Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources
News and Events August 30, 2012
The Energy Department announced on August 28 new investments totaling $10 million for two university-led projects to advance innovative concentrating solar power (CSP) system technologies. The five-year projects are under the Department’s SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.
CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat that can be used to produce electricity. Heat transfer fluids are a key component of CSP systems that transfer heat from a receiver to the point where the heat is needed to drive a turbine. The investments will improve heat transfer fluids to increase efficiency and lower costs for CSP systems.
Two university teams were selected to develop new heat transfer fluids. The University of California–Los Angeles will lead a team with researchers from Yale University and the University of California–Berkeley to investigate liquid metals as potential heat transfer fluids with the ability to withstand higher temperatures. And the University of Arizona, the second awardee, is teaming with researchers from Arizona State University and Georgia Tech to develop and demonstrate new, molten salt-based fluids as possible alternatives to traditional heat transfer fluids.
The projects will focus on making dramatic improvements to fluids that gather thermal energy from the sun and transport it to the power block, where the energy is used to drive a turbine that generates electricity. Today’s state-of the-art heat transfer fluids are capable of operating at temperatures up to about 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures in excess of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit are needed to reach efficiencies greater than 50%, which allow CSP plants to capture more energy from solar power. The selected projects are working to develop heat transfer fluids that can operate at temperatures up to 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit, while simultaneously maintaining high levels of performance. See the Energy Department press release.
The Energy Department on August 23 announced that a University of Maryland team has won the Department’s first Max Tech and Beyond Appliance Design Competition. The student challenge, which involved nine teams, aims to inspire students to pursue energy efficiency improvements in home and commercial appliances, helping to develop innovative ultra-efficient products.
The University of Maryland team chose to simplify the design of a standard wall-mounted air conditioner by separating the systems that remove humidity and provide cooling. After the students tested a fully functional prototype, they found that the design reduced energy use by 30% compared with typical wall-mounted air conditioners already on the market. Because the current largest consumer of electricity in most homes nationwide is the air conditioning system, this innovative design has the potential to substantially decrease residential energy use and save consumers money.
The runner-up team from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, developed a prototype of a natural gas-fired combination water heater and clothes dryer that can use the waste heat from the clothes dryer to heat water for the next washing load. The team demonstrated that with this approach, they could get a 10% dryer efficiency improvement compared to the best comparable products on the market.
The nine faculty-led student design teams were competitively selected and funded with up to $20,000 by the Energy Department to design, build, and test their prototypes during the 2011-2012 academic year. A panel of Energy Department experts along with those from the Department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory judged each team’s prototype based on its demonstrated ability to reduce energy use by 10% or more compared to best on-market products, or based on the prototype’s ability to reduce production costs compared with typical high efficiency products already on the market by 20% or more. See the Energy Department Progress Alert and the Max Tech website.
The EPA announced on August 22 that it awarded $9 million in grants to fund 13 universities for technologies that can help predict and prepare for the impacts of extreme weather triggered by climate change may have on air and water quality.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was awarded $749,931 to examine the ability of models to represent the presence of extreme air pollution and the weather conditions. The project at MIT, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will use advanced statistical techniques to identify the drivers and occurrence of historical and future extreme air quality events in the United States from observations and models. The project combines the work of statisticians and atmospheric scientists. The other 13 grants were awarded to researchers at Columbia University, Cornell University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Mississippi State University, Ohio State University, Oregon State University, University of South Florida (two grants), Public Policy Institute of California, University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Washington. See the EPA press release and the list of projects.
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on August 9 announced that $107 million is available for a major solar power incentive program that will increase the amount of electricity generated by photovoltaic (PV) systems throughout New York. The NY-Sun Competitive PV Program, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, seeks proposals for PV systems greater than 50 kilowatts to be installed at larger commercial and industrial customer sites.
The newly established NY-Sun Competitive PV Program will make $36.4 million available in 2012 and $70.5 million in 2013. This phase of the program is available through the end of 2013 for PV projects in New York City and upstate New York at eligible customer sites. This is an expansion of a two-year-old program that previously focused on large PV systems for the commercial, industrial, and municipal sectors exclusively in New York City, Westchester County, and the lower Hudson Valley. All projects will require co-funding to best leverage state resources with funding capped at $3 million per project. See the New York press release and the NY-Sun Competitive PV Program initiative website.
The governor also signed a series of bills on August 17 as part of the NY-Sun initiative that will make solar energy more affordable for homeowners and businesses. The new laws include statewide tax credits for the lease of solar equipment and power purchase agreements, statewide sales tax exemptions for commercial solar equipment, and an extension of the real property tax abatement in New York City for solar installations. See the New York press release.
The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) National Solar Tour officially takes place on October 6, but several events kick off as early as mid-September, and some offer weeklong action. Now in its seventeenth year, the annual showcase allows participants the opportunity to see innovative green homes and buildings that use solar energy, energy efficiency, and other sustainable technologies. ASES estimates that more than 165,000 participants will visit some 5,500 buildings in 3,200 communities across the United States.
Kicking off the nationwide series of tours, the Michiana Solar Tour is scheduled to take place on September 15 at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana. The following day, the BRING Home & Garden Tour bus will take ticketholders to a variety of sustainable sites in Eugene, Oregon. Most tours will take place on or around October 6, but there are events scheduled through October 27. See the ASES National Solar Tour website and the list of tours.
A while ago, we wrote about the quiet, rural community of Vernonia, Oregon, which had been through its share of hard economic times. After two “500-year floods” in an 11-year period devastated the area, damaging its schools and the community core, the town finally started to rebuild its school last April. More than a year later, residents of Vernonia had reason to celebrate when Former Governor Ted Kulongoski joined United States Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and several other federal- and state-elected officials last week for the ribbon cutting of a new energy efficient K-12 school and community center.
The “barn raising” mentality of the Vernonia community helped make the new school and community center a success. The energy efficiency upgrades were made possible using a combination of state, federal, private sector, and non-profit funds—paired with a $13.6 million municipal bond measure passed by the town’s voters.
A $1 million grant from the Energy Department’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program helped the school district incorporate energy efficiency measures, including an energy efficient integrated heating and cooling system. This feature, along with upgrades to the building envelope and lighting, are estimated to reduce the school district’s annual energy usage by 43%—saving taxpayers more than $62,000 per year for the 135,000 square-foot school. The energy efficient upgrades provide not only a healthier learning environment for students and faculty but bolster the school district’s application for LEED Platinum designation. For the complete story, see the Energy Blog.
Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)