Wednesday, July 20, 2011



July 20, 2011

News and Events

DOE Offers $730 Million Loan Commitment for Michigan Steel Plant

Photo of a Ford Focus with an electric plug graphic on its side.

Vehicles like the Ford Focus Electric, slated to go on sale in late 2011, gain extra fuel efficiency by using lighter-weight, high-strength steel.
Credit: Ford Motor Company

DOE announced on July 13 the offer of a $730 million conditional loan commitment to modernize a high-strength steel factory in Dearborn, Michigan. The funding will support the modernization of Severstal Dearborn, LLC's existing facilities in addition to the construction of new facilities to produce the next generation of automotive steel. The Severstal project has the potential to significantly increase the supply of the steel needed to spur the growth of fuel-efficient vehicles. Severstal estimates the project will generate more than 2,500 construction jobs and more than 260 permanent manufacturing jobs.

The facilities will produce a wide range of advanced high-strength steels, which will enable manufacturers to reduce the weight of steel used in vehicles, cutting vehicle weight by 10%. The project could reduce the consumption of petroleum-based fuels by nearly 30 million gallons per year, avoiding annual emissions of more than 260,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. DOE's loans, loan guarantees, and conditional commitments for loan guarantees have totaled more than $40 billion in support of 42 U.S. clean energy projects, including more than $9 billion for manufacturers of advanced technology vehicles. See the DOE press release.

NREL Helps Car Industry Develop Engineering Tools for Batteries

After a competitive procurement process, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently awarded three industry teams a total of $7 million for the development of computer-aided software design tools to produce batteries for electric drive vehicles. Selected teams will contribute half of the costs of the project over the next three years, bringing the overall project budget to $14 million. These projects support DOE's Computer-Aided Engineering for Electric Drive Vehicle Batteries program. The objective is to help the automotive and battery industries design and develop a wide array of advanced electric vehicle batteries more quickly, resulting in less expensive batteries. Electric drive vehicles—hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and electric vehicles—have the potential to significantly reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Project goals for the selected teams include developing battery engineering tools to design cells and battery packs; shortening the battery prototyping and manufacturing processes; improving overall battery performance, safety, and battery life; and reducing battery costs. Each team will independently develop and validate the tools, with an emphasis on electrochemical, electrical, mechanical, and thermal issues. They also will integrate different chemistries, cell geometries, and battery pack configurations. NREL anticipates that the resulting systems will become competitive marketplace offerings in the near term.

The three industry teams are EC Power, Penn State University, Johnson Controls, and Ford Motor Company; General Motors Company, ANSYS, and ESim; and CD-adapco, Battery Design LLC, A123 Systems, and Johnson Controls-Saft. In addition to the funding, NREL will provide technical support on battery electrochemical-thermal modeling and testing to the teams. DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is funding the research. See the NREL press release.

New Energy Star Initiative Recognizes the Most Energy-Efficient Products

DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on July 14 the first Energy Star products recognized as the most energy-efficient in their categories. The announcement covers four categories—clothes washers, televisions, heating and cooling equipment, and refrigerator-freezers—although the "Most Efficient" lists are currently only available for clothes washers, televisions, central air conditioners, and air-source heat pumps. The new designation of "Most Efficient," representing approximately the top 5% of the models on the market, aims to provide manufacturers with an incentive for greater product energy efficiency while providing consumers new information about the products that comprise the top tier in each category. The pilot program is part of Energy Star's overall commitment to protect people's health and the environment by encouraging energy efficiency.

The "Most Efficient" lists include products by Crosley, Electrolux, Frigidaire, LG, Panasonic, Rheem, and Samsung, as well as Sears' Kenmore brand and Best Buy's Insignia brand. Later this year, the EPA will initiate a process to consider additional product categories for inclusion in 2012. Consumers can find cited products on the Energy Star website and in stores by looking for the "Most Efficient" designation. In addition to meeting established performance requirements, products must also be Energy Star qualified and certified by an EPA-recognized certification body. Energy Star is a joint program of the EPA and DOE. See the DOE press release and the "Most Efficient" products on the Energy Star website.

How Refrigerator Standards Have Saved Consumers Billions of Dollars

Late-night refrigerator snacks may make you feel bad about indulging in guilty pleasures, but at least you don't have to feel bad about how high your energy bill will be to cure your cravings. That's because of innovative technology and meaningful energy conservation standards put into place by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Building Technologies Program.

In recent decades, DOE has led technological innovation that vastly improved the energy efficiency of our refrigerators and freezers (and other household appliances). As a result, it's a lot easier on your pocket and on the environment to keep that ice cream at peak frosty perfection. In fact, today's refrigerators use only about 25% of the energy that was required to power models built in 1975. Even while continually improving efficiency to meet standards, refrigerators have increased in size by almost 20%, have added energy-using features such as through-the-door ice, and provide more benefits than ever before. Refrigerators today can be customized to fit consumer needs with touch-screen displays, glass doors, or even a beer tap. See the Energy Blog post.

Interior Department Approves Four Major Renewable Energy Projects

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced on July 14 the approval of four new renewable energy projects on public lands. The projects include the Abengoa Mojave Solar Project, a 250-MW solar thermal parabolic trough installation in San Bernardino County, California; the Imperial Solar Energy Center, a 200-MW solar photovoltaic system in Imperial County, California; the 104-MW West Butte Wind Energy Project, with 52 wind turbines in Deschutes and Crook Counties, Oregon; and the 500-kilovolt Devers-Palo Verde No. 2 Transmission Line Project in Riverside County, California, which will interconnect numerous proposed solar energy facilities. The four projects will create more than 1,300 construction jobs and will provide a combined 550 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power 185,000 to 380,000 homes.

DOI also announced the launch of environmental reviews on three other projects: two wind projects and a solar energy project in California that have a combined generating capacity of more than 370 MW. In addition, DOI and DOE will prepare a targeted supplement to the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Solar Energy Development, which identifies "solar energy zones" on public lands in six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. First released for public review in December 2010, the PEIS will establish a framework for developing large utility-scale solar energy projects on public lands in those states, and its release is expected in fall 2011. See the DOI press release and the Solar Energy Development PEIS website.

BOEMRE Analyzing Proposed Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy

Photo of large wind turbines at sea with a ship sailing past.

Offshore wind turbines like these could may be closer to reality in the United States because of the latest environmental assessments.
Credit: Siemens

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) announced on July 11 that it is seeking public comment on a draft environmental assessment (EA) that considers potential environmental and socioeconomic effects of issuing offshore wind energy leases in the mid-Atlantic. The agency, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), is specifically targeting designated wind energy areas off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia.

The draft EA also considers potential environmental impacts associated with site assessment activities, such as the installation and operation of meteorological towers and buoys on leases that may be issued in these areas. The draft EA is part of the "Smart from the Start" initiative to facilitate efficient and environmentally responsible development of renewable energy resources on the Atlantic coastal shelf. Any leases ultimately issued will not authorize construction or operations; instead, specific proposed projects will be the subject of subsequent environmental review and analysis with additional opportunities for public comment. See the DOI press release, the draft EAPDF, and the notice in the Federal RegisterPDF.

Team Massachusetts Brings a Fourth Dimension to the Solar Decathlon

Team Massachusetts is bringing a unique perspective to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 this fall. You might say it is a fourth dimension because of the team's newly constructed 4D Home. But it could also be argued that it is because the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and University of Massachusetts Lowell are collaborating for the team's first entry into the biannual competition, and they're both public institutions.

Team Massachusetts has created a compact, energy-efficient, sustainably designed house built for a family of three with two bedrooms, one bath, a kitchen, dining room, laundry/mechanical room and living room. At 945 square feet, the savvy, highly efficient house is aimed at reinventing the idea of New England architecture. Meanwhile, Team Massachusetts is adding the fourth dimension of "time" to the interior of the house (and in name), taking into account the transitions a family and home go through over the years. By using moving walls for adaptable living spaces, rooms can be opened for family gatherings and the extra bedroom removed once the youth has gone off to college. See the Energy Blog post.

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