News and Events

DOE Forms New Partnerships to Support Manufacturing Job Training

DOE announced June 29 a series of new manufacturing job training partnerships using DOE’s National Training and Education Resource (NTER). DOE will be partnering with the Manufacturing Institute, the Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies, and Macomb Community College outside of Detroit, Michigan. The program will provide students with highly interactive and engaging materials in a variety of science, technology, engineering, and math areas, as well as virtual technician training. Partners can access resources available through NTER, an open-source, Web-based, interactive learning environment.

NTER is an integration platform that brings together information technologies to support education, training, and workforce development. By providing a central access point for educational resources, the tool will help lower the costs and reduce the time it takes to develop, share, customize and update online learning materials. It also allows instructors to create interactive 3-D scenarios and virtual environments for training that can be customized for a particular lesson or skill. It is currently being used to deliver energy efficiency training.

DOE will provide information technology tools and technical support to each of the organizations, which will allow them to upgrade their existing curricula and create new immersive learning experiences. The partner organizations will leverage the NTER platform in a variety of ways. For example, the Manufacturing Institute will use NTER as a cutting-edge vehicle to earn manufacturing credentials that are accepted across state lines. The Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies is also exploring opportunities to integrate NTER into its programs nationwide. And on campus, Macomb Community College will use NTER to enhance several of its electric vehicle-oriented courses.More info at:

DOE announced on June 30 offers of approximately $4.5 billion in conditional commitments for loan guarantees for three California solar power plants.

The support is for three solar generation facilities using solar photovoltaic (PV) panels made from thin films of cadmium telluride. DOE is offering a conditional commitment for a $680 million loan guarantee to support the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 project, conditional commitments for partial loan guarantees of $1.88 billion in loans to support the Desert Sunlight project, and conditional commitments for partial loan guarantees of $1.93 billion in loans to support the Topaz Solar project

First Solar, Inc. is sponsoring all three projects and will provide PV modules for the projects from a new manufacturing plant that has begun construction in Mesa, Arizona, as well as from its recently expanded manufacturing plant in Perrysburg, Ohio. The company expects that the projects will create a combined 1,400 jobs in California during peak construction.

The 230-megawatt (MW) Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 project will be located in the Western Mojave Desert, approximately 80 miles north of Los Angeles. The installation will feature a utility-scale deployment of innovative inverters with voltage regulation and monitoring technologies that are new to the U.S. market. The inverters will provide the power grid with more stable and continuous power from the project, which is expected to generate enough electricity over the course of a year to power more than 54,000 homes, while avoiding 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

The 550-MW Desert Sunlight project, to be constructed in two phases, will be on a Bureau of Land Management site in Riverside County and will use 8.8 million thin-film PV modules. The 550-MW Topaz Solar project in eastern San Luis Obispo County will use more than 8.5 million PV modules. Each of the 550-MW projects is anticipated to generate enough electricity over the course of a year to power approximately 110,000 homes, avoiding nearly 725,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. DOE has now issued loans, loan guarantees, or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling more than $38 billion to support 40 clean energy projects across the United States. More info at:

Initial Partners Named in the Better Buildings Challenge

DOE announced on June 30 the 14 initial partners committing to the Better Buildings Challenge. These participants, from the private sector and local governments, have committed more than $500 million to improving energy efficiency in 300 million square feet of floor space. The challenge is part of the Better Buildings Initiative that President Obama launched in February to spur private investment in commercial building upgrades. The goal is to make U.S. commercial buildings 20% more efficient over the next decade.

DOE will work with the 14 entities in the coming months to further develop the details of the challenge in advance of another round of partnership announcements in the fall. Commitments announced to date include a pledge by Lend Lease to retrofit 40,000 homes for military families and by Transwestern to upgrade energy efficiency in 78 million square feet of commercial real estate. Also, city groups in Los Angeles, California; Seattle, Washington; and Atlanta, Georgia will strive to upgrade real estate within their core urban areas. Enrolled companies and communities will provide data on their energy savings and share their efficiency strategies, which will serve as models to save money by saving energy. Additionally, a number of financial organizations have agreed to support the challenge by helping to provide financing for energy efficiency projects.
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New Corporate Partners Join the National Clean Fleets Partnership

DOE announced on July 5 that six new corporate partners have joined the National Clean Fleets Partnership. The new partners—the Coca-Cola Company, Enterprise Holdings, General Electric, OSRAM SYLVANIA, Ryder System, Inc., and Staples—operate a total of nearly a million commercial vehicles nationwide. The National Clean Fleets Partnership, announced by President Obama in April, is a public-private partnership that helps large companies reduce diesel and gasoline use in their fleets by incorporating electric vehicles (EV), alternative fuels, and fuel-saving measures into their daily operations.

The partnership aims to accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient vehicles and the infrastructure to support their widespread use. DOE will work with each member company to develop a comprehensive strategy to reduce petroleum and diesel use in their fleets, as well as help connect partners with clean fuel providers and equipment manufacturers. The new partners have already begun taking action. For example, Coca-Cola, which has the largest hybrid delivery fleet in North America, has deployed hybrid delivery trucks and has trained drivers in eco-driving techniques. And, Enterprise Holdings, which includes Enterprise Rent-A-Car and other rental car companies, offers the extended range Chevrolet Volts and Nissan Leafs EVs for rentals. Also, GE has committed to convert half of its global vehicle fleet, and will partner with fleet customers to deploy 25,000 EVs by 2015. The partnership already includes charter members AT&T, FedEx, PepsiCo/Frito-Lay, UPS, and Verizon.More info at:

EPA Proposes 2012 Renewable Fuel Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed on June 21 the 2012 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program, referred to as RFS2. Based on analysis of market availability, the EPA is proposing a 2012 cellulosic biofuels volume that is lower than the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) target of 500 million gallons. EPA will continue to evaluate the market as it works to finalize the cellulosic standard in the coming months. The agency remains optimistic that the commercial availability of cellulosic biofuel will continue to grow in the years ahead.

The proposed 2012 overall volumes and standards are: 1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel, or 0.91% of the U.S. on-road fuel supply; 2 billion gallons of advanced biofuels (1.21%); and 3.45 to 12.9 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels (0.002% to 0.010%). Based on this standard, each refiner, importer, and non-oxygenate blender of gasoline or diesel fuel determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must ensure is used in its transportation fuel. Under the proposal, the total volume of renewable fuels would be 15.2 billion gallons, or 9.21% of the nation’s on-road fuel supply. In addition, the EPA is proposing a volume requirement of 1.28 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel for 2013. EISA specifies a one billion gallon minimum volume requirement for that category for 2013 and beyond, but enables the EPA to increase the volume requirement after consideration of a variety of environmental, market, and energy-related factors.

Overall, the EPA’s RFS2 program encourages greater use of renewable fuels, including advanced biofuels. For 2012, the program is proposing to implement the EISA requirement to blend more than 1.25 billion gallons of renewable fuels greater than the amount mandated for 2011. The EISA established the annual renewable fuel volume targets, which steadily increase to an overall level of 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, the EPA calculates a percentage-based standard for the following year, based on the projected national levels of fuel consumption. Comments on the proposed standards are due by August 11.More info at:

Virginia Manufacturer Keeps Jobs Local by Embracing Energy Efficiency

Volvo Trucks’ New River Valley (NRV) plant, located in Dublin, Virginia, is the company’s largest truck manufacturing facility in the world—and the plant’s senior management aims to keep it that way. By embracing energy efficiency as a critical part of its business strategy, the company is realizing huge energy savings as it continues to expand and create local jobs.

Patrick Collignon, plant manager at the NRV facility, understood that the plant’s energy use was intricately tied to its competitiveness and overall success. He saw the pursuit of greater energy efficiency as a critical component in the plant’s strategy to stay healthy and grow during tough economic times. In December 2009, the company joined DOE’s Save Energy Now LEADER initiative, which calls on manufacturers to reduce their facilities’ energy intensity by 25% over a 10-year timeframe. Since becoming a LEADER Company, Volvo’s NRV plant began tapping into the technical expertise of the Department’s Industrial Technologies Program, as well as its own resourcefulness, to supercharge its energy efficiency efforts. As a result, not only did Volvo rise to its LEADER challenge, it far surpassed it—implementing a range of measures that helped to reduce energy intensity by almost 30% in just one year.

The investments Volvo made in energy efficiency have now paid impressive dividends in terms of the company’s cost savings, jobs impact, competitiveness, and environmental footprint. Embracing common-sense, but often overlooked energy efficiency measures helped Volvo cut costs and keep operations—and jobs—for its truck manufacturing business here in the United States. Every Volvo truck sold in the United States is built by United Auto Workers-represented workers at the NRV plant. Volvo is now the largest employer in southwestern Virginia with 2,200 employees at its NRV plant. As such, its determination to keep operations—along with the paychecks from those operations—in the United States has helped to bolster the local economy.
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D.C. Community Comes Together in the Name of Sustainability, Affordability

Saving energy to save money—it’s a simple yet effective strategy that can greatly benefit families faced with the variable, often high costs of utility bills. It’s a goal made all the more significant to Parsons The New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology Solar Decathlon team because the houses they design and build will serve as future residences for two families in the historic Deanwood community of Washington, D.C.

The Energy Blog has highlighted the efforts of this U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 team—a collaboration of hundreds of students and supporting faculty from Parsons, Stevens Institute, and Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy—on the Energy Blog before. While the team is hard at work completing construction of its house for the upcoming Solar Decathlon competition, it is simultaneously working with Habitat for Humanity to start construction of a second house in Deanwood. Post-competition, the two homes will join together as a duplex, providing affordable and energy-efficient residences for the community. The team officially broke ground on the project on June 29. More info at: