President Obama has made no secret about the role he sees for renewable power in the nation’s energy future. To his credit, his administration has backed up words with a sizable investment of stimulus funds.
In May, the president announced more than $467 million in Recovery Act funding for geothermal and solar-energy projects. The announcement came one month after U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced plans to provide $93 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support wind energy development in the United States. Both investments will leverage the Department of Energy’s (DOE) national laboratories, universities and the private sector to help improve reliability and overcome key technical challenges for the three industries.
Obama outlined his intentions in a speech at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada on May 28, the 100th day after he signed the Recovery Act. Referring to the challenge that other nations already have recognized, he said, “The nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy. That’s the nation I want America to be.”
With that in mind, the Recovery Act makes a $350 million new investment in geothermal, with support for projects in four crucial areas. This includes $140 million for geothermal demonstration projects, $80 million for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) research and development, $100 million for innovative exploration techniques, and $30 million for a national geothermal data system, resource assessment and classification system.
The administration also will provide $117.6 million in Recovery Act funding to accelerate widespread commercialization of clean solar-energy technologies across the country. Funding will include an expanded investment of
$51.5 million in advanced photovoltaic concepts and high-impact technologies. Another $40.5 million is committed to addressing nontechnical barriers to solar-energy deployment, including grid connection, market barriers to solar-energy adoption in cities, and the shortage of trained solar-energy installers. Research and development of the promisingtechnology of concentrating solar power also will receive $25.6 million in stimulus funding.
Prior to the president’s announcement in late April, Chu announced $93 million from the Recovery Act for wind-energy projects. Of this, $45 million will be made available to test the performance and reliability of current and next generation wind turbine drivetrain systems. Another $14 million is intended to advance technology development in the private sector. This effort will aim to improve the quality and use of lighter weight, advanced materials for turbine blades, towers and other components. The DOE will provide $24 million for the development of up to three consortia between universities and industry to focus on critical wind-energy challenges. Lastly, the DOE will invest $10 million at its own National Wind Technology Center in Colorado to enhance the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s ability to support the wind industry through testing current and next generation wind turbine drivetrain systems for better performance and reliability.