Spending bill could cut funding to renewable energy research at Case Western Reserve University

Posted at 6:00 AM, Aug 08, 2017

Federal funds that put Case Western Reserve University — and the City of Cleveland — on the renewable energy map could be cut overnight by the passage of an appropriations bill.

H.R. 3219 the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act, 2018” passed in the house on July 27 by a vote of 235 to 192.

The bill provides appropriation to the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2018. It cancels federal funding for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).

Case Western Reserve University has received five of the competitive ARPA- E grants to fund energy projects since 2009.

One project, the iron-flow battery, has the potential to hold and supply electricity to a home or an entire community — using cheap, plentiful and environmentally friendly materials.

“This would definitely be a game changer for renewable energy and utility power plants,” project leader Robert Savinell told News 5. Savinell is a professor of chemical engineering at CWRU.

The flow battery uses primarily iron, water and table salt and has the potential to light an entire suburban home using a battery that is the size of about two refrigerators.

“Projects like this are now in jeopardy,” Savinell explained.

Grant Goodrich, Associate Director of the Great Lakes Energy Institute, said the stakes are particularly high for Cleveland.

“You’ll see local projects that will go away, you’ll see advances that will go away or you’ll see it go else where,” Goodrich said.

Goodrich said that CWRU energy researchers have benefitted from nearly 10 million dollars in ARPA-E funding. The projects have attracted talent to Cleveland and boasted to the potential to become critical job engines.

“So this affects jobs, affect research and it affects our leading role in energy-related research,” he explained.

The bill saw its first reading in the Senate on Aug. 1.