News and Events July 26, 2012
The Energy Department on July 18 announced a $2.4 million investment to collect and analyze performance data for hydrogen fueling stations and advanced refueling components. The five projects—located in California, Connecticut, and Illinois—will track the performance and technical progress of innovative refueling systems at planned or existing hydrogen fueling stations in order to find ways to lower costs and improve operation. These investments are part of the department’s commitment to support U.S. leadership in advanced hydrogen and fuel cell research and to help related industries bring hydrogen technologies into the marketplace at lower cost.
As part of a two-year initiative, the Energy Department will make $2.4 million available in fiscal year 2012, with a 50% cost share provided by the award winners. The projects selected for negotiation of award include: California Air Resources Board, which will analyze an operating hydrogen refueling station that uses natural gas to produce hydrogen; California State University and Los Angeles Auxiliary Services, Inc., which will collect data from hydrogen refueling architecture deployed at California State University – Los Angeles; Gas Technology Institute in Des Plaines, Illinois, which will analyze data from five hydrogen fueling stations; and Proton Energy Systems in Wallingford, Connecticut, which will conduct two projects providing operational data from two existing stations that integrate hydrogen generation, compression, storage, and dispensing, as well as deploying an advanced high-pressure electrolyzer at an existing hydrogen fueling station.
These new projects will collect data and monitor the performance of hydrogen fuel stations, advanced components, and other innovative hydrogen technologies using renewable energy or natural gas. By analyzing performance in real-world environments, these projects will help hydrogen fueling equipment manufacturers improve the designs of existing systems. The aim is to achieve higher efficiencies and test new system components. This data will help focus future research and development efforts, driving American manufacturing competitiveness in the next generation of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
In addition, the Energy Department recently released the final report from its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) about a technology validation project that collected data from more than 180 fuel cell electric vehicles (EVs). Over six years, these vehicles made more than 500,000 trips and traveled 3.6 million miles, completing more than 33,000 fill-ups at hydrogen fueling stations across the country. The project found that these vehicles achieved more than twice the efficiency of today’s gasoline vehicles with refueling times of five minutes for four kilograms of hydrogen. See the DOE Progress Alert and the NREL final report on 180 fuel cell EVs.
The Energy Department on July 20 began accepting nominations for its 2013 Better Buildings Federal Award (BBFA), which recognizes the federal government’s highest-performing energy efficient buildings. The year-long competition challenges agencies to achieve the greatest reduction in annual energy intensity—or energy consumed per square foot—and honors the federal building that achieves the greatest energy savings at the end of the designated 12-month period. The nomination process for 2013 will be open through September 7, 2012, and the winner will be announced late next year. Meanwhile, the winner of the 2012 competition is scheduled to be announced later this year.
The department will select finalists for the competition based on energy efficiency measures deployed in the facilities, best practices in energy management undertaken by facility personnel, and institutional change programs used to encourage sustainability efforts within facilities. Once selected, the finalists will compete head-to-head to attain the greatest reduction in energy intensity over 2013. Finalists will represent a range of building types, sizes, and agency functions. The BBFA is part of the Obama Administration’s Better Buildings Initiative, challenging the private and public sectors to make quick investments to improve energy efficiency in America’s buildings by 20% over the next decade. See the DOE Progress Alert and the Federal Energy Management Program website.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced on July 24 that in partnership with the Energy Department, it will publish the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development in six southwestern states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The final solar PEIS represents a major step forward in the permitting of utility-scale solar energy on public lands throughout the west.
The solar PEIS planning effort has focused on identifying locations on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands that are most suitable for solar energy development. The solar PEIS will serve as a roadmap for solar energy development by establishing solar energy zones, which have access to existing or planned transmission and minimal resource conflicts, and incentives for development within those zones. The blueprint’s comprehensive analysis will make for faster, better permitting of large-scale solar projects on public lands.
These areas are characterized by excellent solar resources, good energy transmission potential, and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural, and historic resources. The final PEIS identifies 17 Solar Energy Zones (SEZs), totaling about 285,000 acres of public lands, as priority areas for utility-scale solar development, with the potential for creating additional zones through ongoing and future regional planning processes. The blueprint also allows for utility-scale solar development on approximately 19 million acres in “variance” areas lying outside of identified SEZs. It also excludes 78 million acres from solar energy development to protect cultural or natural resources. In total, the final PEIS estimates that 23,700 megawatts could be developed from the 17 zones and the variance areas, enough renewable energy to power 7 million U.S. homes.
The July 27 Federal Register Notice of Availability for the Final PEIS will begin a 30-day protest period, after which DOI may consider adopting the document through a Record of Decision. The BLM released the draft solar PEIS in December 2010, and in response to the over 80,000 comments received from cooperating agencies and key stakeholders, issued a supplement to the draft solar PEIS in October 2011. See the Energy Department press release and the solar PEIS.
The U.S. Navy recently used advanced biofuel to power its “Great Green Fleet,” a selection of aircraft and surface ships of the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Strike Group, to test the fuel’s performance in an operational setting. The demonstration took place on July 17 and 18 off the coast of Hawaii as part of the Rim of the Pacific Exercise. The operation was the first ever using biofuels in an exercise of this scale. The biofuel blends are 50-50 mixtures of biofuel (made from used cooking oil and algae) and either petroleum-based marine diesel or aviation fuel. Approximately 450,000 gallons of 100% biofuel were purchased in 2011 in preparation for the Great Green Fleet demonstration.
During this operation, the Great Green Fleet also showcased energy efficiency technology that increase combat capability by allowing Navy ships to achieve greater range and reduction of dependence on a vulnerable logistics supply chain. Further, this demonstration included the following maritime efficiency measures: the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to save energy, especially when replacing incandescent fixtures or in colored lighting applications; a ship energy dashboard which provides real-time situational awareness of energy demand associated with equipment; and a smart voyage planning decision aid, which sends messages to ships with optimized routing plans for both ship safety and fuel savings. The Navy signed a Statement of Cooperation with the Royal Australian Navy to formalize future cooperation on alternative fuel deployment.
The demonstration is a component of a broader administration effort to reduce reliance on imported petroleum by partnering with the private sector to speed the commercialization of next-generation biofuels. For example, in early July the Energy Department, the Navy, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $30 million in funding to support commercialization of “drop-in” biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel, and the Energy Department announced an additional $32 million to support research into advanced biofuel technologies that are in earlier stages of development. See the USDA press release , the Navy website, and the July 5 EERE Network News.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on July 19 announced revised guidelines for developers pursuing technology testing and commercial development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The revisions further clarify the regulatory process and help streamline the process for authorizing research and testing of marine hydrokinetics—energy developed from waves and ocean currents.
The revised guidelines replace 2009 guidelines; they also provide information about agency responsibilities and how best to navigate the process for obtaining a marine hydrokinetic lease and license on the OCS. They cover topics such as provisions for obtaining leases and licenses, fee structures, and hybrid (e.g., wind and marine hydrokinetic) project considerations. The guidelines were developed as part of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of the Interior and FERC. Under the Memorandum, BOEM and FERC will coordinate to ensure that marine hydrokinetic projects address public interest, including the adequate protection of fish, wildlife, and marine resources and other beneficial public uses. See the BOEM press release and the complete guidelines .
How could 35 professional sports teams and 20 million square feet of sports facilities improve their energy efficiency and be more environmentally friendly?
That’s the question the Energy Department is answering through its Better Buildings Challenge. In order to illustrate the Department’s strategy for greening professional sports facilities, we are highlighting several green sports initiatives aiming to change the way our nation does athletics.
At a recent White House event, the Obama Administration celebrated the sports industry’s successes in saving energy, reducing waste, and adopting sustainable practices at sports facilities as part of the Challenge. President Obama established the Better Buildings Challenge to encourage major corporations, universities, and state and local governments to lead the way in saving energy and money and to showcase the best energy-saving results and strategies. Better Buildings has teamed up with the Green Sports Alliance, an organization whose mission is to help sports teams, venues, and leagues be more environmentally friendly. To read the complete story, see the Energy Blog.