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Good company

By Nancy Salem

Photography By Sandra Valdez

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Small businesses picked to get Sandia clean-tech help

DOE chose seven small clean-energy businesses to work with Sandia to bring next-generation technologies to market faster.

“We’re excited to help these companies commercialize their products and advance the clean-energy economy,” says Jackie Kerby Moore, manager of Technology and Economic Development Dept. 1933. “This is tech transfer at its best, bringing national laboratory expertise to the private sector and helping the environment.”

The Small Business Vouchers Pilot was launched Sept. 23 with a website where companies could apply to receive technical help from DOE labs. In an announcement earlier this month, the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) said 33 of the hundreds of applicants received funding for the first of three rounds of the pilot. Nine DOE labs will participate, with a combined first-round budget of $6.7 million.

Sandia’s seven vouchers total $1.62 million. The selected companies are iBeam Materials Inc. of Santa Fe; Altergy Systems of Folsom, California; FastCAP Systems Corp. of Boston;  Renewable Power Conversion Inc. of San Luis Obispo, California; Skysun LLC of Bay Village, Ohio; Columbia Power Technologies Inc. of Corvallis, Oregon; and Micron Optics Inc. of Atlanta. The vouchers range in value from $150,000 to $300,000.

The pilot, part of EERE’s National Laboratory Impact Initiative, aims to help small businesses by giving them access to world-class expertise and tools at the labs. The pilot will fund projects in the areas of solar, geothermal, wind, water, fuel cells, advanced manufacturing, bioenergy, buildings, and vehicles. The types of projects include prototyping, materials characterization, high-performance computing, modeling and simulation, scaling to generate customer samples, performance validation, and regulatory compliance.

Wide variety of clean-energy efforts

Last year, DOE chose Sandia as one of five leads in the $20 million pilot, along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Sandia was named the lead lab in the sectors of solar energy, wind energy, and geothermal technologies.

Companies selected to collaborate with Sandia are working on a wide variety of clean-energy efforts:

  • iBeam is developing new LED products for the lighting, display, and wearable electronics industries.
  • FastCAP’s technology powers downhole tools operating at extremely high temperatures, from 150 to 300 degrees Celsius.
  • Renewable Power Conversion seeks to advance its macro-micro inverter technology for commercial and utility-scale photovoltaic power systems.
  • Skysun will do systems modeling to better understand the performance of its prototype for an array of heliostats controlled by a single mechanism.
  • Micron Optics is working on integration of fiber optic systems in commercial wind turbines.
  • Columbia Power Technologies is developing a proprietary system that converts ocean waves into cost-competitive, utility-scale electricity.
  • Altergy Systems will further develop its fuel cell technology for backup power in remote, mission-critical areas.

“The Small Business Vouchers Pilot will let us collaborate with Sandia’s world-renowned solar researchers,” says Skysun President Jim Clair. “That would normally be beyond the reach of a start-up like Skysun. This teamwork will dramatically accelerate our technology’s acceptance and deployment into the marketplace.”

Companies can continue to apply for vouchers

Two more rounds of competition will be offered to small businesses in 2016. To be eligible, businesses must be US-based and -owned with no more than 500 full-time employees worldwide.

Companies can apply to Sandia through the SBV website at https://www.sbv.org/ for $50,000 to $300,000 in vouchers that can be used for a variety of technical services. Successful companies will be required to provide a 20 percent cost share or in-kind services.

Fabrizio Martini, technical lead at FastCAP Systems, says the partnership with Sandia will help validate the company’s technology. “Geothermal energy has tremendous potential in the United States, and with further development could power more than 100 million American homes,” he says. “We are glad to partner with Sandia, one of the most advanced research centers in this field.”