DOE initiative connects manufacturers, no-cost energy audits

Most industrial customers could use some help trimming or managing their energy use, but small utilities serving those businesses often have their hands full just dealing with the day-to-day business of keeping the lights on. Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs), set up by the Energy Department’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, may have the solution you and your large key accounts need. 

IACs show small- and medium-sized manufacturers how to improve productivity, reduce waste and save energy. These steps can go a long way toward boosting the competitiveness of commercial and industrial customers. Through IAC offices, local university engineering departments and students work with manufacturers to identify energy-efficiency upgrade opportunities in their facilities. 

Teams of faculty and students perform assessments at no cost to the plants. The assessment begins with a one- or two-day site visit, during which engineering measurements are taken. The team then analyzes their results to make specific recommendations. Within a couple of months, the manufacturer receives a report from the team detailing the analysis, findings and recommendations, including estimates of costs, performance and payback times.

IAC recommendations have averaged about $55,000 in potential annual savings for each manufacturer.  IAC assessments are intended for manufacturers with Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes 20-39 located within 150 miles of a host campus. The business must have gross annual sales below $100 million, fewer than 500 employees at the plant site and annual energy bills more than $100,000 and less than $2 million.

There are four IACs located in Western’s territory:

  • Colorado State University
  • Iowa State University
  • San Diego State University
  • San Francisco State University

In addition to providing technical assistance to manufacturers, the program partner Rutgers University Center for Advanced Energy Systems maintains a massive database of IAC assessment summaries. Cases can be searched by year, SIC code, NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code, energy cost, state, products or center. Each record describes the plant (but not the name), and includes a list of recommended measures with the estimated cost and saving of each.

Visitors can also find a description of the assessment process the industrial plant can expect. Additional resources, including a training manual, a self-assessment workbook for small manufacturers and case studies are also available.  Source: Energy Experts, 7/9/14

DOE issues draft solicitation for renewable energy, efficiency project loan guarantees

Innovative renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects that could reduce, avoid or sequester greenhouse gases may be eligible for up to $4 billion in loan guarantees from the Loan Programs Office (LPO) of the Department of Energy.

The LPO issued a draft Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Solicitation on April 16 to support renewable energy and energy-efficiency technologies that are catalytic, replicable and market ready.

Businesses often have difficulty obtaining full financing to commercialize innovative technologies. Conventional lenders do not want to take on the perceived risks associated with technology that has never been deployed at commercial scale. LPO loan guarantees give energy innovators a path to bring their products to market, while creating solutions to the nation’s challenges and stimulating the economy.

To be considered for a loan, projects must:

  • Use an innovative technology or system
  • Reduce, avoid or sequester greenhouse gases and support the President’s Climate Action Plan
  • Be located in the U.S., but may be foreign owned
  • Be able to repay loan principal and interest

The solicitation seeks applications covering a range of technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and significantly improve on existing technologies already deployed in the U.S. The LPO has specifically identified five areas of focus:

Advanced grid integration and storage
The focus is on renewable energy systems that incorporate technologies such as demand response or local storage to mitigate issues related to variability, dispatchability, congestion and control. These advanced system designs will improve the grid compatibility of renewable energy and open up a larger role for renewable generation. Qualifying projects may include:

  • Renewable energy generation, including distributed generation, incorporating storage
  • Smart grid systems enabling greater penetration of renewable generation through any combination of demand response, energy efficiency, sensing and storage  
  • Micro-grid projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions at a system level
  • Storage projects that clearly enable greater adoption of renewable generation

Drop-in biofuels
The goal of this category is to develop biofuel products that are more compatible with today’s engines, delivery infrastructure and refueling station equipment. Eligible projects would provide nearly identical bio-based substitutes for crude oil, gasoline, diesel and jet fuel; or produce intermediate fuel feed stocks that can be integrated into existing oil petroleum refineries. These types of projects would not be restricted by current ethanol and biodiesel blend levels. Qualifying projects may include:

  • New bio-refineries that produce gasoline, diesel fuel or jet fuel
  • Bio-crude refining processes
  • Modifications to existing ethanol facilities

This area focuses on projects that turn waste products such as landfill methane and segregated waste into an energy source. These types of technologies will enable commercial-scale use of waste materials that are otherwise discarded and produce significant clean, renewable energy. Qualifying projects may include:

  • Methane from landfills or ranches via bio-digesters
  • Crop waste-to-energy and bio-products
  • Forestry waste-to-energy and co-firing

Enhancement of existing facilities
These technologies will incorporate renewable generation technology into existing renewable energy and efficient energy facilities to significantly enhance performance or extend the lifetime of the generator. Qualifying projects may include:

  • Incorporation of power production into currently non-powered dams
  • Inclusion of variable-speed pump-turbines into existing hydroelectric facilities
  • Retrofitting existing wind turbines

Efficiency improvements
Incorporating new or improved technologies to increase efficiency and substantially reduce greenhouse gases is the focus of this category. Qualifying projects may include:

  • Improve or reduce energy use in residential, institutional and commercial facilities, buildings or processes
  • Recover, store or dispatch energy from curtailed or underused renewable energy sources
  • Recover, store or dispatch waste energy from thermal, mechanical, electrical, chemical or hydro-processes.

This list of potential projects is not exhaustive. Ultimately, the LPO will evaluate applications on a project-by-project basis.

Understand the process
The LPO is accepting public comment on the draft through the end of May. Public meetings to answer questions and obtain comments on the draft are being held on May 6 in Twin Cities, Minnesota, and May 7 in Stanford, California. The first project submission deadline is expected to occur at the end of the summer. 

To provide applicants with timely responses, the application process is divided into two stages. The first part will determine the project’s initial eligibility and whether it is ready to proceed. Applications that clear Part I then proceed to Part II, which includes the full application process. Viable projects that are granted a conditional commitment from DOE then undergo the complete underwriting process and negotiation of terms for the loan guarantee.

The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy solicitation is authorized by Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 through Section 1703 of the Loan Guarantee Program. The LPO currently manages a more than $30 billion portfolio of approximately 30 closed and committed projects nationwide, including leading edge renewable energy projects and advanced vehicle manufacturing facilities.

Smart grid education grants available

American Public Power Association is offering 50 DOE-funded tuition slots for a series of three online courses for electric power industry workers on clean energy solutions and smart grid deployment. The grants are available to the first 50 individuals who register.

Intended to be an overview, Renewable Energy Sources and the Smart Grid was developed by the Energy Providers Coalition for Education in cooperation with the Center for Adult Education and Learning. The webinar series explores:

  • Electricity production from various forms of renewable energy as well as the function, operation and vision of the smart grid
  • Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, ocean, biomass and geothermal
  • A high-level look at smart grid challenges, benefits, technology needs and the vital role of the consumer

Students who successfully complete this 10-hour, self-study course offered by Bismarck State College’s National Energy Center of Excellence will earn one continuing education unit. To register, please contact Laura Alden at 303-804-4671.

DOE announces funding, partnership to promote electric vehicles

To accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, the Department of Energy has made available $5 million in new funding for community-based efforts to build electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure and charging stations. The initiative also includes a partnership with Google, Inc., and more than 80 EV stakeholders to help consumers find charging stations nationwide.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the initiative on a conference call recently with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup and St. Paul Mayor Christopher Coleman – leaders of three of the nation’s nearly 100 Clean Cities Coalitions.

“The Department of Energy’s Clean Cities initiative is bringing together local governments and industry to demonstrate the benefits of advanced technology vehicles and help communities use less oil and gasoline to power their vehicles,” said Secretary Chu.

The funding and the partnership are the Obama Administration’s latest steps in its broader push to reduce U.S. oil imports by one-third by 2025.  Read more.

Source: U.S. DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 4/19/11

DOE announces Fall 2010 Technical Assistance Program webinars

The U.S. Department of Energy announced the Technical Assistance Program (TAP) will be hosting a series of webinars to support projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act under the State Energy Program (SEP) and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG). The webinar series will address key issues and challenges that state, local and tribal energy practitioners may face when implementing their projects.

The webinar schedule begins Sept. 14 with Low-to-No Cost Strategy for Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings, followed by Stretch/Reach Building Codes Isaac Elnecave, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance on Sept. 15. Both take place 2:00 – 3:00 EDT. Read the DOE press release for the complete schedule.

Community Wind webinar urges utility partnerships

As part of its 2010 webinar series, U.S. DOE’s Wind Powering America program is presenting Community Wind Across America Sept. 15, 10 a.m. to noon, MDT.

The webinar will explore how consumer-owned utilities and the communities they serve can benefit from partnering with other utilities to gain economies of scale for wind projects.  Community wind projects bring together state and local economic development and policy makers with utilities and members of the agriculture and wind energy industries to advance opportunities for locally-owned clean energy production. Consumers benefit from increased diversity and grid reliability, while utilities reduce the need for new transmission lines. 

Some of the topics the agenda will cover include:

  • Local, regional and national policies                          
  • Business models
  • Financing                                                                             
  • Incentives
  • Equipment procurement                                                   
  • Construction
  • Power purchase agreements                                          
  •  Operation and maintenance

Presentations and case studies will cover practical information on how to partner in putting together a community wind project.  The information focuses on such issues as how to choose a turbine, installation and rebates and grants. The webinar will also serve as a preview for the regional Community and Small Wind Energy Conference series Windustry is sponsoring this fall. Those live events will take place in Denver, Colo., Oct. 26 to 27, St. Paul, Minn., Nov. 15 to 16, and College Station, Penn., Nov. 30 to Dec. 1.  

The main audience for the webinar is utility staff involved in developing and implementing renewable energy resource portfolios.  Other stakeholders and interested parties who can benefit from the information include farmers, ranchers, rural landowners, economic development professionals, elected officials, business leaders, tribal representatives, investors, bankers, town planners and community leaders.

Although the webinar is free, you must register to participate.  To register, e-mail your name, affiliation, address, phone and e-mail address to Guy Nelson. You will recevie the webinar’s internet and phone access numbers by noon Sept. 13.  By registering, you agree to allow your contact information to be shared with the supporters of the webinar. 

Community Wind Across America is supported by Western, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Windustry, and Wind Powering America.

DOE selects IREC to administer Solar Instructor Training Network

To meet the solar industry’s growing need for qualified installation workers, the U.S. Department of Energy has established the Solar Instructor Training Network, and recently named the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) to be the network’s national administrator. The Training Network’s goal is to develop high-quality, local and accessible training in solar system design, installation, sales and inspection.

IREC will receive up to $4.5 million over the next five years to serve as the Training Network’s national point of contact, disseminate its products and best practices recommendations and manage collaborations with stakeholders to address issues related to solar training. The Training Network is expected to prepare more than 1,400 instructors to train thousands of workers for the solar installation industry. This is welcomed answer to the common complaint that qualified solar installers can be hard to find, especially away from major market areas.

The DOE launched the Solar Instructor Training Network in 2009 to accelerate market adoption of solar technologies by ensuring a standard of  high-quality installations and to create sustainable jobs within the solar installation industry. The network includes nine Regional Training Providers that extend coverage to the entire United States. Read the DOE press release.

Has your utility had difficulty finding qualified solar workers to install projects? How are you meeting that need in your area?

DOE Seeks Input on Wind Energy Workforce Development Roadmap

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request For Information (RFI) to gain public input on the development of a Wind Energy Workforce Roadmap, which will provide details on the current workforce landscape in the wind industry as well as future steps necessary to train and develop a green workforce for the sector.

The purpose of the Roadmap is to establish the policy objectives and overall direction that workforce development efforts throughout the wind industry should assume as it moves forward. This RFI provides leaders from academia, industry, and government with the opportunity to provide insight and guidance to DOE as the nation ramps up its wind energy production. A draft Roadmap document has been developed, and the public may provide comments on the initial draft or may provide alternative or additional viewpoints. Read more.

View the full text of the RFI at the FedConnect Web site.

Comments must be provided by no later than July 30, 2010.

Silicon Valley Power to co-host Smart Energy Conference

Municipal utility Silicon Valley Power will join investor-owned San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric as host utilities at the upcoming Smart Energy International Conference & Technology Expo in San Jose, Calif., Sept. 7–9, 2010.

Among the agencies sending speakers are California Public Utilities Commission, Department of Energy, Austin Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Portland General Electric, DTE Energy and the European Union.

This year’s Smart Energy International Conference and Technology Expo is focusing on three key areas: energy sustainability, operational excellence and customer engagement. The agenda targets professionals who work in the field of renewable energy, electric vehicles, smart grid, energy storage, Home Area Networks, standards, AMI or smart energy investment.

Attendees will gain valuable information, insights and intelligence about how the smart energy movement is changing the role of traditional utilities and bringing about an evolution that will significantly change the utility and energy “playing field.”  The Technology Expo is an opportunity to “kick the tires” of the latest and greatest technology solutions that are driving the smart energy market today and tomorrow.

More than 300 people are expected to attend the event at the San Jose Marriot. For information about the program, contact Nazya Ayaz  at 347-801-5258.

DOE’s Pollock opens Utility Energy Forum

The Utility Energy Forum kicked off today with keynote speaker Ed Pollock, residential team leader for the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Program.

Pollock told the audience about DOE’s Builders Challenge residential energy program with its goal of getting net zero energy homes into the market by 2020. The DOE launched Builders Challenge two years ago to build on the pass/fail system of Energy Star for Homes.

The program addressed the “obvious” measures first, tightening building envelopes, retrofitting windows and putting efficient equipment and appliances in new and existing homes. Vampire loads are the next challenge in this phase, said Pollock. “They can’t be addressed in construction,” he noted. “We have to educate consumers to buy the most efficient appliances and monitor their energy use.  Utilities can encourage consumers with time-of-use rates and demand response programs.”

Another area of focus is equipment that can easily be adapted to retrofits to help bring up the efficiency standards in existing homes. Improving energy consumption in the nation’s 110 million-plus existing homes represents a tremendous opportunity for energy savings. Utilities’ experience in retrofit programs could be very helpful in shaping this aspect of Builders Challenge. 

The program will unveil more stringent requirements in 2011. Bringing consistency to the various standards in the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) and other rating programs is necessary to gain consumer acceptance, Pollock said. “If one rating method says a home is efficient, and another rating  says it is not, consumers don’t believe any rating and they don’t make any upgrades.”  

Pollock hopes that utilities will offer feedback on metrics that would be valuable from their perspective. Builders made it clear that the cost of energy is the most important marketing point, so Builders Challenge labels now display that information. The program is working to make it easy for builders see what they need to do to make their product more competitive. A series of 10 homes that exceed program standards have been built, and builders who joined the program early on are finding that their homes are selling better in the slow market.

While consumers and the building industry are gaining appreciation for the value energy efficiency adds to a home, banks have yet to factor it into their appraisals. HUD is hoping to change that by developing a “green” appraiser certification to teach real estate appraisers to value efficient features.

Pollock expects that there will be a lot of activity in the area of home performance rating in the next couple of years. Money is flowing to sponsors and prospective sponsors of energy-efficiency programs, he said, and utilities’ demand-side management programs may qualify for funding. The issue is also on legislators’ radar, with a bill for the new Federal Home Star program making its way through Congress this week. Home Star could release a new round of rebates for both individual measures, and whole house upgrades.