News and Events May 31, 2012
The Energy Department announced on May 23 a total of $11 million in innovative research and technology grants of up to $150,000 awarded to nearly 67 small businesses in 22 states. The grants were awarded under the department’s Small Business Innovation Research program, part of the Obama Administration’s broader support for job-creating small businesses and startup companies nationwide. These businesses are located in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. The businesses will work on 75 research projects including designing better wind turbines and fuel cell technology. They will then be eligible to compete for a second phase of the program with awards up to $1 million over two years.
For example, the Seachange Group in Maine will work on a process that determines the best conditions for thermochemical conversion of biomass into drop-in transportation fuels, which has potential for under-developed rural communities. And Creare Incorporated of New Hampshire will focus on improving battery pack thermal management for electric vehicles. See the DOE press release and the description of all the projects.
The Energy Department on May 22 announced the first round of winners for the “Apps for Energy” competition, selected by a panel of judges. App developers submitted more than 50 innovative mobile and Web applications that will help utility consumers save money by making the most of their “Green Button” electricity usage data. Eligible apps included those for mobile phones, computers, tablets, software programs, and more. Popular Choice awards will also be announced after the conclusion of a public voting period on May 31.
Competing developers created apps that are designed to make the best use of the data provided through the Green Button initiative, which recently announced that nine major utilities and electricity suppliers will provide more than 31 million consumers access to data about their own energy use. The winners are sharing prize money provided jointly by the Energy Department and three private-sector cosponsors of the competition.
The grand prize winner for the best overall app was Leafully, a Seattle-based team, which created an app that helps utility customers visualize their Green Button data as a variety of units, such as the amount of trees needed to offset an individual’s energy usage. Leafully encourages users to set energy savings goals and to share their progress on Facebook. The Best Student App Grand Prize was from “wotz,” a group of University of California, Irvine, students who submitted an app that lets users explore and play with Green Button data. It provides several games based on the “shape” of data, and offers creative comparisons to illustrate usage. See the Energy Department press release.
The Energy Department announced on May 22 phase I awards totaling nearly $3.2 million that will encourage utilities, local governments, and communities to create programs that empower consumers to better manage their electricity use through improved access to their own electricity consumption data. These projects will complement the Apps for Energy prizes by demonstrating how convenient tools and services can help consumers make more informed decisions about their energy consumption and helping to stimulate the market for the development of additional innovative energy applications. Awards were in seven states: Arizona, California, Iowa, Maine, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas. For phase II, the department will select one recipient to apply the tools and software to an entire service territory, region, or community
For example, the City of Dubuque, Iowa, will match a $500,000 DOE award to implement a Smarter Energy Conservation portal that gives residents access to their electricity consumption data. It uses advanced analytics, dynamic visualization, and activity-based engagement to help consumers better understand their consumption. See the DOE press release.
Mississippi State University was named “Year One” overall winner on May 24 at the EcoCAR 2012 Competition in Los Angeles. EcoCAR 2: Plugging into the Future is a three-year contest sponsored by the Energy Department, General Motors (GM), and 25 other government and industry leaders. The challenge gives students from 15 collegiate teams the opportunity to gain real-world, eco-friendly automotive engineering experience while striving to improve the energy efficiency on a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.
For Year One, with $100,000 in prize money up for grabs, the contest emphasized engineering design though modeling and simulation to select and virtually test the teams’ plug-in hybrid electric vehicle architecture. Teams also started developing their hybrid control strategy using hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulation tools and designing major vehicle subsystems, including the hybrid powertrain, energy storage, and high-voltage electrical systems. Throughout the events in Los Angeles, EcoCAR 2 teams put their designs to the test, giving presentations to industry and government professionals based on their mechanical, electrical, control and HIL strategies; project initiation approval; outreach and business plans; and trade show display.
Mississippi State, which has placed first three times in its nine years of competitions, was followed by Ohio State and the University of Waterloo. The 15 teams also received the keys to the GM-donated 2013 Chevrolet Malibus they will spend the next two years rebuilding, testing, and refining. See the DOE press release and the EcoCAR2 website.
By Ramamoorthy Ramesh, director SunShot Initiative & Solar Energy Technologies Program
About two years ago, my good friend Arun Majumdar, director of ARPA-E, coined the term “SunShot” in one of our meetings. We decided then that all of the solar program efforts going forward would focus on the common goal of making solar electricity cost-competitive by the end of the decade. Such a goal was incredibly ambitious, so it was fitting that the initiative’s name would be inspired by President Kennedy’s “moon shot” speech that launched NASA’s effort to put a man on the moon.
We have been doing everything in our power to reduce energy costs for consumers and to ensure that American innovators and companies can lead the global transition to a clean energy economy. As the price of solar panels has decreased, the solar energy industry in the United States has exploded. Solar installations doubled from 2009 to 2010, and the domestic market grew to $6 billion in 2010.
We now know that SunShot goals are within our reach. By tapping into the best and brightest minds in science, industry, and academia, we are already making progress. The SunShot Initiative is funding more than 250 projects that explore every possible way to drive down the cost of solar, from developing an efficient solar cell that’s as thin as a human hair to creating a GIS-based tool that can perform site assessments from space. But there is much work left to do.
The SunShot Grand Challenge: Summit and Technology Forum next month will give us the opportunity to highlight the progress of the past two years and reassess the challenges that must be overcome in order to reach the 2020 goal. We are inviting everyone who is contributing to this effort to join us at what promises to be an exciting event June 13–14 in Denver, Colorado. For the rest of the story, read the complete Energy Blog.