News and Events June 28, 2012
Energy efficiency and renewable energy projects from DOE national laboratories have won 12 of the 100 awards given out this year by R&D Magazine. The awards are presented annually to recognize exceptional new products, processes, materials, and software developed throughout the world and introduced into the market the previous year. Overall, DOE won 36 awards, including those funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Scientists and engineers from DOE’s national laboratories and facilities received the honors from an independent panel of judges.
There were eight DOE winners for energy efficiency. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was cited for four projects: NanoSHIELD, a protective coating that can extend the life of costly cutting and boring tools by more than 20%; the robotic hand, which costs approximately 10 times less than similar devices while commanding 10 times more power than other electric systems; the asymmetric rolling mill, which provides a way to efficiently process sheet and plate materials, accelerating the production and availability of low-cost magnesium; and the low-frequency RF plasma source, a low-cost plasma generator for research, development, and production of nanometer scale materials at lower temperatures, faster rates, and with enhanced properties. In addition, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) earned honors for its ultra-fast, large-scale efficient boriding—a thermo-chemical surface hardening process in which boron atoms are diffused into a surface—that can drastically reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve the performance and reliability of machine components. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) won for its desiccant-enhanced evaporative air-conditioning (DEVAP) systems, which cool commercial buildings using a small fraction of the energy used by traditional coolers. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) won for co-developing graphene nanostructures for lithium batteries, in which small quantities of graphene can dramatically improve the performance and power of lithium-ion batteries so batteries last longer and recharge quickly. And, Sandia National Laboratories was honored for the Sandia cooler, technology that significantly reduces the energy needed to cool the processor chips in data centers and large-scale computing environments. See the press releases from ORNL, ANL, NREL, PNNL, and Sandia.
In renewable energy categories, there were four R&D 100 award picks. ANL and several partners developed a novel high-energy and high-power cathode material that is especially suited for use in lithium-ion batteries used in plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) was recognized for its platinum monolayer electrocatalysts for fuel cell cathodes, which have high activity, stability, and durability, while containing only about one-tenth the platinum of conventional catalysts used in fuel cells, significantly reducing overall costs. NREL was tapped for its SJ3 solar cell, which achieves a world-record conversion efficiency of 43.5% with the potential to reach 50% by using a three-layered SJ3 cell to capture different light frequencies, ensuring the best conversion of the energy from photons to electrons. And, Sandia’s microsystems enabled photovoltaics were recognized because the glitter-sized PV cells created using microdesign and microfabrication techniques can be released into a solution and “printed” onto a low-cost substrate. See the press releases from ANL, BNL, NREL, and Sandia.
Since 1963, when R&D Magazine’s annual competition began, DOE has received more than 800 R&D 100 awards in areas such as energy and basic scientific applications. See the DOE Progress Alert, the DOE press release and the complete list of R&D 100 winners.
The Energy Department and Environment Canada released on June 21 the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue Action Plan II, outlining the next phase of activities the two countries will undertake to jointly advance clean energy technologies. The new action plan renews U.S. and Canadian commitment to work together to build smart electrical grids, and advance clean energy research and development. Action Plan II places a greater emphasis on energy efficiency to take advantage of the approaches and tools in each country to help facilitate the uptake of energy efficient technologies and practices.
Among the initiatives under Action Plan II will be an initiative to clarify U.S. and Canadian regulatory authorities for deployment of offshore renewable energy and technologies. The plan also calls for new investigations of the potential of power storage technologies. Also, the plan calls for discussions among key Canadian federal departments and provincial governments, the Energy Department, and U.S. national labs regarding options to harmonize data gathering related to electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for North America.
President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper established the Clean Energy Dialogue in 2009 to encourage the development of clean energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change in both countries. See the DOE press release and the complete plan.
The Energy Department and the National Park Service announced on June 19 that five national parks around the country will deploy fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles as part of an expanded partnership, helping to protect some of the nation’s most prized natural environments. The Energy Department is providing $1.1 million for the park projects. Each of these national parks is collaborating with at least one of the Energy Department’s Clean Cities coalitions to choose the best clean energy options for its fleet. The parks include Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California; Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado; San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Texas; and Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.
Some of the alternative fuel vehicles are multi-passenger rides devoted to park visitors, and that means even greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The new projects build upon the success of the program launched last year at Grand Teton, Wyoming; Mammoth Cave, Kentucky; and Yellowstone, Wyoming. The parks predict their combined projects will save more than 13,000 equivalent gallons of gasoline, avoid the emission of about 100 tons of greenhouse gases annually, and reach 6.5 million visitors each year. The Energy Department has been working with the National Park Service since 1999 to support the use of clean, renewable and alternative fuels, electric vehicles, and other energy-saving practices to help preserve air quality and promote the use of domestic energy resources in the parks. See the Energy Department press release, the Clean Cities website, and the National Park Service’s Green Parks Plan website.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) approved on June 21 a 350-megawatt (MW) solar energy project on tribal trust lands of the Moapa Band (Tribe) of Paiute Indians in Clark County, Nevada. The project marks a milestone as the first utility-scale solar project approved for development on tribal lands. The record of decision approves the construction, operation, and maintenance of a low-impact photovoltaic (PV) facility and associated infrastructure on about 2,000 acres of the Tribe’s reservation, located 30 miles north of Las Vegas. The project is expected to generate about 400 jobs at peak construction and 15-20 permanent jobs.
Proposed by K Road Moapa Solar LLC, the project would be built in three phases of 100-150 megawatts each. In addition to PV panel arrays, major project components include a 500-kilovolt (kV) transmission line to deliver power to the grid and a 12-kV transmission line to the existing Moapa Travel Plaza after Phase 1 is complete. About 12 acres of U.S. public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management would be required for the 500-kV transmission line. The project will generate lease income for the tribe, create new jobs and employment opportunities for tribal members, and connect the existing tribally owned travel plaza to the electrical grid, decreasing its dependence on a diesel-powered generator. To minimize and mitigate potential environmental impacts, a Desert Tortoise translocation plan, a bird and bat Conservation strategy, and a weed management plan will be implemented, and biologists will conduct natural resources monitoring during all surface disturbing activities. See the Interior Department press release.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued on June 21 a final rule that requires transmission providers to offer customers the option of scheduling transmission service at 15-minute intervals instead of one-hour intervals. The rule also requires generators using variable energy resources, such as wind and solar, to provide transmission owners with certain data to support power production forecasting. According to FERC, the ruling will promote more efficient operation of the transmission system amid increasing integration of variable renewable energy resources on the grid. The ruling also benefits electric consumers by ensuring that services are provided at reasonable rates.
The final rule finds that while power production forecasts help transmission providers manage reserves more efficiently, forecasts are only as good as the data on which they rely. By requiring new interconnection customers whose variable energy resources to provide meteorological and operational data to transmission providers forecasting power production, FERC finds that transmission providers will better be able to manage resource variability. The final rule takes effect 12 months after publication in the Federal Register. See the FERC press release.
By Ramamoorthy Ramesh, Director, SunShot Initiative & Solar Energy Technologies Program
In my two years as the director of the Energy Department’s Solar Energy Technologies Program, I have often been accused of being an eternal optimist. I see our nation’s energy challenges as an incredible opportunity—one that has the potential to revolutionize our economy, environment, and national security.
That’s why, back in 2010, we established the SunShot Initiative to decrease the total installed price of solar energy by 75% by 2020. We took our inspiration from President Kennedy’s 1962 “moon shot” speech that set the country on a path to regain the lead in the space race and land a man on the moon. Many thought a manned lunar mission was beyond NASA’s capabilities, but this bold move ultimately united the country when it proved successful.
There were plenty of naysayers when we launched the SunShot Initiative—even within the industry—who said that subsidy-free, cost-competitive solar couldn’t happen in this decade. But we didn’t listen to them. And now—as the price of solar panels decreases and America’s solar energy industry explodes—many of those same naysayers are changing their tune. See the complete post on the Energy Blog.