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California Energy Commission awards more than $5.5M for green transportation projects and $1.8M for 20 energy research projects

The California Energy Commission (CEC) approved $5,580,773 for clean-energy transportation projects including biodiesel production, power control electronics for medium-and heavy-duty battery electric vehicles, and buydowns for propane vehicles. The awards were made through the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program.

In addition, CEC awarded $1,815,274 to fund 20 energy research projects in the areas of transportation, electricity, and natural gas. Funds for these projects—which span areas as diverse as a new crossover valve for the split-cycle Tour Engine (earlier post) to a new solar thermal storage device capable of integration with utility scale solar thermal power plants—come from Commission’s Energy Innovations Small Grant (EISG) program.

Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program awards. The CEC says that the state’s investments in these projects are safeguarded by matching fund requirements for awardees, and by making payments on a reimbursement basis after invoices are submitted. The award recipients are:

  • Buster Biofuels, LLC, based in the San Diego area, will receive $2,641,723 to convert a 7,300 square foot industrial warehouse building into a biodiesel manufacturing and fueling facility. The facility will create biodiesel from renewable waste-based materials such as used cooking oil from restaurants.

    The facility is slated to produce nearly 5 million gallons of transportation fuel per year. Its benefits include the reduction of an estimated 32,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually—roughly equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions produced by 5,850 gasoline vehicles in a year.

  • Motiv Power Systems, Inc., based in Foster City (San Mateo County), will receive $2,379,050 to establish a pilot production line capable of assembling 20 Motiv Electric Power Control Systems a month. Each system comprises electronic components that can be used with a variety of batteries and motors and installed on conventional medium- and heavy-duty chassis, modifying them into all-electric battery operated vehicles that have no tailpipe emissions. Currently, these powertrains are primarily installed in shuttle buses and delivery trucks.

  • Buy-down incentives totaling $560,000 were approved for 35 alternative-fuel propane vehicles. These incentives help to pay the difference between alternative-fuel vehicles and conventional vehicles. They are available only for new natural gas and propane vehicles that meet all California Air Resources Board emission requirements.

    These buy-down incentives are reserved for vehicle manufacturers or their designated dealers and passed on to buyers in California at the time of sale. To receive the incentives, buyers must agree to register and operate the vehicles in California at least 90 percent of the time for three years.

    The incentives approved today will be awarded to: A-Z Bus Sales in Colton ($500,000 for the buy-down of 25 propane school buses); Big Valley Ford, Inc. (36,000 for the buy-down of six propane light- to medium-duty vehicles); and Trans West Truck Center ($24,000 for the buy-down of four light- to medium-duty propane vehicles).

The awards were made through the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, created by Assembly Bill 118. The program, which is essential to fulfilling the state’s pioneering climate-change policies, is slated to invest approximately $90 million during this fiscal year to develop new transportation technologies, as well as alternative and renewable fuels. It is paid for through surcharges on vehicle and boating registrations, and smog check and license plate fees.

These awards also assist in fulfilling Governor Brown’s executive order directing state government to support the rapid commercialization of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in California, with a 2025 target of having 1.5 million ZEVs on the state’s roads. The order also requires the installation of sufficient infrastructure to support 1 million ZEVs in California by 2020.

Energy Innovations Small Grant (EISG) awards. The EISG program provides funding to small businesses, non-profit organizations, individuals, and academic institutions to conduct research that establishes the feasibility of new, innovative energy concepts. The program provides up to $95,000 for hardware projects and up to $50,000 for modeling concepts. The projects approved were:


  • Andromeda Power, LLC, located in Costa Mesa (Orange County), will receive $95,000 to study adaptive electric vehicle fast charging stations with built-in demand response capabilities.

  • University of California, Davis, was awarded $86,420 to determine the feasibility of using nanotechnology to increase the capacity of portable electricity storage units, reducing the cost of electricity storage.

  • Tour Engine, Inc., a San Diego-based company, will receive $95,000 to study a new crossover valve that will enable an increase in vehicle fuel efficiency by 20%.

  • SolidMasters, located in Fullerton, was awarded $93,218 to investigate the use of under-frame mounted CNG tanks in freight and passenger locomotives that meet Federal Railroad safety guidelines.

  • C/e Solutions, Inc., based in West Sacramento, was awarded $94,959 to determine the feasibility of using a catalyst to transform food waste into fuel in a single unit, thus simplifying production and lowering costs.

Natural gas:

  • University of California, Berkeley, will receive $95,000 to explore the use of microwave-enhanced spark plugs to allow leaner combustion capable of increasing efficiency and reducing harmful emissions in natural gas engines.

  • Rhotech Solar of South San Francisco was awarded $66,300 to determine the feasibility of adding a glazing layer to domestic water heaters to improve thermal performance by at least 70%.

  • San Diego State University will receive $95,000 to study a pretreatment method for algal biomass used as feedstock for anaerobic digesters to increase methane gas production.

  • University of California, San Diego, was awarded $95,000 to gather existing data on engine performance using a software modeling program to reduce carbon emissions of gas-fuel mixtures.

  • Humboldt State University was awarded $94,993 to investigate the use of biomass to convert waste heat energy into chemical energy.

  • Rolf Olsen of San Diego will receive $94,635 to study a new solar thermal storage device capable of integration with utility scale solar thermal power plants at a low cost. The device would also capture a wide range of solar temperatures, including those too high to be captured by current state-of-the-art molten-salt heat storage devices.


  • Negawatt Consulting, Inc., located in San Diego will receive $95,000 to study a cost-effective control system and strategy for buildings with multiple HVAC units.

  • Torrey Hills Technologies, LLC, based in San Diego, was awarded $94,954 to reduce the costs and increase the light output of Light Emitting Diodes (LED) by using more effective materials in the manufacturing of LEDS.

  • Nano Hydrophobics, located in San Francisco, will receive $95,000 to use nanotechnology to improve the operation of evaporative cooling tower efficiency by 30%.

  • University of California, San Diego will receive $95,000 to design and develop an effective software system that increases data center energy efficiency by improving server utilization.

  • Bioenno Tech, LLC, based in Santa Ana (Orange County), was awarded $95,000 to determine the feasibility of designing a powerpack battery device to improve energy efficiency and reliability for residential and commercial renewable energy applications.

  • Sun Synchrony, located in Alameda, will receive $95,000 to investigate the development of a low-cost solar photovoltaic tracker capable of high tracking precision.

  • InterPhase Solar, based in Moorpark (Ventura County), was awarded $95,000 to develop a laser-based tool which can crystallize solar cell films. The tool will increase the efficiency and lower costs of solar photovoltaic systems.

  • Butler Sun Solutions of Solana Beach (San Diego County) was awarded $94,900 to study the viability of a new design for concentrated photovoltaic systems that can increase energy generation and lower energy costs.

  • EZ Green, located in Foster City (San Mateo County) will receive $49,895 to study a low-cost energy management system that provides energy savings for small commercial buildings.


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