Thursday, December 31, 2009

Secretary Chu Announces $100 Million for Advanced Research Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced today that a second round of funding opportunities for transformational energy research projects that will be made available through the Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). At an event today with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Secretary Chu announced $100 million in Recovery Act funding will be made available to accelerate innovation in green technology, increase America’s competitiveness and create jobs. Today’s announcement comes in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“I am pleased to announce ARPA-E’s second funding opportunity because it demonstrates our commitment to lead the next Industrial Revolution in clean energy technologies, creating thousands of new jobs while helping cut carbon pollution,” said Secretary Chu. “This solicitation focuses on three cutting-edge technology areas which could have a transformational impact.”

ARPA-E’s first solicitation, announced earlier this year, was highly competitive and resulted in funding 37 projects aimed at transformational innovations in energy storage, biofuels, carbon capture, renewable power, building efficiency, vehicles, and other areas. Today’s announcement, which represents the Agency’s second round of funding opportunities, is focused specifically on three areas of technology representing new approaches for biofuels, carbon capture, and batteries for electric vehicles:

Areas of focus included under today’s funding opportunity include:

  1. Electrofuels. ARPA-E is seeking new ways to make liquid transportation fuels - without using petroleum or biomass - by using microorganisms to harness chemical or electrical energy to convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuels. Many methods of producing advanced and cellulosic biofuels are under development to lessen our dependence on petroleum and lower carbon emissions. Most of the methods currently under development involve converting biomass or waste, while there are also approaches to directly produce liquid transportation fuels from sunlight and carbon dioxide, typically using photosynthesis. The objective of this topic is to develop an entirely new paradigm for the production of liquid fuels that could overcome the challenges associated with current technologies. Although photosynthetic routes show promise, overall efficiencies remain low. ARPA-E requests innovative proposals which can overcome these challenges through the utilization of metabolic engineering and synthetic biological approaches for the efficient conversion of carbon dioxide to liquid transportation fuels. ARPA-E specifically seeks the development of organisms capable of extracting energy from hydrogen, from reduced earth-abundant metal ions, from robust, inexpensive, readily available organic redo active species, or directly from electric current. Theoretically such an approach could be 10 times more efficient than current photosynthetic-biomass approaches to liquid fuel production.
  2. Innovative Materials & Processes for Advanced Carbon Capture Technologies (IMPACCT). Coal-fired power plants currently generate approximately 50% of the electricity in the United States. While coal is a cheap and abundant resource, the continued reliance upon coal as an energy source could potentially have serious consequences in terms of global warming. The objective of this topic is to fund high risk, high reward research efforts that will revolutionize technologies that capture carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, thereby preventing release into the atmosphere. ARPA-E seeks to complement existing DOE efforts in the field of carbon capture, led by the Office of Fossil Energy and National Energy Technology Laboratory, by accelerating promising ideas from the basic research stage towards large-scale demonstrations and ultimately, commercialization. Areas of interest include: low-cost catalysts to enable systems with superior thermodynamics that are not currently practical due to slow kinetics; robust materials that resist degradation from caustic contaminants in flue gas; and advanced capture processes that dramatically reduce the parasitic energy penalties and corresponding increase in the cost of electricity required for carbon capture.
  3. Batteries for Electrical Energy Storage in Transportation (BEEST). In this topic, ARPA-E seeks to develop a new generation of ultra-high energy density, low-cost battery technologies for long electric range plug in hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles (EVs). The development of high energy, low cost batteries represents the critical barrier to wide-spread deployment of EVs, which if achieved would have a profound impact on U.S. oil security, greenhouse gas emissions, and economic growth. The ambitious goals for this program are largely based upon the aggressive long term EV battery goals set forth by the United States Automotive Battery Consortium, a public-private collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy and leading U.S. automotive companies. If successful, new battery technologies developed under this program will give electrified light-duty vehicles range, performance, lifetime, and cost required to shift transportation energy from oil to the domestically powered U.S. electric grid. ARPA-E's objective is to fund high-risk, high reward research efforts that will promote leadership in this emerging EV battery market.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Virtual Information Bridge to Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy


Visualize: Fill your web pages with VIBE "gadgets" — graphical portals displaying energy data, analyses, and tools. Synergize: Visit OpenEI — VIBE's information-sharing counterpart — to become part of the energy conversation.


Department of Energy - DOE Launches New Website to Bring Energy Technology Information to the Public

WASHINGTON, DC – Secretary Chu announced today that the Department of Energy is launching Open Energy Information ( - a new open-source web platform that will make DOE resources and open energy data widely available to the public. The data and tools housed on the free, editable and evolving wiki-platform will be used by government officials, the private sector, project developers, the international community, and others to help deploy clean energy technologies across the country and around the world. The website was launched as part of a broader effort at DOE, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and across the Obama Administration to promote the openness, transparency, and accessibility of the federal government.

“This information platform will allow people across the globe to benefit from the Department of Energy’s clean energy data and technical resources,” said Secretary Chu. “The true potential of this tool will grow with the public’s participation – as they add new data and share their expertise – to ensure that all communities have access to the information they need to broadly deploy the clean energy resources of the future.”

DOE worked closely with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and other National Laboratories to develop and populate the Open Energy Information Platform. The site currently houses more than 60 clean energy resources and data sets, including maps of worldwide solar and wind potential, information on climate zones, and best practices. also links to the Virtual Information Bridge to Energy (VIBE), which is designed as a data analysis hub that will provide a dynamic portal for better understanding energy data. NREL will continue to develop, monitor, and maintain both sites.

Members of the American public and the energy community globally will have the opportunity going forward to upload additional data to the site and download the information in easy-to-use formats. will also play an important role providing technical resources, including U.S. lab tools, which can be used by developing countries as they move toward clean energy deployment. Over time, the plan is to expand this portal to include on-line training and technical expert networks.

As part of the Administration-wide Open Gov Initiative, Secretary Chu also announced today that the DOE is contributing various tools and data sets for the National Assets program being undertaken by a group of six departments and agencies across the federal government. These agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration in the Department of Health and Human Services; the Agricultural Research Service in the Department of Agriculture; the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the Department of Commerce; the Department of Energy; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, are working together to spur innovation by making it easier for high-tech companies to identify collaborative, entrepreneurial opportunities. By making information from multiple agencies available in RSS and XML feeds on, the National Assets program will increase access to information on publicly-funded technologies that are available for license, opportunities for federal funding and partnerships, and potential private-sector partners. This information will help innovators find the information they need and receive real-time updates, which can fuel entrepreneurial momentum, create new jobs, and strengthen economic growth.

Media contact(s):
(202) 586-4940

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Aruba's New Windfarm - How to keep on financing wind farms when banks have no money left.

A new wind farm set up in Aruba shows how good choices lead to an excellent power source. While in most places the wind is gusty and unpredictable, certain places have very predictable winds. In this case the wind farm was set up on the eastern end of Aruba which gets consistent trade winds, which are highly regular and almost always in the same direction (allowing to put the turbines very close to one another). This wind farm has one of the highest capacity factors in the world, with 50% more power output per turbine than European offshore windfarms.

The wind farm was installed in September (4 months ago) and is already providing 20% of the islands power needs.

The wind farm directly replaced oil fired turbines that used to provide the electricity for Aruba. Hence it directly improves their environmental footprint.

The financing is very simple due to the predictable nature of this wind source. The utility buys the electricity from the wind farm at a fixed price over 15 years which is roughly equivalent to what it costs to produce electricity from their traditional (dirty) generators with oil prices at $45/bbl.

Banks are engaged in a massive deleveraging exercise right now. New lending activity is therefore much more scrutinized from a risk perspective. Read more on the financing here: How to keep on financing wind farms when banks have no money left.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Department of Energy - Department of Energy to Invest $366M in Energy Innovation Hubs

Washington, DC – U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today outlined the Department’s plans to invest up to $366 million to establish and operate three new Energy Innovation Hubs focused on accelerating research and development in three key energy areas. Each Hub, to be funded at up to $122 million over five years, will bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers in an effort to speed research and shorten the path from scientific discovery to technological development and commercial deployment of highly promising energy-related technologies.

“Given the urgency of our challenges in both energy and climate, we need to do everything we can to mobilize our Nation’s scientific and technological talent to accelerate the pace of innovation,” said Secretary Chu. “The DOE Energy Innovation Hubs represent a new, more proactive approach to managing and conducting research. We are taking a page from America’s great industrial laboratories in their heyday. Their achievements—from the transistor to the information theory that makes modern telecommunications possible—are evidence that we can build creative, highly-integrated research teams that can accomplish more, faster, than researchers working separately.”

The Hubs are part of a broad-based clean energy research strategy by the Obama Administration that will harness America’s innovation machine to achieve the breakthroughs we need.

This strategy includes three new initiatives which are designed to complement each other:

  1. The first approach is the Energy Frontier Research Centers launched by the Department’s Office of Science to support multi-year, multi-investigator scientific collaborations focused on overcoming hurdles in basic science that block transformational discoveries.
  2. The second approach is spearheaded by the Department's recently-formed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy ("ARPA-E"), which uses a highly entrepreneurial funding model that supports America's passionate energy innovators to explore high-risk, high-reward potentially transformative technologies that are too risky for industry to fund.
  3. The third novel funding model, Energy Innovation Hubs, will establish larger, highly integrated teams ideally working under one roof, conducting high-risk, high-reward research and working to solve priority technology challenges that span work from basic research to engineering development to commercialization readiness.

The three DOE Energy Innovation Hubs will focus on:

  • production of fuels directly from sunlight;
  • improving energy-efficient building systems design; and
  • computer modeling and simulation for the development of advanced nuclear reactors.

The Department will provide $22 million in the first year for the establishment of each Hub and up to $25 million per year for the following four years to support the operations of each Hub—for a total award of up to $122 million per Hub. Important information on the DOE’s Hub implementation plan and strategy for managing the Hubs can be found on the Energy Innovation Hubs website:

Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub

The objective of this Hub is to accelerate the development of a sustainable commercial process for the conversion of sunlight directly into energy-rich chemical fuels, likely using mechanisms based on photosynthesis, the method used by plants to convert sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into sugar. The Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub will provide researchers with significant new resources to accelerate basic and applied research in the drive toward a potentially transformative new energy technology. Achievement of an efficient, cost-effective means to convert solar energy directly to fuel could have significant impact on U.S. energy security and on energy production globally.

Modeling and Simulation for Nuclear Reactors Energy Innovation Hub

This Hub is intended to produce a multi-physics computational environment that will be used by engineers to create improved understanding of issues with current and future nuclear energy technologies. The Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy hosted a workshop on the Modeling and Simulation for Nuclear Reactors Energy Innovation Hub on December 7, 2009 to provide an opportunity for those interested in this Hub and its upcoming FOA to fully understand the Hub vision, program objectives, and the procurement process for the establishment and operation of the Hub.

Energy Efficient Building Systems Design Energy Innovation Hub

The objective of the Energy Efficient Building Systems Design Energy Innovation Hub is to develop highly efficient buildings components, systems, and models. Achieving the Hub's main goal of reducing energy use for indoor space conditioning will require a focus on advances in core technologies, such as advanced refrigeration cycles, as well as on development of fully instrumented infrastructure aided by buildings system design and modeling. Such solutions could have a major impact on national electricity consumption, as the nation’s buildings consume approximately 70 percent of all electric power.

A Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) inviting proposals for the Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub has been issued, and a link to the FOA is available at the Energy Innovation Hubs website. The deadline for proposals for the Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub is March 29, 2010. Funding opportunity announcements for the other two Energy Innovation Hubs are expected to be issued early next year. The Energy Efficient Building Systems Design Hub will also be the central component of a regional innovation cluster funding opportunity which will include coordinated grant opportunities from other agencies.

Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms are eligible to compete for an award to establish and operate a Hub and are encouraged to form partnerships. Awards, based on evaluation by scientific peer review, will be announced next summer. The Hubs are expected to begin work in 2010 and will be fully operational by 2011.

Media contact(s):
(202) 586-4940

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Peak oil: the summit that dominates the horiz | Business | The Observer

Whistleblowers claimed the IEA figures were unreliable and subject to political manipulation – something the agency categorically denies. But the subject of oil reserves touches not just energy and climate change policy but the wider economic scene, because hydrocarbons still oil the wheels of international trade. Even the Paris-based IEA admits that the world still needs to find the equivalent of four new Saudi Arabias to feed increasing demand at a time when the depletion rate in old fields of the North Sea and other major producing areas is running at 7% year on year. The fields which are producing today are going to significantly decline. We are very worried about these trends," says Fatih Birol. Birol and the wider industry are certainly well aware that the days of "easy" oil are over.

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