News and Events August 16, 2012
The Energy Department on August 7 announced it awarded $8 million for seven new projects to create stronger and lighter materials for the next generation of U.S. vehicles. These projects include the development and validation of modeling tools to deliver higher performing carbon-fiber composites and advanced steels, as well as research into new lightweight, high-strength alloys for energy-efficient vehicle and truck engines.
The projects in Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, and Washington will help provide additional technologies and innovations that will enable manufacturers to continue to improve vehicle fuel efficiency beyond the regulated levels. Advanced materials are essential for boosting the fuel economy of cars and trucks while maintaining and improving safety and performance. Replacing cast iron and traditional steel components with lightweight materials—including advanced high-strength steel, magnesium, aluminum, and carbon fiber composites—allows vehicle manufacturers to include additional safety devices, integrated electronic systems, and emissions control equipment on vehicles without increasing their weight. Using lighter materials also reduces a vehicle’s fuel consumption.
The new investments support materials innovation in two critical areas. The first area has two projects designed to improve carbon fiber composites and advanced steel through computational design. For example, the department is investing $6 million to develop new modeling tools to advance third-generation high-strength steels. Through this project, United States Automotive Materials Partnership, based in Detroit, Michigan, will leverage an additional $2.5 million in private investment to help create modeling tools for deploying high-strength steels for lighter passenger vehicles. The second area is advanced alloy development for automotive and heavy-duty engines. Caterpillar Inc., based near Peoria, Illinois, is leveraging an Energy Department award of $3.4 million, as well as $1.5 million in private investment, to develop high-strength, iron-based alloys to allow for higher cylinder pressures and increased engine efficiency. See the Energy Department press release and the complete project list .
The U.S. Army announced on August 7 that it has issued a $7 billion Request for Proposal to procure renewable and alternative energy on federal property through power purchase agreements. The $7 billion capacity would be expended for the purchase of energy over 30 years or less from renewable energy plants that are constructed and operated by contractors using private sector financing. Contracts will be awarded to both large and small businesses among four different renewable energy technologies: solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass.
Project locations may be on any federal property located within the United States, U.S. territories, or other property under the control of the U.S. government. The solicitation will be available for 60 days, with responses due by October 5. These contracts are part of a U.S. Department of Defense goal to get 25% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2025. See the Army press release.
The Energy Department released a new report on August 14 highlighting strong growth in the U.S. wind energy market in 2011. According to the 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report, the United States remained one of the world’s largest and fastest growing wind markets in 2011. Wind power represented 32% of all new electric capacity additions in the nation last year, accounting for $14 billion in new investment. Additionally, the report found that the percentage of wind equipment made in the United States also increased dramatically. Nearly 70% of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms last year was from domestic manufacturers, doubling from 35% in 2005.
The report finds that in 2011, roughly 6,800 megawatts (MW) of new wind power capacity was added to the U.S. grid, a 31% increase from 2010 installations. The nation’s wind power capacity reached 47,000 MW by the end of 2011 and has since grown to 50,000 MW, or enough electricity to power 13 million homes annually. The country’s cumulative installed wind energy capacity grew 16% from 2010, and has increased more than 18-fold since 2000. The report also finds that six states now meet more than 10% of their total electricity needs with wind power.
According to industry estimates, the wind sector employs 75,000 American workers, including workers at manufacturing facilities up and down the supply chain, as well as engineers and construction workers who build and operate the wind farms. Despite recent technical and infrastructure improvements and continued growth in 2012, the report finds that 2013 may see a dramatic slowing of domestic wind energy deployment due in part to the possible expiration of federal renewable energy tax incentives, including the Production Tax Credit and the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit. See the Energy Department press release and the complete report.
The Obama Administration on August 7 announced that seven significant solar and wind energy projects in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming will be expedited. Together, these infrastructure projects would produce nearly 5,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power approximately 1.5 million homes.
As a part of a Presidential Executive Order issued this year, the Office of Management and Budget is charged with overseeing a government-wide effort to make the permitting and review process for infrastructure projects more efficient and effective. Among the projects are BP Wind’s proposed Mohave County Wind Farm, to be located on about 47,000 acres of public land in Arizona with the capacity to produce up to 425 MW of electricity, and NextEra’s proposed McCoy Solar Energy project, a solar photovoltaic array that would be situated on 4,893 acres in Riverside County, California, and would produce an estimated 750 MW of solar energy. See the White House press release.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) on August 9 announced it will begin reviewing a proposal to build what would be the nation’s first floating wind farm. DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is proceeding with an assessment of Statoil North America’s Hywind Maine project. The proposed wind farm, located about 12 nautical miles off the coast in water about 500 feet deep, would have a 12-megawatt capacity from four wind turbines. The area Statoil North America has requested for a commercial wind lease covers approximately 22 square miles, though the company states that the final park is expected to be closer to 4 square miles after determining its environmental impact and wind resources.
BOEM is seeking public comment on environmental issues related to the proposed leasing, construction, and operation activities in the offshore area through a Notice of Intent to Prepare an environmental impact statement. Publication of a Request for Interest in the Federal Register will open a 60-day public comment period to solicit submissions of indications of competitive interest and additional information on potential environmental consequences and other uses of the proposed lease area. Accordingly, BOEM intends to prepare a statement that will consider the reasonably foreseeable environmental consequences associated with the Hywind Maine project. See the DOI press release, the Statoil proposal, the BOEM public comment Web page, and the Statoil Hywind Web page.
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) and the Industrial Development Corp. of South Africa Ltd. (IDC) on August 7 signed a Declaration of Intent to help advance South African economic development. Under the agreement, Ex-Im Bank will assist in financing up to $2 billion worth of U.S. technologies, products, and services to South Africa’s energy sector, with an emphasis on clean energy development.
The Industrial Development Corp. is a South African national development finance institution meant to promote economic growth and industrial development. The IDC’s primary objectives is to contribute to the creation of balanced, sustainable economic growth in South Africa and on the rest of the continent. See the Ex-Im Bank press release.
These days supercomputing isn’t just for niche applications like unlocking the secrets of dark matter, finding the Higgs boson particle, or helping us understand nuclear weapons without explosive testing. With recent strides in technology and a number of high-profile success stories, advanced computing technology is catching the attention of major companies looking to lower their research and development costs while producing more efficient and more powerful energy technology.
Recently at the Workshop on the Grand Challenges of Advanced Computing for Energy Innovation near Washington, D.C., computing specialists from the private sector, national laboratories, and academia met to share best practices, discuss trends, and determine the future of supercomputing in energy technology.
Computer-assisted design software took engineers from the drawing board to the keyboard decades ago, but the bulk of variable testing still takes place with prototype models with sensors that generate a great deal of data that requires analysis. But what if engineers could develop a virtual prototype and test it under every conceivable condition on a system-wide basis? With help from the national laboratories, energy technology companies are doing just that, and recent collaborative projects and programs have benefitted both the labs and companies.
At the workshop, truck manufacturer Navistar reported significant advances in improving airflow to its vehicles, which increases fuel efficiency and durability. Instead of using expensive wind tunnel testing, Navistar used modeling and simulation software from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to make improvements for a fraction of traditional research costs. For the complete story, see the Energy Blog.