News and Events April 04, 2012
The Obama Administration joined the governors of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania on March 30 to announce the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) streamlining offshore wind development in the Great Lakes. DOE, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Consortium are among the signatories.
The MOU will enhance collaboration between federal and state agencies to speed review of proposed offshore wind projects. Specifically, the agencies will develop an action plan that sets priorities and recommends steps for achieving efficient and responsible evaluation of proposed offshore wind power projects in the Great Lakes region. The area has the potential to produce more than 700 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind, about one fifth of the total U.S. offshore wind potential. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that each gigawatt of offshore wind installed could produce enough electricity to power 300,000 homes.
To safely and responsibly develop offshore wind resources, federal and state agencies—which share jurisdiction in the Great Lakes—must fully evaluate the potential social, environmental, safety, and security impacts of projects. See the DOE press release, a fact sheet, and the complete MOU.
DOE announced on March 29 its investment of $5 million in two research projects that will aim to reduce the cost of advanced fuel cells. The department awarded $3 million to 3M Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, and $2 million to Eaton Corporation in Southfield, Michigan. The 3-year projects will focus on boosting the performance of fuel cell systems for vehicles and stationary applications while driving down costs.
Both projects will seek to lower the cost of advanced fuel cell systems by developing durable and highly efficient fuel cell components. 3M’s project will focus on boosting the performance of fuel cell systems with an approach based on integrating their state-of-the-art catalyst with membranes and other fuel cell components. 3M partners include General Motors, DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Michigan Technological University. Eaton’s work will concentrate on improving the performance of fuel cell systems. Eaton’s project will modify their existing air compression technology to deliver more power and better fuel economy at a lower cost. Eaton partners include Kettering University, Ballard Power Systems, and Electricore, Inc.
DOE’s hydrogen and fuel cell research and development program has led successful research and development efforts, resulting in more than 300 patents and delivering 30 products to market. At the same time, fuel cell durability has doubled and the cost of fuel cells has dropped 30% since 2008. See the DOE press releases about 3M Company and Eaton Corporation, as well as DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cells website.
DOE announced on March 20 that up to $10 million will be available this year to demonstrate and deploy electric transportation technologies for cargo vehicles, such as trucks and forklifts. DOE’s support for the development and demonstration of innovative alternative vehicle technologies is designed to help reduce U.S. reliance on gasoline and diesel and oil imports.
Electrifying cargo transportation vehicles and infrastructure will slash petroleum use, carbon emissions, and air pollution at transportation hubs, such as ports. DOE seeks applicants to demonstrate cost-effective zero-emission cargo transport systems and collect detailed performance and cost data to analyze the benefits and viability of this approach to freight transportation. This funding opportunity is open to local governments and private companies, with federal funds matched in a 50% cost share. Applications are due May 15, 2012. See the DOE Progress Alert and the Funding Opportunity Announcement.
Ball State University has completed its campus-wide ground-source geothermal system, the nation’s largest geothermal heating and cooling system, DOE announced on March 20. DOE played a part in the project by providing a $5 million grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Indiana-based univserity anticipates saving $2 million annually in operating costs and cutting its carbon footprint by nearly 50% with the project.
Launched in 2009, Ball State’s geothermal system replaces four aging coal-fired boilers to provide renewable power that will heat and cool 47 university buildings, comprising 5.5 million square feet on the 660-acre campus. To provide heating, geothermal heat pumps use a fluid to transfer heat from the Earth to buildings. For cooling, the pumps remove heat from buildings and transfer it back into the Earth. See the DOE Progress Alert and the Buildings Technologies Program website.
The Building Performance Institute, Inc. (BPI) will introduce in June four new home energy professional certifications for the U.S. weatherization and home performance workforce. The voluntary certificates offered by BPI are funded by DOE and cover the most common job classifications in the home energy upgrade industry: energy auditor, retrofit installer, crew leader, and quality control inspector. Scheduling will begin in May, and BPI will pilot written and field practical exams in June. The results will be used to set passing scores for the national exams. Candidates who take the initial exams and meet passing requirements will be among the first group of professionals to earn these certifications. BPI expects to roll the exams out nationally in the fall of 2012.
The new credentials will meet the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 17024 standard, which is the international benchmark for personnel certifications across all industries. Under ISO 17024, each new certification is developed and administered using international best practices, such as cross-disciplinary peer review and industry validation of technical materials. The new certifications will complement and build on BPI’s existing credentials in the home performance career ladder, where increased knowledge and skills lead to advancement. These certifications will not replace or interfere with professional certifications in the building trades, but rather, they are intended to support the four most common whole-house home performance job roles. See the BPI press release and registration Web page.
Lighting Up Georgia Convenience Stores
Convenience stores across Georgia are saving energy thanks to energy efficient lighting upgrades made possible by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds from DOE’s State Energy Program and the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. As a result of this partnership, the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores (GACS) implemented lighting efficiency improvements to participating convenience stores across the state, the first of which has already saved over $7,000 in the first year after the retrofits, along with over 54,000 kilowatt-hours (KWh), approximately the amount of energy used by five American homes over a year.
GACS received a grant to implement lighting efficiency improvements that have a quick payback period and to establish a revolving loan fund that will finance projects in the future. Participating stores completed the upgrades with no up-front costs, allowing storeowners to pay back into the fund the estimated savings that occur over the 18-month period following installation. Already, more than 30 convenience stores have improved their lighting, including interior lighting, cooler (or refrigerator) door lighting, and outdoor canopy lighting.
The retrofit fund promotes energy efficiency steps with quick payback periods. Initially, installers found that canopy lights were commonly used across the stores and were the most difficult to get a quick payback. A canopy light improvement was first tried at a convenience mart in Savannah. The solution for this location, which already contained 50 canopy lights (more than needed for the area), was to reduce the amount of lamps to 38—reducing electricity consumption by approximately two thirds. Read the complete story on DOE’s Energy Blog.