Clean Energy Roundup: 10/5/11

Maryland Wins Solar Decathlon 2011

On October 1, the University of Maryland won the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011.

Purdue University took second place and New Zealand (Victoria University of Wellington) took third-place in the 19-team event. The event ran from September 23-October 2 on the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C.

Team Maryland, runner-up in 2007, entered WaterShed, which proposed water and energy efficiency solutions in addition to solar design, inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Their team’s entry won for the best blend of affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. It got 951 out of a possible 1,000 points. See the Solar Decathlon blog, the final scores and the Solar Decathlon website.

$156 Million for Groundbreaking Energy Research

On September 29, DOE awarded $156 million for 60 cutting-edge research projects under its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) that are aimed at dramatically improving how the US produces and uses energy.

Awardees will focus on accelerating cleantech innovations, while increasing U.S. competitiveness in rare earth alternatives and breakthroughs in biofuels, thermal storage, grid controls, and solar electronics.

Projects are in 25 states – 50% will be led by universities, 23% by small businesses, 12% by large businesses, 13% by national labs, and 2% by nonprofits. This round brings total ARPA-E awards to date to 180 projects and $521.7 million.

10 awards go to the "Plants Engineered to Replace Oil" category, where researchers are working to create biofuels from domestic sources such as tobacco and pine trees at half their current cost, making them cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

The University of Florida/ Gainesville, for example, will increase turpentine production – a liquid biofuel isolated from pine trees. Pine trees have been developed to increase the turpentine storage capacity of the wood, resulting in higher turpentine production of 3%-20%.

14 projects are part of the "Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies" category, which funds early-stage technology alternatives that reduce or eliminate dependence on rare earths by developing substitutes in electric vehicle motors and wind turbines.

15 projects in the "High Energy Advanced Thermal Storage" category are developing cost-effective thermal energy storage technologies. Among them, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will pursue its HybriSol thermal energy storage device – a heat battery that captures and stores energy from the sun to be released onto the grid later.

14 projects in "Green Electricity Network Integration" will research innovative controls software and high-voltage hardware to reliably control the grid network. And 7 projects will collaborate with DOE’s SunShot Initiative, which focuses on integrating advanced power electronics into solar panels and solar farms to extract and deliver energy more efficiently. See the DOE press release, the list of projects , and the ARPA-E website.

DOE Finalizes Loan Guarantees for Solar, Bioenergy Projects

In the final days of September, DOE finalized seven loan guarantees totaling over $5.9 billion for solar projects in California and Nevada, and a bioenergy project in Kansas.

For Solar:

  • $1.2 billion guarantee for the 250 MW California Valley Solar Ranch Project, sponsored by SunPower Corporation, in San Luis Obispo County, California.
  • $1.4 billion partial guarantee for Project Amp, which is putting 752 MW of solar PV on 750 industrial buildings in 28 states.
  • $646 million guarantee for Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1, a 230 MW thin-film solar facility in North Los Angeles County, California.
  • $1.46 billion partial guarantee for the Desert Sunlight Project, a 550 MW solar plant in Riverside County, California.
  • $337 million guarantee for Mesquite Solar 1, a 150 MW PV project in Maricopa County, Arizona.

The five PV projects will power 347,000 homes and fund more than 2,570 solar jobs. See the DOE press releases about the Solar Ranch, Project Amp, Antelope Valley, Desert Sunlight, and the Mesquite Solar projects.

Also recently, DOE approved a $737 million loan guarantee for the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a 110 MW concentrating solar tower plant in Tonopah, Nevada. Using molten salt as the primary heat transfer and storage medium, it’s the first of its kind in the US and, at 640 feet high, will be the tallest molten salt tower in the world. 17,500 heliostats (mirror assemblies) will collect and focus the sun’s thermal energy to heat molten salt flowing through the tower. See the DOE press release on the Crescent Dunes project.

See our coverage of these loan guarantees.

DOE also finalized a $132.4 million loan guarantee for Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas to support development of a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant. It will convert 300,000 tons of agricultural crop residues into 23 million gallons of ethanol a year using an innovative enzymatic hydrolysis process. See the DOE press release about the Abengoa Bioenergy project.

DOE’s Loan Programs Office has issued loans, loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling nearly $40 billion to support more than 40 clean energy projects across the United States. See the Loan Programs Office website.

DOE Backs University Clean Energy Business Competitions

DOE awarded $2 million over three years for six regional awardees to create and administer a network of student-focused business creation competitions. The goal is to inspire young entrepreneurs to found innovative, clean energy companies.

The six regional competitions will encourage college students from across the country to develop successful clean energy business plans. This national initiative will provide students participants with the skills needed to create new businesses, and transform promising energy technologies from U.S. universities and national labs into innovative energy products.

The regional competitions build on DOE’s history of supporting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Clean Energy Prize to establish broader innovation and commercialization efforts, and to build a nationwide energy entrepreneurship "ecosystem."

Each region receives $360,000 over three years to host regional competitions. MIT is the awardee in the Northeast; University of Maryland in the Southeast; the Clean Energy Trust of Chicago in the Eastern Midwest; Rice University in the Western Southwest; University of Colorado/Boulder in the Western Midwest; and California Institute of Technology in the West.

The regional competitions will be completed by May 1, 2012. Panels of expert judges will select a winning team from each region to advance to the finals. The six regional winners will each receive $100,000 in DOE prize money and a chance to compete for the National Grand Prize at a competition held at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. in early summer 2012. See the DOE press release and the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Commercialization website.

$12 Million i6 Green Investment

On September 29, the Obama Administration announced the six winners of the i6 Green Challenge, an initiative to drive clean technology commercialization and entrepreneurship to further U.S. competitiveness and create jobs.

Projects in Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New England, and Washington will each receive up to $1 million from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration to speed up commercialization based on new research. They will also get up to $6 million in additional funding and technical assistance from DOE, USDA, EPA, the National Science Foundation, and Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology and US Patent and Trademark Office.

The winning projects are: Iowa Innovation Network i6 Green Project in Ames, Iowa; Proof of Concept Center for Green Chemistry Scale-up, Holland, Michigan; iGreen New England Partnership; Igniting Innovation Cleantech Acceleration Network in Orlando, Florida; Louisiana Tech Proof of Concept Center, Ruston, Louisiana; and the Washington Clean Energy Partnership Project, Washington State.

Last year’s challenge focused on accelerating high-growth entrepreneurship in the US. This year’s concentrates on promoting Proof of Concept Center methodologies, which support all aspects of the entrepreneurship process, from assisting with technology feasibility and business plan development, to providing access to early-stage seed money, as well as making available a variety of mentors who can offer critical guidance to innovators. See the DOE press release and the i6 Challenge website.

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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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