For Immediate Release: July 28, 2010
Media Contact: Sandy Louey - 916-654-4989


CA Energy Commission Awards $2.2 Million for Research Projects

SACRAMENTO - The California Energy Commission today awarded $2,167,820 to help spur research on projects including using waste vegetable oil processed from fast food restaurants as a power source. Funds for the seven research grants come from the Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program.

"Improving our state's economy and environment by investing in clean energy technologies continues to be a hallmark of California's leadership," said Energy Commissioner Jeffrey Byron. "Fostering ground-breaking technology, such as innovative combined heat and power systems, demonstrates the importance of funding R&D across the state."

Commissioners approved $1,435,575 to Sunnyvale-based Altex Technologies Corporation to demonstrate a combined heat and power (CHP) system that uses waste vegetable oil as fuel and meets the California Air Resources Board's emission standards. Match funds of $1,070,984 would come from Altex and the other project partners, ClearEdge Power and the U.S. Army.

The project calls for an efficient and small-scale combined heat and power (CHP) system that could be used in the more than 30,000 fast food restaurants in California. The fuel cell-based system would produce more than four kilowatts (kW) of electricity and more than 40,000 Btu/hour of heat for hot water. The proposed system would be able to convert 12 gallons of waste vegetable oil to generate 100 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity every day.

The Energy Commission also awarded $400,000 to the Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. of Palo Alto to demonstrate the effectiveness of airflow management in data centers. Project partners EPRI and NetApp will provide match funding of $100,000.

Existing refrigerant-based computer room air conditioning units will be retrofitted with variable-speed drive control technology and a wireless temperature sensor network. Doing both could cut data center energy consumption by an estimated 15 percent. That translates to a potential savings of 854 million kWh and $102 million in electricity costs annually, according to the project proposal.

Five other projects were approved:

  • Lightwave Photonics, Inc. of Encinitas will receive $95,000 to study increasing light extraction and electrical efficiency while cutting manufacturing costs of a light-emitting diode (LED). The project calls for removing a conventional secondary processing step in LED manufacturing and bonding a highly reflective surface to the LED.
  • The University of California at Davis will receive $95,000 to study the feasibility of a light-assisted biofuel cell to convert chemical energy stored in biomass from municipal wastewater into usable electricity.
  • Wind Harvest International of Point Reyes Station will receive $50,000 to improve existing designs of the company's currently marketed vertical-axis wind turbine.
  • San Jose State University will receive $50,000 to look at developing new wind deflectors and wind fences to mitigate and control turbulent airflow on top of urban high-rise buildings. These wind deflectors and fences would harness and control airflow for maximum wind power generation.
  • Robert A. Hogue of Menlo Park will receive $42,245 for a project looking at using the ground underneath solar collectors to store energy instead of the conventional use of molten salts as thermal storage.

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; an planning for and directing state response to energy emergency.

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