Clean Energy Roundup: 6/15/11

  • 5M Smart Meters Installed Nationwide
  • $2B Loan Guarantees for Concentrating Solar Plants
  • Drop-In Biofuels Get $36M
  • $70M to Advance Geothermal Energy
  • Nevada Geothermal Project Gets Conditional Loan Guarantee
  • Energy Performance and Building Appraisals Partnership 
  • High Energy Density Capacitor Has Potential for Clean Energy Applications

  • Five Million Smart Meters are Installed Nationwide

    Over five million smart meters have been installed nationwide as part of Recovery Act-funded efforts to accelerate modernization of the U.S. electric grid, DOE reported on June 13.

    Nearly 90% of the meters installed to date are in Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas.

    Smart meters provide utility companies with greater information about how much electricity is being used throughout their service areas. The meters also give people  access to real-time information about their energy consumption, allowing them to make informed decisions about how they use their electricity.

    Transforming the current electric grid into a more intelligent system involves a wide range of advanced technologies, including smart meters, which will improve the reliability and security of the grid. Such meters will allow for the integration of renewable energy sources and help prevent blackouts and restore power more quickly when outages occur.

    Florida Power & Light is deploying an advanced metering infrastructure; as of April 30, the company had installed 1.8 million smart meters. A project of CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric involves deploying a fully integrated advanced metering system and Web portal access to over 2.2 million customers; the company has installed 1.3 million smart meters.

    DOE also announced it plans to create a data map to allow homeowners to contribute data and information about the electricity provided by their utility companies. The map will show where quality information is available nationwide based on this voluntary  input. DOE will work with stakeholders during the summer to design the website that will launch in the fall. See the DOE press release and the website.

    $2 Billion Loan Guarantees for Concentrating Solar Plants

    DOE announced on June 14 its offer of $2 billion in conditional commitments to provide loan guarantees to support two concentrating solar power (CSP) projects in California, including $1.2 billion for the Mojave Solar Project in San Bernardino County and up to $681.6 million to the Genesis Solar Project, located on a Bureau of Land Management site in Riverside County. At 250 MW each, the combined capacity will double the installed CSP capacity in the US.

    Abengoa Solar, the Mojave project sponsor, estimates the project will create over 830 construction jobs and 70 permanent solar jobs. NextEra Energy Resources, the Genesis project sponsor, estimates its project will create about 800 construction jobs and 47 operating jobs.

    The Mojave project will be the first U.S. utility-scale deployment of Abengoa’s latest parabolic trough technology, originally developed in connection with a DOE award provided by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The solar collector assembly heat collection element uses an advanced receiver tube to increase thermal efficiency by up to 30% compared to the nation’s first CSP plants. In addition, advanced mirror technology will improve reflectivity and accuracy, allowing collection of the same amount of energy as older technologies from a smaller footprint. The project will generate enough electricity to power more than 53,000 homes.

    The Genesis solar project will feature parabolic trough solar thermal technology that has been used commercially for more than two decades. The project is expected to produce enough electricity to power over 48,000 homes.

    To date, DOE’s Loan Programs Office has committed over $10 billion in loan guarantees to solar generation projects. See the DOE press release and the Loan Programs Office website.

    Drop-In Biofuels Get up to $36 Million in DOE Support

    DOE announced on June 10 it will offer up to $36 million to fund six small-scale projects that will advance the technology and process integration needed to produce “drop-in” advanced biofuels and other bio-based chemicals.

    The projects, in California, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin, aim to improve the economics and efficiency of biological and chemical processes that convert non-food biomass feedstocks into replacements for petroleum-based feedstocks.

    Selections include a project by HCL CleanTech, in Oxford, North Carolina, that will develop and demonstrate process improvements for pretreatment, conversion to sugars, and subsequent conversion of those sugars to fuels. An undertaking by the Texas Engineering Experiment Station in College Station, Texas, will focus on developing a novel pretreatment for cellulosic biomass feedstocks using a combination of chemical and mechanical processing.

    DOE’s Biomass Program works with industry, academia, and national laboratory partners on a balanced portfolio of research in biomass feedstocks and conversion technologies. See the DOE press release and the Biomass Program website.

    DOE Announces up to $70 Million to Advance Geothermal Energy

    DOE announced on June 8 the availability of up to $70 million over three years for technology advancements in geothermal energy. The goal is to reduce upfront costs and lower the price of geothermal energy.

    DOE is targeting innovations in exploration technologies to locate geothermal resources, as well as improvements in resource characterization, drilling, and reservoir engineering techniques.

    This funding opportunity will support DOE’s partnerships with industry, national laboratories, and academia to advance key technology research areas including advanced exploratory drilling to reduce costs; advanced well completion; tools to isolate fracture zones within a well by working to control injection and production of water in geothermal systems; observation tools and data collection systems for reservoir stimulation; geophysical exploration technologies such as remote sensing and advanced seismic surveying to locate hidden resources; and geochemistry and rock-fluid interactions. See the DOE press release, the funding description, and Geothermal Technologies Program website.

    And on June 14, the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a report outlining ways to achieve at least a tenfold increase in global production of heat and electricity from geothermal energy between now and 2050. The IEA said that with a combination of policy actions that encourage the development of untapped geothermal resources and new technologies, geothermal energy can account for around 3.5% of annual global electricity production and 3.9% of energy for heat by 2050, an increase from current levels of 0.3% and 0.2%, respectively. See the IEA press release.

    DOE Offers Conditional Loan Guarantee for Nevada Geothermal Project

    DOE announced on June 9 the offer of a conditional commitment to provide a partial guarantee for a $350 million loan for a geothermal project. The project, sponsored by Ormat Nevada, Inc., is expected to produce 121 MW of base-load power from three geothermal facilities. And, it will increase geothermal production in Nevada by nearly 25%. The company estimates the project will create approximately 330 construction jobs and nearly 65 permanent jobs.

    The geothermal facilities feature Ormat Energy Converter modules, which draw hot water from wells deep below the Earth’s surface. The water’s thermal energy is used to heat a secondary fluid that is vaporized and then forced through a turbine to generate electricity.

    The project is expected to avoid nearly 580,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, an amount equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of over 110,000 vehicles. It will produce over a million megawatt hours of power annually, enough to power nearly 88,000 homes. The project’s total output is expected to be sold to Nevada Power Company under a long-term power purchase agreement. See the DOE press release and DOE Loan Programs Office website.

    Partnership to Focus on Energy Performance and Building Appraisals

    DOE announced on June 13 a partnership with The Appraisal Foundation that will help expand access to energy efficiency and building performance information for commercial buildings.

    DOE and The Appraisal Foundation will work to ensure that appraisers nationwide have the information, practical guidelines, and professional resources they need to evaluate energy performance when conducting commercial building appraisals. This will help investors, building owners, and operators accurately assess the value of energy efficiency as part of a building’s overall appraisal.

    In 2010, commercial buildings accounted for about 20% of all US energy consumption. By improving insulation, lighting, windows, and heating and cooling systems, and by using daylighting, America’s commercial buildings can be more energy efficient, saving them money and making them more competitive.

    Under the partnership, DOE will develop educational materials and create a database to provide appraisers with energy-savings data, federal green building programs and policies, and additional information on energy performance. See the DOE press release, the partnership agreement , and the Better Buildings Web page.

    High Energy Density Capacitor Design Offers Potential for Clean Energy Applications

    Can you imagine a photovoltaic module that’s able to generate and store electricity on its own? Or an electric vehicle (EV) powered by a technology more durable than the advanced batteries in today’s EVs?

    Malvern, Pennsylvania’s TroyCap, LLC is using nanolaminate technology patented by Dr. Troy Barbee at the DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) to design innovative solid-state nanocapacitors that offer the potential to develop cross-cutting clean energy applications like these and others that lower the cost of energy and increase its efficient use.

    TroyCap is using an innovative “sputtering” technique it developed with the support of LLNL to deposit alternating layers of conductive and insulating materials that are only several atoms thick on a thin metal substrate. Using this process, they plan to manufacture “High Energy Density Nanolaminate Capacitors” (HEDCAPs) which would have 500-800 times the energy density of current capacitors and 5-10 times the energy density of current supercapacitors on the market, allowing them to store much more energy. See the Energy Blog post.


    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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