changes in land use and their drivers, particularly considering intensive farming and forestry systems at multiple spatial and temporal scales, studies that examine the social and behavioral aspects of adoption of adaptive measures and best management practice in the context of changing weather patterns and climate, to ultimately support sustainable and resilient agricultural landscapes into the future.

This program area explores how the mosaic of land use types affect and are affected by climate variability and change through integrated projects that focus on sustainable intensive agricultural systems, including crop, livestock, and forestry production. Projects should aim to promote and enhance resilient and sustainable food/fiber supply chain systems under a changing climate, and address mitigation-adaptation dynamics of responses to climate variability and change. Land use and how this might be impacted by climate change should be the focus. The goal of this program is to produce a greater understanding of underlying processes, drivers and consequences of land use change, including bio-physical and biogeochemical processes, climate feedbacks, and environmental outcomes, and social, behavioral, economic and land use interactions. Projects should use a holistic and systems approaches to identify and quantify the climate adaptation and mitigation tradeoffs associated with changes and trends in intensified agricultural production systems across the landscape to inform decision makers of best management practices, land use, and policies for resilient and sustainable agriculture and forestry production systems.

Applications should examine the entire food/fiber supply chain to 1) identify critical points of intervention along the entire supply chain that are most vulnerable to climate impacts in order to establish best practices; and 2) determine points of intervention that have greatest potential to reduce emissions and increase carbon sequestration for the mitigation of climate change. In addition to the ecological, biogeochemical and technical processes, the project should also evaluate tthe socio-economic matrix and land use impacts along the food/fiber supply chain system.

Applications for CAP Grants must take a holistic and systems approach to address each of the following technical questions with an emphasis on land use and climate change:

  • Where are the points along the supply chain that are vulnerable to climate variability and change? Proposals should evaluate the impacts of climate on the bio-physical and biogeochemical components of intensified agricultural production systems. Bio-physical aspects may include but are not limited to: water quantity and quality, flood control, soil retention and productivity, microbial communities, nutrient cycling, pest biology and ecology, pollinator health, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration.
  • What are potential adaptation and mitigation strategies that can make the food and or fiber supply chain system resilient and sustainable in a changing climate? What are the points along the food chain system that can be adapted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance carbon sequestration, and lessen environmental impacts?
  • What are the drivers, effects, vulnerabilities, or resiliencies of the socio-economic system in relation to the sustainability of intensified agricultural production and in the context of climate variability and change? What are the behavioral and social responses, policy incentives or institutional frameworks that will foster desirable and sustainable food supply chain systems, enhancing the environment, human well-being, and the community and mitigating risks and consequences resulted from increasing climate variability and change?

Climate Masters Outreach and Extension

Letter of Intent Not Required for this Program Area
Application Deadline – September 14, 2016 (5:00 p.m., Eastern Time)

For FY2016, the AFRI ANRCVC encourages proposals that will bring together a team of extension professionals, along with educators, researchers, non-profits, businesses, policymakers, and other stakeholders to design an innovative approach to conducting community-based educational outreach for better understanding of climate, extreme weather events, energy, conservation, preparedness by people and community leaders, and the impact of informed decision-making. The long-term goal of the program is to support communities and build their capacity to independently plan, initiate, and carry out programs that address these issues.

The design for an innovative program strategy should include, but not be limited to:

  • A feasibility study of implementing a climate-smart communities outreach model
  • An inventory of current community-based initiatives in the public and private sector and best management practices from previous work to enhance climate resiliency.
  • Documentation of research on what makes communities resilient and how this research was utilized to best design the program.
  • A synthesis of literature, reports, and programs that provide insight on what has and has not worked in past climate outreach efforts. The synthesis should include characteristics of a climate-smart community, efforts to improve household and community readiness; and attitudes or behaviors that lead to climate-resilient decisions.

The expected outcomes from the application is that the team will design an innovative program strategy and approach that will address regional needs for developing a climate outreach and extension program that involves volunteers as Climate Masters. At the termination of the project, the team should deliver a document, such as a white paper or report, which establishes criteria for a regional, community-based climate outreach program that has a broad model that could be replicated in communities across the national. The document should describe best practices and evidenced-based promising solutions for conducting outreach to encourage climate-smart living and agricultural practices that positively impacts the environment. The document should include an executive summary and references to relevant sources.

USDA Seeks Applications for Funding to Develop Advanced Biofuels and Plant-Based Products

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking applications for funding in the form of loan guarantees to help support the development of advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals and biobased products.

For this announcement, USDA will seek applications in two cycles. Applications for the first funding cycle are due October 3, 2016. A letter of intent to apply is due by September 1, 2016. Applications for the second cycle are due April 3, 2017. For more information, see page 48377 of the July 25, 2016, Federal Register. Application materials can be found on USDA’s Rural Development website.

“The bioeconomy is a catalyst for economic development in rural America, creating new jobs and providing new markets for farmers and ranchers,” Vilsack said. “Investing in the businesses and technologies that support the production of biofuels and biobased products is not only good for farm incomes. The whole economy benefits from a more balanced, diversified and consumer-friendly energy portfolio, less dependence on foreign oil and reduced carbon emissions.”

Funding is being provided through the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program, formerly known as the Biorefinery Assistance Program. Congress established the program in 2008 to encourage the development of biofuels that use renewable feedstocks. The 2014 Farm Bill expanded the program to include renewable chemicals and biobased product manufacturing. The program now provides loan guarantees of up to $250 million to develop, construct and retrofit commercial-scale biorefineries and to develop renewable chemicals and biobased product manufacturing facilities.

USDA has provided $844 million in loan commitments to 10 businesses in the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program since the start of the Obama administration. Companies receiving these commitments are projected to produce 159 million gallons of advanced biofuels.

In 2011, under this program, USDA provided Sapphire Energy a $54.5 million loan guarantee to build a refined algal oil commercial facility. Sapphire’s “Green Crude Farm” in Columbus, N.M., is an example of how USDA funding and partnerships with the private sector are helping to support the development of biorefineries.

The plant opened in May 2012 and is producing renewable algal oil that can be further refined to replace petroleum-derived diesel and jet fuel. According to the company, more than 600 jobs were created during the first phase of construction at the facility and 30 full-time employees currently operate the plant. After Sapphire received additional equity from private investors, it repaid the remaining balance on its USDA-backed loan in 2013.

USDA is helping to develop the bioeconomy, which has the potential to spur unprecedented growth in the rural economy by creating opportunities for the production, distribution and sale of biobased products and fuels. For example, USDA has partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Navy to create advanced drop-in biofuels that will power both the Department of Defense and private-sector transportation throughout America. Over the course of this Administration, USDA has invested $332 million to accelerate research on renewable energy ranging from genomic research on bioenergy feedstock crops, to development of biofuel conversion processes and cost/benefit estimates of renewable energy production. For more information on how renewable energy factors into USDA’s work to reduce greenhouse gases, visit the latest chapter of USDA’s Medium entry, How Food and Forestry Are Adapting to a Changing Climate.

The Department has also taken steps to support biobased product manufacturing that promises to create new jobs across rural America – including adding new categories of qualified biobased products for Federal procurement and establishing reporting by Federal contractors of biobased product purchases. The more than 2,200 products that have received certification to display the USDA Certified Biobased Product label are creating and increasing consumer and commercial awareness about a material’s biobased content as one measure of its environmental footprint. A 2015 USDA study of the bioeconomy found that the biobased products industry generates $369 billion and 4 million jobs each year for our economy. Biobased products industries directly employ approximately 1.5 million people, while an additional 2.5 million jobs are supported in other sectors.

In October 2015, Rural Development implemented a redesigned two-phase application process. This new process helps the Agency identify the projects that have made the most progress in the development stage and have the greatest capacity for implementation and loan closing. The first two application cycles under the new process yielded complete applications from projects producing biogas, biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, biobased lubricants and oils, lignin cake and syrup, and fertilizers.

Eligible borrowers include individuals, corporations, federally-recognized tribes, units of state or local government, farm cooperatives and co-op organizations, associations of agricultural producers, national laboratories, institutions of higher education, rural electric cooperatives, public power entities – or a consortium of any of these borrower types. Entities that receive program financing must provide at least 20 percent of the funding for eligible project costs.

Since 2009, USDA Rural Development (@USDARD) has invested $11 billion to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses; helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities; financed 185,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines; and helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses. For more information, visit

Funding: Public Libraries Advancing Community Engagement

PLACE: Public Libraries Advancing Community Engagement: Environmental Literacy Through Climate Change Discussions

Application deadline is August 1, 2016.

Grant Award: $1,000 and access to public program materials, professional development, ongoing programming support, and an online peer-to-peer community.

Grant Period: Participating libraries will be working with the project for up to one year.

Program Overview: Librarians can play a significant role in increasing a community’s climate resiliency—the ability to recover quickly from or plan for and anticipate weather impacts. Using a model that is essentially “book club meets science café,” PLACE engages people in their own libraries and within their own communities to discuss local weather challenges and threats.

Community Benefits: By participating in PLACE, community members will read popular fiction and non-fiction books and watch human interest videos about real people who have developed resilient strategies for facing climate challenges. Through exploration and discussion, participants will become aware of online tools that can provide information for their own community, family and individual planning for extreme weather and other climate events.

Benefits for Librarians: Librarians receive professional development and, in partnership with NOAA scientists, will co-facilitate a three-part public library program series for their community.

Eligibility: Public libraries located in rural and under-resourced urban communities. Limited to one staff person per library facility.

DOE commits more than $1.7 million to help commercialize promising Argonne-associated energy technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Tuesday that it is committing more than $1.7 million in funding to help Argonne National Laboratory and research partners move multiple promising energy technologies to the marketplace.

The awards are part of the first Department-wide round of funding from DOE’s Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), which is awarding nearly $16 million to support 54 projects at 12 national laboratories involving dozens of research partners.

The Technology Commercialization Fund is administered by DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions, which works to expand the commercial impact of DOE’s portfolio of research, development, demonstration and deployment activities. Projects that will benefit from this round of funding fall in two areas:

  • Projects for which additional technology maturation is needed to attract a private partner
  • Cooperative development projects between a lab and industry partner(s) designed to bolster the commercial application of a laboratory-developed technology

All projects selected for the Technology Commercialization Fund will receive an equal amount of non-federal funds from lab partners to match the federal investment.

“Deploying new clean energy technologies is an essential part of our nation’s effort to lead in the 21st century economy and in the fight against climate change,” said Lynn Orr, DOE’s Under Secretary for Science and Energy. “The funds announced today will help to accelerate the commercialization of cutting-edge energy technologies developed in our national labs, making them more widely available to American consumers and businesses.”

The five Argonne-associated projects are:

Application of Resin-Wafer Electrodeionization Technology in Biorefineries ($600,000; in partnership with ZeaChem, Inc., Lakewood, Colo.)

Argonne and ZeaChem will work to improve the processing of biomass-based feedstocks into biofuels and chemicals.  A team led by Argonne chemical engineer YuPo Lin and biochemical engineer Seth Snyder developed the resin wafer electrodeionization (rwedi) technology, a process for producing clean energy that is cost-effective and reduces waste and energy use.

Argonne’s patented technology allows for the efficient separation of salts and acids from aqueous streams. Typically, these separations require neutralizing agents; the Argonne process uses electricity instead.

ZeaChem is developing biorefineries to commercialize production of cellulosic biofuels and renewable chemicals by bacterial fermentation technology. In the collaboration with Argonne, ZeaChem will use rwedi in its pilot-scale facility to clean up the cellulosic sugars that are fed to the fermenter and to recover the renewable chemical products from the fermenter.

“The implications of rwedi are exciting,” Snyder said. “Commercial production of cellulosic biofuels and renewable chemicals could decrease our carbon emissions while creating U.S. manufacturing jobs.”

The goal of the project is to obtain pilot-scale process performance so that ZeaChem can evaluate whether rwedi helps the company achieve its commercial targets.

“Rwedi could have a significant impact on the efficiency of multiple steps in the biorefining process” said Tim Eggeman, CEO and President of ZeaChem. “We look forward to seeing the scale-up performance.”

Ultrathin Nanoparticle Membranes to Remove Emerging Hydrophobic Trace Organic Compounds in Water with Low Applied Pressure and Energy Consumption ($150,000; in partnership with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago)

A recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raises grave concerns over organic contaminants in U.S. coastal waters. In particular, emerging trace organic contaminants (TrOCs) in the water supply present a tremendous challenge for water treatment because the existing technologies to remove them are not cost-effective.

The goal of the collaboration with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is to create a prototype membrane device with an engineered molecular coating capable of removing TrOCs in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Argonne, in collaboration with the University of Chicago, has recently developed ultrathin nanoparticle-based membranes with robust mechanical properties. Compared with commercial filters, these new types of filters have the potential to operate at low applied pressure with minimum energy consumption.

“We are excited that the grant will allow us to develop a new type of nanomaterial-based filtration membrane, completely different from the traditional polymer-based systems, to solve a challenging problem in water filtration,” said Xiao-Min Lin, an Argonne nanoscientist and a lead researcher on the project.

Argonne and MWRD will also collaborate with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Prairie Research Institute — both at theUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — to evaluate the performance of the membrane filter.

Advanced Manufacturing of Ultra-High-Density Interposers ($250,000; in partnership with the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research, Osceola County, Fla.)

The collaboration between Argonne and the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR) will be aimed at improving device connections in systems needed to produce the next generation of sensors.

The work will focus on silicon interposers, a critical component for electrically connecting the multiple integrated circuits needed to make sensors with many functions.

ICAMR will contribute tools and facilities to conduct the research, including work at its state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facility set to open next spring in Osceola County, Fla.

Graphene Coating for Dry Gas Seal Applications ($579,852; in partnership with John Crane Inc., Morton Grove, Ill.)

Argonne and John Crane Inc. will jointly develop an industrial-scale process for forming superlubric coatings based on a graphene-nanodiamond solution.

The technology will be applied to the dry gas seals of gas compressors and similar equipment, thereby reducing friction in the seals and reducing the leakage of toxic and greenhouse gases through worn seals.

“Industries are always interested in path-breaking ideas coming from national labs, but they don’t necessarily have enough funds to invest to take it to the next level,” said Argonne nanoscientist Anirudha Sumant, a lead researcher on the project. “This DOE program is an excellent vehicle to bridge this gap.”

By improving the reliability of sealing systems, there is considerable opportunity to decrease emissions associated with seal failures, reduce maintenance costs and improve productivity.

“This collaboration will propel gas-sealing technology to a new platform,” said Ali Erdemir, an Argonne Distinguished Fellow and a lead researcher on the project.

“This is an important initiative by DOE to raise the Technology Readiness Level of the science that has been developed at the national laboratories,” added Mostafa Beik, a business development executive at Argonne who helps manage the collaboration with John Crane, Inc.

UNCD-Based Electron Field Emission Source for Accelerator Applications ($150,000; in partnership with Euclid TechLabs, Gaithersburg, Md.)

Many of the synchrotron facilities around the world — which operate 24/7 — have very complicated and time-consuming procedures for replacing electron sources when they fail, making a long time between failures highly desirable. It is also highly desirable that these electron sources can consume less power, work for a longer duration and withstand variation in vacuum environment without reducing performance.

In this project, Argonne and Euclid TechLabs will develop an electron source based on field emission from nitrogen-incorporated ultrananocrystalline diamond, or (N)UNCD.

“This will greatly accelerate our efforts in developing robust, energy-efficient and economically viable electron sources for electron accelerators,” Sumant said.

“A great collateral aspect of this funding and development will be the commercial availability of UNCD-based electron sources for other high-value commercial applications, including electron microscopy and space propulsion systems,” said Beik, who manages the commercialization of this technology with outside partners. “We are currently exploring with other commercial partners the use of this technology for those applications.”