While the U.S. Department of Energy is the most obvious source for renewable/alternative energy funding, there are many other government agencies that actively fund the research and development of innovative energy technologies - such as solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, geothermal, hydrogen, nuclear, and clean coal. In addition to DOE’s many funding opportunities, the National Science Foundation and the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, and Transportation all offer various funding instruments to advance new energy technologies.


DOE’s SBIR and STTR Funding Programs

To meet DOE mission-specific R&D needs, DOE participates in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding programs, which provide funding to thousands of small U.S. businesses, many newly established. SBIR/STTR awardees that complete Phase I projects can compete for larger Phase II awards to continue R&D and prototype progress towards commercialization. DOE funds these projects through competitive solicitations called Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), also called Request for Proposals (RFPs).

Under the umbrella of the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), various DOE offices that are focused on renewable or alternative energy participate in the SBIR/STTR funding process by including topics in these DOE solicitations. These projects, selected for Phase II funding of up to $1.1 million, will build on successful Phase I projects that demonstrated technical feasibility. [1]

DOE’s Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) Program

The DOE Office of Technology Transitions also funds, through its Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), projects that help transition energy technologies developed at DOE’s national labs to the marketplace. Unlike SBIR, TCF funds require matching funds from private sector partners and include both large and small industry players.

The following DOE EERE Offices offer these and/or other funding instruments.

SETO, DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office

SETO, as part of DOE’s EERE, supports early-stage R&D in five program areas, with the ultimate goal of driving down the cost of solar electricity, improving the performance of solar technologies, and enabling the integration of solar energy onto the grid. The five program areas are: Photovoltaics (PV); Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power (CSP); Systems Integration (SI); Soft Costs; and Manufacturing and Competitiveness.[2]

SETO Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs)

SETO issues a FOA each year, which includes the funding opportunities of each sub-program mentioned above. SETO’s FOA is an open, highly competitive solicitation process that encourages collaborative partnerships among industries; universities; national laboratories; federal, state, and local governments; and nongovernment organizations.  View current SETO FOA opportunities and learn how to submit a proposal.

Other SETO Funding Instruments

For students, researchers, and mid-career innovators, SETO also offers fellowships and research opportunities, including:

    • Paid Science and Technology Policy Fellowships at Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), in which scientists, engineers, and researchers are assigned a project and mentored by senior EERE staff
    • SETO Postdoctoral awards, which provide Ph.D. recipients the opportunity to conduct applied research at universities, national laboratories, and other research facilities
    • ORISE Solar Energy Innovators Program, which supports practical research experiences onsite at a utility, energy service company, or a public utility commission (PUC) for early- and mid-career innovators)  Learn more.

BETO, DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office

BETO seeks to develop transformative bioenergy technologies that enable sustainable (reproducible), domestically produced biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower to “improve our energy security, reliability and resilience while creating economic opportunities across the country.” [3]

BETO Funding Opportunity Announcements (FAOs):

Like SETO, BETO funds R&D projects through FOAs and encourages collaborative partnerships among industry; universities; national laboratories; federal, state, and local governments; and non-government agencies. BETO usually has an annual SBIR/STTR FOA solicitation, which focuses on areas where small businesses can have an impact on the bioenergy industry. [4] 

GTO, DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office

GTO partners with industry, academia, and research facilities to further the development of geothermal energy technologies. To evaluate the potential for geothermal energy to contribute to America’s energy future, DOE’s GTO initiated the GeoVision: Harnessing the Heat Beneath Our Feet analysis, which projects that, through technology improvements, geothermal electricity generation capacity has the potential to increase to more than 60 gigawatts by 2050—providing 8.5% of all U.S. electricity generation.[5]

GTO Funding Opportunity Announcements (FAOs)

Like other DOE offices, GTO funds innovation through FOAs. Examples of open/recent funding opportunities include:

    • Geothermal Energy from Oil and Gas Demonstrated Engineering (GEODE)
    • Community Geothermal Heating and Cooling Design and Deployment
    • American-Made Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize
    • American-Made Geothermal Manufacturing Prize
    • EnergyTech University Prize [20]

WETO, DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office

WETO, as part of the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), works with DOE National Laboratories, industry, universities, and other federal agencies to conduct research and development activities through competitively selected, directly funded, and cost-shared projects that target land-based utility-scale, offshore, and distributed wind power. Examples of current/recent funding areas of interest include floating offshore wind energy mooring and anchoring, as well as addressing deployment challenges for offshore, land-based, and distributed wind. [8]

FE, DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy

Through its Office of Clean Coal and Carbon Management, FE partners with industry, academia, and research facilities to further the development of advanced fossil technologies, including carbon storage and clean coal technologies. FE’s competitive solicitations, issued as FOAs, are the principal mechanism used to fund R&D and demonstration projects. [10] View a listing of FE FOAs.

FE provides information on its SBIR/STTR funding, along with other FE R&D and business financing opportunities here.

NE, DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy

NE offers a variety of funding opportunities to advance nuclear energy as a safe, cost effective energy alternative, including:

  • Industry FOAs
  • First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) Nuclear Demonstration Readiness Projects
  • Advanced Reactor Development Projects
  • Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) Vouchers
  • Consolidated Innovative Nuclear Research (CINR) FOAs
  • Infrastructure FOAs
  • Nuclear Energy undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships [21]

WPTO, DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office

Through FOAs, Prizes and Competitions, and NOTAs (Notice of Opportunity for Technical Assistance), WPTO enables R&D and testing of emerging technologies to advance marine energy as well as next generation hydropower and pumped storage systems for a flexible, reliable grid. A few examples of WPTO funding opportunities follow.


“WPTO offers SBIR/STTR FOAs annually, with these core objectives:

    • Increasing private sector commercialization of technology developed through federally supported research and development (R&D)
    • Stimulating technological innovation in the private sector
    • Encouraging participation by women-owned and minority-owned small businesses
    • Improving the return on investment from federally funded research for economic and social benefits to the nation.” [11]

DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program

 The Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program includes participation from the DOE Offices of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Fossil Energy, Nuclear Energy, and Science. Each office manages activities that address hydrogen technologies that meet the needs of their respective feedstocks and target applications. [22]

DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) FOAs

ARPA-E funds things that are technologically very risky, but if successful, will be game-changers.

“The ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. ARPA-E awardees are unique because they are developing entirely new ways to generate, store, and use energy. ARPA-E empowers America's energy researchers with funding, streamlined awards process, technical assistance, and market readiness through a rigorous program design, competitive project selection process, and active program management ensure thoughtful expenditures.” [12]

For information on ARPA-E’s current FOAs, see the ARPA-E's Funding Portal.

DOE's Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs

DOE's Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs provides financial and technical assistance, education, and training to tribes for the evaluation and development of renewable energy resources on tribal lands. [23]

DOE's Unsolicited Proposal Office

If a project does not fit within the scope of any posted DOE solicitations, proposers are invited to submit proposals to DOE's Unsolicited Proposal Office. [24]


The National Science Foundation funds research across almost all areas of science and technology, including renewable and alternative energy research.

America’s Seed Fund – NSF’s SBIR/STTR Grant Program

NSF’s SBIR/STTR grant program helps startups and small businesses transform their high-risk, high-impact technology ideas into marketable products and services. Unlike many other agency SBIR/STTR programs, the NSF program does not have predetermined narrow-focus topics presented in solicitations. Instead, NSF offers very broad “technology topics” - one of which is Energy Technologies. And, instead of starting with a fully developed proposal, applicants simply submit a short “Project Pitch.” If NSF decides that your idea is a good fit for the program, within 3 weeks you will be invited to submit a Phase I proposal – that, if awarded, will result in up to $275,000 to cover a 6 to 12-month project. [25]

NSF’s Energy Technologies (EN) Topic

The NSF EN topic encourages SBIR and STTR proposals that address new energy sources and resources, power generation, energy storage, and electronic systems for portable energy sources for mobile technologies and off-grid type applications.

Proposals in all areas of energy generation are welcome, with an emphasis on how the new idea competes favorably with existing solutions. Proposals in oil and gas and related processes are welcome. Proposals that focus on the intersection of energy technologies and data are welcome across all areas where integrations to energy technology, applications are the primary thrust (including computational technologies). Proposals with ideas on nature-inspired processes for sustainable energy solutions and carbon storage, reducing the carbon and resource intensity of hydrocarbon extraction, energy conversion, and its uses are also sought. Proposals involving energy storage from the scale of wearable devices to power plant, and energy conversion are encouraged. [13]

NSF offers multiple submission windows each year, during which it accepts invited SBIR/STTR project proposals. Learn How to Apply.


 The U.S. Department of Transportation has occasionally funded renewable energy projects through its SBIR program.


U.S. DOT also participates in the SBIR program.  DOT awards contracts to U.S. small businesses to research and develop innovative solutions to the nation’s transportation challenges. Companies can compete for this funding by responding to topics listed in an active solicitation - which occasionally include renewable energy topics. DOT issues one solicitation per year.[14] The DOT SBIR program also seeks suggestions from small businesses and individuals for potential future topics. Suggest a proposal topic here.

In the past, DOT has occasionally funded renewable energy projects through its SBIR program. For instance, DOT’s Federal Highway Administration funded research to explore the feasibility of parking lots and roadways that harvest solar radiation and convert it to electricity.[15] The DOT Volpe Center’s Energy Analysis and Sustainability Division “focuses on the intersection between energy and transportation, providing innovative, impactful, energy-related transportation analyses, support, and solutions.” [16] DOT is interested in initiatives focused on the deployment of fuels and advanced technology vehicles, and support for fueling infrastructure to achieve energy security and emission reduction goals. [17] Visit the DOT home page to access the solicitation schedule.


In addition to agricultural technologies, the USDA has a broader interest in funding technologies that can benefit the rural communities that support the agricultural industry.


USDA provides SBIR grants for the development of renewable energy, such as biofuels and biobased products, as well as solar technologies. Since part of the USDA’s mission is to provide leadership on natural resources and rural development, SBIR proposals don’t need to be centered on agriculture, but may focus on any area that has the potential to provide significant benefits to rural Americans. USDA’s Small and Mid-Size Farms SBIR topics often focus on increasing profitability and efficiencies within farming operations – such as solar or wind energy technologies designed to share land and building footage with crop and animal production. At the USDA, participation by university faculty or government scientists in SBIR projects is strongly encouraged.[18] Also, the existence of a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with a USDA laboratory or a license to USDA technology are also important considerations - especially in the event that two or more applications are of approximately equal merit. The USDA Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) provides information on such opportunities here.

The SBIR program at USDA is administered exclusively by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NIFA supports research in a wide range of areas, one of which is Bioenergy. Bioenergy encompasses all forms of renewable energy derived from biological sources, such as biomass from grasses, corn, soybeans, forest, and agricultural residues, as well as waste materials, such as manure and methane from wastewater treatment facilities. Bio-based products, such as biodegradable plastics, are also of interest when made from biomass. [19]

USDA REAP Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Grants

In addition to loan guarantees, the USDA’s Rural Energy for America (REAP) program provides grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. These grants, which range between $2,500 and $500,000, can be used to fund up to 25% of total project costs and can be combined with loan guarantee funding to fund up to 75% of total eligible project costs. Learn more.


The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, spending billions each year to power its permanent and mobile military installations and operations around the world. This fact, combined with a need to adapt to climate change and the need for energy security, is driving the U.S. military’s funding of alternative and renewable energy solutions. [19]


DoD issues three SBIR and three STTR Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs) for proposals annually. The first BAA, in the Spring, has the most component participation and the most topics – and often contains renewable energy topics.

See current DoD SBIR and STTR BAAs. In addition to the Air Force, Army, and Navy, there are nine other military components that participate in the SBIR funding program. Each has its own SBIR program website, which can be linked through the Department of Defense portal here.

Updated November 2022 by Kristin Stiner