Weekly Clean Energy Roundup: 5/25/11

  • DOE Industry Partnership for Next-Generation Auto Technologies
  • Groundbreaking Nevada Solar Project Gets Loan Guarantee
  • 1800 EV Chargers Installed Under the Recovery Act
  • New Wind Turbine Testing Center in Massachusetts
  • DOE’s Los Alamos Labs Unlocking the Power of Algae Oil
  • World’s Largest Medical Center Among the Most Energy Efficient
  • USDA Program Provides More Flex-Fuel Pump Options

  • DOE Industry Partnership for Next-Generation Auto Technologies

    On May 19, DOE announced U.S. DRIVE (Driving Research and Innovation for Vehicle efficiency and Energy sustainability), a partnership with industry to speed development of advanced cars and light trucks.

    In addition to technology development, U.S. DRIVE will address the infrastructure necessary to support their widespread use. Formerly known as the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, U.S. DRIVE brings together top technical experts from DOE, its national labs, and industry partners to identify critical R&D needs. As part of that effort, the initiative will develop technical targets and strategic roadmaps, and will evaluate R&D progress on a broad range of advanced vehicle and energy infrastructure technologies.

    Partners include: the US Council for Automotive Research (the collaborative research company for Chrysler, Ford and GM), BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Shell, DTE Energy, Southern California Edison, the Electric Power Research Institute and Tesla Motors.

    The partners will work together on technologies such as batteries and electric-drive components, advanced combustion engines, lightweight materials, and fuel cells and hydrogen technologies. See the DOE press release and the Vehicle Technologies Program’s U.S. DRIVE Web page.

    Groundbreaking Nevada Solar Project Gets Loan Guarantee

    DOE announced on May 19 its offer of a conditional commitment for a $737 million loan guarantee to support a 110 MW concentrating solar power (CSP) tower facility in Nevada.

    The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, sponsored by SolarReserve LLC, will be the first of its kind in the US and the tallest molten salt tower in the world. It is located on 2,250 acres leased from the U.S. Dept of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management. The company estimates the project will create 600 solar jobs during construction and 45 operations jobs.

    The project includes a 640-foot tall solar structure and a molten salt-based collection and storage system. The tower stands in the center of 17,500 tracking mirrors (called heliostats) that focus concentrated sunlight on a receiver which sits on top of the tower. Within the receiver, the sunlight heats molten salt which then flows into a thermal storage tank where it is stored, and eventually pumped to a steam generator.

    The molten salt storage system allows the sun’s thermal energy to be stored for up to 10 hours, permitting steady, uninterrupted power during peak electricity demand, despite cloud cover, and even at night.

    The Crescent Dunes facility is expected to produce about 500,000 megawatt hours annually while avoiding nearly 290,000 tons of carbon pollution a year. Power from the project will be sold to Nevada Power Company and it will help the utility meet its Renewable Energy Standard (RES) goals for Nevada as well as its evening load requirements. See the DOE press release and the DOE Loan Programs Office website.

    1800 EV Chargers Installed Thanks to Recovery Act

    DOE reported on May 13 that over 1,800 electric vehicle (EV) chargers have been installed using Recovery Act funds. Since 2009, DOE has invested over $5 billion in grants and loans to spur the growth of the U.S. EV and advanced battery manufacturing industry.

    Under the Transportation Electrification Initiative, which received $400 million from the Recovery Act, companies are developing, deploying, and analyzing EVs and EV infrastructure, and educating the public to help accelerate market adoption of advanced EVs.

    The eight projects under the Transportation Electrification Initiative represent the world’s largest EV demonstration project and will result in deployment of over 13,000 grid-connected vehicles and 22,000 charging points in residential, commercial, and public locations nationwide by December 2013.

    Coulomb Technologies, ECOtality, General Motors, and others have been installing the charging stations. Coulomb, which is providing $22.9 million toward the project cost, is deploying EVs-including 2,000 GM Volt, 200 Ford Transit Connect, 100 Ford Focus EV, and 100 Smart EV vehicles-and is establishing 4,600 EV charging locations nationwide. Through these cost-shared projects, DOE will collect information about how consumers use and charge electric vehicles.

    To build on this foundation, DOE recently announced $5 million in EV funding for local governments and private companies to continue to accelerate installation of charging stations and infrastructure. Communities will develop strategies for EV deployment, update their EV permitting processes, develop incentive programs, or launch other local or regional initiatives that improve the experience of EV users and help bring them to market.

    See coverage in the EERE Network News of DOE’s partnership with Google. See the DOE press release and the DOE Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center.

    Also, California-based AeroVironment announced on May 18 that the BMW Group selected AeroVironment as the preferred provider of EV charging equipment, accessories, and installation services supporting the introduction of BMW’s ActiveE electric car, a new class of luxury vehicles. ActiveEs will be available major metropolitan markets: Boston, Los Angeles, NYC, San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Sacramento. Charging stations will be installed with a 240-volt electric circuit in drivers’ home garages. See the AeroVironment press release.

    Massachusetts is Winding the Future

    As of May 18, Boston is home to the largest commercial wind blade test facility in the world.

    The Wind Technology Testing Center at the Boston Autoport in Boston Harbor is open for business. To produce more power from the wind, manufacturers have been creating longer and longer blades, but until now, all blades longer than 50 meters had to be shipped to European facilities to be tested. Now that the Wind Technology Testing Center is up and running, companies can test wind blades up to 90 meters long.

    DOE pledged $2 million for the project when it selected Massachusetts for the Wind Technology Testing Center in 2007. In 2009, DOE awarded Massachusetts an additional $25 million from the Recovery Act. The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, now part of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, contributed an additional $13.2 million in grants and loans. See the Energy Blog post.

    Los Alamos Unlocking the Power of Algae Oil

    One significant challenge of using algae for fuel is cheaply separating it from the very thing that allows it to grow: water.

    Under most cultivation conditions, microalgae reach a typical cell density of less than 1 gram per liter of water; that’s 999 parts water to 1 part algae. Removing that quantity of water to get to the algae is an uphill battle. Adding to the problem is scale; the optimal size of a commercial "open-pond" algae production facility is envisioned at more than a million liters of culture each. This means the harvesting technology not only has to concentrate the algae cheaply and effectively, but it must do so at a robust flow-through rate.

    A team of DOE researchers led by Babetta Marrone of Los Alamos National Lab’s Bioscience Division is perfecting an Ultrasonic Algal Biofuel Harvester, which modulates the frequency of sound waves to separate oils, proteins, and water from algae. See the Energy Blog post.

    World’s Largest Medical Center Now Among the Most Energy Efficient

    Houston-based Texas Medical Center recently celebrated the completion of an energy efficient, 48 MW combined heat and power system (CHP). The system, funded in part by a $10 million Recovery Act grant, will save about $200 million in energy costs over the next 15 years – a big number, even by Texas standards.

    The energy intensive, sprawling complex has its own electrical company, the Thermal Energy Corporation (TECO). To keep up with energy requirements as the Medical Center grows, TECO completed an ambitious $377 million plant project, dedicated on May 17.

    The new CHP plant is a key part of that project, which is making the Texas Medical Center a model for energy efficiency, operating flexibility, and environmental sustainability. CHP systems, ideal for large energy consumers, use energy that would otherwise be wasted to heat and cool the building. See the Energy Blog post.

    Flex-Fuel Pump Options Coming to your Gas Station

    A new rule clarifies the definition of renewable energy systems in the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to include flexible fuel pumps.

    Americans will soon have more choices at the gas pump through a USDA program that will provide funding to install flexible fuel pumps. The Administration has set a goal of installing 10,000 flexible fuel pumps nationwide within five years.

    Presently, most gasoline sold in this country is a mix of 10% ethanol. However, 8-8.5 million of the approximately 250 million vehicles on the road are flexible fuel vehicles, which means they can be fueled with E85 (a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline). Only 2,350 of the more than 167,800 fueling stations nationwide offer E85.

    Earlier this year, the EPA released the results of E15 testing on vehicles years 2001 and younger. EPA’s findings confirm there are additional vehicles on the road able to use higher ethanol blends than are currently available at the local, non-E85, pump. Comments on the interim rule, which was published on April 14 in the Federal Register, must be received by June 13. See the USDA press release and the rule in the Federal Register .


    EERE 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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