News and Events May 09, 2012
The Energy Department on May 8 announced that up to $5 million in funding is available this year to help expand the use of alternative fuel vehicles, including electric vehicles (EVs), in cities and towns across the country. The funding will help cut through red tape for homeowners and businesses, provide training for mechanics and first responders, and support community planning to expand fueling infrastructure. The Energy Department anticipates awarding 10 to 20 projects this year to be completed within two years. The support of alternative fuel vehicles is part of a strategy to increase energy security in the United States, reduce emissions, and help drivers save money.
This initiative will help communities streamline and quicken permitting processes, and coordinate alternative fuel vehicle and EV infrastructure deployment across state, regional, and local governments. Selected projects will also help communities build workforces with the skills to facilitate these vehicles and infrastructure by training first responders and mechanics. In addition, they will provide resources, such as educational materials and tools, to help consumers understand the economic and environmental benefits of alternative fuel vehicles, and to choose the right vehicle for their needs.
The Energy Department seeks proposals that address barriers to the adoption of these vehicles, provide safety training, coordinate initiatives, and drive market development and transformation to make alternative fuel vehicles and fueling infrastructure widely available. Proposed projects should cover each of these areas. This funding opportunity does not provide for the purchase or installation of vehicles or infrastructure. DOE strongly encourages organizations to form teams that include one or more active, designated Clean Cities coalition as well as other partners with relevant experience and expertise. Applications are due by June 18, 2012. See the Energy Department Progress Alert and the funding opportunity announcement.
The Energy Department announced on April 25 up to $2.5 million in funding is available this year to demonstrate and deploy fuel cell electric vehicles for transporting passenger baggage at major U.S. airports. Up to three projects selected for funding will demonstrate first-generation, fuel cell-powered baggage-towing tractors under real-world operating conditions, and will collect and analyze data to test their performance and cost-effectiveness. The funding will help industry bring advanced fuel cell technologies into emerging markets. It will also provide airlines and airports with new choices for ground support operations that cut energy costs, air pollution, and petroleum use.
The Energy Department seeks applicants to demonstrate and test the performance and economic viability of advanced fuel cell systems for up to three years. The 50% cost-shared projects will supply both information on fuel cell system operation and data on the economics of these vehicles to the Hydrogen Secure Data Center at the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory for analysis and comparison. Data will be collected from actual airport operations so that engineers and economic analysts can assess the technology’s performance, durability, and cost-effectiveness under the real-world conditions of commercial airports. Conclusions will be drawn from the data to evaluate the commercial viability of this fuel cell application, and the data will be shared with fuel cell manufacturers, helping to improve their designs and optimize overall performance and costs. See the DOE Progress Alert and the funding opportunity announcement.
The Energy Department on May 4 announced the regional winners of its National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The event inspires university teams across the country to create new businesses and commercialize promising energy technologies developed at U.S. universities and DOE’s national laboratories. The regional finalists—Northwestern University, University of Utah, University of Central Florida, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, and Columbia University—will go on to compete in the first national competition in Washington, D.C., June 12 to 13.
The competition aims to promote entrepreneurship in clean energy technologies that will boost U.S. competitiveness, bring cutting-edge clean energy solutions to the market, and strengthen the nation’s economic prosperity. Each team of students identified a promising clean energy technology from a university or national lab and created a business plan around the technology that detailed how they could help bring it to market. For example, MIT teamed with SolidEnergy to leverage its battery technology innovation, which improves the safety and energy density of rechargeable lithium batteries and is intended to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles. The contest includes financing, product design, scaling up production and marketing. Each of the six regional competitions across the country was run by a nonprofit or university that worked with teams over the last three years. Each of the winning regional teams has already received $100,000 in prizes to continue plans to commercialize the products. See the DOE press release.
U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on May 7 flipped the switch to start the first large-scale solar energy facility on U.S. public lands delivering power to consumers. Silver State North is a 50-megawatt plant located 40 miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada, that will use photovoltaic (PV) technology to generate enough power for about 9,000 Nevada homes. The plant was built on 618 acres of public land managed by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, after the solar facility underwent full environmental analysis and public review. It was developed by First Solar and is owned by Enbridge.
Prior to 2009, there were no solar energy projects permitted on public lands. Since then, the Interior Department has authorized 29 large-scale renewable energy projects on or involving public lands, including 16 solar facilities, 5 wind farms, and 8 geothermal plants. See the Interior Department press release.
The U.S. wind power industry posted one of its busiest quarters ever in the first quarter of 2012, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The United States saw 1,695 megawatts (MW) of wind capacity installed in that period, with 788 new turbines producing power in 17 states. No other first quarter has been as strong for the American wind power industry, AWEA reported. The wind energy industry installed 52% more MW in the first quarter than it did in the same quarter last year.
During the first quarter, California (370 MW), Oregon (308 MW) and Texas (254 MW) led all states for adding the most wind power. Rounding out the top five were Washington (127 MW) and Pennsylvania (121 MW). One notable trend, previously highlighted in AWEA’s 2011 annual market report, is that with ever-improving technology, wind power is accessing wind resources in geographic areas considered to have inadequate wind resource just a few years ago. Topping that category of states formerly considered to have inadequate wind resources is New Hampshire with 388% growth. See the AWEA press release.
Maine Project Takes Historic Step Forward in U.S. Tidal Energy Deployment
A pilot project that will generate electricity from Maine’s ocean tides could be a game-changer for America’s tidal energy industry at-large.
At the direction of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, three of the state’s electricity distributors will purchase electricity generated by Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC)—the company leading the Maine pilot project. Once finalized, the contracts will be in place for 20 years, making them the first long-term tidal energy power purchase agreements in the United States. The implications of these agreements are far-reaching, helping to advance the commercialization of tidal energy technologies. The project, which has brought more than $14 million into Maine’s economy and has created or helped retain more than 100 jobs, is supported by $10 million in funding from the Energy Department.
For the pilot phase of the project, ORPC will deploy cross flow turbine devices in Cobscook Bay, at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. These devices are designed to generate electricity over a range of water currents, capturing energy on both ebb and flood tides without the need for repositioning. To read the complete story, see the DOE Energy Blog.