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GAYATHRI VAIDYANATHAN, New York Times, March 2, 2010

Harnessing the ocean waves for emission-free power seems like a tidy concept, but the ocean is anything but tidy. Waves crash from multiple directions on a seemingly random basis, and converting the kinetic energy into electricity is a frontier of alternative energy research that requires grappling with large unknowns.

But with several utility companies and states, and in one case, the U.S. Navy, investing in wave power, or hydrokinetic energy, may not be too far off in the utility mix. At least two companies hope to reach commercial deployments within the next three to five years.

Off the coast of Orkney, Scotland, is the Oyster, a white- and yellow-flapped cylinder, 40 feet tall and firmly locked into the ocean’s bed. With a total of seven moving parts, two of which are pistons, it captures waves as they near the coast. Oyster funnels them into a pipe and carries the power inland to a hydroelectric power generator. The generator has been supplying the United Kingdom’s grid with 315 kilowatts of energy at peak power since October.

A farm of up to 100 Oysters could yield 100 megawatts, according to Aquamarine Power, the Scottish company that developed the technology.

“From an environmental perspective, in the sea you have a very simple machine that uses no oil, no chemicals, no electromagnetic radiation,” said Martin McAdam, CEO of Aquamarine.

The Oyster provides a tiny fraction of the 250 gigawatts of power that the water is capable of providing, including conventional hydroelectric energy by 2030, according to the United Nations. At least 25 gigawatts of that will come from marine renewables, according to Pike Research, a clean technology market research group. The non-conservative estimate is as much as 200 gigawatts. And 2015 will be the benchmark year to determine which of these estimates will be true.

The field of hydrokinetic power has a number of companies such as Aquamarine, all with unique designs and funded by utility companies, government grants and venture capitalists. If at least 50% of these projects come online by 2015, marine power could supply 2.7 gigawatts to the mix, according to Pike Research. A gigawatt is the electrical output of a large nuclear power plant.

‘PowerBuoy’ joins the Marines

There are six marine renewable technologies currently under development that aim to take advantage of ocean waves, tides, rivers, ocean currents, differences in ocean temperatures with depth, and osmosis.

“The energy landscape is going to be a mix of different energy sources, with an increasing proportion coming from renewables,” said Charles Dunleavy, CEO of Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey-based research group also developing wave energy. “We aim to be a very big part of this.”

The company has been testing its wave energy device, called the PowerBuoy, in the ocean since 2005. It recently launched another device a mile offshore from the island of Oahu in Hawaii and connected it to the power grid of the U.S. Marine Corps base. It now supplies 40 kilowatts of energy at peak, enough to power about 25 to 30 homes.

“The Navy wants to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuel; they have a strong need to establish greater energy independence,” said Dunleavy.

The buoy captures the energy from right-sized waves (between 3 and 22 feet tall), which drive a hydraulic pump. The pump converts the motion into electricity in the ocean using a generator embedded into its base. A subsea cable transfers the power to the electrical grid. A buoy farm of 30 acres could yield 10 megawatts of energy, enough to supply 8,000 homes, said Dunleavy.

The structures rise 30 feet above water, and extend 115 feet down. They would not be a problem for commercial trawlers, which are farther offshore, or for ship navigation lanes, said Dunleavy. Recreational boaters, however, may have to watch out.

‘Oyster’ competes with the ‘top end of wind’

In comparison with a system such as the Oyster that brings water ashore to power turbines, creating electricity in the ocean is more efficient, said Dunleavy. “You lose a lot of energy to friction,” he said.

But Aquamarine’s system of having onshore power generation will cut down on maintenance costs, according to McAdam. Operation costs are expected to consume as much as 40% of the budget of operating a marine power plant, according to Pike Research.

Ocean Power is already selling its device for individual commercial use and building larger units of 150 kilowatts off the West Coast of the United States and for the utility company Iberdrola’s unit in Spain.

It is also developing the first wave power station under the Department of Energy’s stimulus program at Reedsport, Ore., according to Dunleavy. The farm, which currently has a 150-kilowatt unit, could grow by nine additional buoys.

And as for price, which is a major concern, Dunleavy said that cost compares with other renewables.

“It is cheaper than solar thermal and photovoltaics, and in the range of biomass,” he said. “It is at the top end of wind.”

The Oyster is also aiming to position itself as an alternative to wind power for utilities. McAdam said that by 2013, his company hopes to be a competitor to offshore wind installations. And by 2015, he hopes to compete with onshore wind.

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ALLAN CHEN & RYAN WISER, Lawrence Berkeley Nat’l Lab, December 2, 2009

Home sales prices are very sensitive to the overall quality of the scenic vista from a property, but a view of a wind energy facility does not demonstrably impact sales prices.

Over 30,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity are installed across the United States and an increasing number of communities are considering new wind power facilities. Given these developments, there is an urgent need to empirically investigate typical community concerns about wind energy and thereby provide stakeholders involved in the wind project siting process a common base of knowledge. A major new report released today by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory evaluates one of those concerns, and finds that proximity to wind energy facilities does not have a pervasive or widespread adverse effect on the property values of nearby homes.

The new report, funded by the DOE, is based on site visits, data collection, and analysis of almost 7,500 single-family home sales, making it the most comprehensive and data-rich analysis to date on the potential impact of U.S. wind projects on residential property values.

“Neither the view of wind energy facilities nor the distance of the home to those facilities was found to have any consistent, measurable, and significant effect on the selling prices of nearby homes,” says report author Ben Hoen, a consultant to Berkeley Lab.  “No matter how we looked at the data, the same result kept coming back – no evidence of widespread impacts.”

The team of researchers for the project collected data on homes situated within 10 miles of 24 existing wind facilities in nine different U.S. states; the closest home was 800 feet from a wind facility.  Each home in the sample was visited to collect important on-site information such as whether wind turbines were visible from the home.  The home sales used in the study occurred between 1996 and 2007, spanning the period prior to the announcement of each wind energy facility to well after its construction and full-scale operation.

The conclusions of the study are drawn from eight different hedonic pricing models, as well as repeat sales and sales volume models.  A hedonic model is a statistical analysis method used to estimate the impact of house characteristics on sales prices.  None of the models uncovered conclusive statistical evidence of the existence of any widespread property value effects that might be present in communities surrounding wind energy facilities.

“It took three years to collect all of the data and analyze more than 50 different statistical model specifications,” says co-author and project manager Ryan Wiser of Berkeley Lab, “but without that amount of effort, we would not have been confident we were giving stakeholders the best information possible.”

“Though the analysis cannot dismiss the possibility that individual homes or small numbers of homes have been negatively impacted, it finds that if these impacts do exist, their frequency is too small to result in any widespread, statistically observable impact,” he added.

The analysis revealed that home sales prices are very sensitive to the overall quality of the scenic vista from a property, but that a view of a wind energy facility did not demonstrably impact sales prices.  The Berkeley Lab researchers also did not find statistically observable differences in prices for homes located closer to wind facilities than those located further away, or for homes that sold after the announcement or construction of a wind energy facility when compared to those selling prior to announcement.  Even for those homes located within a one-mile distance of a wind project, the researchers found no persuasive evidence of a property value impact.

“Although studies that have investigated residential sales prices near conventional power plants, high voltage transmission lines, and roads have found some property value impacts,” says co-author and San Diego State University Economics Department Chair Mark Thayer, “the same cannot be said for wind energy facilities, at least given our sample of transactions.“

Berkeley Lab is a DOE national laboratory located in Berkeley, California.  It conducts unclassified scientific research for DOE’s Office of Science and is managed by the University of California. Visit our Website at www.lbl.gov/

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CAROL FLETCHER, The Record, November 29, 2009

Linda Rutta says she has a “tiger by the tail” with a renewable energy device she and her husband, Stanley, invented that can convert the power of ocean waves into electricity.

Now the research and development team needs funding to analyze five days of data from a landmark test of the 12-foot cylindrical prototype and build a life-size version.

“We have to scale up and make a commercial unit,” said Linda Rutta, but “the costs ahead are larger than a small entity can shoulder.”

Able Technologies is based in the Ruttas’ Englewood home, where the couple designed what they call an electricity-generating wave pipe with the help of colleagues in mechanical and oceanic engineering after patenting their concept in 2002.

Devices harnessing kinetic energy from ocean waves, known as wave energy converters, are not new and can be problematic. Online organizations reported in March that three devices installed off the coast of Portugal by a Scottish developer were taken ashore due to structural problems and lack of funding.

The Scottish devices are horizontal, serpentine structures that undulate in sync with the waves, whereas the Ruttas’ version anchors vertically to the ocean floor.

That means the machine has to stand up to the fierce oceanic conditions much like a bridge stanchion. These include the very force it captures in trying to produce enough electricity to be viable, said Rutta.

The Ruttas got their first opportunity to test the prototype’s endurance and energy production in mid-November, at the Ohmsett Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Facility at Leonardo in Monmouth County. The facility operates under the U.S. Department of Interior and runs a massive, 11-foot-deep wave tank for testing oil spill response equipment. This year it added wave energy technology.

The agency offered the Ruttas a week at Ohmsett after finding merit in a white paper the Ruttas submitted on the technology.

Every day for a week, the wave pipe was fitted with probes and other sensory equipment while being battered with saltwater waves up to 3 feet high. The purpose was to measure how it performed against small waves — which might have made it stall — and high ones, and whether it delivered energy, said Rutta.

“It worked with the waves beautifully — that was my happiest surprise,” said Rutta, “and it produced power. It exceeded our expectations.”

The week’s worth of results will be analyzed to determine the weight and size a commercial unit should be to withstand ocean conditions and estimate how much electricity could be produced, Rutta said.

While the tests raise their credibility, she said, funding is needed to analyze the data and design and build a full-size prototype.

Rutta said she is waiting for word on their application for a $150,000 grant from the small business arm of the Department of Energy to analyze the data. Designing and building a commercial-sized prototype could be “in the millions,” she said.

All money up to this point has come from their personal savings, said Rutta, and has reached “into the six figures.”

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RenewableEnergyFocus.com, November 25, 2009

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will fund $18 million to support small business innovation research, development and deployment of clean and renewable energy technologies, including projects to advance wave and current energy technologies, ocean thermal energy conversion systems, and concentrating solar power (CSP) for distributed applications.

The funding will come from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act and, in this first phase of funding, 125 grants of $150,000 each will be awarded to 107 small advanced technology firms across the United States for clean and renewable energy. The companies were selected from a pool of 950 applicants through a special fast-track process with an emphasis on near-term commercialization and job creation.

Companies which demonstrate successful results with their new clean and renewable technologies and show potential to meet market needs, will be eligible for $60m in a second round of grants in the summer of 2010.

“Small businesses are drivers of innovation and are crucial to the development of a competitive clean energy US economy,” says Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “These investments will help ensure small businesses are able to compete in the clean energy economy, creating jobs and developing new technologies to help decrease carbon pollution and increase energy efficiency.”

Grants were awarded in 10 clean and renewable energy topic areas, including $2.8m for 12 projects in Advanced Solar Technologies where projects will focus on achieving significant cost and performance improvements over current technologies, solar-powered systems that produce fuels, and concentrated solar power systems for distributed applications.

Another $1.7m will go to 12 clean and renewable energy projects in Advanced Water Power Technology Development where projects will focus on new approaches to wave and current energy technologies and ocean thermal energy conversion systems.

Other key areas are:

  • Water Usage in Electric Power Production (decreasing the water used in thermoelectric power generation and developing innovative approaches to desalination using Combined Heat and Power projects);
  • Advanced Building Air Conditioning and Cool Roofs (improve efficiency of air conditioning and refrigeration while reducing GHG emissions);
  • Power Plant Cooling (advanced heat exchange technology for power plant cooling);
    Smart Controllers for Smart Grid Applications (develop technologies to support electric vehicles and support of distributed energy generation systems);
  • Advanced Industrial Technologies Development (improve efficiency and environmental performance in the cement industry);
  • Advanced Manufacturing Processes (improving heat and energy losses in energy intensive manufacturing processes);
  • Advanced Gas Turbines and Materials (high performance materials for nuclear applications and novel designs for high-efficiency and low-cost distributed power systems); and
  • Sensors, Controls, and Wireless Networks (building applications to minimise power use and power line sensor systems for the smart grid).

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Hydro Review with edits, Pennwell, July 9, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoThe U.S. Treasury and the Department of Energy are now offering $3 billion in government funds to organizations developing renewable energy projects including hydropower and ocean energy projects.

The funds, from the economic stimulus package passed by Congress in February, support the White House goal of doubling U.S. renewable energy production over the next three years.

The money provides direct payments to companies, rather than investment or production tax credits, to support about 5,000 renewable energy production facilities that qualify for production tax credits under recent energy legislation. Treasury and DOE issued funding guidelines for individual projects qualifying for an average of $600,000 each.

Previously energy companies could file for a tax credit to cover a portion of the costs of a renewable energy project. In 2006, about $550 million in tax credits were provided to 450 businesses.

“The rate of new renewable energy installations has fallen since the economic and financial downturns began, as projects had a harder time obtaining financing,” a statement by the agencies said. “The Departments of Treasury and Energy expect a fast acceleration of businesses applying for the energy funds in lieu of the tax credit.”

Under the new program, companies forgo tax credits in favor of an immediate reimbursement of a portion of the property expense, making funds available almost immediately.

“These payments will help spur major private sector investments in clean energy and create new jobs for America’s workers,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

“This partnership between Treasury and Energy will enable both large companies and small businesses to invest in our long-term energy needs, protect our environment and revitalize our nation’s economy,” Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said.

Eligible projects have the same requirements as those qualifying for investment and production tax credits under the Internal Revenue Code. As with production tax credits, eligible renewables include incremental hydropower from additions to existing hydro plants, hydropower development at existing non-powered dams, ocean and tidal energy technologies.

Projects either must be placed in service between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010, regardless of when construction begins, or they must be placed in service after 2010 and before the credit termination date if construction begins between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010. Credit termination dates vary by technology, ranging from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 1, 2017. The termination date for hydropower and marine and hydrokinetic projects is Jan. 1, 2014.

The U.S. Departments of the Treasury and Energy are launching an Internet site in the coming weeks, but are not taking applications at this time. However, to expedite the process, they made a guidance document, terms and conditions, and a sample application form immediately available on the Internet at here.

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MendoCoastCurrent, July 06, 2009

SecretaryChu_tnU.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced more than $153 million in Recovery Act funding to support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Under the Dept. of Energy’s State Energy Program (SEP), states and territories have proposed statewide plans that prioritize energy savings, create or retain jobs, increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This initiative is part of the Obama Administration’s national strategy to support job growth, while making a historic down payment on clean energy and conservation.

“This funding will provide an important boost for state economies, help to put Americans back to work, and move us toward energy independence,” said Secretary Chu. “It reflects our commitment to support innovative state and local strategies to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy while insisting that taxpayer dollars be spent responsibly.”

The following states and territories are receiving 40% of their total SEP funding authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act today: Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, New York and the Virgin Islands.

With today’s announcement, these states and territories will now have received 50% of their total Recovery Act SEP funding. The initial 10% of total funding was previously available to states to support planning activities; the remaining 50% of funds will be released once states meet reporting, oversight and accountability milestones required by the Recovery Act.

Under the Recovery Act, DOE expanded the types of activities eligible for SEP funding, which include energy audits, building retrofits, education and training efforts, transportation programs to increase the use of alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles, and new financing mechanisms to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.

The Recovery Act appropriated $3.1 billion to the State Energy Program to help achieve national energy independence goals and promote local economic recovery. States use these grants at the state and local level to create green jobs, address state energy priorities, and adopt emerging renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Transparency and accountability are important priorities for SEP and all Recovery Act projects. Throughout the program’s implementation, DOE will provide strong oversight at the local, state, and national level, while emphasizing with states the need to quickly award funds to help create new jobs and stimulate local economies.

The following states are receiving awards today:

Arkansas – $15.7 Million Awarded

Arkansas will use SEP Recovery Act funding to reduce energy consumption and advance energy independence by implementing several energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. These programs will also help create and support jobs within the state. Arkansas will use over half of its SEP Recovery Act funding to establish two loan programs to encourage industry and state buildings to invest in energy efficiency technologies. These energy efficiency upgrades will reduce utility bills for both sectors and make businesses more profitable.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive almost $20 million in additional funding, for a total of nearly $40 million.

Georgia – $32.9 Million Awarded

Georgia will implement several programs to improve energy efficiency and renewable energy across residential, commercial, industrial, and governmental sectors with SEP Recovery Act funding. Together these programs will advance the country’s energy independence and create and support jobs statewide.

The state will use a large portion of the Recovery Act funding to implement the State Utilities Retrofit Program, administered by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. In this new program, the state of Georgia proposes to allocate $65 million to retrofit state government facilities. This funding will be used to conduct energy audits and assessments and capital projects to pay for the incremental cost difference between standard and high-efficiency technologies. Proposals for funding will be selected based on the projects’ ability to comply with state and federal energy goals and priorities, including energy independence, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the creation of green jobs.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive more than $41 million in additional funding, for a total of almost $82.5 million.

Mississippi – $16.1 Million Awarded

Mississippi will use its SEP funding through the Recovery Act to promote energy efficiency in state buildings and initiate selected renewable energy projects. The state plans to initiate a “lead by example” program to enhance energy efficiency in state buildings, including the installation of advanced smart meters to monitor real-time energy consumption. Meters that can gather energy data quickly and identify equipment problems will be installed in various state agencies. The agencies will then be able to analyze their energy use data to know exactly how much energy their facilities are using at any given time so that they can reduce consumption and unnecessary power use where possible. The state will also provide grants, loans or other incentives to municipalities in Mississippi to purchase hybrid and alternative-fueled vehicles.

In addition, Mississippi will design and implement selected pilot projects for renewable energy installations, targeting several sectors including commercial, industrial, residential, and transportation. On a competitive basis, this program will provide incentives to public and private entities to build or expand renewable energy production or manufacturing facilities that produce energy or transportation fuels from biomass, solar or wind resources.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive an additional $20 million, for a total of $40 million.

Montana – $10.3 Million Awarded

Montana will use its Recovery Act funding to undertake projects that will improve the energy efficiency of state buildings, while expanding renewable energy use and recycling infrastructure in the state. State Energy Program funds will support energy efficiency improvements to fifty state-owned buildings and will provide for a significant expansion of the State Buildings Energy Conservation Program. The state will also use Recovery Act funds for grants to speed the implementation of new clean energy technologies that have moved into the production phase but are not yet well known or utilized in the state.

In addition, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which oversees the SEP program, will be able to increase the amount it lends in low-interest loans to consumers, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to install various renewable energy systems, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydro and biomass.

Under the State Energy Program, DEQ will also expand the state’s recycling infrastructure to help limit the quantity of recyclable materials that end up in landfills. As a result of the state’s rural nature with small population centers and long distances between communities, it is often difficult to cost effectively recycle materials. With an expanded recycling infrastructure, the state will be able to reduce the need for new materials to be mined and manufactured, which saves energy at all stages of the processing.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive an additional $13 million, for a total of $25 million.

New York – $49.2 Million Awarded

New York will direct its SEP Recovery Act funding to programs that will accelerate the introduction of alternative-fuel vehicles into New York communities, boost the energy efficiency of buildings across the state, increase compliance with the state’s energy codes and expand the use of solar power.

The Clean Fleet program will provide funding for eligible entities—such as cities, counties, public school districts, public colleges and universities and others—to accelerate the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles in their fleets. Recovery Act funding will also provide financial support for energy efficiency and retrofit projects in the municipal, K-12 public schools, public university, hospital and not-for-profit sectors.

A third project aims to achieve at least 90 percent compliance in the commercial and residential sectors for a new statewide Energy Code. With Recovery Act funding, the state will offer technical assistance and local compliance support to local municipal officials, as well as those professions who work closely with energy code buildings, such as architects, engineers, and home builders. Finally, New York will provide SEP funding to encourage installation of a range of solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal systems across the state, and to provide training opportunities for installers.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive an additional $61.5 million, for a total of $123 million.

Virgin Island – $8.2 Million Awarded

The U.S. Virgin Islands will utilize its SEP Recovery Act funding to advance energy efficiency initiatives and renewable energy projects on the islands. The Virgin Islands Energy Office (VIEO) will establish or expand multiple programs to reduce energy demand in buildings and the transportation sector through energy efficiency education, outreach and financial assistance.

Buildings initiatives that will receive Recovery Act funding include an expansion of VIEO’s existing Energy Star Rebate program, which provides incentives for consumers to purchase energy-efficient products. VIEO will also direct SEP funding to the development and implementation of energy education and training programs to promote energy efficiency in the design, construction, installation and maintenance of a wide variety of buildings and energy systems.

VIEO will also work to implement a financial incentive program for residents to encourage the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the Virgin Islands will receive over $10 million in additional funding, for a total of more than $20.5 million.

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MendoCoastCurrent, June 30, 2009

hydropower-plant-usbr-hooverU.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu is making available over $32 million in Recovery Act funding to modernize the existing hydropower infrastructure in the U.S., increase efficiency and reduce environmental impact.

His  announcement supports the deployment of turbines and control technologies to increase power generation and environmental stewardship at existing non-federal hydroelectric facilities.

“There’s no one solution to the energy crisis, but hydropower is clearly part of the solution and represents a major opportunity to create more clean energy jobs,” said Secretary Chu. “Investing in our existing hydropower infrastructure will strengthen our economy, reduce pollution and help us toward energy independence.”

Secretary Chu notes a key benefit of hydropower: potential hydro energy can be stored behind dams and released when it is most needed. Therefore, improving our hydro infrastructure can help to increase the utilization and economic viability of intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

Secretary Chu has committed to developing pumped storage technology to harness these advantages. Today’s funding opportunity announcement under the Recovery Act will be competitively awarded to a variety of non-federal hydropower projects that can be developed without significant modifications to dams and with a minimum of regulatory delay.

Projects will be selected in two areas:

  • Deployment of Hydropower Upgrades at Projects >50 MW: These include projects at large, non-federal facilities (greater than 50 MW capacity) with existing or advanced technologies that will enable improved environmental performance and significant new generation.
  • Deployment of Hydropower Upgrades at Projects < 50 MW: These include projects at small-scale non-federal facilities (less than 50 MWs) with existing or advanced technologies that will enable improved environmental performance and significant new generation.

Letters of intent are due July 22, 2009, and completed applications are due August 20, 2009.

The complete Funding Opportunity Announcement, number DE-FOA-0000120, can be viewed on the Grants.gov Web site. Projects are expected to begin in fiscal year 2010.

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