CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
September 28, 2011
Participants in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon 2011 gather for the event kick-off in Washington, D.C.
Teams from Purdue University and Parsons the New School for Design/Stevens Institute of Technology, on September 27, tied for first in the affordability contest of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011. Both teams earned the maximum 100 contest points, which pushed Purdue to the top of the standings. Team Belgium from Ghent University was the runner-up in the contest, which is the first of 10 events in the Solar Decathlon. The first-time challenge rewards teams that build houses with estimated costs at or below $250,000. The competition is on-going on the National Mall's West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C.
Overall, 19 collegiate teams are represented in the showdown to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are affordable, energy efficient, attractive, and easy to live in. Contests are completed at different times. On September 29, a jury will name the winner of the engineering contest based on criteria such as efficiency and innovation. A day later, communications professionals will pick the the team deemed best at educating others about their houses, their experiences, and their projects as winner of the communications contest. The overall winner of the event will be named on October 1, the day before the Solar Decathlon closes.
Competing this year are teams that came from universities in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia, as well as Belgium, Canada, China, and New Zealand. The Solar Decathlon, launched in 2002 and organized by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is free to the public. In addition to educating the public about how to save energy and save money, the Solar Decathlon provides unique training to the nation’s next generation of engineers and architects. Over the last decade, the competition has prepared approximately 15,000 students to become future innovators and entrepreneurs in clean energy technology and efficient building design.
The houses are open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays. Visitors are able to tour the houses, gather ideas to use in their own homes, and learn how energy-saving features can help them save money. Fans may also follow the competition in real time on Facebook at Facebook.com/DOESolarDecathlon and Twitter at @Solar_Decathlon. See the DOE press release.
DOE announced on September 26 the availability of up to $10 million in funding for energy-saving lighting technologies. DOE will invest in projects to accelerate manufacturing research and development related to solid-state lighting (SSL) technologies. The focus will be on applications that use semiconductors to provide light in such devices as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). The goal is to strengthen the United States' position as a global manufacturing leader and help create jobs. LEDs and OLEDs could be ten times more efficient than incandescent bulbs. By 2030, SSL could reduce national lighting electricity use by one-fourth, which would save $15 billion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 21 million cars off the road.
DOE is seeking applications for research and development projects to drive down the cost of, and improve the quality of SSL products through manufacturing improvements. Between two and four projects will be selected to receive up to $10 million, and they will focus on achieving significant cost reductions through improvements in manufacturing equipment, processes, or monitoring techniques. Selected projects will address the technical challenges that must be overcome before SSL can compete with existing lighting on a first-cost basis. This is the third round of funding directed toward the SSL research and development program area, which has been funded with $28.2 million in federal funding and leveraged $36.8 million in funding from the private sector over the course of the program. Applications are due December 15. See the DOE Progress Alert and DOE's Funding Opportunity Exchange website.
Olaf Sander and Zump Urycki evaluate the heating system of a home as part of the DOE Weatherization Assistance Program.
DOE announced on September 21 that its Weatherization Assistance Program has now made more than 500,000 low-income homes nationwide more energy efficient, using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The weatherization program is helping families save hundreds of dollars a year on their energy bills, while employing more than 14,000 workers across the country and others throughout the supply chain.
According to a new solar industry report, the solar energy industry has been adding jobs at a faster rate than other sectors during the last two years. The new figures from the nonprofit Solar Foundation showed that the number of workers in the U.S. solar energy industry has more than doubled since 2009, growing from 46,000 workers then to more than 100,000 today. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) also released a report on September 19 that found the demand for U.S. solar photovoltaics grew by nearly 70% from the previous year. See the DOE press release, the Solar Foundation press release, and the SEIA report.
DOE announced on September 27 it will award $8.4 million over three to four years for suppliers and vehicle manufacturers to develop and demonstrate technologies that increase the efficiency of engines and powertrain systems. Four projects in Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin will focus on innovations that achieve breakthrough thermal efficiencies while meeting federal emission standards. The technologies will include passenger vehicles—cars and light trucks—as well as commercial vehicles, including long-haul tractor-trailers. These technologies will help automakers and truck engine manufacturers achieve higher efficiencies than ever before, while meeting or exceeding the recently announced vehicle fuel economy standards intended to help reduce U.S. demand for oil imports and save consumers money at the pump.
The projects will focus on developing and testing new technologies that could reduce cost and address technical barriers currently inhibiting the wider use of advanced engine technologies in the mass market. Projects will also validate technologies developed at the engine or system level to help ensure that these innovations can advance into broad commercial use at the scale needed to reduce vehicle fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions nationally.
Filter Sensing Technologies, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, will develop and demonstrate low-cost sensors and controls that can reduce the overall cost and complexity of engine and emission control systems. General Motors of Pontiac, Michigan, will focus on a novel technology that enables the use of high dilution in the combustion chamber, significantly improving the fuel economy. Eaton Corporation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will work on an advanced component technology for diesel engine heat recovery systems that are capable of improving the fuel economy of heavy-duty vehicles. And, MAHLE Powertrain of Novi, Michigan, will develop a next-generation combined ignition/turbo-charging concept that will enable the implementation of ultra lean-burn technology to engines. See the DOE press release.
DOE announced on September 23 that it had finalized three loan guarantees totaling $625 million in support of a biorefinery in Iowa, a geothermal power project in Nevada, and New Hampshire's largest wind farm.
POET's Project LIBERTY, supported by a $105 million guarantee, will be built in Emmetsburg, Iowa. It is expected to produce up to 25 million gallons of ethanol per year. POET estimates the project will fund approximately 200 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs. It is also expected to generate about $14 million in new revenue to area farmers who will provide the corn crop residue. The project's innovative process uses enzymes to convert cellulose from corncobs, corn leaves, and corn husks into ethanol. See the DOE press release.
The Nevada project, supported by a $350 million loan guarantee to Ormat Nevada, Inc., is expected to produce up to 113 megawatts of baseload power from three geothermal power facilities. It will increase geothermal power production in Nevada by nearly 25%. The company estimates the project will fund 332 jobs during construction and 64 during operations. The project is expected to avoid nearly 580,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually and produce enough electricity to power nearly 88,000 Nevada homes. See the DOE press release.
The New Hampshire project, using a $168.9 million guarantee to Granite Reliable Power, LLC, will help support a 99-megawatt wind generation project that will be the Granite State's largest wind farm. Project sponsors, BAIF Granite Holdings, LLC and Freshet Wind Energy, LLC, expect the project will fund nearly 200 construction jobs. It is expected to generate enough electricity to power nearly 20,000 homes and avoid more than 124,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. See the DOE press release.
DOE's Loan Programs Office has issued loans or loan guarantees, or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling nearly $40 billion to support more than 40 clean energy projects across the United States. See the Loan Programs Office website.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is accelerating clean energy innovations to reduce risks to the military, enhance energy security, and save money, according to a report released September 21 by The Pew Charitable Trusts. DOD's clean energy investments increased 300% to $1.2 billion between 2006 and 2009. And the report, From Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America's Armed Forces, projects clean energy spending will reach more than $10 billion annually by 2030.
DOD's priorities for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources have been driven by recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, where fuel shipments account for 80% of all supply convoys. The report finds that DOD's major energy challenges include risks associated with transporting liquid fuels to the battlefield, growing oil price volatility, the impact of fuel dependence on operational effectiveness, and compliance with federal energy policies.
The Pew report documents how DOD is helping accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies in three key areas: vehicle efficiency, advanced biofuels, and energy efficiency and renewable energy at bases. DOD spending to harness clean energy technologies for air, land, and sea vehicles is projected to grow to $2.25 billion annually by 2015. The branches of the military are also embracing the use of advanced biofuels. For example, the Air Force intends to use biofuels for 50% of its domestic aviation needs by 2016, and the department is speeding up research and testing of biofuels. And, DOD is looking to improve energy efficiency in its more than 500,000 buildings and structures at 500 major installations around the world. Currently, DOD has 450 ongoing renewable energy projects that are producing or procuring 9.6% of its energy from clean sources in fiscal year 2010. See the Pew press release and the full report.
Many great technology stories have started with just one humble computer and a desk. Twenty years ago, DOE's Alternative Fuel and Advanced Technology Vehicle Data Center (AFDC) started just this way at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In September 1991, the AFDC began as a telephone hotline and dial-up computer network in response to the Alternative Motor Fuels Act. Although it now hosts more than 20 electronic tools and attracts millions of Web users annually, the AFDC's mission remains the same. It helps local governments, businesses, and members of the public find solutions to reduce their petroleum use in transportation, increasing our environmental, energy, and economic security.
Using the AFDC is like having hundreds of experts at your fingertips. Because the AFDC's data are based on the latest research from the Energy Department's national laboratories, it's a great source of objective, reliable information. For example, a comprehensive chart comparing the attributes of hybrid, plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV), and all-electric vehicles (EVs) includes reliable statistics on fuel economy, emissions, fuel cost savings, and energy security. The charging section of the Center's website helps potential PHEV and EV buyers find out everything they need to know about charging at home, at work, or on the street. Case studies highlight cities that have led the way in getting ready for PHEVs and EVs, helping other regions learn from their success and replicate their efforts. Similar information is available for all of the alternative fuels, including biofuels, natural gas, and propane. See the Energy Blog post.
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