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Can new smart windows or windmills help cut the cost of lighting and heating? The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hopes so.

According to the DOE, lighting and heating buildings accounts for nearly 20 percent of U.S. annual energy consumption. To combat this, the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has awarded $17 million to small businesses in 13 states for the development of prototype technologies ranging from wind turbine blades to “smart” windows, with each project taking a different angle at the behemoth that is energy consumption.

One of the 17 projects that received money — out of the nearly 1,000 submitted — is the development of “smart” windows by Heliotrope, the Berkeley, Calif.-based electrochromic design company profiled by VentureBeat last August.

Other projects include Amjet Turbine Systems’ development of low-cost and lightweight hydro turbines for use in creating hydroelectric power, Sheetak’s development of solid-state heat pump technology that will decrease the energy needed to heat water for buildings and homes, and Mainstream Engineering’s development of a hybrid electric turbocharger for charging electric vehicles faster.

Each project has received funding previously from EERE as part of the Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This funding is Phase II of the SBIR program and the expectation is that prototypes will be completed within two years of the awards being distributed.

Besides the development of energy technologies, each project was also selected for potential commercial success and scalability.

Whether the ideas succeed or not, each project will bring increased innovation to the clean energy space and foster awareness of the disparate types of U.S. companies working to bring energy consumption under control.

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