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Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network News

January 29, 2014



News and Events


News and Events

Energy Department Offers $50 Million to Advance Fuel Efficient Autos

The Energy Department on January 22 announced nearly $50 million to accelerate research and development of new vehicle technologies that give drivers and businesses more transportation options and protect the environment in communities nationwide. This new funding includes support for the Energy Department’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, a broader initiative launched in March 2012 to make plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) as affordable and convenient to own and drive as today’s gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 10 years.

The funding will support a wide range of technologies that further cut fuel costs for drivers and help make vehicles more efficient and durable, including lightweighting materials; cost-effective batteries and power electronics; advanced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems; and improved fuels and lubricants.

With support from the Energy Department, U.S. automakers, universities, and national laboratories have achieved significant advances in vehicle efficiency and electrification, including cutting the cost to manufacture advanced electric vehicle batteries by 50% over that last four years. At the same time, the size and weight of PEV batteries has also been reduced by more than 60%, while improving overall vehicle performance and durability.

Last year, Americans bought nearly 100,000 plug-in electric vehicles, nearly twice as many as sold during 2012. According to industry estimates, the U.S. PEV market is on track to pass the 200,000 sales milestone by spring 2014—nearly two years faster than hybrid electric vehicles reached this milestone after their introduction 10 years ago. See the Energy Department press release.


Report: U.S. Solar Jobs Grew 20% Since Last Year

The Solar Foundation on January 27 released its National Solar Jobs Census 2013, which found that the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 people as of November 2013—adding nearly 24,000 workers since September 2012, a growth rate of nearly 20%. According to the nonprofit industry group’s census, 77% of the nearly 24,000 new solar jobs are new jobs, rather than existing positions that have added solar energy to their responsibilities. Installers added the most solar workers over the past year of any solar job category, growing by 22%, an increase of 12,500 workers.

“To support a growing workforce and a new generation of clean energy leaders, the Energy Department is providing training and education opportunities for engineers, utility workers and students, as well as supporting projects across the country to ensure America’s continued leadership in clean energy innovation,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. See the Solar Foundation press release and the full statement by Energy Secretary Moniz.


NREL: Active Power Control of Wind Turbines Can Improve Grid Reliability

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), reported on January 20 that it and its partners have completed a comprehensive study to understand how wind power technology can assist the power grid by controlling the active power output being placed onto the system. The rest of the power system’s resources have traditionally been adjusted around wind to support a reliable and efficient system. The research that led to this report challenges that concept.

The study, “Active Power Controls from Wind Power: Bridging the Gaps,” finds that wind power can support the power system by adjusting its power output to enhance system reliability. Additionally, the study finds that it often could be economically beneficial to provide active power control, and the risk of inflicting potentially damaging loads on turbines from providing this control is negligible. Active power control helps balance load with generation at various times, avoiding erroneous power flows, involuntary load shedding, machine damage, and the risk of potential blackouts.

The study, conducted along with partners from the Electric Power Research Institute and the University of Colorado, included a number of different power system simulations, control simulations, and field tests using turbines at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center (NWTC). The study developed proposals for new ancillary services designs in U.S. wholesale electricity markets, studied how wind power affects system frequency in the western United States with and without active power control, and tested the use of active power control at the NWTC to better understand the performance and structural impacts on wind turbines when providing active power control to the electric system. See the NREL press release.


DOT Offers nearly $25 Million for More Zero-Emission Buses

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on January 9 announced that its Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is making $24.9 million available through its new Low- or No-Emission Vehicle Deployment Program that will put a new generation of advanced, non-polluting transit buses on the road in communities nationwide. The funds are intended to encourage more widespread adoption of reliable “green energy” buses into transit fleets.

FTA will award the funds on a competitive basis to transit agencies and state transportation departments working either independently or jointly with bus manufacturers that are already making low- and zero-emission buses. The program builds on the success of FTA’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program, which invested in the research, development, and testing of alternative fuels and related equipment, such as electric charging stations, for the transit industry. This program successfully committed $90 million over seven years for innovative research, demonstration, and deployment projects to reduce the cost of fuel cells for transit use.

In addition to their environmental benefits, LoNo transit buses will, in the long run, help transit agencies save money on fuel and maintenance costs. According to the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, zero-emission buses can achieve more than double the fuel economy of buses running on diesel and other fuels. See the DOT press release.



Collegiate Wind Competition Set to Blow into Vegas in May

The United States is among the world’s largest and fastest-growing wind energy markets. In fact, wind energy is now the number one source of new U.S. electricity generation capacity, representing 43% of all new electric additions in 2012 and accounting for $25 billion in U.S. investment.

To help the nation’s future scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs continue to advance the wind industry, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) established the first ever DOE Collegiate Wind Competition. The competition will be held May 5–7 alongside the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2014 Conference & Exhibition at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The competition, which aims to cultivate wind-specific interests and skills among the next generation of industry leaders, will feature 10 teams of students who will design and construct lightweight, portable wind turbines intended to power small electronic devices. During the Competition event, teams will present to a diverse panel of experts on current market drivers and deployment opportunities for the wind industry, pitch their business plans to industry leaders, and put their turbines to the test in an on-site wind tunnel. For the complete story, see the EERE blog.