CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
November 09, 2011
Researchers from DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) jointly launched on November 3 a new online tool called the Materials Project. It operates like a "Google" of material properties, enabling scientists and engineers from universities, national laboratories, and private industry to accelerate the development of new materials, including critical materials.
Discovering new materials and strengthening the properties of existing materials are key to improving just about everything humans use. For example, advances in a group of materials called "critical materials" are more important to U.S. competitiveness than ever before, particularly in the clean energy field. Wind turbines, solar panels, and a variety of military technologies depend on these roughly 14 elements (including nine "rare earth" elements). With about 90% of these materials currently coming from China, there are concerns about potential supply shortages and disruptions.
With the Materials Project, researchers can use supercomputers to characterize properties of inorganic compounds, including their stability, voltage, capacity, and oxidation state, which had previously not been possible. The results are then organized into a database that gives all researchers at DOE’s national labs free access. The database currently contains the properties of more than 15,000 inorganic compounds, and hundreds compounds are added every day. Already, scientists are using the tool to work with several companies interested in making stronger, corrosion-resistant lightweight aluminum alloys, which could make it possible to produce lighter-weight vehicles and airplanes. Scientists have also already successfully applied the tool for prediction and discovery of materials used for clean energy technologies, including lithium-ion batteries, hydrogen storage, thermoelectrics, electrodes for fuel cells, and photovoltaics.
DOE announced on November 3 the winners of its 2011 Sustainability Awards. These awards recognize the achievements of DOE employees whose leadership and cost-reducing initiatives have saved taxpayer money by reducing the agency's use of energy, water, and paper, while improving the energy efficiency of federal buildings and vehicles. DOE's sustainability initiatives saved more than $4 million in fiscal year 2010 alone. Awards were presented to individuals, teams, and organizations for improving energy, water, and fleet efficiency, as well as reducing pollution and waste across the agency's facilities, including its national laboratories.
In FY 2010, DOE reduced its energy use per square foot by 18.4% from the FY 2003 baseline, while significantly cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The agency also reduced its water use per square foot by 12.2% from the FY 2007 baseline, and it used renewable electricity equivalent to 9.2% of its total electricity use.
The 2011 winners significantly improved DOE operations by constructing sustainable buildings, implementing green purchasing, replacing inefficient equipment, deploying renewable energy projects, and implementing other similar initiatives. DOE employees from multiple sites and offices were recognized, including the Argonne, Idaho, Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge, National Renewable Energy, Pacific Northwest, Princeton Plasma Physics, Sandia, and Savannah River national laboratories. Also recognized were the Bonneville Power Administration, Pantex Plant, East Tennessee Technology Park, Savannah River Site, Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and Y-12 National Security Complex near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. DOE's headquarters, its Carlsbad and Golden Field Offices, and the Idaho and Richland Operations Offices were also honored. See the DOE press release, the complete list of winners, and DOE's Sustainability Performance Office website.
DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has won the 2011 GreenGov Presidential Award for Green Innovation. The White House Council on Environmental Quality announced on November 1 that it recognized NREL's Green Data Center for its innovative design that minimizes its energy footprint and reduces costs without compromising service quality. The GreenGov Presidential Awards celebrate extraordinary achievement in the pursuit of President Obama's Executive Order on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.
NREL's Green Data Center is located in the lab's 220,000 square foot Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-rated Research Support Facility. Using the climate as a natural coolant, capturing waste heat to ventilate in the cooler months, and employing advanced equipment to minimize energy usage, the data center is designed to help achieve the building's net-zero energy goals. With these efforts and employee education, the data center is expected to save $200,000 in electricity costs and reduce carbon emissions by nearly 5 million pounds each year. See the DOE Progress Alert, the White House announcement, and the GreenGov Presidential Awards Web page.
The next wave of alternative fuel cars in the United States rolled into the spotlight recently. Ford opened reservations for its first all-electric passenger car, the 2012 Focus Electric, on November 2. And last month, General Motors' Chevrolet announced it will produce an all-electric version of the Chevrolet Spark mini-car, the Spark EV. Last year saw launches of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, high-profile plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) that were rolled out across the United States.
Ford's hatchback will be equipped with a 92-kilowatt electric motor and powered by a 23 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that is liquid-cooled. Ford said the EV would get a mpg rating that is competitive with other EVs in its category. The Focus Electric includes regenerative braking, a technology that Ford said captures more than 90% of the energy normally lost as heat during braking and recycles it to recharge the battery. The automaker said the vehicle's base price would be $39,200. It will be delivered in New York, New Jersey, and California first and then become available elsewhere. See the Ford press release and the Focus Electric website.
Chevrolet announced on October 12 that it would produce the Spark EV, selling it in limited markets starting in 2013. The automaker said California would be one such market for the urban-style car. Chevrolet said that it would incorporate feedback from participants in its EV demonstration fleets in Shanghai, China, (Sail EV), Korea (Cruze EV), and India (Beat EV). Battery-maker A123 Systems will supply the advanced nanophosphate lithium-ion battery packs that will power the Spark EV. Details on specific markets, range, quantities and pricing will be announced later, the company said. See the Chevrolet press release.
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CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)
Kansans Save $2.3 Million in Challenge to Change Their Energy Behavior
How did the Climate and Energy Project (CEP), a small environmental organization that has received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, achieve $2.3 million in savings annually for Kansans?
They found a way to bring together community groups in an effort to foster energy efficient behavior. CEP engaged Kansas residents through the Take Charge Challenge, a nine-month competition in which residents across 16 communities competed against each other to save the most energy and money. These communities held over 1,000 events and programs involving over 400,000 Kansans. Community leadership got together to develop strategies on how to best get their friends and families to reduce energy waste, including changing their lightbulbs or weatherizing their houses.
Participants were saving money by saving energy and winning. The prize? Four communities each received a $100,000 energy efficiency or renewable energy grant. CEP recently announced the four regional winners, who will be supported by the Kansas Corporation Commission, which has received $47.7 million in Recovery Act Funds. The Commission allocated $1.2 million dollars—$400,000 for winners, $400,000 for communities to spend on the challenge, and $220,000 to CEP for staff, travel, promotion, and approved expenses—to run the challenge. Changing habits is no easy task, but when it becomes about winning, the benefits become much clearer: saving money, saving energy, and creating a sense of community pride. See the Energy Blog post.
Walmart Sees the Light for Parking Lots
By Roland Risser, Program Manager, Building Technologies Program
I don't think about parking lots often. Hot in the summer and jammed with frantic shoppers during holidays, I try to spend as little time in them as possible. But because my passion is energy efficiency, I have recently thought a lot about how much it costs to illuminate these spaces and how much energy could be saved with updated lighting systems.
Business owners have long recognized the potential of light-emitting diode (LED) technology to save energy, reduce maintenance costs and improve environmental sustainability. We wanted to take LEDs to the next level by validating the energy and cost-savings potential for LED lighting in retail parking lots and for wide-scale adoption.
The experts in my DOE program, Building Technologies, collaborated with members of the Retailer Energy Alliance to take on this challenge. The LED Site Lighting Specification, a set of criteria retailers can follow to select energy saving and reliable LED parking lot lighting, came from that partnership.
The specification provides information about luminaires (or light fixtures), their performance, and how a site should be lighted to optimize performance. The specification addresses business aspects such as aesthetics, branding and customer safety. It also recognizes the potential risks businesses face in adopting new technologies by requiring a five-year minimum warranty for LED luminaires.
We were faced with a question: Was the market ready to adopt LEDs on a large scale? One of our commercial partners, Walmart, responded with a resounding "yes." See the Energy Blog post.
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CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)