News and Events September 19, 2013

Energy Department Dedicates Clean Energy Research Center

A modern, rectangular building.

The ESIF on NREL’s campus is the nation’s first major research facility focused on clean energy grid integration and wide-scale deployment.
Credit: Dennis Schroeder, NREL
The Energy Department on September 11 dedicated the nation’s first major research facility focused on clean energy grid integration and wide-scale deployment. Located on the campus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the new Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) will help manufacturers, utilities, and public and private sector researchers overcome the challenges of integrating clean energy and energy efficiency technologies into today’s energy infrastructure. The Energy Department also unveiled Peregrine—the newest Energy Department supercomputer. NREL collaborated with HP and Intel to develop an innovative warm-water, liquid-cooled supercomputer. Peregrine resides in the new ESIF data center, designed to be the world’s most energy-efficient high performance computing data center.
President Obama has set a goal to double renewable electricity generation once again by 2020. Seamless and efficient grid integration will help meet this ambitious target and make clean energy technologies even more affordable. To that end, ESIF will tackle generation, transmission, distribution, and end-use challenges to advance renewable energy, electric vehicles, energy storage batteries, microgrids, and next-generation building technologies.
As one of the first ESIF projects, the Energy Department, NREL, and Toyota Motor Engineering&Manufacturing, North America, announced on September 11 a collaborative research effort to integrate plug-in electric vehicles into the power grid. Scientists and engineers at ESIF and NREL’s Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility will use 20 Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicles from Toyota to develop and explore ways to prepare grid operators and energy infrastructure to accommodate the growing U.S. electric vehicle fleet. See the Energy Department press release.
The ESIF also made news on September 12 with a one-of-its-kind national secure data center dedicated to the independent analysis of advanced hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. The National Fuel Cell Technology Evaluation Center (NFCTEC) allows industry, academia, and government organizations to submit and review data gathered from projects to advance cost-effective fuel cell technology. NFCTEC will also help accelerate the commercialization of fuel cell technologies by strengthening data collection from fuel cell systems and components operating under real-world conditions, and by providing analyses of these detailed data that can be compared to technical targets. See the Energy Department Progress Alert.

Energy Department, EPA Release Used-Vehicles Fuel Economy Tool

The Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on September 12 released a new label that features EPA fuel economy estimates and carbon dioxide estimates for used vehicles sold in the United States since 1984. Consumers may create the new label electronically using a new tool on This electronic graphic can be downloaded and included in online advertisements on the web, while the paper label may be printed and affixed to the vehicle window. Because a vehicle’s fuel economy changes very little over a typical 15-year life with proper maintenance, the original EPA fuel economy estimate remains the best indicator of a used vehicle’s average gas mileage.
The Obama Administration has taken steps to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles sold in the United States, establishing the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history. These standards are expected to save consumers $1.7 trillion at the pump—or more than $8,000 in costs over the lifetime of each vehicle—and eliminate six billion metric tons of carbon pollution.
All new vehicles now include a comprehensive fuel economy and environmental window sticker from the EPA, including passenger vehicles that meet the new fuel economy standards. With the tool, used vehicle sellers can provide potential buyers with fuel economy information that they can easily understand. Last year, more than 40 million used cars were sold in the United States—roughly three times the number of new cars sold in 2012. See the Energy Department Progress Alert and the website.

University of Maryland Wins Appliance Design Competition

The Energy Department announced September 10 that the University of Maryland won the second annual Max Tech and Beyond design competition for ultra-low energy use appliances and equipment for the second year in a row. The team developed a heat pump clothes dryer that is nearly 59% more efficient than a traditional electric dryer. The winning prototype will be on display at this year’s U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in Irvine, California. With a comprehensive business plan, Ohio State University placed second in the challenge for its hybrid air/water conditioner that can achieve nearly a 73% energy cost savings over a conventional central air conditioning, dehumidification, and ventilation system.
The Max Tech and Beyond competition challenges university teams to go beyond the current “max tech,” or maximum technology performance levels, by exploring new design concepts that could become the next generation of ultra-low energy use appliances and equipment. Funded by the Energy Department’s Building Technologies Office and managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the competition encourages participating students to connect with U.S. manufacturers and license their designs after successful demonstration. In total, eight teams spent the 2012-2013 academic year in their respective laboratories, fine-tuning their innovative technologies and gaining valuable knowledge of energy efficiency. These efforts helped to produce ultra-efficient prototypes for demonstration and deployment in the global clean energy market. See the Energy Department Progress Alert.

USDA Awards $15 Million for Advanced Biofuels

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on September 12 that it is making more than $15 million in investments to support the production of advanced biofuel. USDA is funding 188 producers through the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program.
For example, Riverview, LLP, a Minnesota-based company, will use a payment to support a project that produces electricity from two anaerobic digesters which use manure from two of the company’s dairy operations to produce electricity. During the last quarter of 2012, the anaerobic digesters produced almost 4.9 million kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power more than 400 homes a year. And American Biodiesel, Inc. in California will receive payment for its quarterly production of biodiesel from a variety of sources, including canola and soybean oil. The biodiesel reduces emissions and is primarily used as an alternative to diesel fuel. See the USDA press release.


  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy |

Solar Decathlon 2013: Designing the Houses of Today

Designing an energy-efficient, solar-powered house for the Solar Decathlon is like solving a riddle that has more than one right answer. Instead of just thinking about building materials and cost in the design process, teams have to consider a myriad of factors to create a winning house.
While the design process never officially ends, the teams spend more than a year focusing on the design before breaking ground on their houses. Early on in the process, they select a target client for their house—one of the biggest impacts on their final design—and decide how they will transport their house to the competition site. The teams also have to make sure their designs meet contest criteria and rules—such as staying within a specified square footage, not exceeding solar array dimensions, and being accessible to visitors with disabilities. Throughout the process, the teams are required to submit construction plans and documentation, which are reviewed by the Solar Decathlon organizers for building code and rules compliance. Once their designs are complete, the teams can start constructing their houses. Visit the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 website and for the complete story, read the Energy Blog.

EPA Kicks Off Energy Star National Building Competition

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 20 launched the 2013 Energy Star National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings. Teams from more than 3,000 buildings across the country are competing to see who can most reduce their buildings’ energy use. In support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for buildings to cut waste and become at least 20% more energy efficient by 2020, the competition specifically targets wasted energy in commercial buildings and motivates businesses to improve energy efficiency, reduce harmful carbon pollution, and save money.
More than 25 different types of commercial buildings are facing off in this year’s Energy Star National Building Competition, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The diverse field of competitors includes the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando, Florida; a Catholic cathedral and rectory in Seattle, Washington; New York City’s historic 100 Park Avenue building; and Busch Stadium—home of the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis, Missouri. Competitors measure and track their buildings’ monthly energy consumption using Portfolio Manager, EPA’s Energy Star online energy measurement and tracking tool, and work over the year to cut energy waste through improvements that range from equipment replacement to changes in occupant behavior. Midpoint “weigh-in” results will be posted in December, with the winner announced in April 2014.
The number of participants in the Battle of the Buildings has increased from 14 buildings in 2010—the competition’s first year—to more than 3,200 buildings in 2013. Altogether, last year’s competitors cut their energy costs by more than $50 million and reduced annual greenhouse gas emissions equal to the electricity used by more than 43,000 homes. Commercial buildings in the United States are responsible for approximately 20% of both the nation’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion annually. See the EPA press release and the Battle of the Buildings website.

Renewable Energy Provided Nearly 50% of 2012 U.S. Added Capacity

Renewable energy sources in the United States accounted for nearly 50% of U.S. electric capacity added in 2012, according to a new report. Wind deployment added a record 13,124 megawatts (MW) of capacity, and solar added 3,313 MW of capacity, according to the latest edition of the Ernst & Young report on U.S. renewable energy attractiveness indices. The report highlights trends in U.S. renewable investment and ranks the states in terms of their attractiveness for clean technology investment. The indices provide scores for state renewable energy markets, renewable energy infrastructures, and their suitability for individual technologies, and are updated on a biannual basis.
California led the nation in the report’s measure of all renewable energy attractiveness, followed by Hawaii, Texas, Colorado, and Nevada. Texas was the leader in the actual installed wind base. See the Ernst & Young press release and the latest indices report.

EPA, NREL Screen Contaminated Sites for Renewable Energy Potential

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 5 updated its RE-Powering mapping and screening tool, which will now provide preliminary screening results for renewable energy potential at 66,000 contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites across the country. Working in collaboration with the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), RE-Powering developed screening criteria for solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal potential at various levels of development.
The RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative, started by EPA in 2008, encourages development of renewable energy on potentially contaminated land, landfills, and mine sites when it is aligned with a community’s vision for the site. Pulling from EPA databases of potentially and formerly contaminated lands, as well as partnering with state agencies from California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, the RE-Powering Initiative expanded the universe of sites from 24,000 to more than 66,000.
The updated tool provides insight into the significant potential for renewable energy generation on contaminated lands and landfills nationwide. For solar energy alone, EPA identified more than 10,000 contaminated sites with the potential to install a 300-kilowatt solar array or greater. Based on mapped acreage, these sites could cumulatively host solar energy systems that capture greater than 30 times more solar energy than all renewable energy systems operating in the United States today. See the EPA press release and the RE-Powering mapping tool.

USDA Awards $21 Million to Renewable and Energy Efficiency Projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on August 15 announced more than $21 million in funding for 631 projects across the nation that will help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce their energy consumption and costs, use renewable energy technologies in their operations, and conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects. Farmers, ranchers, business owners, and agriculture producers in 42 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico will receive funding. Grants and loans are made through the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
REAP helps producers reduce energy costs and increase production efficiency. For example, a family in North Carolina will use a $7,403 grant to install an energy-efficient geothermal system. And a nursery in Nevada will use a $12,476 grant to install a solar photovoltaic system to provide power for its farm and nursery. Under the terms of REAP, up to 25% of an eligible energy production or conservation project can be funded through a grant, and additional support can be provided in the form of a loan. Since the start of the Obama Administration, REAP has helped fund nearly 7,000 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide.
The funding includes almost $300,000 in grants to 19 agricultural producers and rural businesses to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems. For example, the Gunnison County Electric Association, Inc., in Gunnison, Colorado, will receive a $6,739 grant to assess the feasibility of installing a small hydropower generating plant at the Taylor Reservoir Dam. If built, the plant would generate 4 megawatts of power. See the USDA press release.
Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)