Department of Energy Throws Its Weight Behind Renewables and Efficiency

Talk is cheap, and while the buzz around renewable power and other forms of clean energy is well intended, one government agency has gone beyond the rhetoric.

In support of President Obama’s goal of generating 80 percent of the country’s electricity from clean-energy sources by 2035, the Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a multifaceted campaign that involves funding and other forms of support.

In June, Energy Secretary Steven Chu outlined the DOE’s efforts through a series of announcements. Funding includes nearly $15 million to support eight new research and development projects that will accelerate the production and deployment of solid-state lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic LEDs. Both are more energy-efficient than conventional incandescent lighting and can last up to 25 times longer. The projects advance one of three DOE objectives: core technology research, product development and expanding domestic manufacturing capacity.

Up to $70 million in new funding over three years has been made available for technology advancements in geothermal energy. The DOE is targeting innovations in exploration technologies to locate geothermal resources as well as in improvements to resource characterization, drilling and reservoir engineering techniques. Also aiding the industry will be the DOE’s partial guarantee for a $350 million loan for a geothermal-power-generation project in Nevada. The project, sponsored by Ormat Nevada Inc., is expected to produce 121 megawatts (MW) of base-load power from three geothermal facilities. It will increase geothermal-power production in the state by nearly 25 percent.

Solar power will also benefit from the DOE’s support. The department is offering $2 billion in conditional commitments to provide loan guarantees to support two concentrating solar power (CSP) projects in California: the Mojave Solar Project in San Bernardino County and the Genesis Solar Project in Riverside County. At 250 MW each, the projects’ combined capacities will double the currently installed capacity for CSP in the United States.

The DOE is also offering $27 million to reduce the nonhardware costs of solar-energy projects as part of its SunShot Initiative. The funding will support a $12.5 million Rooftop Solar Challenge, encouraging cities and counties to compete to streamline and digitize permitting processes. New funding will also include $15 million for advancing innovations in information technology systems, local zoning, and building codes and regulations.

The DOE also announced loan guarantees totaling $425 million to boost innovative solar-energy manufacturing. Calisolar Inc. will receive a $275 million loan guarantee to commercialize its innovative solar silicon manufacturing process. A $150 million loan guarantee will go to 1366 Technologies to develop a multicrystalline wafer-manufacturing project capable of producing approximately 700 to 1,000 MW of silicon-based wafers annually.

Finally, concerning solar, the DOE announced a $359.1 million loan guarantee to Mesquite Solar 1 LLC to support the development of a 150-MW, photovoltaic solar-generating project located about 45 miles west of Phoenix.

The DOE’s support will go to wind, as well. It will provide up to $135.76 million in loan guarantees to Granite Reliable Power LLC for a new wind-power generation project. The 99-MW project will be located approximately 110 miles north of Concord, N.H.

Recognizing the importance of energy efficiency, the DOE is also putting $30 million into the training of engineering students in manufacturing efficiency. Through the industrial assessment center program, university teams across the country will gain practical training that will enable them to conduct energy assessments in a broad range of manufacturing facilities.

The DOE also will partner with the Appraisal Foundation to help expand access to energy efficiency and building performance information for commercial buildings. Under this new partnership, the DOE and the Appraisal Foundation will work to ensure that appraisers nationwide have the information, practical guidelines and professional resources to evaluate energy performance when conducting commercial building appraisals.

About the Author

Rick Laezman

Freelance Writer
Rick Laezman is a Los Angeles-based freelancer writer. He has a passion for renewable power. He may be reached at .

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