For Immediate Release: October 20, 2010
Media Contact: Sandy Louey - 916-654-4989


Energy Commission Awards More Than $1.2 Million for Research

SACRAMENTO - The California Energy Commission today approved $1,215,397 for research including developing methods for efficiently filtering CO2 from industrial emissions and lowering the cost of operating data centers. The four research projects to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Porifera, Inc., and the University of California at San Diego are funded by the Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program.

"California's leadership in greenhouse gas reduction is a key reason for funding this specific type of research," said Energy Commissioner Jeffrey Byron. "By teaming up with eminent scientific partners like Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Commission is demonstrating that R&D funding is a valuable part of our state's energy infrastructure."

UC San Diego will receive a $500,000 grant to help improve the predictability of forecasting photovoltaic (PV) output. The project will help develop a one-hour ahead PV forecast to efficiently integrate PV into the microgrid at UC San Diego. The project budget is $2,432,579, with $1,932,579 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The project proposes to design tools that will help to understand the impacts that high levels of PV will have on distribution systems. The project plans to advance the modeling tools and validate databases of experience from field experiments with high penetration scenarios of PV onto a smart microgrid and smart grid utility distribution system. The work will integrate power analysis software with a network of 12 microclimate monitoring systems and hemispherical sky images that provide data for one-hour ahead of PV output forecasts. This will help optimize demand adjustments based upon dynamic price signals and help in achieving high solar penetration.

The project will involve UC San Diego, ESDA Micro Corporation, the California Independent System Operator, and San Diego Gas & Electric.

The Commission also approved a grant of $115,397 to Hayward-based Porifera, Inc. for a project to research and develop carbon nanotube membranes to efficiently separate carbon dioxide from industrial emissions. The project budget is $1,442,469, with $1,153,975 coming from another ARRA grant. The company will provide $173,097 in funds for the project.

Currently, companies use a chemical solvent absorption process to remove carbon dioxide from power plant and industrial flue gas emissions. The chemical absorption process is expensive and energy-intensive.

The goal of the project is to replace the chemical-based carbon dioxide separation technology with membrane-based technology. Carbon nanotube membranes are comprised of extremely small (about 10,000 times smaller than a human hair) and strong hollow tubes made of graphite carbon atoms. Gas flows through these tubes 100 times faster than the pores in other types of membranes.

If successful, carbon nanotube membranes could potentially deliver better efficiency, lower energy consumption, and provide cheaper carbon dioxide sequestration than the current process. The research team for the project includes scientists and engineers from Porifera, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of California at Berkeley.

The Commission also approved two research grants to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to document the energy savings of two projects to cool large computer rooms more efficiently. A $200,000 grant will quantify the savings from using higher temperature cooling tower water, while a $400,000 grant will demonstrate the benefits of using more sensitive controls in computer room cooling systems.

The Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program supports public interest research and development that helps improve the quality of life in California by bringing environmentally safe, reliable, and affordable energy services and products to the marketplace. For more information, visit

Created by the California Legislature in 1974, the California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. The Energy Commission has five major responsibilities: forecasting future energy needs and keeping historical energy data; licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger; promoting energy efficiency through appliance and building standards; developing energy technologies and supporting renewable energy; and planning for and directing state response to energy emergency.

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