The Energy Department on January 9 selected Ames Laboratory for an award of $120 million over five years to establish an Energy Innovation Hub, which will seek solutions to shortages of rare earth metals and other materials impacting U.S. energy security. The new Critical Materials Institute (CMI) in Ames, Iowa, will assemble researchers from the Department's Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as well as academia and the private sector.
The new Hub will focus on technologies that will enable the United States to make better use of accessible materials and to eliminate the need for materials that are subject to supply disruptions. Many materials deemed critical by the Department are used in wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient lighting. The Department's 2011 Critical Materials Strategy reported that supply challenges for five rare earth metals (dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium, and yttrium) may affect clean energy technology deployment in the coming years. In recent years, the Energy Department and others have scaled up work to address these challenges. Among the recent investments, the Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy have supported more than $40 million in magnet, motor, and generator research.
CMI will leverage these existing research programs into a larger, coordinated effort. The Hub will address challenges across the entire life cycle of these materials. Cross-cutting research, including developing computational tools and supply-chain and economic analyses, will also be necessary to support the basic science needs across all challenge areas. Selected through an open national competition with a rigorous merit review process that relied on outside expert reviewers, CMI is the fifth Energy Innovation Hub established by the Energy Department since 2010. See the Energy Department press release.
The USDA has awarded $25 million for bioenergy research and development.
Credit: Todd Johnson
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on January 11 awarded $25 million to four projects in four states to fund research and development of next-generation renewable energy and biobased products from a variety of biomass sources. The projects are funded by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, and the Energy Department will make additional awards through this program. Research will help increase the availability of alternative renewable fuels and biobased products to diversify the nation's energy resources. Each award was made through a competitive selection process.
Grant recipients are required to contribute a minimum of 20% matching funds for research and development projects and 50% matching funds for demonstration projects. Awardees must pursue projects that integrate science and engineering research in three areas: feedstocks development, biofuels and biobased products development, and biofuels and bioproducts development analysis.
The following projects have been selected for awards: Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, which will seek to make the oilseed crop camelina a cost-effective biofuel and bioproduct feedstock; Ohio State University in Wooster, Ohio, which will focus on an anaerobic digestion system for the production of liquid transportation fuels and electricity from animal manure, agricultural residues, woody biomass, and energy crops; Ceramatec, Inc., in Salt Lake City, Utah, which will convert lignocellulosic biomass to infrastructure-compatible renewable diesel, biolubricants, and biopower; and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, which will develop an on-the-farm distributed technology for converting forest residues, horse manure, switchgrass, and other perennial grasses into biofuels and high-value specialty chemicals. See the USDA press release.
The Energy Department on January 9 announced a new interactive online tool to help researchers, educators, and students explore future U.S. energy-use scenarios. The Buildings, Industry, Transportation, and Electricity Scenarios (BITES) tool allows users to adjust inputs, such as electricity generation and transportation fuel use, to compare carbon dioxide emissions outcomes and impacts on the U.S. energy mix.
The energy-use scenarios and analytical framework behind BITES were originally developed for the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by the Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory to help identify and implement new research and technical opportunities that will have the greatest impact on achieving our national energy goals. The BITES tool demonstrates that continued technology and policy deployment is needed in every energy sector to meet U.S. climate and energy security goals. BITES can also be a useful tool for students and educators who focus on how research, policy, or other forms of national action can impact U.S. energy use. See the Energy Department's Progress Alert.
The second Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) Global Efficiency Medals competition will recognize and award highly-efficient desktop computer monitors. This global winner-takes-all competition will advance efficiency improvements in displays by recognizing products with the best energy efficiency. SEAD is an initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial and a task within the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC); the Energy Department serves as the lead U.S. government agency.
It is estimated that in 2008, displays in the residential sector consumed the same amount of electricity produced by 11 to 13 mid-sized coal power plants. Increased sales of award-winning displays can result in significant energy savings. Product nominations will be accepted through March 31, 2013, and winners will be announced in September. The first SEAD Global Efficiency Medal competition recognized Samsung and LG for producing the world's most energy efficient televisions. See the SEAD competition Web page.
Arizona is ringing in the New Year with a solar win. About 40 miles west of Phoenix, one of America's largest solar photovoltaic installations scaled up to commercial operation. The project, Mesquite Solar 1, is led by Sempra Energy with support from the Energy Department's Loan Guarantee Program.
Mesquite Solar 1 taps into 300 days of sunshine each year to generate 150 megawatts (MW) of clean electricity—enough to power about 30,000 homes. The success of Mesquite Solar has been a boon to the surrounding community—creating nearly 530 jobs for Arizonans since construction began.
With the first phase of the Mesquite Solar project now complete, Sempra is focusing on the development of the remaining 4,000-acre solar complex. The team is on track to operate more than 1,000 MW of renewable energy capacity by the end of 2013. For the complete story, see the Energy Blog.