EPA & ARPA-E Visit Greentown – Why hardware innovation is important to our nation’s energy future

On June 6, Greentown Labs was excited to host Bob Perciasepe, the Deputy Administrator of the EPA for a panel discussion on the implications of the new Clean Power Plan proposed rule announced that Monday.  A few days earlier, we were surprised (and delighted) to hear that he wanted to make Greentown Labs a stop on his cross country tour to discuss the proposed rule. As he laid out the four building blocks of the plan, however, it became abundantly clear why – innovative hardware companies, like those at Greentown Labs will be vital in ensuring that our nation can meet these goals and secure a better future.

EPA Deputy Administrator on a tour of Greentown Labs
EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone touring Greentown Labs

In each of the pillars that Deputy Administrator Perciasepe laid out, there are already Greentown companies working towards making a difference.

Logos of Greentown Companies
Greentown Labs member companies are working on innovations that could address each building block of the proposed EPA Clean Power Plan

Although there are software solutions that are helping to improve the dispatch of energy sources and increasing energy efficiency, there are limits to how much impact software can have.

  • To create new sources of energy →  we need to invest in hardware.
  • To upgrade or replace energy-sucking machinery → we need to invest in hardware
  • To reduce leakage in aging infrastructure → we need to invest in hardware

See a pattern? So does Cheryl Martin, the acting director of ARPA-E.

Acting Director of the ARPA-E, Cheryl Martin, talks with Greentown Labs members
Acting Director of the ARPA-E, Cheryl Martin, talks with Greentown Labs members

During her visit on June 13, Cheryl mentioned that over 98% of their awards have gone to hardware projects to date. According to the ARPA-E website, these projects  “have the potential to radically improve U.S. economic prosperity, national security, and environmental well being.  ARPA-E awardees are unique because they are developing entirely new ways to generate, store, and use energy.”  Cheryl put a lot of focus on the Technology-to-Market group at ARPA-E, helping these innovations thrive. Her aim in visiting Greentown Labs was to see what models are out there and what works for people in the hardware space. She was incredibly impressed with the passion of our entrepreneurs, the use of our manufacturing space, and the supportive community we have built here in Somerville for innovative hardware startups. It is spaces like Greentown Labs that will allow the transformational technologies started at ARPA-E, and in cutting edge labs across the state, to reach their potential and change the future of American energy.

Greentown Labs isn’t alone in helping our entrepreneurs succeed and innovate – the Massachusetts clean tech community is brimming with strong programs and mentors. Next week, we will discuss some of the programs that Greentown Labs (and our startups!) love.