Croatian Center of Renewable Energy sources (CCRES)
January 25, 2012
News and Events
The Obama Administration announced on January 18 the launch of new online tools that will allow consumers to download household energy use data. These tools, packaged as a website feature called “Green Button,” are designed to help households save energy and money.
Two of California’s largest utilities—Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) and San Diego Gas & Electric Company—have taken the lead in launching the Green Button as a new feature on their websites, allowing nearly six million households to download their own detailed energy use data. Additional utilities that collectively serve another 11.3 million households plan to make the feature available later this year. See the Green Button page on the PG&E website.
Because Green Button is designed around an open-data standard, it is spurring innovation among website and software developers interested in using that standard to provide novel energy-saving services. The North American Energy Standards Board also plans to make a “startup kit” available to help app developers, students, and others take full advantage of Green Button. Green Button is expected to support interactive thermostats and audits that recommend energy-efficiency retrofit improvements for homes and businesses. DOE also plans to highlight Green Button apps on its “Energy Savers” energy information portal. See the White House press release.
DOE released on January 18 two resource assessments showing that waves and tidal coastal currents could contribute significantly to U.S. electricity production. The West Coast, including Alaska and Hawaii, has especially high potential for wave energy development, while significant opportunities for wave energy also exist along the East Coast. Additionally, parts of both coasts have strong tides that could be tapped to produce energy. Combined with other analyses, these assessments show that water power, including conventional hydropower, could provide 15% of U.S. electricity by 2030.
The United States uses about 4,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year. DOE estimates that the maximum theoretical electric generation that could be produced from waves and tidal currents is approximately 1,420 TWh per year, about one-third of the nation’s total annual electricity use. Though not all of the resource potential identified in these assessments can realistically be developed, the results still represent major opportunities for new water power development, highlighting specific opportunities to expand on the 6% of the nation’s electricity already generated from hydropower resources.
In addition to the wave and tidal resource assessments, DOE plans to release additional resource assessments for ocean current, ocean thermal gradients, and new hydropower resources in 2012. To support the development of technologies that can tap into these vast resources, DOE’s Water Power Program is undertaking a detailed technical and economic assessment of a wide range of water power technologies in order to more accurately predict the opportunities and costs of developing and deploying these innovative technologies. The program is sponsoring more than 40 demonstration projects that will advance the commercial readiness of these systems; provide first-of-a-kind, in-water performance data that will validate cost-of-energy predictions; and identify pathways for large cost reductions. See the DOE Progress Alert and the Water Power Program website.
DOE announced on January 20 two opportunities for university researchers to advance the department’s SunShot Initiative, a program that aims to dramatically decrease the total costs of U.S. solar energy. DOE will make up to $10 million available to support the development of heat-transfer fluids that are more efficient, thus reducing the cost of energy from concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. The department also opened the second round of SunShot Initiative postdoctoral research awards for applied research at universities, national laboratories, and other research facilities.
Under the solicitation for heat-transfer fluids, DOE will support university-based CSP research projects to develop and demonstrate fluids that are more stable than current technologies at temperatures greater than 800°C. CSP plants use mirrors to focus sunlight to heat a working fluid, which generates steam that spins a turbine or powers a heat engine that produces electricity. Higher-temperature working fluids could enable CSP systems to couple with heat engines that are capable of converting more than 50% of the heat in the working fluid into electricity.
This funding will be awarded as part of the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, a program designed to advance research, accelerate technology transfer into the marketplace, and prepare a new generation of scientists and engineers. DOE anticipates funding one or two projects over five years through this opportunity. For more information, see the Funding Opportunity Announcement on DOE’s Funding Opportunity Exchange website.
In addition, DOE opened the next round of SunShot Initiative postdoctoral research awards, which will provide students the chance to work on advanced clean energy technologies. Recipients will conduct applied research at universities, national laboratories, and other research facilities. This program includes an opportunity for recipients to participate in a research exchange program with Australia under the United States-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration. See the DOE Progress Alert, the SunShot Postdoctoral Researchers Web page, and the SunShot Initiative website.
DOE issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) on January 19, offering up to $3 million in funding to administer its Superior Energy Performance (SEP) program, which will help U.S. manufacturers continually increase the energy efficiency of their domestic facilities. The funding will support at least one organization to launch, operate, and promote the SEP program. When launched later this year, the voluntary program will provide a transparent, step-by-step certification process to help industrial and commercial facilities implement and validate improvements in their energy performance and reduce their energy costs.
The SEP program will be a key component of DOE’s efforts to improve energy efficiency throughout the nation’s manufacturing sector. The program administrator will be responsible for launching and overseeing the program during its initial stages and for developing and executing a sustainable business model, enabling SEP to become a fee-based, self-sufficient program within three years of the award. Eligible applicants for this funding opportunity include U.S. domestic entities or consortia composed of academic institutions, non-profits [except 501(c)(4) non-profits], and for-profit private entities. Letters of intent in connection with this opportunity are due February 21, and awards are expected by June. See the DOE Progress Alert, the FOA on DOE’s Funding Opportunity Exchange website, and the SEP Web page.
Austin Using Green Innovation to Beat the Utility Blues
Sewage treatment has always been a dirty business, dating back to the frontier days when “waste management” meant the guy who followed after the horses with a bucket and shovel. However, thanks to modern technology, there are ways to turn some of the treatment processes into clean energy that can power public infrastructure facilities.
The Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant in Austin, Texas, located on 1,200 acres of land along the Colorado River, is a national model for innovative approaches to improve the environment, such as reducing waste, producing compost, and protecting ecosystems. Each year, thousands of tons of biosolids, the nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of sewage sludge, are anaerobically digested and composted with Austin’s yard trimmings into an EPA-certified soil conditioner called “Dillo Dirt” (as in armadillo). This popular product is sold to commercial vendors for sale and use in public landscaping projects across the city. Demand for “Dillo Dirt” often exceeds available supply.
During the 1980s, an initial effort to improve energy efficiency at the plant started when two 400-kW converted diesel generators were installed. The generators were fueled by a mixture of digester biogas from the site and diesel fuel. This worked fairly well, but after 20+ years the old generators are no longer serviceable or repairable, and in recent years the gas has had to be flared. Austin decided to use $1.2 million of its Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to replace the old equipment with modern “biogas-rated” generation equipment. Read the full story on DOE’s Energy Blog.
New Thermal Window Technology Lessens Menace of Jack Frost
By Roland Risser, program manager, Building Technologies Program
Say what you want about the joys of Jack Frost nipping at your nose, but when it comes to winter wonderlands, I like mine outdoors. Etching icy messages on the insides of my windows is not exactly cozy. Therefore, I’m thankful for technology that provides an efficient and effective barrier from inclement weather.
Traco, a division of Kawneer and window manufacturer since the early 1940s, recently partnered with the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to utilize funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to develop new window technology. These OptiQ™ Ultra Thermal Windows can reduce energy loss by up to 40% compared to the efficient, commercially available double-pane low-emissivity windows that are already on the market.
Each year, windows account for an estimated 4 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy lost in U.S. buildings, totaling over $35 billion in heating and air conditioning costs. Future window systems like the OptiQ™ Ultra Thermal Windows will eventually outperform the best-insulated walls or roofs in terms of annual energy performance, peak demand reduction, and costs. This new innovation holds promise to boost both savings and comfort. Read the full story on DOE’s Energy Blog.
Croatian Center of Renewable Energy sources (CCRES)