The Energy Department on December 7 announced a $29 million investment in four projects that will help advance affordable, reliable clean energy for U.S. families and businesses. These projects, part of the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, are aimed at improving grid connection and reducing installation costs through innovative plug-and-play technologies and reliable solar power forecasts.
The Department announced a $21 million investment over five years to design plug-and-play photovoltaic (PV) systems that can be purchased, installed, and operational in one day. Plug-and-play PV systems will make the process of buying, installing, and connecting solar energy systems faster and less expensive for homeowners. Fraunhofer USA’s Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will develop PV technologies that allow homeowners to easily select the right solar system for their house and install, wire and connect to the grid. Additionally, North Carolina State University will lead a project to create standard PV components and system designs that can adapt simply to any residential roof and can be installed and connected to the grid quickly and efficiently. This effort is part of the Department’s broader initiative to bring down "soft" or non-module hardware costs.
The Department also announced an $8 million investment in two projects to help utilities and grid operators better forecast when, where, and how much solar power will be produced at U.S. solar energy plants. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, based in Boulder, Colorado, will research methods to understand cloud impact and develop short-term prediction techniques based on this work. Also, the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Armonk, New York, will lead a new project based on the Watson computer system that uses big data processing and self-adjusting algorithms to integrate different prediction models and learning technologies. These projects are working with the Energy Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to improve the accuracy of solar forecasts and share the results of this work with industry and academia. Enhanced solar forecasting technologies will help power system operators to integrate cost-competitive, reliable solar energy into the electricity grid.
The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. See the Energy Department press release
The 2013 Scion iQ EV, a minicompact, is the top rated car in the 2013 Fuel Economy Guide.
The Energy Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 6 released the 2013 Fuel Economy Guide, giving consumers information to help them choose the most fuel-efficient and lowest greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles. The 2013 models include efficient and low-emission vehicles in a variety of classes and sizes, but notable this year is the growing availability of hybrids and the increasing number of electric vehicles (EV).
This year's guide gives consumers a broad range of information that they can use to select their next fuel-efficient vehicle, whether they want to consider an EV or one that uses a more conventional fuel. For the first time, the EPA and the Energy Department have added a second top ten list of most efficient vehicles—separating advanced technology vehicles from conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles. Electric and plug-in hybrid electric models are the most fuel-efficient and lowest-emission vehicles available and are becoming more common. At the same time, consumers may still look up the conventional gasoline and diesel models that offer superior fuel efficiency.
The overall highest-ranking vehicle was the Scion iQ EV, a minicompact with a 121 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) rating. Some of the other cars topping their classes are: the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid and 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, which tied for best in the midsized class with 58 MPGe for use of both electricity and gasoline; the 2013 Tesla Model S (60 kilowatt-hour battery pack), ranked best in the large car class with a 95 MPGe rating; and the 2013 Toyota Prius v, which topped the midsized wagon class with a 42 miles per gallon rating. See the Energy Department press release
and the www.fueleconomy.gov
Renewable energy use will grow at a much faster rate than fossil energy use through 2040, according to projections in the Annual Energy Outlook 2013 Reference case, part of a preliminary report released on December 5 by theU.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The Reference case focuses on the factors that shape U.S. energy markets, and projects that the use of renewable energy in the United States as a percentage of total energy use will grow from 13% in 2011 to 16% in 2040. Electricity generation from solar and wind energy will expand because recent cost declines make them more economical.
The EIA report also projects increased sales of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which grow to about 1.3 million vehicles in 2035—about 20% higher than last year's Reference case. The 2013 report also noted that continued fuel economy improvement in vehicles using other alternative fuels, gasoline, and diesel, combined with growth in the use of hybrid technologies (including micro, mild, full, and plug-in hybrid vehicles), limit the use of electric vehicles over the projection.
As a result of improved energy efficiency and a shift away from the most carbon-intensive fuels, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions could remain more than 5% below their 2005 level through 2040. In particular, emissions from gasoline are expected to be lower in the 2013 Reference case than in the 2012 report as a result of the adoption of fuel economy standards, biofuel mandates, and shifts in consumer behavior. See the EIA press release
and the EIA report overview
The Energy Department on December 5 announced two new initiatives aimed at driving increased renewable energy production and sustainable economic development in Indian Country. As part of the Energy Department's efforts to support tribal renewable energy production, the Department issued a policy statement and guidance that gives preference to Indian tribes when its facilities contract to purchase renewable energy products or by-products based on authorities under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Energy Department also announced new training and education resources to help Tribal Nations advance local renewable energy project financing and development.
The Department's Office of Indian Energy Policy and the Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently issued an updated estimate of the renewable energy potential on Indian lands. While American Indian land comprises about 2% of all U.S. land, this analysis found that Indian lands contain 5% of total U.S. renewable energy resource potential, including high generation potential for solar, wind, and hydropower, among other renewable resources. See the Energy Department press release
By Patrick B. Davis, Vehicle Technologies program manager
Here at the Energy Department's Vehicle Technologies Program, we’re revved up about the next great smartphone app: yours.
That's why we're launching the Apps for Vehicles Challenge, which is looking for the best business plans, app ideas, and product designs that use open vehicle data to help vehicle owners save fuel, save money, and stay safe.
Improving fuel efficiency is a national priority. With the country spending about $1 billion per day on foreign oil, the Obama Administration spearheaded changes to fuel economy standards that will double fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks by 2025. Automotive manufacturers are working to meet this target, but everyday drivers, businesses, and the public sector can also contribute toward meeting these national goals. For example, the Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Program is managing some of the most fascinating research projects and deployment programs in the country to support the cars and trucks of the future. Furthermore, in terms of what individual vehicle owners or fleet managers can do, there is an emerging set of tools that leverage open data to improve safety and fuel efficiency. For the complete story, see the Energy Blog
Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)