Weekly Clean Energy Roundup: February 10, 2011

  • Clean Energy Can Meet Global Energy Needs by 2050
  • DOE, DOI Announce Offshore Wind Initiatives
  • Better Buildings Initiative Announced
  • SunShot Seeks Cost-Competitive Solar by 2020
  • DOE: $27M in Solar Manufacturing, Advanced PV
  • Next Generation Commercial Air Conditioners Get Support
  • DOE Offers Loan Guarantee for Advanced Biofuels

    Clean Energy Could Meet Most Global Energy Needs by 2050

    A combination of energy efficiency and renewable energy can meet most global energy needs by 2050, according to a report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

    Two years in the making, The Energy Report: 100% Renewable Energy by 2050 finds that most of the world’s energy needs can be met with renewable energy, with only isolated residual uses of fossil and nuclear fuels.

    The report examines how the world can shift to clean energy sources, drawing mainly on technologies available today. Energy efficiency can drive global energy demand 15% below 2005 levels in 2050, even with population increases and higher industrial output, freight, and travel. Shifting energy use from liquid fuels to electricity derived from renewable energy sources connected to a smart grid is the other major path.

    Based on a detailed analysis by energy consultancy Ecofys, the report projects an 80% reduction in carbon emissions. While the shift requires a concerted global effort, "similar to the global response to the world financial crisis," savings start to outweigh costs by 2040. By 2050, the authors project savings of about 4 trillion Euros per year, or about $5.4 trillion. See the WWF press release and The Energy Report.

    DOE, Interior Announce Offshore Wind Initiatives

    The Departments of Energy (DOE) and Interior (DOI) released a coordinated strategic plan to accelerate development of offshore wind energy, including funding opportunities for up to $50.5 million. The joint National Offshore Wind Strategy: Creating an Offshore Wind Industry in the United States is the first interagency plan on offshore wind.

    They also identified several high priority "wind energy areas" in the Mid-Atlantic as part of DOI’s "Smart from the Start" program, announced in November 2010, which expedites appropriate commercial-scale wind development. The plan includes deployment of 10 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2020 and 54 GW by 2030, enough energy to power 2.8 million and 15.2 million average American homes respectively.

    The plan focuses on overcoming three key challenges: the relatively high cost of offshore wind; technical challenges surrounding installation, operations, and grid interconnection; and the lack of site data and experience with project permitting processes.

    In support of the plan, DOE is releasing three solicitations for up to $50.5 million over 5 years, to develop breakthrough offshore wind technology and to reduce specific market barriers to its deployment.

    Funding will support development of innovative wind turbine design tools and hardware to provide a foundation for a cost-competitive U.S. offshore wind industry. It will also support baseline studies and targeted environmental research to characterize key industry sectors and factors limiting deployment of offshore wind. And it will fund development and refinement of next-generation designs for wind turbine drivetrains. For the funding opportunities (FOA) posted on Grants.gov, see the technology development and design FOA due on June 17, the removing market barriers FOA due June 10, and the turbine drivetrain FOA due on April 1.

    The four wind areas off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic states – Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia – will benefit from coordinated environmental studies, large-scale planning, and expedited approval processes.

  • In March, DOI will identify wind areas off the North Atlantic states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and launch expedited environmental reviews for those areas. A similar process will follow for the South Atlantic region, namely North Carolina, this spring.

    DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) will prepare regional environmental assessments to evaluate the effects of leasing and site assessment activities; BOEMRE could offer leases in these Mid-Atlantic areas as soon as the end of 2011 or early 2012. See the DOE press release, the complete National Offshore Wind Strategy , a fact sheet on the national offshore wind strategy, and the BOEMRE website.

    President Announces Better Buildings Initiative

    Following his State of the Union call for advancing clean energy, President Obama proposed new efforts to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

    His "Better Buildings Initiative" aims to make commercial buildings 20% more efficient over the next decade, while reducing energy bills by about $40 billion at today’s prices.

    Through a series of incentives, the plan will encourage private-sector investment to upgrade all types of buildings ranging from offices and schools to universities and hospitals. In 2010, commercial buildings consumed roughly 20% of all energy in the U.S. economy.

    The President’s budget, subject to Congressional approval, proposes:

    • tax incentives for building retrofits using a generous tax credit rather than the current deduction;
    • financing opportunities for commercial retrofits. The Small Business Administration will encourage lenders to take advantage of recently increased loan size limits to promote energy efficiency retrofit loans for small businesses;
    • a DOE pilot program would guarantee loans for energy efficiency upgrades at hospitals, schools, and commercial buildings.
    • "Race to Green" for state and municipal governments that streamline regulations and attract private investment for retrofit projects. Competitive grants would be available to states and local governments that streamline standards;
    • a Better Buildings Challenge to spur CEOs and university presidents to make their organizations leaders in saving energy;
    • training for the next generation of commercial building technology workers through a Building Construction Technology Extension Partnership modeled on the successful Manufacturing Extension Partnership at the Department of Commerce,
    • workforce training in areas such as energy auditing and building operations.

    The Better Buildings Initiative is meant to complement programs already launched for government and residential buildings, including $20 billion in funding for building energy efficiency in the Recovery Act. See the White House press release.

    DOE’s SunShot Seeks Cost-Competitive Solar Energy by 2020

    DOE’s SunShot Initiative aims to reduce the total costs of solar PV systems by 75% before the end of the decade, making them cost-competitive with conventional energy without subsidies.

    The SunShot program evokes the legacy of President Kennedy’s 1960s "moon shot" goal, which laid out a plan to regain the country’s lead in the space race and land a man on the moon.

    PV systems could be broadly deployed across the US when the cost of utility-scale installations are reduced to $1 a watt (roughly 6 cents per kilowatt-hour).

    SunShot will work to bring down the full cost of solar, including solar cells and installation, by focusing on four areas: technologies for solar cells and arrays; electronics that optimize installation performance; manufacturing process improvements; and improvements in installation, design, and permitting.

    The initiative builds on DOE’s R&D efforts in solar over the past decade, conducted in partnership with American universities, national labs, and the private sector. Over the last 10 years, DOE invested over $1 billion in solar research that’s been leveraged with significant private industry funding to support more than $2 billion in total solar R&D projects.

    This includes investments by DOE’s Office of Science, Solar Energy Technologies Program, and ARPA-E, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Innovations in both science and technology have driven the cost of solar down 60% since 1995, and have yielded a number of critical breakthroughs in solar PV performance and cost. See the DOE press release, the SunShot Initiative Web page, and the fact sheet on DOE investments in solar energy.

    DOE Invests $27 Million in Solar Manufacturing, Advanced PV

    As part of the SunShot initiative, DOE will invest up to $20.3 million to strengthen the U.S. solar manufacturing industry, improve manufacturing efficiencies, and reduce costs.

    DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Program will offer support to companies across the supply chain, including U.S. material and tool suppliers and companies developing technologies that can be dropped into current manufacturing processes.

    Award recipients are pursuing projects that focus on technology improvements that will lead to improved solar cell efficiency, reduced production costs, and a stronger domestic PV industry.

    Awardees include:

    • 1366 Technologies (Lexington, MA): $3 million to further develop a "Direct Wafer" manufacturing process that dramatically reduces the cost of producing silicon wafers for use in silicon PV modules;
    • 3M (St. Paul, MN): $4.4 million to develop and commercialize a flexible, highly transparent "topsheet" that will enable successful commercialization of flexible PV modules;
    • PPG Industries (Cheswick, PA): $3.1 million to develop materials, coating designs, and manufacturing processes to commercialize glass for the cadmium telluride (CdTe) module manufacturing industry;
    • Varian Semiconductor (Gloucester, MA): $4.8 million to bring down manufacturing costs of "interdigitated" back contact cells, the most efficient silicon solar cells on the market;
    • Veeco (Lowell, MA): $4.8 million to accelerate R&D, integration, and commercialization of an innovative thin-film CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, diselenide) multi-stage thermal deposition production system to manufacture cost-efficient CIGS PV solar cells.

    See the DOE press release and the Solar Energy Technologies Program website and the SunShot Initiative website.

    DOE also announced $7 million in funding for the fourth round of the Photovoltaic Incubator Program. The program helps to develop and commercialize promising emerging solar technologies by shortening the timeline from pre-commercial and prototype stage PV technologies to pilot and full-scale manufacturing operations. It enhances the commercial potential of new manufacturing processes and products that can realize dramatic cost reductions.

    DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab issued the funds to:

    • Caelux (Pasadena, CA) to develop a flexible solar cell manufacturing process and design that minimizes the amount of semiconducting material used.
    • Solexant (San Jose, CA) for a new thin-film material from substances that are non-toxic and not rare.
    • Stion (San Jose, CA) for a thin-film technology that allows two high-efficiency thin-film solar devices to be stacked, allowing for much better absorption of light, as well as improved power generation.
    • Crystal Solar (Santa Clara, CA) for a new technology for the fabrication, handling, processing, and packaging of very thin single crystal silicon wafers (four times thinner than standard cells) that eliminate many wasteful, expensive wafer-processing steps.

    See the DOE press release.

    Next Generation Commercial Air Conditioners Get Support

    DOE is joining with the private sector to support market-based efforts to develop and deploy next-generation high-efficiency air conditioners for commercial buildings.

    As part of a voluntary program, DOE worked with members of the DOE Commercial Building Energy Alliance, including Target and Walmart, to develop performance criteria for 10-ton capacity commercial air conditioners, also known as rooftop units or RTUs. The new specifications would result in rooftop units that use 50%-60% less energy.

    DOE’s national labs – Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, National Renewable Energy Lab, Pacific Northwest National Lab, and Oak Ridge National Lab – will provide technical assistance to manufacturers or developers who want to build the units. Interested manufacturers will receive assistance in designing, constructing, measuring, and testing the air conditioner units produced to the new specifications.

    The Commercial Building Energy Alliance is part of DOE’s Building Technologies Program, which works to develop technologies, techniques, and tools for making buildings more energy efficient, productive, and affordable. See the DOE press release, the Buildings Technologies Program website, and the Commercial Building Energy Alliances website.

    DOE Offers Loan Guarantee to Boost Advanced Biofuels

    DOE offered a $241 million loan guarantee to support Diamond Green Diesel, LLC, a proposed joint venture between Valero Energy Corp and Darling International. The partners plan to build a 137-million gallon per year diesel biofuel facility in Norco, Louisiana.

    Valero will design, build and operate the plant and will market the products; Darling will supply the feedstock from animal fats, used cooking oil, and other waste grease streams.

    DOE’s Loan Programs Office has issued loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling $17.5 billion for 18 clean energy projects.

    DOE also announced the launch of an online collaboration tool and data resource focused on bioenergy. The Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework website allows researchers, policymakers, and investors to share large data sets and the latest bioenergy research. It also facilitates collaborative production, integration, and analysis of information. See the DOE press release, the Loan Programs Office website, and the Framework website.


    EREE Network News is a weekly publication of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

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