News and Events July 12, 2012
A new Energy Department report finds that LED lamps have a significantly lower environmental impact than incandescent lighting and a slight environmental edge over compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). The report, LED Manufacturing and Performance, compares these three technologies from the beginning to the end of their life cycles, including manufacturing, operation, and disposal. The most comprehensive study of its kind for LED lamps, the report analyzes the energy and environmental impacts of manufacturing, assembly, transport, operation, and disposal of these three lighting types. It is the first public report to consider the LED manufacturing process in depth. See the LED Manufacturing and Performance report .
This is the second report produced through a larger Energy Department project intended to assess the life-cycle environmental and resource costs of LED lighting products in comparison with traditional lighting technologies. It utilizes conclusions from the previous report, Review of the Lifecycle Energy Consumption of Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent and LED Lamps, released in February 2012, to produce a thorough assessment of the manufacturing process. See the Review of the Lifecycle Energy Consumption of Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent and LED Lamps report .
The initial report concluded that CFLs and today’s LEDs are similar in energy consumption—both consuming significantly less electricity over the same period of usage than incandescent lighting—and that operating these products consumed the majority of the energy used throughout their life cycles. Similarly, the new report finds that the energy these lighting products consume during operation makes up the majority of their environmental impact, compared to the energy consumed in manufacturing and transportation. Because of their high efficiency—consuming only 12.5 watts of electricity to produce about the same amount of light as CFLs (15 watts) and incandescents (60 watts)—LED lamps were found to be the most environmentally friendly of the three lamp types over the lifetime of the products, across 14 of the 15 impact measures examined in the study. See the DOE Progress Alert and the Solid State Lighting website.
The Energy Department on June 19 recognized three utilities—two in Minnesota and one in California—with the 2012 Public Power Wind Award. Minnesota’s Moorhead Public Service and the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, along with California’s City of Palo Alto Utilities, received the awards. The American Public Power Association (APPA) and the Energy Department’s Wind Powering America initiative created the Public Power Wind Award to recognize APPA-member utilities that demonstrate outstanding leadership in advancing wind power and furthering energy independence.
Now in its tenth year, the annual award recognizes APPA members in three categories: Small Member System, Large Member System, and Joint Action Agency. Moorhead Public Service received the Small Member System award for its years of leadership in wind energy that began with its pioneering utility-scale wind investments in 1999. The City of Palo Alto Utilities received the Large Member System award for delivering 17% of its energy mix from wind power, and for using wind energy to provide 97.5% of the renewable energy credits the utility uses for its green power program, PaloAltoGreen. And Minnesota Municipal Power Agency received the Joint Action Agency award for installing a wind turbine in each of its member communities, with which it collaborated to develop the 44-megawatt Oak Glen Wind Farm in Steele County, providing enough electricity to power 14,000 homes. See the DOE Progress Alert and the Wind Powering America website.
Increased energy efficiency will contribute to a slowing of the annual growth rate of U.S. energy consumption from 2012 to 2035, expanding at an average annual rate of 0.3%, according to a new study from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The agency recently released its Annual Energy Outlook 2012, which includes both a reference case and 29 alternative cases. By comparision to the lower projections, the U.S. growth rate of energy consumption was 1.8% in 2005. In the reference case, the share of U.S. energy generation from renewables is projected to grow from 10% to 15%. The report describes how different assumptions regarding market, policy, and technology drivers affect energy production, consumption, technology, and market trends.
According to the report, the slowdown in the rate of growth in energy usage reflects increasing energy efficiency in end-use applications, among other things. In one basic scenario, EIA estimates the overall U.S. energy consumption will expand at an average annual rate of 0.3% through 2035. During this period, the United States won’t return to the levels of energy demand growth experienced in the 20 years prior to the 2008-2009 recession. The authors cite existing federal and state energy requirements and incentives as playing a continuing role in more efficient technologies. Additionally, new federal and state policies could lead to further reductions in energy consumption. The document also examines the potential impact of technology change and the proposed vehicle fuel efficiency standards on energy consumption. See the EIA press release, and the complete report.
The $1.9 billion Sunrise Powerlink, a 500,000-volt transmission line linking San Diego, California, to the Imperial Valley, is now in service after a five-year permitting process and 18 months of construction. San Diego Gas & Electric announced on June 18 that the line will connect San Diego with one of the most renewable-rich regions in California. For environmental reasons, nearly 75% of the tower locations required helicopters to set the tower structures and it took more than 28,000 flight hours to complete the aerial construction.
The Sunrise Powerlink will soon deliver a significant amount of wind and solar power to San Diego. Over the past three years, San Diego Gas & Electric signed eight renewable energy agreements for more than 1,000 megawatts of solar and wind power from projects in Imperial County. In 2011, more than 20% of the utility’s power came from renewable energy, and by 2020, it will get 33% from renewable resources. See the San Diego Gas & Electric press release.
Global renewable power generation is expected to continue its rapid growth over the next five years, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2012, released on July 5, says that despite economic uncertainties, global power generation from hydropower, solar, wind, and other renewable sources is projected to increase by more than 40% to almost 6,400 terawatt hours by 2017. That amount would be roughly one-and-a-half times the current electricity production in the United States.
The study examines in detail 15 key markets for renewable energy, which currently represent about 80% of renewable generation, while it identifies developments that may emerge in other important markets. Of the 710 gigawatts of new global renewable electricity capacity expected, China accounts for almost 40%, with the United States, India, Germany, and Brazil also contributing to the growth. The report presents detailed forecasts for renewable energy generation and capacity for eight technologies: hydropower, bioenergy for power, onshore wind, offshore wind, solar photovoltaics (PV), concentrating solar power, geothermal, and ocean power. Hydropower is projected to have the largest increase in generation, followed by onshore wind, bioenergy, and solar PV.
This expansion is underpinned by the maturing of renewable energy technologies, in large part due to supportive policy and market frameworks. However, rapidly increasing electricity demand and energy security needs in recent years have been spurring deployment in many emerging markets. These new deployment opportunities are creating a virtuous cycle of improved global competition and cost reductions. See the IEA press release.
The Forrestal Building, which stands as the centerpiece of the Energy Department’s headquarters complex, has recently undergone a change that will save the U.S. taxpayers an estimated $600,000 every year.
“Through the installation of the new chiller plant, we’re saving money on our air conditioning bills with more efficient equipment while providing much more reliable air conditioning to our critical facilities”, said Peter O’Konski, director for the department’s Office of Administration. “That’s good for our environment, our customers, and our bottom line.”
The chiller plant was constructed through an Energy Savings Performance Contract, a public-private partnership that allowed the department to apply industry best practices and use private financing for the project. The financing costs are recovered from energy savings.
The partnership is also ushering in improvements like LED exterior lights, steam trap repairs and a variable air volume system that are expected to save $59.5 million in the long term. For the complete story, see the DOE Energy Blog.
By Roland Risser, program manager, Building Technologies Program
Even with the sweltering heat and relaxation that summer usually brings, the Energy Department’s Better Buildings Neighborhood Program is showing no sign of slowing down. This week, the program is hosting the Residential Energy Efficiency Solutions: From Innovation to Market Transformation conference, bringing together approximately 400 administrators and implementers of residential energy efficiency programs and associated stakeholders. Six new case studies, a business models guide and a video showcasing energy efficiency upgrade professionals are debuting at the conference. Each was designed to inspire communities across the country to save money, create new jobs, and foster business opportunities.
The six case studies—profiling successful workforce development and incentive initiatives in Maine, Michigan, Oregon, and Pennsylvania—are a great resource for any energy efficiency upgrade professional. Each addresses key topics such as participant recruitment, workforce training, and cost barriers that contractors and consumers face. For the complete story, see the DOE Energy Blog.