DOE will support university
research teams as they seek ways to improve heat-transfer fluids for
concentrating solar power systems.
Credit: U.S. Department of the Interior
DOE announced on January 20 two opportunities
for university researchers to advance the department's SunShot
Initiative, a program that aims to dramatically decrease the total costs
of U.S. solar energy. DOE will make up to $10 million available to
support the development of heat-transfer fluids that are more efficient,
thus reducing the cost of energy from concentrating solar power (CSP)
systems. The department also opened the second round of SunShot
Initiative postdoctoral research awards for applied research at
universities, national laboratories, and other research facilities.
Under the solicitation for heat-transfer fluids,
DOE will support university-based CSP research projects to develop and
demonstrate fluids that are more stable than current technologies at
temperatures greater than 800°C. CSP plants use mirrors to focus
sunlight to heat a working fluid, which generates steam that spins a
turbine or powers a heat engine that produces electricity.
Higher-temperature working fluids could enable CSP systems to couple
with heat engines that are capable of converting more than 50% of the
heat in the working fluid into electricity.
This funding will be awarded as part of the
Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, a program designed to
advance research, accelerate technology transfer into the marketplace,
and prepare a new generation of scientists and engineers. DOE
anticipates funding one or two projects over five years through this
opportunity. For more information, see the Funding Opportunity Announcement on DOE's Funding Opportunity Exchange website.
In addition, DOE opened the next round of
SunShot Initiative postdoctoral research awards, which will provide
students the chance to work on advanced clean energy technologies.
Recipients will conduct applied research at universities, national
laboratories, and other research facilities. This program includes an
opportunity for recipients to participate in a research exchange program
with Australia under the United States-Australia Solar Energy
Collaboration. See the DOE Progress Alert, the SunShot Postdoctoral Researchers Web page, and the SunShot Initiative website.
DOE issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement
(FOA) on January 19, offering up to $3 million in funding to administer
its Superior Energy Performance (SEP) program, which will help U.S.
manufacturers continually increase the energy efficiency of their
domestic facilities. The funding will support at least one organization
to launch, operate, and promote the SEP program. When launched later
this year, the voluntary program will provide a transparent,
step-by-step certification process to help industrial and commercial
facilities implement and validate improvements in their energy
performance and reduce their energy costs.
The SEP program will be a key component of DOE's
efforts to improve energy efficiency throughout the nation's
manufacturing sector. The program administrator will be responsible for
launching and overseeing the program during its initial stages and for
developing and executing a sustainable business model, enabling SEP to
become a fee-based, self-sufficient program within three years of the
award. Eligible applicants for this funding opportunity include U.S.
domestic entities or consortia composed of academic institutions,
non-profits [except 501(c)(4) non-profits], and for-profit private
entities. Letters of intent in connection with this opportunity are due
February 21, and awards are expected by June. See the DOE Progress Alert, the FOA on DOE's Funding Opportunity Exchange website, and the SEP Web page.
Austin Using Green Innovation to Beat the Utility Blues
Sewage treatment has always been a dirty
business, dating back to the frontier days when "waste management" meant
the guy who followed after the horses with a bucket and shovel.
However, thanks to modern technology, there are ways to turn some of the
treatment processes into clean energy that can power public
The Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant in
Austin, Texas, located on 1,200 acres of land along the Colorado River,
is a national model for innovative approaches to improve the
environment, such as reducing waste, producing compost, and protecting
ecosystems. Each year, thousands of tons of biosolids, the nutrient-rich
organic materials resulting from the treatment of sewage sludge, are
anaerobically digested and composted with Austin's yard trimmings into
an EPA-certified soil conditioner called "Dillo Dirt" (as in armadillo).
This popular product is sold to commercial vendors for sale and use in
public landscaping projects across the city. Demand for "Dillo Dirt"
often exceeds available supply.
During the 1980s, an initial effort to improve
energy efficiency at the plant started when two 400-kW converted diesel
generators were installed. The generators were fueled by a mixture of
digester biogas from the site and diesel fuel. This worked fairly well,
but after 20+ years the old generators are no longer serviceable or
repairable, and in recent years the gas has had to be flared. Austin
decided to use $1.2 million of its Energy Efficiency and Conservation
Block Grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to
replace the old equipment with modern "biogas-rated" generation
equipment. Read the full story on DOE's Energy Blog.
New Thermal Window Technology Lessens Menace of Jack Frost
By Roland Risser, program manager, Building Technologies Program
Say what you want about the joys of Jack Frost
nipping at your nose, but when it comes to winter wonderlands, I like
mine outdoors. Etching icy messages on the insides of my windows is not
exactly cozy. Therefore, I'm thankful for technology that provides an
efficient and effective barrier from inclement weather.
Traco, a division of Kawneer and window
manufacturer since the early 1940s, recently partnered with the DOE's
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to utilize funds from
the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to develop new window
technology. These OptiQ™ Ultra Thermal Windows can reduce energy loss
by up to 40% compared to the efficient, commercially available
double-pane low-emissivity windows that are already on the market.
Each year, windows account for an estimated 4
quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy lost in U.S.
buildings, totaling over $35 billion in heating and air conditioning
costs. Future window systems like the OptiQ™ Ultra Thermal Windows will
eventually outperform the best-insulated walls or roofs in terms of
annual energy performance, peak demand reduction, and costs. This new
innovation holds promise to boost both savings and comfort. Read the full story on DOE's Energy Blog.