Clean Energy Roundup: 10/28/11

  • $60M for Concentrating Solar Research
  • Financing Solar PV for Schools
  • Japan Wins World Solar Challenge
  • We Have to Replace the Whole Barrel
  • National Lab Partnerships Brings Cutting-Edge Technology to Market
  • $60 Million for Concentrating Solar

    DOE is investing $60 million over three years for applied scientific research to advance cutting-edge concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies.

    The effort is part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to reduce the cost of solar energy 75% by the end of the decade.

    SunShot investments encourage rapid, widespread adoption of solar systems across the country, help the U.S. solar industry overcome technical barriers and reduce costs, boost U.S. competitiveness in the worldwide market for solar technologies, and provide support for clean energy jobs for years to come.

    Through this solicitation, DOE seeks to support research in technologies that have the potential to dramatically increase efficiency, lower costs, and deliver more reliable performance than existing commercial and near-commercial CSP systems.

    DOE expects to fund 20-22 projects, and encourages industry, universities, and its national laboratories to apply. Pre-applications are due November 22, and full applications are due February 7, 2012.

    This SunShot CSP opportunity seeks to develop innovative concepts that could lead to performance breakthroughs like improving efficiency and temperature ranges, while demonstrating new approaches in the design of collectors, receivers, and power-cycle equipment used in CSP systems.

    Each of these subsystems is critical to CSP operation: the collectors collect and concentrate the sun’s energy onto the receiver; the receiver accepts and transfers the heat energy to the power cycle; and the power cycle converts the heat energy into electricity. Developing low-cost collectors, high-temperature receivers, and high-efficiency power cycles should lead to subsequent system integration, engineering scale-up, and eventual commercial production for clean electricity generation applications. See the DOE press release, the Funding Opportunity announcement, and the SunShot Initiative website.

    Financing Solar PV for Schools

    DOE released a report detailing best practices for financing and installing solar PV systems on school buildings, "Solar Schools Assessment and Implementation Project: Financing Options for Solar Installations on K-12 Schools."

    Produced under the SunShot initiative, the report supports the ongoing development of Solar Master Plans for three California public school districts-Oakland, Berkeley, and West Contra Costa Unified School Districts.

    It examines two primary financing models: a direct-ownership option, where the school district finances the project through debt financing, and a third-party finance model, where a school pays set electricity prices to a third party that owns, operates, and maintains the system. The third-party finance model also includes Energy Saving Performance Contracts, where savings from energy efficiency improvements in the schools help pay for the solar installation.

    This analysis can help school administrators select the best option for deploying solar technologies in their school districts. See the DOE Progress Alert, the complete report , and the SunShot Initiative website.

    Japanese Team Wins World Solar Challenge

    Japan’s Team Tokai won the 2011 Veolia World Solar Challenge, a 1,877-mile solar-powered car race across the Australian Outback.

    Their car, Tokai Challenger2, covered the course from Darwin to Adelaide with an average speed of about 57 miles per hour. As in the 2009 event, the Nuon team from the Netherlands took second, and the University of Michigan came in third.

    42 teams from 21 countries competed in the biennial competition on October 16, the largest yet.

    The Challenge, which began in 1987, is based on energy management and the concept that a 1,000-watt car can complete the race in 50 hours. Solar vehicles are allowed five kilowatt-hours of stored energy – all other energy must come from the sun or be recovered from a car’s kinetic energy. See the Solar Challenge press release and the World Solar Challenge website.

    We Have to Replace the Whole Barrel

    For many, a barrel of oil is synonymous with its most prominent product, gasoline. While almost 40% of a barrel of oil is used to produce gasoline, the rest is used to produce a host of products, including jet fuel and plastics and many industrial chemicals.

    As the US works to reduce dependence on oil, we must recognize the complexity of that dependence and work to replace the whole barrel.

    Over the summer, DOE’s Biomass Program hosted its fourth annual Biomass 2011 conference on this theme: Replace the Whole Barrel, Supply the Whole Market-the New Horizons of Bioenergy.

    If we do not replace the whole barrel, we risk creating knock-on effects that will cause shortages or surpluses in other markets, with the attendant economic consequences. In order to effectively displace crude oil imports, biomass substitutes must be developed for gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and the other petroleum products.

    The DOE, national labs, universities and industry partners are making strides in developing drop-in biofuels and bioproducts that can replace all the products we get from a barrel of crude oil today, and that can also be compatible with existing refining, distribution and vehicle infrastructure.

    National Labs Partnerships Bring Cutting Edge Technology to Market

    In 2008, California solar start-up Innovalight teamed with National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) scientists to answer a game-changing question for potential investors: does Innovalight’s Silicon Ink actually work?

    The findings: Silicon Ink delivered a low-cost, 7% increase in power output for a typical 15% efficient solar cell.

    In July, DuPont acquired Innovalight, advancing prospects for innovative, cost-competitive solar manufacturing in the U.S. The team includes about 60 employees.

    Partnerships with businesses, from start-ups to large companies, are supported by Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) — one of the examples of how the Energy Department’s National Labs help private industry bring cutting-edge technologies to market – creating new industries and businesses and bolstering the country’s economic competitiveness.

    "We may come up with a new and innovative technology, but for it to end up on a utility scale deployment or in the fuel tank of a vehicle, there is a commercialization partner who is going to invest in the business, facilities, sales, support – all of which is done outside of the lab," says William Farris, NREL’s Vice President for Commercialization & Technology Transfer.


    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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