News and Events by CCRES
DOE Highlights International Initiatives to Promote Clean Energy
DOE Secretary Steven Chu joined energy ministers and high-level representatives from more than 20 governments on April 6 and 7, pledging renewed support for 11 international clean energy initiatives at the second Clean Energy Ministerial in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. These initiatives are helping to accelerate the global transition to a clean energy future, with the goal of eliminating the need to build more than 500 mid-size power plants worldwide in the next 20 years, among other goals. At the conclusion of the meeting, India offered to host the fourth Clean Energy Ministerial in 2013 and Korea offered to host the fifth in 2014.
The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), first launched in July 2010, aims to promote economic growth while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, support renewable energy markets, expand access to clean energy resources and jobs, and promote women’s leadership in clean energy careers. Participating countries account for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions and more than 70% of global gross domestic product. They also fund the vast majority of public research and development in clean energy technologies.
Secretary Chu and other ministers launched the Clean Energy Solutions Center to help countries strengthen their clean energy policies and program development, with the goal of accelerating the deployment of low-carbon technologies. The Solutions Center provides information on emerging policy trends and identifies opportunities for international policy coordination, supplemented by peer-to-peer learning, remote expert assistance, and online training. Ministers also launched Superefficient.org, a web portal to facilitate international information exchange and serve as a resource for policymakers seeking to advance appliance and equipment efficiency. In addition, DOE announced the United States will join two other countries in a new Cool Roofs Working Group to help reduce energy use in buildings worldwide and to mitigate the warming effects of climate change. The group will work to promote the expansion of cool roofs through pilot projects, best practices, and updated building codes. The United States will also join the Sustainable Development of Hydropower initiative. See the DOE press release; the websites for the Clean Energy Ministerial, the Clean Energy Solutions Center, and Superefficient.org; and a ministerial fact sheet on the Sustainable Development of Hydropower Initiative.
IEA Releases First Clean Energy Progress Report at Ministerial
Plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt could be a key to cutting down fossil fuel usage, according to the International Energy Agency.
Credit: GM Corp.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) released its first Clean Energy Progress Report at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on April 6. The report finds that impressive progress has been made in developing clean energy technologies in recent years, but the surging demands for fossil fuels are outstripping deployment of clean energy technologies. The report focuses on global deployment of clean energy technologies and provides recommendations to countries on future action and spending.
According to the IEA, coal has met 47% of the world’s new electricity demand over the past decade, eclipsing clean energy efforts made over the same period of time, which include improved implementation of energy efficiency measures and rapid growth in the use of renewable energy sources. IEA argues that more aggressive clean energy policies are required, including the removal of fossil fuel subsidies and the implementation of transparent, predictable, and adaptive incentives for cleaner energy options.
The Clean Energy Progress Report provides an overview of key policy developments and public spending on research, development, demonstration, and deployment of clean energy technologies. Among those technologies, the report mentions renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles (EVs). The report also urges governments to do more to assist the introduction of EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are emerging as an area of intensive activity. It spotlights solar and wind power as two areas of strong development. See the IEA press release.
DOE Offers $170 Million for Solar Energy Technologies
Solar technologies will get a boost from the latest DOE funding opportunities.
Credit: Craig Miller Productions
DOE announced on April 8 nearly $170 million in available funding over three years as part of the SunShot Initiative to support a range of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies. The research and development funding will support four areas of investment, including improving the efficiency and performance of solar cells, developing new installation technologies, advancing solar energy grid integration, and researching new materials and processes for PV technologies. These investments will help reduce the cost for utility-scale solar energy installations, increase U.S. economic competitiveness, and help the United States lead the world in the global market for solar photovoltaics.
There are four areas of funding. The Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency (F-PACE), in a collaborative funding effort with the National Science Foundation, is providing $39 million for research and development in solar device physics and PV technology to improve solar cell performance and reduce the costs of modules for grid-scale commercial applications. DOE is also offering $30 million for early-stage applied research to demonstrate and prove new concepts in materials, processes, and device designs for PV cells and modules. Another $60 million is available for research, development, and demonstration of balance-of-system components, including new building-integrated photovoltaic products, new mounting and wiring technologies, and new building code language that can foster the use of innovative, low-cost hardware designs. In addition, $40 million is available to develop technologies that will help increase the integration of solar energy onto the electrical grid and facilitate interactions between solar energy systems and smart grid technologies.
The investments are part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative, which aims to reduce the total costs of photovoltaic solar energy systems by about 75% by the end of the decade so that they are cost-competitive with other forms of energy at large scale without subsidies. Achieving this goal, equivalent to approximately $1 a watt or roughly 6 cents per kilowatt-hour for utility systems, would allow solar energy systems to be broadly deployed across the country. See the DOE press release, the funding opportunity announcements, and the SunShot Initiative website.
DOE Finalizes $1.6 Billion Solar Loan Guarantee, Offers another $1.1 Billion PV Loan Guarantee
DOE finalized $1.6 billion in loan guarantees to support the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System, which consists of three related utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) plants in California, the agency said on April 11. A day later, DOE announced the conditional commitment for a $1.187 billion loan guarantee for the California Valley Solar Ranch photovoltaic (PV) project, sponsored by SunPower Corporation.
The Ivanpah project, which is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is sponsored by BrightSource Energy, Inc., will be located on federally owned land in the Mojave Desert near the Nevada border. It will be one of the world’s largest CSP complexes. The company estimates the project will create approximately 1,000 construction jobs as well as 86 operations and maintenance jobs. Ivanpah will generate approximately 392 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power 85,000 homes. Such production will avoid more than 640,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to taking more than 120,000 cars off the road. The project includes solar fields containing more than 173,000 dual-mirror heliostats, which are programmed to follow the sun, and “power towers” to collect the energy. Electricity from the project will be sold under long-term power purchase agreements with Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison Company. See the DOE press release and this coverage in EERE Network News.
The California Valley Solar Ranch photovoltaic (PV) project, which is being built in San Luis Obispo County, California, includes the construction of a 250 MW alternating current photovoltaic (PV) solar generating facility. This will be the largest utility-scale PV project in the United States to use tracking technology combined with an innovative monitoring system. It is estimated that it will improve annual output by approximately 25% compared with traditional fixed PV installations. California Valley Solar Ranch is expected to create 350 jobs during construction and 10-15 permanent jobs, while avoiding 430,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. It will produce enough electricity to power nearly 60,000 homes served by Pacific Gas and Electric. DOE’s Loan Programs Office has issued loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling $19 billion to support 21 clean energy projects. See the DOE press release and the Loan Programs Office website.
Russian Scientists Team with NREL on Innovative Weathering System
How can you test the effects of sun damage on a product without overheating the product being tested? A unique collaboration between DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Russian Institute of Laser Optical Technology, and Atlas Material Testing Technology of Chicago has a solution. They’ve developed the Ultra-Accelerated Weathering System (UAWS), which simulates the harmful effects of decades of sun damage on outdoor products like coatings and paints in just a matter of months. Sun damage is a particularly difficult weather effect to test because it requires a process that amplifies the effects of the sun without overheating the product being tested. Additionally, the majority of sun damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays, not the visible and near-infrared rays that we associate with the sun’s heat.
The UAWS adjusts for these issues by using an array of 29 curved high-tech mirrors to focus UV wavelengths on a target area. Alternating high- and low-refractive coatings on the surface of the mirrors, 96 layers of coatings in all, ensures that UV wavelengths are primarily reflected toward a chamber that holds the products being tested. It’s a process called “spectral splitting”—because the mirrors block the reflection of visible spectra and near-infrared wavelengths, the system dramatically reduces overheating. These characteristics make the UAWS perfect for accurately simulating sunlight damage 12 times faster than was previously possible—both for familiar outdoor products like roofing shingles and for cutting-edge materials like SkyFuel’s ReflecTech mirror coating, another NREL invention that could greatly reduce the delivered cost of concentrating solar power. See the Energy Blog post.
How Energy Efficiency is “Lighting Up” the Streets of Philadelphia
President Obama has made building a secure, prosperous energy future a top priority. On April 6, the President held a town hall meeting just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the Gamesa Technology Corporation, a manufacturer of large-scale wind turbines, to further discuss our energy future. President Obama has proposed an ambitious, but achievable, goal of generating 80% of our electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. This includes sources like wind, produced in part by Gamesa turbines, as well as other renewables, natural gas, clean coal, and nuclear power.
The City of Brotherly Love certainly hasn’t been shy about scaling up their energy efficiency efforts, namely through the Greenworks Philadelphia project. As part of the project, the Philadelphia Streets Department is converting 58,000 yellow and green traffic signals to light-emitting diodes (LEDs), in addition to replacing the approximately 27,000 red LED lights that have come to the end of their useful life. The project will use approximately $3 million in Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant funds, matched with $3 million in PECO (Public Education Capital Outlay) funding, and will save the city approximately $1 million in electric costs each year. Other goals of the larger Greenworks Philadelphia project include by 2015 generating 20% of citywide electricity from renewable sources, diverting 70% of solid waste from landfills, and reducing vehicle miles traveled by 10% from 2005 levels. See the Energy Blog post and the Greenworks Philadelphia website.
DOE and DOI Offer $26.6 Million for Advanced Hydropower Technologies
DOE and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced on April 5 that they are offering $26.6 million in funding for research and development projects to advance hydropower technology. This initiative, taking effect over the next three to four years, is focused on developing innovative technologies that can produce power more efficiently, reduce costs, and increase sustainable hydropower generation at sites not previously considered practical.
The funding announcement seeks environmentally responsible projects that increase the generation of reliable hydropower for the U.S. electricity supply. The four areas for selected projects are: sustainable small hydropower technologies that can be quickly and efficiently deployed in existing or constructed waterways; environmental mitigation technologies for conventional hydropower that increase electricity generation while mitigating fish and habitat impacts, including more efficient, fish-friendly turbines; sustainable pumped storage hydropower projects already in the construction pipeline, for which DOE intends to provide both financial and technical assistance; and innovative, low-head hydropower technologies for testing at a DOI Bureau of Reclamation facility that currently doesn’t include hydropower. DOE recently identified 70 such facilities that could generate up to one million megawatt-hours of electricity; see the April 6 story from the EERE Network News.
The solicitation is from DOE’s Wind and Water Power Program. Applicants must be institutions of higher learning, private entities, state or local governments, or consortia formed from these three types of entities. Mandatory letters of intent are due on May 5, and completed applications are due on June 6. See the DOE press release, the funding opportunity announcement on Grants.gov and FedConnect, and the Wind and Water Power Program website.
Miami Students’ U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 Design Focused on Sustainability
When settling on a design concept for their U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 entry, Florida International University (FIU) students knew they had to come up with something that would effectively function in the tropical, variable climate of Miami. For FIU students that means adopting an open pavilion, porch-like design modeled after structures commonly found in Central and South America.
“Producing energy is great but you need to start with a space that’s designed as sustainably and efficiently as possible,” says the FIU team Project Engineer, Michelle Marcovits.
A signature feature of the design is the adjustable panels along the perimeter of the home. On sunny days, the panels can be lifted to act as a canopy, shading the interior and outside bamboo deck. During inclement weather, the panels act as shutters, closing tightly around the home to add an extra layer of stability. See the Energy Blog post and the website for FIU’s entry, the perform[D]ance House.
California Boosts RPS to One-Third Renewables by 2020
A new California law requiring public utilities to get one-third of their electricity from renewable energy in less than a decade took effect on April 13. Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. signed the legislation, which increases California’s current 20% renewables portfolio standard (RPS) target in 2010 to a 33% RPS by December 31, 2020. This makes it the highest such standard in the United States.
Brown said the measure would stimulate new jobs, improve air quality, promote energy independence, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He also indicated that with further renewable resources coming online, he could envision a 40% RPS in the future.
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CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES ( CCRES )