US DOE Offers $20M for More Energy Efficient Motors and Drives

March 20, 2015
The U.S. Department of Energy is offering $20 million to develop more energy efficient motors and drives.

Credit: john.purvis

The U.S. Department of Energy is offering $20 million to develop more energy efficient motors and drives, particularly high speed equipment that uses high power-density designs and integrated power electronics.

The federal agency is targeting motors and drives to help reduce the industrial sector’s $200 billion energy bill. Industrials now use 25 percent of U.S. electricity, a figure expected to rise to 30 percent by 2040.  At the same time, manufacturing accounts for 12 percent of GDP.

Industrial electric motors are used in fans, pumps, compressors, grinding mills, metal rolling, mine hoists, and refineries.

Track energy efficiency solicitations by subscribing to the Energy Efficiency Markets Newsletter. It’s free.

The DOE says that the sector can reduce energy costs by replacing less efficient systems that have fixed-speed motors and gearboxes with variable-speed direct-drive motor systems and by incorporating  power electronics advances, such as wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors.

WBG systems can operate at higher temperatures, voltages, and frequencies, and are more durable and reliable than silicon-based counterparts, according to the DOE

The DOE plans to offer the funds for four to six projects to demonstrate the benefits of using WBG variable-speed drives. Awards are likely to range from $3 to $5 million, but could run as a high as $6 million, not including a minimum 20 percent  cost share.

Called Next Generation Electric Machines: Megawatt Class Motors, the funding program seeks projects that strive for a 30 percent reduction in system losses and a 50 percent reduction in size for megawatt-scale motor and drive systems. It is specifically targeting systems used in the chemical and petroleum refining industries, natural gas infrastructure, and general industry compressor applications like HVAC systems, refrigeration, and wastewater pumps.

Winning projects will develop integrated motor drive system components including:

  • Front end power processing units
  • Medium voltage class WBG semiconductor-based variable-speed drives
  • High speed motors that can be directly coupled to appropriate industrial loads

The DOE will hold a webinar on the solicitation Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 1-2 p.m. EDT. To reserve your webinar seat, go to

Concept papers are due, April 16, 2015 and the full application on June 3, 2015. The DOE expects to notify winners in August 2015 and make awards between August and November 2015.

The solicitation (DE‐FOA‐0001208) is available here. For more information, contact: [email protected] or [email protected].

Follow Energy Efficiency Markets on Twitter at @EfficiencyMkts.

About the Author

Kevin Normandeau | Publisher

Kevin is a veteran of the publishing industry having worked for brands like PC World, AOL, Network World, Data Center Knowledge and other business to business sites. He focuses on industry trends in the energy efficiency industry.