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Entrepreneurs Fueling Innovation

Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy Cathy Zoi visits the first public curbside electric vehicle (EV) charging station in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this week, I witnessed the next chapter of America’s love affair with the automobile here in the nation’s capital.  I took part in a ribbon cutting at the first public curbside electric vehicle (EV) charging station, made possible by Coulomb Technologies.  It looks like a parking meter that Steve Jobs might design.  And plugging in for a charge is simple – easier than even pumping gas.  Soon brand new EVs – like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt – will be able to power up at stations like this one whenever they need it.

As President Obama says, “The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.”  The Recovery Act is the largest clean energy investment in American history, supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. 

Entrepreneurs, just like Richard Lowenthal and Praveen Mandal whose Coulomb Technologies manufactured the charging station in DC, are making the cutting edge stuff that will power the cars of tomorrow.  Soon, more than 20,000 stations will be popping up nationally to charge new EVs.  Coulomb Technologies’ $15 million Recovery Act award will deploy 4,600 charging stations as part of this effort.

And entrepreneurs like Jonathan Wolfson of start-up Solazyme are developing technologies that will revolutionize the liquid fuels sector.  With support from a $21 million Recovery Act grant, Wolfson’s company is pioneering next generation algal biofuels.  The Navy has taken notice with plans to purchase 150,000 gallons of algae-based biofuel from Solazyme, helping the company scale-up production and reduce U.S. reliance on imported oil.

Here’s another one: Ely Sachs, co-founder of 1366 Technologies, helped land a $4 million ARPA-E award to advance a novel solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing process.  Funded by the Recovery Act, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) solicits high-risk, high-reward ideas and funds a handful of potential game-changers.  The new 1366 Technologies process could reduce PV manufacturing capital costs by 90 percent and cut the cost of PV systems in half, making solar panels more affordable for homes and businesses.

As we celebrate National Entrepreneurship Week, let’s celebrate the innovative spirit of America and its inventors and entrepreneurs.  Their imagination, smarts, and hard work will transform our energy system and ensure that America leads the 21st century global economy.  And these transformative changes are not years away, they’re already here.

DC Charging Station