News and Events February 22, 2012

DOE Awards $6.5 Million for Tribal Clean Energy

DOE announced on February 16 that 19 clean energy projects by tribal nations would receive more than $6.5 million to support tribal energy development. The competitively selected projects in 10 states will allow American Indian tribes to advance clean energy within their communities by assessing local energy resources, developing renewable energy projects, and deploying clean energy technologies. The projects will help save money and create new job and business opportunities. The projects selected for awards fall under three project areas: feasibility studies, renewable energy development projects, and installation projects.
Thirteen feasibility studies will assess the viability of developing renewable energy resources or installing renewable energy systems on tribal lands to reduce energy use by 30%. For example, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Pablo, Montana, will evaluate the technical and economic viability of a co-generation biomass-fuel power plant that uses fuels from tribal forest management activities to provide up to 20 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Three renewable energy development projects will receive pre-construction funds for new renewable energy generation and one will significantly cut the need for diesel heating fuel. In one case, the Penobscot Indian Nation, Old Town, Maine, will complete the preparation required to secure funding for the proposed 227-megawatt Alder Stream Wind Project. And, two projects will deploy technologies to convert waste and biomass into energy. The Oneida Seven Generations Corp., De Pere, Wisconsin, will build a state-of-the-art waste gasification energy recovery facility capable of converting 150 tons of municipal waste into 5 MW of electricity per hour. See the DOE press release, the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, and the project descriptionsPDF.

DOE, Commerce Department Offer $1.3 Million for Energy Workforce

DOE and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology ( NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program announced on February 16 up to $1.3 million for training programs. The programs provide commercial building professionals with critical skills needed to optimize building efficiency, reduce waste, and save money. The programs will help reach the Better Buildings Initiative goal of improving energy efficiency nationwide in commercial and industrial buildings by 20% by 2020, reducing energy costs by nearly $40 billion, and creating jobs.
The funding announced will support training centers targeted at improving energy performance in commercial buildings and manufacturing plants. To compete for the funding, universities, community and technical colleges, and trade associations across the country will partner with NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Centers to create robust building efficiency training programs that leverage MEP’s efforts to help businesses create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money. Training will be tailored to building operators, building managers, and energy service providers, and it will provide energy performance solutions that can save businesses 5%-20% on their energy bills. Applications are due March 30. See the DOE press release, the funding opportunity informationPDF, and the Energy Education and Workforce Development website.

DOE-Backed EV Battery Maker Opens New Plant

DOE recognized on February 14 EnerG2, which recently opened its new manufacturing facility for electric vehicle (EV) battery components. Supported in part by $21.3 million in DOE funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Albany, Oregon, facility will produce nano-engineered carbon materials for batteries and other energy storage devices that can be used in EVs. EnerG2’s proprietary freeze-drying process to make its specialized carbon material was developed in laboratories at the University of Washington. At full capacity, the EnerG2 plant is expected to be able to produce enough advanced carbon material to support 60,000 electric drive vehicles each year.
EnerG2 is one of 30 advanced battery and electric drive manufacturing facilities supported by the Recovery Act. At full scale, these factories will be able to supply batteries and components for more than 500,000 electric drive vehicles. This support for both manufacturing and research and development is contributing to the revitalization of the U.S. auto industry and will help meet President Obama’s goal of reducing oil imports by one-third by 2025. See the DOE press release and the Vehicle Technologies Program website.

DOE Highlights New GE Appliance Factory in Kentucky

DOE highlighted on February 15 the opening of GE Appliance’s newly revitalized manufacturing facility that will produce its highly efficient water heaters. GE moved the operation from China to Louisville’s Appliance Park, the first facility to open there in more than 50 years. The plant revitalization was partially funded through a manufacturing tax credit of $24.8 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and has already created hundreds of jobs in Kentucky. It will produce the company’s new GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heaters, which were finalized and performance tested in partnership with DOE.
GE’s prototype for the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heaters was inspired by DOE research efforts in the late 1990s through the early 2000s, including work by DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). In 2008, GE entered into a cooperative agreement with ORNL to rigorously test the water heater. The product underwent successive iterations of testing and design changes until test results on the final model indicated it could last 10 years and use less than half the energy of a conventional 50-gallon tank water heater. The new GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater will be available to the public in April. See the DOE Progress Alert.
GE is also one of 60 companies cited by President Obama for taking part in DOE’s Better Building Challenge. In 2010, GE achieved a 33% improvement in its own energy intensity and a 24% reduction in its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (both from a 2004 baseline). At that time, it set even more aggressive targets for 2015, including a 50% energy intensity improvement and a 25% GHG emissions reduction across more than 105 million square feet. See the White House press release and the Better Business Challenge website.

Leaders of the Fuel Cell Pack

By Sunita Satyapal, Program Manager, Fuel Cell Technologies Program
What do WalMart, Coca-Cola, Sysco, and Whole Foods have in common?
They’re leading the pack when it comes to hydrogen and fuel cells.
DOE’s Business Case for Fuel Cells 2011 report illustrates how top American companies are using fuel cells in their business operations to advance their sustainability goals, save millions of dollars in electricity costs, and reduce carbon emissions by hundreds of thousands of metric tons per year.
The report profiles 34 companies and highlights how they incorporate fuel cell technologies into their business models. According to the report, in the last year, profiled companies used more than 250 fuel cells totaling 30 plus megawatts of stationary power—enough to supply electricity for over 21,000 households. In addition, companies in the report purchased or deployed more than 240 fuel cells at telecommunication sites and more than 1,030 fuel cell-powered lift trucks. Read the complete story in the DOE Energy Blog.

New Licensing Agreement Opens Energy Patents to NGOs, Non-Profits

The technology to improve access to fuel, electricity, and clean water for some of the world’s poorest people may already be in the patent portfolios of DOE’s national labs. The challenge, however, can be finding dedicated organizations willing to develop the technology and bring it to market, which can mean bringing energy technology to the most remote parts of the world.
As part of President Obama’s Global Development Policy, a new licensing agreement opens a number of DOE patents to qualified non-governmental and non-profit organizations. Just as was offered to innovative startups with America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge, selected organizations only pay an upfront fee of $2,000 and a royalty of up to 2% of gross sales of licensed products.
Through new technology, the goal is to accelerate progress toward improved health, energy sustainability, and economic growth in some of the poorest countries in the world, many of which are in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Many organizations already have a presence in these countries, educating populations, caring for the sick, and improving standards of living by advancing the technology used to perform their most rote and domestic of tasks, like how they cook their meals. Read the complete story in the DOE Energy Blog.