CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)
News and Events January 30, 2013
The Energy Department on January 25 announced a new $12 million funding opportunity to develop innovative, ultra-efficient solar devices that will help close the gap with the theoretical efficiency limit. That limit is defined as the highest potential percentage of sunlight that can be converted directly into electricity. Currently, a sizable gap still exists between the efficiency of laboratory and commercial-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and the predicted maximum efficiencies of different solar cell materials. Accelerating breakthroughs in solar cell conversion efficiency will help continue to lower the overall cost of solar power.
The new initiative—the Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency II (FPACE II)—aims to accelerate record-breaking conversion efficiencies that will close the gap with this theoretical limit for a variety of PV cells, including silicon-based technologies and thin-film materials such as cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium diselenide. The new funding opportunity builds on the SunShot Initiative’s FPACE I projects, awarded in September 2011, which are aimed at eliminating the gap between the efficiencies of best prototype cells achieved in the laboratory and the efficiencies of typical cells produced on manufacturing lines.
In the current solicitation, FPACE II seeks proposals from collaborative teams of researchers from national laboratories, universities, and industry that can develop materials model systems and fabricate prototype devices that achieve efficiencies near the theoretical limit. See the Energy Department Progress Alert and the Funding Opportunity Announcement.
The U.S. biodiesel industry broke the billion-gallon mark in 2012 for the second consecutive year, according to year-end production figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) noted that the total volume of nearly 1.1 billion gallons exceeded the 2011 production by 6 million gallons.
December production totaled just 59 million gallons, the lowest monthly volume of the year. The National Biodiesel Board attributed the production drop to uncertainty over the biodiesel tax incentive. Congress renewed the $1-per-gallon incentive on New Year’s Day as part of the so-called “fiscal cliff” legislation. Biodiesel production is reported under the EPA’s Biomass-based Diesel category in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The fuel is made from a mix of resources, such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil, and animal fats. See the NBB press release and the EPA’s RFS Web page.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) on January 18 announced that it has designated 192,100 acres of public land across Arizona as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development. The publication of the Record of Decision for this initiative, known as the Restoration Design Energy Project, caps a three-year, statewide environmental analysis of disturbed land and other areas that could accommodate commercial renewable energy projects. The DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) eliminated from consideration lands in Arizona containing sensitive resources requiring protection, such as endangered or threatened wildlife and sites of cultural and historic importance. The plan does not eliminate the need for further environmental review of individual sites.
The Record of Decision also establishes the third solar zone on public lands in Arizona and the eighteenth nationwide: the new 2,550-acre Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone is located in Yuma County near Dateland, and the BLM estimates that the zone could generate more than 20 megawatts through utility-scale solar projects. The Solar Energy Zones are part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to facilitate solar energy development by identifying areas in six states in the West with high solar potential, few resource conflicts, and access to existing or planned transmission. Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah are included in the zones. See the Interior Department press release and the BLM’s Record of Decision.
The Toyota Prius C topped the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) fifteenth annual “Greenest” car ratings in a list released on January 16. The compact, which debuted in the U.S. market last year, had a “Green Score” of 58 in the ACEEE measure of comprehensive eco-performance, which reflects the vehicle’s rating of 53 miles per gallon (MPG) in the city and 46 MPG highway. Overall, the list was dominated by hybrid-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles (EV).
Rounding out the top five were the Honda FIT, Prius 1.8 liter, Prius plug-in hybrid, and the Honda Civic hybrid. The Ford Focus with a lithium-ion battery ranked tenth. The Scion IQ and the Mercedes-Benz Smart ForTwo coupe were the only non-hybrid, non-plug-in vehicles on the list.
Fuel economy for EVs is provided in miles per kilowatt-hour, while the rating for plug-in hybrids is provided in MPG for gasoline operation and in miles per kilowatt-hour for electric operation. ACEEE is a nonprofit organization that acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. See the ACEEE press release and the full “Greenest” car list.
How do we stay competitive in the global wind energy market? A key component is continued leadership in manufacturing small wind turbines—those rated at 100 kilowatts or less.
Historically, the United States has been the leading manufacturer of small wind turbines, helping to boost economic growth and create job opportunities. U.S. small wind manufacturers report using 80-85 percent domestic content in their turbines, and the small wind industry represents an estimated 1,600 American jobs. Still, in the increasingly competitive global wind market—our continued leadership in this field is far from guaranteed.
To help U.S. small turbine manufacturers maintain their leading international market position, we’re investing in two projects—led by Maine’s Pika Energy and Oklahoma’s Bergey Windpower Company—as part of the Energy Department’s Small Wind Turbine Competitiveness Improvement Project. This initiative supports manufacturers in their efforts to lower the cost of energy from small turbines by improving their components and upgrading their manufacturing processes. To read the complete story, see the Energy Blog.