CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
News and Events
January 11, 2012
DOE announced on January 6 that the state of Wisconsin has surpassed its energy efficiency goal established with the agency under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Through its weatherization program, the state has helped more than 30,500 Wisconsin households improve the energy efficiency of their homes over the last three years, saving the average household more than $400 a year on its energy utility bills.
Of the 30,500 homes weatherized in Wisconsin, more than 21,600 were upgraded through the Recovery Act, surpassing the state’s goal of 20,600 homes. Wisconsin’s progress was an important part of the DOE’s program nationally, which has completed upgrades on more than 750,000 homes across the country over the past three years. Nationwide, this is expected to save more than $400 million in just the first year. The program has also helped train thousands of workers across the country and has spurred the demand for energy-efficient technologies and products.
While the Weatherization Assistance Program is limited to lower-income families, most families can save on their utility bills by taking some simple, affordable steps such as using more efficient light bulbs, sealing cracks around doors and windows, or using programmable thermostats. See the DOE press release, the list of homes weatherized by state, and the DOE Energy Savers website.
DOE released on December 22, 2011, its Critical Materials Strategy, a report that examines the role that rare earth metals and other key materials play in clean energy technologies such as wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells, and energy-efficient lighting. The report found that several clean energy technologies use materials at risk of supply disruptions in the short term, with risks generally decreasing in the medium and long terms. Supply challenges for five rare earth metals (dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium, and yttrium) may affect clean energy technology deployment in the years ahead.
In the past year, DOE has developed its first critical-materials research and development plan, provided new funding for priority research, convened international workshops that brought together leading experts, and participated in substantial new coordination among federal agencies working on critical materials. Also, the Fiscal Year 2012 spending bill includes $20 million to fund an energy innovation hub focused on critical materials, which will help advance the three pillars of the DOE strategy: diversifying supply; developing substitutes; and improving recycling, reuse, and more efficient use.
The 2011 Critical Materials Strategy is DOE’s second report on this topic and provides an update to last year’s analysis. Using a methodology adapted from the National Academy of Sciences, the report includes criticality assessments for 16 elements based on their importance to clean energy and supply risk. See the DOE press release and the report summary.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced on December 29 the approval of two renewable energy projects—a solar plant in California and a wind farm in Oregon—that will be built on private lands and will use power lines that cross public lands to connect to their respective power grids. When built, the projects will deliver 379 megawatts of power, enough to power 112,500 homes.
In California, the Centinela Solar Energy Project is a 275-megawatt solar energy power plant that will be located on 2,067 acres of previously disturbed private land near El Centro, California. Interior approved the right-of-way for 19 acres for the power line on public land, and Imperial County gave a green light to the solar power plant on December 27, 2011. The project would support at least 367 jobs and deliver enough electricity to power about 82,500 homes. In Oregon, the North Steens Transmission Line Project is a 44-mile, 230-kilovolt power line that will carry power from a proposed wind power project. The wind project, proposed on private land near Diamond, Oregon, would generate 104 megawatts, enough to power about 30,000 homes.
Both projects underwent extensive environmental review, and they reflect strong efforts to mitigate potential environmental impacts, such as requiring funding for the acquisition of 80 acres of additional habitat for the flat-tailed horned lizard in California and implementing requirements that minimize audio and visual impacts from the Oregon project. See the DOI press release.
Alternative fuel vehicles are sharing the spotlight at the annual North American International Auto Show—also known as the 2012 Detroit auto show—which opened on January 7 in Detroit, Michigan. Ford, General Motors, Nissan, and Honda are among carmakers featuring hybrids or electric vehicles (EV) and concept autos. The show runs through January 22.
In its hometown, the Ford Motor Company debuted the new Fusion, saying the model was the first sedan to offer gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions for top fuel economy. Also on its home turf, General Motors Corporation exhibited its Code 130R concept, a coupe designed so that a turbocharged engine will work in tandem with GM technology to shut off the engine at stops and recapture braking energy. Nissan showed its e-NV200 Concept, which has the drive train from its Nissan Leaf EV installed in a Nissan NV200 multi-use van. And Honda unveiled its 2013 Accord lineup, which will feature the Accord Sedan with a new two-motor plug-in hybrid system that moves continuously through three modes: all-electric, gasoline-electric, and direct-drive. See press releases from Ford, General Motors, Nissan, and Honda.
In addition, Energy Secretary Steven Chu is scheduled to address the Detroit Economic Club on January 11 as DOE highlights its support for U.S. auto industry innovation. DOE also released a new video, “Energy 101: Electric Vehicles”, which showcases the benefits of EVs, including improved fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, and lowered maintenance costs. See the DOE press release and visit YouTube to watch the Energy 101 video.
Breaking Up (Hydrogen) No Longer As Hard To Do
It’s said that breaking up is hard to do. That’s undoubtedly true. But, when the lightning does strike, the electricity is lasting.
What’s true for affairs of the heart also holds true for the affairs of hydrogen, as researchers at the DOE’s Office of Science’s Argonne National Laboratory have recently shown. Hydrogen is an important energetic element that is used in a variety of applications ranging from making semiconductors to powering fuel cells. However, it’s also a difficult, expensive one to produce in pure molecular form. Hydrogen usually shows up as a pair of hydrogen atoms (H2).
As Nenad Markovic, a senior chemist at Argonne, noted, “People understand that once you have hydrogen, you can extract a lot of energy from it, but they don’t realize just how hard it is to generate that hydrogen in the first place.” Markovic led research at Argonne that recently showed a cheaper, cleaner way to produce pure hydrogen, one that begins with a breakup. Specifically, the team took a look at breaking up water, taking the H2 out of the H2O. Water electrolyzers already do so, typically using special metals like platinum to speed up, or catalyze, the reaction. However, in addition to being costly, platinum is also a better maker-upper than breaker-upper—it is better at fixing single hydrogen atoms up than separating them from water in the first place. Read the full story on DOE’s Energy Blog.
Library Patrons in New York Check-Out Renewable Energy
In a hamlet on the Hudson River in upstate New York, two newly installed photovoltaic arrays at the local library are generating electricity, interest in renewable energy, and community pride. Recognizing its role as an educator and community leader, the Esopus Library used a $96,790 award from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to install the 22.5-kW roof-mounted and 5.5-kW ground-mounted photovoltaic systems.
“We’re hoping to be a place to come to learn about renewable energy,” said Library Director Kelly Tomaseski. “We think that people will be more likely to invest in a similar project if they can see it in practice.”
These sentiments are shared by Adam Rizzo, president of Solar Liberty, the project installation firm. “Community centers, nonprofit buildings, and schools are especially important for promoting solar energy. Seeing is believing.” The new solar system is expected to generate approximately 31,200 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually—approximately 30% of the library’s electricity use and a savings of $4,000 in energy costs each year. Read the full story on DOE’s Energy Blog.
Radical Thinkers Needed to Help Get a Solar Panel on Every Roof
The deadline to apply for a funding opportunity for the SunShot Incubator Program for Soft Cost Reduction is January 16, 2012.
What if all cars cost more than $75,000 today? How many of us would own one? This is exactly the situation your great-grandparents may have faced before Henry Ford changed the world by thinking outside the box. Through innovative assembly line processing, he democratized automobiles, making the Model T something most Americans could own.
The solar industry is in a similar situation now. Solar is an exceptionally compelling solution to addressing one’s energy needs, but it is currently too expensive for the average customer. But, just like cars, once the price is lowered to a certain point, solar energy could be on exponentially more roofs. We need help though. We need innovative thinkers to change the industry by thinking outside the panel. We need you. Read the full story on DOE’s Energy Blog.
CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)