News and Events

June 29, 2011

DOE Supports Landmark Rooftop Solar Project

DOE announced on June 22 a conditional commitment to provide a partial guarantee for a $1.4 billion loan to support Project Amp. This initiative will support the installation of solar panels on industrial buildings across the country. Electricity generated from those panels will contribute directly to the electrical grid instead of powering the buildings on which they were installed. With funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Project Amp includes the installation of approximately 733 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. This will nearly equal the total amount of PV installed in the United States in 2010. The project sponsor estimates Project Amp will create at least one thousand jobs over a four-year period. Project Amp will enable a wide distribution of solar power over approximately 750 existing rooftops owned and managed by Prologis, a leading global provider of industrial real estate. The first phase of the project includes a 15.4-MW installation in Southern California. The power from Phase 1 will be sold to Southern California Edison. Additional installations will be built in up to 28 states and the District of Columbia. Project Amp is expected to produce up to one million megawatt hours annually, enough to power over 88,000 homes. At this level, the project is expected to avoid approximately 580,000 tons of carbon pollution annually. Including the latest project, DOE’s Loan Programs Office has reserved or committed to over $12 billion in loan guarantees to solar generation projects.More info at:

Efficiency, Renewable Energy Projects Win 11 R&D 100 Awards

Efficiency and renewable energy projects from DOE national laboratories have won 11 of the 100 awards given out this year by R&D Magazine. The awards are presented annually in recognition of exceptional new products, processes, materials, or software developed throughout the world and introduced into the market the previous year. Overall, DOE won 36 awards, including those funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Scientists and engineers from 13 DOE’s national laboratories and facilities received the honors from an independent panel of judges. There were four DOE winners for energy efficiency. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was cited for three projects: the NextAire packaged gas heat pump, a means to heat and cool small and medium sized buildings by using fuel (typically natural gas) instead of electricity; CermaClad, a technology that fuses various substances onto metal substrates 25% to 50% more cheaply, and 10% to 100% faster than current technology; and a new stainless steel alloy tooling for high-temperature presses that can increase the life of products. In addition, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) earned honors for its advanced ceramic film capacitors, which could yield less expensive capacitors for power electronics in electric drive vehicles. In renewable energy categories, there were seven R&D 100 award picks. ANL’s enhanced renewable methane production system was picked because it accelerates biological methane production rates at least fivefold and could enhance biological methane production at waste-water treatment plants, farms, and landfills. Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) gained recognition for its demand response inverter—designed to reduce the levelized cost of energy from solar photovoltaic power by being more efficient—and for the ultra-high-voltage silicon carbide thyristor, a power control device for the next-generation “Smart Grid” that is up to 10 times smaller and lighter than current silicon-based technologies. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) garnered a prize for nanostructured antifogging coatings that can provide a more transparent, less costly coating for solar panels. And the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) scored three firsts: a flash quantum efficiency system to assess the quality of solar cells about 1,000 times faster than previous methods; an optical cavity furnace, which could produce higher quality and higher efficiency solar cells at a fraction of the cost of conventional thermal ovens; and the Innovalight silicon ink for high-efficiency solar cells, the first time that silicon has been sold in the marketplace as a liquid, potentially improving the bottom line of a typical solar production plant by 20% while boosting cell efficiency.More info at:

DOE Awards More Than $11 Million to Geothermal Energy Technologies

DOE announced on June 23 that eight projects in five states—California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Texas, and Utah—have been selected to receive up to $11.3 million to support the research and development of pioneering geothermal technologies. The projects selected will foster innovation in the technologies and methods used to generate geothermal power. The innovations will help strengthen U.S. energy security and increase America’s competitiveness in the global clean energy economy. The projects aim to develop fundamentally new ways of producing electricity from the Earth’s heat. Selected projects will conduct feasibility studies in a first phase that includes technical and economic modeling and component design for technologies that recover geothermal heat for electricity production. Project selected for the second phase will then validate the designs in real-world environments. The selected projects are part of DOE efforts to reduce the cost of geothermal energy so that it can be competitive with conventional sources of electricity.More info at:

DOE Offers $120 Million to Support Innovative Manufacturing Processes

As part the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership launched June 24 by President Obama, DOE is offering an investment of up to $120 million over three years to develop transformational manufacturing technologies and innovative materials. The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership is a national effort bringing together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance U.S. competitiveness. The selected projects will emphasize new processes and materials that are revolutionary in their design or impact and that are capable of being commercialized within the next five to seven years. By boosting investment in near-term technology development, DOE is supporting projects that might otherwise take far longer to contribute to U.S. industrial competitiveness. DOE expects to fund 35 to 50 cost-shared projects under the initiative. Teams can be comprised of large and small companies, universities and academic institutions, trade organizations, national laboratories, and other research institutions. Applications are due by August 25.More info at:

DOE Awards Nearly $7.5 Million to Develop Next Generation Wind Turbines

DOE announced on June 28 that that six projects in four states—California, Colorado, Florida, and New York—have been selected to receive nearly $7.5 million over two years to advance next-generation designs for wind turbine drivetrains. Drivetrains, which include a turbine’s gearbox and generator, are at the heart of the turbine and are responsible for producing electricity from the rotation of the blades. The advances in drivetrain technologies and configurations supported through these research and development projects will help the United States maintain its position as a global leader in wind energy technologies. The projects will also help promote and accelerate the deployment of advanced turbines for U.S. offshore wind energy. These early research and development projects will focus on reducing the cost of wind energy by increasing component reliability or redesigning drivetrains to eliminate the need for some components altogether. Some funded projects will work to increase the amount of energy drivetrains can produce or help develop drivetrain designs that minimize the use of rare earth materials. For example, Clipper Windpower of California will develop and test a unique drivetrain design that enables increased serviceability over conventional gearboxes and is scalable to large capacity turbines. And Advanced Magnet Lab of Florida will develop an innovative superconducting direct-drive generator for large wind turbines.More info at:

NREL Facility Named One of Nation’s Top Sustainable Buildings

It’s been a little over a year since DOE’s Research Support Facility (RSF) opened on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) campus in Colorado. The innovative approach taken in the design and construction of the NREL corporate headquarters has already led to 24 local and international awards. This month, it received one of its most important distinctions: the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Award for New Construction by the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable building design and construction.More info at:

Maine Community Seeing Things in a New Light

As one of the northernmost communities in the “Lower 48,” Fort Fairfield, Maine (population 3,500) averages less sunlight every year than towns in the southern part of the state. In the summer months, this isn’t a big problem since it stays lighter much later in the evening. In the winter, however, the hours of actual daylight are dramatically shorter, which can lead to higher utility bills for keeping streetlights on for more hours per day. All this darkness and the need to save energy is one of the reasons Fort Fairfield was able to leverage $58,290 in DOE Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funding with a $45,675 lighting incentive from Efficiency Maine to replace 174 streetlights with LED lighting technology.More info at: