The U.S. Department of Energy’s effort to fund research into advanced, experimental energy projects to meet the nation’s growing demand for power has succeeded on at least one level.

DOE_Name_and_Seal“This private capital will allow these companies to further their technologies and map pathways to the market,” said Cheryl Martin, deputy director of ARPA-E, the division of the Energy Department in charge of the investments, in her keynote speech at a conference in Washington, DC on Tuesday.

ARPA-E was launched just four years ago by President Obama with a $400 million starting budget. It’s modeled after the Defense Department’s future military-tech focused arm DARPA, which spawned the prototype of the Internet back in the late 1960s. Since its founding, ARPA-E has invested $770 million in some 285 early-stage energy projects, but winning private backers is key to proving that alternative energy is viable from a business perspective, not just because the government supports it.

That’s why at its fourth-annual energy innovation summit this week, which ends tomorrow, ARPA-E highlighted how its initial investment of $70 million in 17 projects in particular has paid off, with private backers pouring in $450 million of their own funds. The 17 projects that have won private funds so far include a range of new energy technologies, but most are based on improving renewable energy storage and output, from long range electric vehicle batteries being developed by California company Envia Systems, to genetically engineered crops containing enzymes that will make it easier convert them into biofuel, which are being created by Agrivida, a Massachusetts company.

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Source: Carl Franzen | The Verge | February 26, 2013