Clean Energy Roundup: 9/21/11

  • Solar Decathlon 2011 Set to Begin
  • Installed Costs of US Solar PV Systems Drop
  • Advanced Battery Plant Opens in Florida
  • Green Racing Marks Its 25th Competition
  • Solar Decathlon 2011 Set to Begin

    The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 is taking shape as teams work around the clock to assemble 19 solar homes on the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., in time for the 10 a.m. September 23 opening.

    The Solar Decathlon is an international DOE competition that offers university teams a chance to design and build homes that run entirely on solar energy. Teams ship their structures to the site, assemble them, and then compete in 10 contests. The biennial event, launched in 2002 and organized by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab, is free to the public. The Decathlon runs through October 2. See the kick-off Energy Blog post and the Solar Decathlon website.

    This year, 19 teams come from universities in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia, as well as Belgium, Canada, China, and New Zealand.

    For this sixth Solar Decathlon, each home will once again be monitored for its performance in five areas relating to performance and livability: comfort (maintaining comfortable temperature and humidity in the home), hot water (producing a sufficient quantity for washing and bathing), appliances (such as keeping refrigerated items at the right temperature), home entertainment (running lights, computers, and other devices), and energy balance. For the energy balance portion, homes must even out energy consumption and generation so that they use zero net energy over the course of a week.

    Other contests use experts to rate the teams for their communications with the public, as well as the affordability, architecture, engineering, and market appeal of their homes. The winner of the competition, to be announced October 1, is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. See the list of contests.

    In 2009, the Solar Decathlon provided 307,502 house visits to the public over 10 days on the National Mall, while offering 32 public workshops onsite and holding a dedicated day of workshops for builders and industry professionals. The event also partnered with the National Education Association, which broadcasted daily educational programming to classrooms around the nation. In its new location in West Potomac Park, the Solar Decathlon is scheduled to be open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. EDT on weekdays, and from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. EDT on weekends.

    Installed Cost of US Solar PV Systems Drop

    The installed cost of US solar photovoltaic (PV) systems fell substantially in 2010 and into the first half of 2011, according to a DOE Lawrence Berkeley National Lab report released September 15.

    The average installed cost of residential and commercial PV systems completed in 2010 fell by roughly 17% from 2009, and by an additional 11% in the first six months of 2011.

    The reductions reflect the drop in both the cost of PV modules as well as non-module costs such as installation labor, marketing, overhead, inverters, and the balance of systems.

    According to the report, "Tracking the Sun IV: An Historical Summary of the Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998 to 2010," average non-module costs for residential and commercial systems declined by roughly 18% from 2009- 2010.

    Regarding utility-sector PV, costs varied widely for systems installed in 2010. For systems bigger than 5,000 kilowatts (kW), they ranged from $2.90 per Watt (W) to $6.20/W, reflecting differences in project size and system configuration.

    Consistent with continued cost reductions, current benchmarks for the installed cost of prototypical, large utility-scale PV projects generally range from $3.80/W to $4.40/W.

    The study, which examined over 115,000 residential, commercial, and utility-sector PV systems installed between 1998-2010 across 42 states, describes trends in the installed cost of PV in the US. The study also highlights differences in installed costs by region and by system size and installation type.

    Across states, for example, the average cost of PV systems installed in 2010 smaller than 10 kW ranged from $6.30/W to $8.40/W depending on the state. Residential PV systems for new homes had significantly lower average installed costs than did those installed as retrofits to existing homes.

    The report notes that the average size of direct cash incentives provided through state and utility PV incentive programs has declined steadily since their peak in 2002. The research was supported by funding from DOE and the Clean Energy States Alliance, a national nonprofit coalition of leading state clean energy programs. See the LBNL press release and the report .

    DOE-Backed Advanced Batteries Plant Opens in Florida

    DOE and Saft America celebrated the September 16 grand opening of the company’s advanced lithium-ion battery factory in Jacksonville, Florida. The facility can manufacture high volumes of lithium-ion cells, modules, and batteries used to power electric vehicles.

    The factory, which is supported partly by DOE investments, is expected to produce 370 megawatt hours of battery power per year, enough to supply more than 37,000 electric vehicles. Saft says the project has created or preserved an estimated 300 construction jobs.

    Saft America’s Industrial Battery Group won a $95.5 million DOE grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 and provided an additional $95.5 million in cost share to build the new 235,000-square-foot battery factory.

    The project is part of the Recovery Act’s $2 billion investments in battery and electric drive component manufacturing, supporting 20 battery and 10 component-manufacturing factories. At full scale, these investments will support factories with the capacity to supply more than 500,000 electric drive vehicles.

    These factories are helping build a domestic electric-drive vehicle industry, and by the end of 2012, it is estimated that the US could produce 20% of the world’s advanced vehicle batteries. The factories are also lowering costs and could cut the cost in half by 2013. See the DOE press release.

    Green Racing Marks 25th Competition

    The Green Racing program, a motorsports competition to raise awareness of fuel efficiency, alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies, hit a major milestone as the state of Wisconsin played host to the 25th race in the Michelin Green X Challenge.

    It was the latest in a series of American Le Mans Series races where teams are rewarded not only for their speed in completing the race, but also for the efficiency and emissions reductions of their vehicles.

    The 25th challenge occurred on August 17 at the Wisconsin Road Race Showcase. The results were tremendous, with vehicles using 48% less petroleum-based fuel than conventional racecars-a new record for Green Racing. The race itself hit near-record television viewership with more than 900,000 households watching, raising awareness of clean alternative fuels across the country.

    The celebration continued in Washington, DC, with a National Press Club event and vehicle display. Some of the vehicles on display: a Dyson Racing Mazda Lola that runs on isobutanol (a liquid alcohol similar to ethanol) and a Chevrolet Corvette Racing C6.R that runs on cellulosic ethanol. 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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