How to Seek Grants for Alternative Energy R & D

If you are someone who wishes to begin researching and developing alternative energy technologies and you would want to be set up as a not-for-profit organization or entity, you will want to look into getting government grants, on both the state and the federal levels. Government grants for alternative energy research and development have been highly touted by politicians on local, state, and federal levels in recent years, all the way up to the President himself. This is due to the fact that we now recognize as a society that we need to seek out and develop alternative energy sources to those of the fossil fuels that we presently depend upon, as these fuels are not only slowly but surely running out (at least cheap access to digging them up is running out), but also damaging to the environment and air quality.

There is a fairly vast array of government grant programs available for you to check into. The great and most important thing to keep in mind about a government grant is that it’s essentially free money. It is not a loan, you don’t pay any interest, and you don’t ever have to give the money back. However, qualifying for these grants, as you might imagine with something involving the government and free money, has quite a lot of restrictions attached to it. Not only is qualification based on purpose and need in the eyes and opinions of government bureaucrats, but just because you qualify does not mean that you necessarily get the grant. As Marshall McLuen put it, “the medium is the message”. The fact of the matter is that it is typically easier to apply for and qualify to receive a business loan—but then, that would not be free money, that would be something you owed to someone, and with interest on top.

There are professional grant writers who know how to write proposals in such a way that they get around the heavy load of restrictions set up by the government, and you might need to resort to one of these. Even governments employ professional grant writers to seek money from other branches of the government, such as a country government needing funding from the state or the federal government. These people also keep abreast of what government grants are still or newly available and what ones have been removed from the table. It’s an intricate web, so one must not get tangled up in when seeking needed financial backing for alternative energy research and development. In fact, it is so complex that in the last decade or so the ranks of profession writers, as both individuals and as entire companies, have swelled. It is a profitable business—and this can make it fraught with illegal actions and controversial claims.

Nevertheless, each year there are many thousands of grants awarded throughout the United States for the purpose of helping the public. And again, with the government endorsement of grant money to be given to alternative energy researchers, you could very well get what you seek.

Government Grants for Alternative Energy

In his State of the Union Address for 2007, President George W. Bush called for a 22% increase in federal grants for research and development of alternative energy. However, in a speech he gave soon after, he said to those assembled, I recognize that there has been some interesting mixed signals when it comes to funding.

Where the mixed signals were coming from concerned the fact that at the same time the President was calling on more government backing for alternative energy research and development, the NREL—the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of Golden, Colardo—was laying off workers and contractors left and right. Apparently, the Laboratory got the hint, because soon after the State of the Union Address, everyone was re-hired. The second speech of the President’s was actually given at the NREL. There is almost unanimous public support for the federal backing through research grants, tax breaks, and other financial incentives of research and development of alternative energy sources.

The NREL is the nation’s leading component of the National Bioenergy Center, a “virtual” center that has no central bricks and mortar office. The NREL’s raison d’etre is the advancing of the US Department of Energy’s and the United States’ alternative energy objectives. The laboratory’s field researchers and staff scientists, in the words of Laboratory Director Dan Arvizu, “support critical market objectives to accelerate research from scientific innovations to market-viable alternative energy solutions. At the core of this strategic direction are NREL’s research and technology development areas. These areas span from understanding renewable resources for energy, to the conversion of these resources to renewable electricity and fuels, and ultimately to the use of renewable electricity and fuels in homes, commercial buildings, and vehicles.” The federally-backed Laboratory directly helps along the United States’ objectives for discovering renewable alternative fuels for powering our economy and our lifestyles.

The NREL is set up to have several areas of expertise in alternative energy research and development. It spearheads research and development efforts into renewable sources of electricity; these would include such things as solar power, wind power, biomass power, and geothermal power. It also spearheads research and development of renewable fuels for powering our vehicles such as biomass and biodiesel fuels and hydrogen fuel cells. Then, it seeks to develop plans for integrated system enginnering; this includes bringing alternative energy into play within buildings, electrical grids and delivery systems, and transportation infrastructures. The Laboratory is also set up for strategic development and analysis of alternative energy objectives through the forces of economics, market analysis and planning, and alternative energy investment portfolios structurings.

The NREL is additionally equipped with a Technology Transfer Office. This Office supports laboratory scientists and engineers in the practical application of and ability to make a living from their expertise and the technologies they develop. NREL’s research and development staff and its facilities are recognized for their remarkable prowess by private industry, which is reflected in the hundreds of collaborative projects and licensed technologies that the Laboratory now has with both public and private partners.

Geothermal Power as Alternative Energy

We should be doing everything possible to develop geothermal energy technologies. This is a largely untapped area of tremendous alternative energy potential, as it simply taps the energy being naturally produced by the Earth herself. Vast amounts of power are present below the surface crust on which we move and have our being. All we need do is tap into it and harness it.

At the Earths’ core, the temperature is 60 times greater than that of water being boiled. The tremendous heat creates pressures that exert themselves only a couple of miles below us, and these pressures contain huge amounts of energy. Superheated fluids in the form of magma, which we see the power and energy of whenever there is a volcanic eruption, await our tapping. These fluids also trickle to the surface as steam and emerge from vents. We can create our own vents, and we can create out own containment chambers for the magma and convert all of this energy into electricity to light and heat our homes. In the creation of a geothermal power plant, a well would be dug where there is a good source of magma or heated fluid. Piping would be fitted down into the source, and the fluids forced to the surface to produce the needed steam. The steam would turn a turbine engine, which would generate the electricity.

There are criticisms of geothermal energy tapping which prevent its being implemented on the large scale which it should be. Critics say that study and research to find a resourceful area is too costly and takes up too much time. Then there is more great expense needed to build a geothermal power plant, and there is no promise of the plant turning a profit. Some geothermal sites, once tapped, might be found to not produce a large enough amount of steam for the power plant to be viable or reliable. And we hear from the environmentalists who worry that bringing up magma can bring up potentially harmful materials along with it.

However, the great benefits of geothermal energy would subsume these criticisms if only we would explore it more. The fact that geothermal energy is merely the energy of the Earth herself means it does not produce any pollutants. Geothermal energy is extremely efficient—the efforts needed to channel it are minimal after a site is found and a plant is set up. Geothermal plants, furthermore, do not need to be as large as electrical plants, giant dams, or atomic energy facilities—the environment would thus be less disrupted. And, needless to say, it is an alternative form of energy—using it would mean we become that much less dependent on oil and coal. Perhaps most importantly of all—we are never, ever going to run out of geothermal energy, and it is not a commodity that would continuously become more expensive in terms of real dollars as time passes, since it is ubiquitous. Geothermal energy would be, in the end, very cheap, after investigation and power plant building costs are recouped.

Developing Nuclear Power as Alternative Energy

Many researchers believe that harnessing the power of the atom in fission reactions is the most significant alternative energy resource that we have, for the fact of the immense power that it can generate.

Nuclear power plants are very “clean-burning” and their efficiency is rather staggering. Nuclear power is generated at 80% efficiency, meaning that the energy produced by the fission reactions is almost equal to the energy put into producing the fission reactions in the first place. There is not a lot of waste material generated by nuclear fission—although, due to the fact that there is no such thing as creating energy without also creating some measure of waste, there is some. The concerns of people such as environmentalists with regards to using nuclear power as an alternative energy source center around this waste, which is radioactive gases which have to be contained.

The radiation from these gases lasts for an extraordinarily long time, so it can never be released once contained and stored. However, the volume of this waste gas produced by the nuclear power plants is small in comparison to how much NOx (nitrous oxide—that is, air pollution) is caused by one day’s worth of rush-hour traffic in Los Angeles. While the radiation is certainly the more deadly by far of the two waste materials, the radiation is also by far the easier of the two to contain and store. In spite of the concerns of the environmentalists, nuclear power is actually environmentally friendly alternative energy, and the risk of the contained radiation getting out is actually quite low. With a relatively low volume of waste material produced, it should not be a difficult thing at all for storage and disposal solutions for the long term to be developed as technology advances.

The splitting of an atom releases energy in the forms of both heat and light. Atomic power plants control the fission reactions so that they don’t result in the devastating explosions that are brought forth in atomic and hydrogen bombs. There is no chance of an atomic power plant exploding like a nuclear bomb, as the specialized conditions and the pure Plutonium used to unleash an atomic bomb’s vicious force simply don’t exist inside a nuclear power plant. The risk of a “meltdown” is very low. Although this latter event has happened a couple of times, when one considers that there are over 430 nuclear reactors spread out across 33 nations, and that nuclear reactors have been in use since the early 1950s, these are rare occurrences, and the events of that nature which have taken place were the fault of outdated materials which should have been properly kept up. Indeed, if nuclear energy could become a more widely accepted form of alternative energy, there would be little question of their upkeep being maintained. Currently, six states in America generate more than half of all their electrical energy needs through nuclear power, and the media are not filled with gruesome horror stories of the power plants constantly having problems.