News and Events May 17, 2012
The Energy Department announced on May 14 that more than one thousand fuel cells were deployed as a result of support from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Over the last three years, nearly 1,200 fuel cells have been deployed in emergency backup power units and material handling equipment, such as forklift trucks. This investment gives U.S. businesses more options to cut energy costs and reduce petroleum use.
Increasingly, companies are installing fuel cells to generate onsite primary or backup power for buildings, data centers, and cell phone towers, because of their high reliability and low emissions. To date, close to 700 fuel cells have been deployed to provide backup power with $18.5 million in Recovery Act funding. Fuel cells are quiet and do not need petroleum, so they produce few pollutants and emissions. Fuel cells also typically require minimal maintenance, and they can easily be monitored remotely to further reduce maintenance time. In addition, many leading American businesses are choosing fuel cells to power their materials handling equipment because of the productivity, cost, and performance advantages of fuel cell lift trucks. Funded with $9.7 million under the Recovery Act, more than 500 fuel cell powered lift trucks are now operational at end-user sites, along with fueling systems, data collection and analysis, and operator training to support them.
Hydrogen fuel cells do not emit any harmful air pollutants, and they can be rapidly refueled, boosting productivity. Fuel cells also maintain full power capability between refueling. Data collected from all of these projects are aggregated to provide relevant technology status results and fuel cell performance data without revealing proprietary information. These publicly available data products provide critical information to future investors and customers. See the Energy Department Progress Alert and the Fuel Cells Technology Program website.
The Energy Department on May 2 announced the winners of America’s Home Energy Education Challenge, a national student competition designed to encourage students and their families to take action to start saving money by saving energy. A team of students from five schools in rural Carter County, Montana, was declared the national winner for successfully working with local utility companies and the community to reduce their home energy use by 3.4%. The five schools will share the $15,000 they won as both a regional winner and as the national champion.
The challenge, run by the National Science Teachers Association for the Energy Department, asked teams of third through eighth grade students to work with their science teachers and local utility companies to develop plans that reduce the amount of energy used to power their homes. Each student team monitored and measured its energy consumption between September and November 2011, then compared it to data collected during the same three-month period the year before.
The challenge included regional competitions, so student teams would face off against teams in similar climates. Regional winners then competed in a national competition, where they were evaluated based on their energy savings plans, energy savings, and levels of student participation, community involvement, and creativity. The four regional winners each received $5,000. They came from Golden, Colorado; Olive Hill, Kentucky; Potomac, Maryland; and Warren, Michigan. See the Energy Department Progress Alert and the list of winners.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released an updated list of the Top 50 Green Power Partnership organizations voluntarily using renewable electricity from resources such as solar, wind, and low-impact hydropower. Intel Corporation tops the list as the largest single user of green power, followed by Kohl’s Department Stores, and Microsoft Corporation. Intel, which has ranked number one on the list since 2008, uses more than 2.5 billion kWh of green power annually, or 88% of the company’s total nationwide electricity use. Microsoft and McDonald’s USA LLC, which ranks eleventh, are new to the list.
Combined, the Top 50 partners are using more than 15 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually. By using green power, these organizations are avoiding carbon pollution equal to that created by the electricity use of more than 1.3 million American homes each year.
EPA’s Green Power Partnership works with more than 1,300 partner organizations, over half of which are small businesses and nonprofit organizations, to voluntarily use green power. Green power resources produce electricity with an environmental profile superior to conventional power technologies. See the EPA press release and rankings.
Eight automakers demonstrated a fast-charging technology for electric vehicles (EV) that can recharge compatible systems in as few as 15-20 minutes. Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche, and Volkswagen have agreed to support a harmonized single-port fast charging approach—called DC Fast Charging with a Combined Charging System—for use on EVs in the United States and Europe.
The automakers gave charging demonstrations during the EVS26 Electric Vehicle Symposium, held in Los Angeles, May 6-9. The combined charging system integrates one-phase AC-charging, fast three-phase AC-charging, DC-charging at home, and ultra-fast DC-charging at public stations into one vehicle inlet. This will allow customers to charge at most existing charging stations regardless of power source, and it may speed more affordable adoption of a standardized infrastructure. The International Society of Automotive Engineers has chosen the Combined Charging System as the fast-charging methodology for a standard that incrementally extends the existing Type 1-based AC charging. The standard is to be officially published this summer. And ACEA, the European association of vehicle manufacturers, has selected the system as its AC/DC charging interface for all new vehicle types in Europe beginning in 2017. Commercially available combined charging units are projected to be available later this year. All committed manufacturers have vehicles in development that will use the Combined Charging System. The first vehicles to use this system will reach the market in 2013. See the General Motors press release.
Students Compete to Design Energy-Efficient Appliances
What is an efficient building without efficient appliances? That’s the question students must face as part of the Energy Department’s Max Tech and Beyond competition. This program challenges university students to design highly efficient, next-generation appliances and commercial equipment.
Helping American consumers and businesses save money by saving energy is a major part of the Obama administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy. Challenging America’s students to find energy saving solutions is one of the ways the Energy Department is working to bring the best and brightest to the challenge of saving energy.
Initiated in 2010, the Max Tech competition first began by ranking the energy saving potential of appliances and commercial equipment to identify the appliances that had the most potential for technological advancement. Then in June 2011, organizers sent a request for proposals to university engineering and science departments across the nation, asking students to develop new, next-generation appliance and commercial equipment designs that demonstrate high energy savings. See the complete story on the Energy Blog.