News and Events August 02, 2012
The Energy Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on July 25 announced a $41 million investment in 13 projects, including five cost-shared projects, that will drive more efficient biofuels production and feedstock improvements. Through the joint Biomass Research and Development Initiative, USDA and the Energy Department are working to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass and increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products.
The five cost-shared projects include one in which the University of Hawaii will optimize the production of island grasses, and their harvest and preprocessing will be made compatible with the biochemical conversion to jet fuel and diesel. The five also include the Agricultural Research Service’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois, which will improve various oilseed crops for oil quality and yield using recombinant inbred lines to help production strategies. See the Energy Department press release and the Biomass Research and Development Initiative website for more information.
The Energy Department and USDA also announced $10 million to support eight research projects aimed at applying biomass genomics to improve promising biofuel feedstocks and drive more efficient, cost-effective energy production. These projects will use genetic mapping to advance sustainable biofuels production by analyzing and seeking to maximize genetic traits such as feedstock durability, tolerance of feedstocks to various environmental stresses, and the potential for feedstocks to be used in energy production. For example, Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, will explore the genetic architecture of sorghum biomass yield component traits identified using field-based analysis of the feedstock’s physical and genetic traits. See the Energy Department press release, the Biomass Research and Development Initiative website, and the list of genomics projects.
The Energy Department on July 24 recognized the first commercial, grid-connected U.S. tidal energy project. Leveraging a $10 million investment from the Energy Department, Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) will deploy its first tidal energy device into Cobscook Bay near Eastport, Maine, this summer.
Tidal energy is a clean, renewable resource that can be harnessed wherever changing tides move a significant volume of water, including off the coasts of many U.S. cities where there is high electricity demand. Near Maine, the Bay of Fundy is one of the most robust tidal energy resources in the world, as 100 billion tons of water flow in and out of the bay daily. Initially, the Cobscook Bay pilot project will provide enough renewable electricity to power between 75 and 100 homes. In addition to this Energy Department-supported pilot, ORPC plans to expand its Maine project and install additional tidal energy devices to power more than 1,000 Maine homes and businesses.
Earlier this year, the Energy Department released a nationwide tidal energy resource assessment, identifying about 250 terawatt hours of annual electric generation potential from tidal currents. Tidal power represents a major opportunity for new water power development in the United States, especially along the East Coast, as well as in Alaska and Hawaii. See the Energy Department press release, the Water Power Program website, and the tidal energy resource assessment report.
The EPA’s Energy Star program on July 25 launched the 2012 National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings with a record 3,200 buildings across the country going head to head to improve energy efficiency, lower utility costs, and protect the environment. U.S. commercial buildings are responsible for about 20% of the nation’s energy use at a cost of more than $100 billion annually in energy bills. In 2011, the 245 participants in the Energy Star competition saved $5.2 million on their utility bills and prevented nearly 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions—equal to the emissions from the electricity used by more than 3,600 homes a year.
More than 30 different types of commercial buildings are facing off, and they represent all 50 states, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The competitors range from a Kmart store on the island of St. Thomas to a federal office building in Nome, Alaska. The number of participants in the National Building Competition has jumped from 14 buildings in 2010, the competition’s first year, to 245 in 2011, to more than 3,200 this year. Competitors use the Energy Star online tool, Portfolio Manager, to measure and track their buildings’ monthly energy consumption. Last year, the University of Central Florida won after cutting the energy use of an on-campus parking garage by more than 63% in just 12 months’ time. During the competition period, the public can track the progress made by participating buildings on the Web. See the EPA press release and the Energy Star National Building Competition website for more information.
A new study of renewable energy’s technical potential finds that every state in the nation has the space and resources to generate clean energy. The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) produced the study, U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials, which looks at each state’s available renewable resources for solar, wind, biopower, geothermal, and hydropower energy. The study establishes an upper-boundary estimate of development potential. Economic or market restraints would factor into what projects might actually be deployed.
The report is valuable for decision makers and utility executives because it compares estimates across renewable energy technologies and unifies assumptions and methods. It shows the achievable energy generation of a particular technology given resource availability, system performance, topographic limitations, and environmental and land-use constraints. The study includes state-level maps and tables containing available land area (square kilometers), installed capacity (gigawatts), and electric generation (gigawatt-hours) for each technology. See the NREL press release and the complete report.
The 2012 London Olympics are underway, and the 500-acre Olympic Park constructed for the world competition is home to nine brand new sports facilities. With the enormous task of keeping tens of thousands of spectators cool, making sure the lights are on, and ensuring that hundreds of bathrooms are in good working order for the next several weeks, the London 2012 Organizing Committee and the Olympic Delivery Authority set out to build new facilities with energy efficient, sustainable, and recyclable designs. Here’s a rundown on how the London 2012 Olympics is cutting down the watts and water to keep the games clean, green, and energy efficient.
The Velodrome—one of the most iconic and sustainable buildings ever built for an Olympic Games—contains the indoor cycling track. It was built to hold 6,000 people and keep them cool this summer with a completely natural ventilation system using outside air. That’s right—no air conditioning required. In addition, the Velodrome uses natural lighting during the day to supplement fluorescent lighting, saving a lot of energy. Did we mention it collects rainwater for its main water usage with its sloped roof? Savvy indeed. For the complete story read the Energy Blog.