NEWS and EVENTS February 15, 2012

President’s 2013 DOE Budget Seeks $2.27 Billion for Efficiency, Renewables

Photo of two wind turbines in a field.

The President’s FY 2013 EERE budget will continue to support wind energy and other renewables.
Credit: Vestas
President Obama on February 13 released his Fiscal Year 2013 DOE budget request to Congress, which proposes $27.2 billion. For the DOE’s Office Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the President requested $2.27 billion, reaffirming the Administration’s commitment to an energy future that is cleaner, less expensive, and full of new jobs.
The blueprint includes investments in innovation, job-creating clean energy technologies, and national security. Specifically, the FY 2013 request promotes efforts to cut the cost of solar energy by 75% by the end of the decade and continue crosscutting research into clean energy technologies that can lead to a one-third reduction in U.S. dependence on oil by 2025.
The budget will support EERE goals, including improving building energy efficiency 50% by 2030, with 1 million homes weatherized by 2013; reducing energy consumption of manufactured goods across targeted product life-cycles by 50% or more; decreasing federal energy demand by 30% by 2015 (using a 2003 base) and federal greenhouse gas emissions by 28% by 2020 (using a 2008 base); improving cars to achieve fuel economy greater than 60 miles per gallon by 2025 and creating batteries by 2015 that cost half of what they do today; making solar energy competitive with other energy sources through the SunShot Initiative; and enabling wind energy to contribute 20% of U.S. electricity use by 2030.
Among the highlights: $60 million to perform critical research on energy storage systems and devise new approaches for battery storage; $350 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to continue support for promising early-stage research projects that could deliver game-changing clean energy technologies; $120 million to support energy frontier research centers; and $140 million for five existing energy innovation hubs and to establish a new hub to focus on grid systems and the tie between transmission and distribution systems. The FY13 budget request also highlights steps taken by DOE to reduce costs. For example, the agency will reduce, consolidate, or move 40% of its websites to the platform to increase communication and transparency as well as streamline website infrastructure processes, which will save more than $10 million a year. See the DOE press release, the FY 2013 EERE budget requestPDF, and the proposed FY 2013 DOE budget.

DOE Offers $12 Million to Spur Solar Energy Innovation

Photo of a house with solar panels on the roof.

DOE is offering $12 million to help speed solar energy innovation.
Credit: LBNL
DOE announced on February 8 more than $12 million in funding to speed solar energy innovation from the lab to the marketplace. The funding, which will be made available through the agency’s SunShot Incubator program, will support advancements in hardware, reductions in soft costs, and the development of pilot manufacturing and production projects. Each awardee will make significant cost-share commitments.
The SunShot Incubator program, part of the SunShot Initiative, helps launch new startups and business units within existing companies to accelerate innovative solar technology development. Since 2007, DOE has invested $60 million through the incubator in promising technologies as they are brought from lab to marketplace. These investments have catalyzed $1.6 billion in private sector support.
The current funding opportunity builds on the SunShot Incubator Program’s history of successful partnerships. Nearly 40 companies have participated in the Incubator, including Colorado-based PrimeStar Solar. In 2007, DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and PrimeStar began a cooperative research and development agreement to transition NREL’s cadmium telluride solar technology to commercial production. PrimeStar later received a $3 million Incubator award to commercialize its low-cost photovoltaic solar panels. PrimeStar is now owned by GE, which has launched a $600 million investment in PrimeStar and the construction of a large-scale manufacturing plant in Colorado that will employ more than 350 workers to produce state-of-the-art solar panels.
Applications are due April 9, 2012. See the DOE press release, the funding opportunity announcement, and the SunShot Initiative website.

‘America’s Next Top Energy Innovators’ Named

DOE announced on February 10 the three winning startup companies out of the 14 participating in the “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator” challenge. The decision was based on the nearly half a million votes cast online from January 26 through February 6, as well as expert review. The startups, using technology licensed from DOE’s national laboratories, are from Iowa, Maryland, and Oregon. The winning teams will be featured at the 2012 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, which will bring clean energy leaders together at the end of the month.
IPAT, based in Nevada, Iowa, is using gas atomization technology developed at Ames Laboratory to make titanium powder with processes that are ten times more efficient than those made using the traditional powder-making method, significantly lowering the cost of the powder to manufacturers for a range of parts. Umpqua Energy, in Medford, Oregon, is using an Argonne National Laboratory technology to develop a system that allows a gasoline engine to operate in an “extreme lean burn” mode to increase gasoline mileage. Vorbeck Materials, in Jessup, Maryland, is using a method developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for building tiny chemical structures to greatly improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries. See the DOE press release and the challenge website.

Global Wind Energy Grew 21% in 2011: Report

The global wind industry installed more than 41,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity in 2011, a 21% increase in global installed capacity, according to a report released on February 7 by the Global Wind Energy Council. This brings the total installed capacity globally to more than 238,000 MW. About 75 countries worldwide have commercial wind power installations, with 22 of them already passing the 1 gigawatt (GW) level. New markets in Latin America, Africa, and Asia are driving the market, the report said.
China has solidified its position as global market leader, with a cumulative capacity of more than 62,000 MW, despite having faced a challenging year. The U.S. wind sector rebounded from a tough 2010 with installations of more than 6,800 MW in 2011. Canada reported a record year in 2011, surpassing the 5,000 MW mark. See the Global Wind Energy Council press release.

Turbines off NYC East River Will Power 9,500 Homes

As part of the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project, 30 turbines are being installed along the strait that connects the Long Island Sound with the Atlantic Ocean in the New York Harbor. The project, led by Verdant Power, Inc., is the first ever commercially licensed tidal energy project in the United States. The turbines are scheduled to be fully installed by 2015 and will use the flow of the East River and tides to generate 1,050 kilowatts of electricity—enough to power 9,500 New York homes.
The turbines will also collect important data about environmental impacts on fish and river sediment and provide jobs to a team of technicians who will maintain and monitor the equipment.
DOE helps advance water power technologies by funding research to determine the size of the water resource and by developing innovative technologies to unleash its energy potential. The department began providing Verdant Power with funding in 2008 to improve the turbines’ blade design. Verdant had been successfully developing and testing turbine prototypes in the East River since 2002, but those turbine rotors were not durable enough to be scaled up for commercialization. With the DOE assistance, Verdant designed and tested new blades, which are stronger and more reliable—allowing them to capture more energy from faster currents at greater depths and at a lower cost. Read the complete story in the DOE Energy Blog.