News and Events March 21, 2012
DOE announced on March 13 that up to $2 million will be available this year to collect and analyze performance data for hydrogen fueling stations and advanced refueling components. DOE will track the performance and technical progress of innovative refueling systems to find ways to lower costs and improve operations. The funding is part of the department’s commitment to help industry bring hydrogen technologies into the mainstream market and provide new choices for vehicles that do not rely on gasoline.
Many automakers have announced production plans for fuel cell electric vehicles for retail sale or lease as early as 2015, and some states are investing in hydrogen fuel infrastructure to accommodate these vehicles. The new funding will support projects to monitor the performance of multiple hydrogen fueling stations and advanced components for up to five years. The data and resulting analyses from this initiative will also help hydrogen fueling equipment manufacturers improve the designs of existing systems.
DOE seeks applicants to this funding opportunity to test new refueling component technologies that could substantially reduce the cost of hydrogen. These include advanced compressor designs that could reduce the number or size of compressors required at commercial refueling sites; hydrogen delivery tanks with higher capacity and optimal tank pressure, which could reduce the need for compressors and the frequency of deliveries at refueling sites; and advanced electrolyzers that can produce hydrogen at higher pressures, potentially lowering the cost of hydrogen by reducing the amount of post-production compression required. Responses are due May 11. See the DOE Progress Alert and the Funding Opportunity Announcement on the Funding Opportunity Exchange website.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 15 recognized the 2012 Energy Star award winners while kicking off Energy Star’s 20th anniversary. Energy Star is a joint program of the EPA and DOE that is designed to help consumers save money and protect the environment by using energy-efficient products and practices. During the past 20 years, with help from Energy Star partners, families and businesses have saved about $230 billion on utility bills and prevented more than 1.7 billion metric tons of carbon pollution.
EPA chose the 109 Energy Star award winners for 2012 from nearly 20,000 partners from across the nation. Awardees earned citations in one of four Energy Star award categories: corporate commitment, sustained excellence, partner of the year, and excellence in delivering specific promotions. Sears Holdings Corporation took the highest honor, the Energy Star corporate commitment award. EPA also cited 57 sustained excellence winners for continuing to raise the bar across their respective industries for outstanding achievements in energy efficiency; 36 partner-of-the-year award winners for protecting the environment by using energy efficient products, practices, and services; and 15 excellence award designees for advancing energy-efficient products, homes, or buildings and helping expand the reach of the Energy Star program.
Launched in 1992 by EPA, Energy Star is a market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. Last year alone, the Energy Star program and its partners helped Americans save approximately $23 billion on their energy bills while preventing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the annual emissions of 41 million vehicles. See the EPA press release and a complete list of winners.
The U.S. solar energy industry installed a record 1,855 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) capacity in 2011, according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report. The amount represents a 109% growth rate over the previous year and is enough to power more than 370,000 homes. The total more than doubled the previous annual record of 887 MW set in 2010. The findings came from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, an industry trade group.
This growth was spurred in part by declining installed solar photovoltaic (PV) system prices, which fell 20% last year on the back of lower component costs, improved installation efficiency, expanded financing options, and a shift toward larger systems nationwide. In addition, the anticipated expiration of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s 1603 Program, which ended December 31, 2011, drove developers to commission projects before the end of 2011.
The report also provides an update on the concentrating solar power (CSP) market. While no new concentrating solar thermal electric capacity was brought online in 2011, a total of 10 concentrating PV projects came online. The year also saw meaningful construction progress on a number of projects with some capacity expected to come online later in 2012 and a surge projected in 2013. Today, more than 1,000 MW of CSP—enough to power 200,000 homes—are under construction.
As of year-end 2011, cumulative PV capacity in the United States reached nearly 4,000 MW and cumulative CSP capacity topped 500 MW. Together, these represent enough solar capacity to power nearly a million households.
The market demonstrated why the United States is becoming a center of attention for global solar, according to Shayle Kann, Managing Director of GTM Research’s solar practice. Kann noted that 2011 was the first year with meaningful volumes of large-scale PV installations, adding that there were 28 individual PV projects over 10 megawatts in 2011, up from only two in 2009. Kann also said that the market continued to diversify nationally; eight states installed more than 50 megawatts of solar each last year, compared to just five in 2010. The U.S. Solar Market Insight report projected that 2012 will be another strong year for the PV industry, with installations of more than 2,800 MW forecasted. See the press release for the report.
A coalition of automakers, electric utilities, environmental groups, state officials, and DOE on March 13 outlined joint recommendations for accelerating the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) nationwide. The PEV Dialogue Group, convened last year by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), presented its recommendations at a Washington, D.C. event.
The group’s report, An Action Plan to Integrate Plug-in Electric Vehicles with the U.S. Electrical Grid, provides a roadmap for coordinated public and private sector action to ensure that PEV owners can conveniently plug in their cars without overtaxing the grid. It recommends steps to ensure compatible regulatory approaches nationwide, balance public and private investments in charging infrastructure, and better inform consumers about PEVs. Over the coming months, C2ES will support DOE-funded Clean Cities coalitions working in dozens of communities across the country to develop local PEV deployment plans.
C2ES will work with the PEV Dialogue Group and others to promote implementation of its plan. Nearly 18,000 PEVs were sold in the United States last year; over the next year or two, all of the major automakers plan to have models on the road. Some PEVs such as the Nissan Leaf rely entirely on battery power, while the Chevy Volt and others have backup engines to extend their driving ranges. Broad deployment of PEVs, which use little or no gasoline, can significantly reduce U.S. reliance on imported oil and curb harmful tailpipe emissions. See the C2ES press release.
Secrets of a Tribal Energy Auditor
On a tiny, rural reservation 10 miles east of Newport, Oregon, Fawn Metcalf gets to work. Adorned in pink overalls and polka-dotted work boots, Metcalf prepares to crawl under the home of a family in Siletz.
Metcalf is focused on her goal of helping modest-income families save money and stay healthy and dry. “It’s gratifying to know that you are making a big difference in people’s lives,” says Metcalf.
With a facemask in place, she tests for airflow leaks in every nook and cranny using a variety of machines and devices. Sometimes she finds other structural problems that can jeopardize the homeowners’ physical and financial wellbeing.
Oregon’s wet winters create a lush landscape, but that moisture can also create unhealthy conditions inside homes. “Our biggest problem is mold,” said Metcalf.
Just ask resident Laura Bremner and her family of eight.
“We were sick from October, when it started raining, all the way through ‘til April or June,” said Bremner, who moved into the brand new four-bedroom modular home in 2000. At one point, Bremner’s 8-year-old daughter was forced to move because of a bacterial lung infection that kept her on oxygen.
After Metcalf audited Bremner’s house, the Siletz Tribal Energy Program installed an Energy Smart furnace, a dehumidifier, and a whole-house ventilation system. Some drywall was also replaced. Within a few months, the dangerous black mold disappeared. For the first time in more than 10 years, the Bremner family finally stopped getting sick. That was nine months ago.
Metcalf was trained and certified with funding provided by the Bonneville Power Administration’s Low-Income Energy Efficiency program, the Administration for Native Americans, and the DOE. This BPA energy efficiency program gives funds directly to the state or tribal service provider rather than to a local utility. The annual budget includes $500,000 that goes directly to the tribes. Read the complete story and see the accompanying video on the DOE Energy Blog.