The Department of Energy (DOE) announces $104.7 million in funding for seven new DOE national laboratories research and testing facilities to support the development and improvement of clean energy and efficiency technologies.

by Chris de Morsella, Green Economy Post

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $104.7 million in funding for seven new research and testing facilities located in DOE national laboratories. The announced projects will support the development and improvement of clean energy and efficiency technologies that are in the US strategic national interest. The new funding is supporting research in techniques to reduce the cost to manufacture carbon fiber on a large scale; finding ways to improve efficiency and lower costs for car batteries; and for developing net-zero energy building technologies.

By siting these new efforts within the existing research and development infrastructure provided by the DOE national laboratories the effort will be able to leverage their combined intellectual and technical resources. These three technology areas are each vitally important for developing a new green economy and transforming our existing economy and infrastructure so that it becomes more energy efficient and reduces our global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our national laboratories are national treasures and home to world-leading science,” said Deputy Secretary Poneman, speaking at Sandia National Laboratory, where he announced the new funding. “As they have since their founding, they are helping us tackle the great challenges of our day, including on energy and climate. Their innovation and ingenuity are helping jumpstart American manufacturing, accelerate job creation, and lay the foundation for a clean energy economy.”

The Department of Energy solicited applications from eligible national laboratories nationwide. Applications underwent a thorough technical review process. Projects announced today have been selected in three areas:

Carbon Fiber Manufacturing and Processing Technologies

Carbon fiber is a light weight, high-strength material Light-weight yet very strong carbon fiber-reinforced polymers promise to revolutionize the automobile and wind industries. Low-cost carbon fiber is critical to reducing the weight of vehicles and thereby raising their fuel efficiency, while not sacrificing the strength and safety found in steel auto bodies. It also promises to usher in a new generation of wind turbines that are more powerful and durable than current wind energy machines thanks to stiffer and lighter weight blades made of carbon reinforced composite materials.

Carbon fiber composites could enable the production of ultra high RPM kinetic energy storage devices (i.e. very rapidly spinning flywheels connected to a generator/motor) that could be used to smooth out power on the grid; to provide short term storage of electric energy on the grid or for regenerative energy storage systems and short term power storage systems in vehicles. For example some envision buses that are powered by these kinetic energy storage devices, which get spun up while the bus is stopped at special charging bus stops.

Carbon fiber reinforced cables are currently being produced in Japan that are providing a transmission power rating increase over existing transmission lines of around 50% with no structural work required.

Advanced Battery Prototype Fabrication and Testing

Energy storage technologies, especially batteries and electric drive components, are critical enabling technologies for developing advanced, fuel-efficient vehicles and meeting the administration’s goal of putting 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2015. It is not entirely clear what advanced battery technologies are going to be prototyped and put through testing. There are quite a few exciting technologies such as solid polymer-ceramic composite electrolyte materials, silver-zinc batteries, lithium ion batteries employing silicon nano-wire electrodes etc. that hold promise to deliver higher power densities and lead to safer batteries.

As the nation builds out a fleet of plug-in hybrids it will also open up an exciting and intriguing opportunity for the dual use of this fleet as a widely distributed network of grid connected power storage capacity that could lead to greater overall efficiency on the grid and help it manage peak load conditions by drawing down from the plugged in network of vehicles that are cooperatively functioning as energy storage nodes. In order for this idea to be realized sophisticated software is needed to intermediate between the vehicle and the grid, ensuring that the vehicle continues to be able to function in its primary transport purpose.

Development of Integrated Building Systems

Buildings account for 40% of carbon emissions and energy use in the United States. Net-zero energy buildings(N-ZEB) are buildings that generate as much energy as they use on an annual basis by being high energy efficiency and exploiting on-site renewable energy generation. If these buildings become more widely adopted they could lead to an overall reduction in the amount of energy buildings consume and in the CO2 emissions they cause. New laboratory facilities will develop the technologies and design approaches that enable net-zero energy buildings at low incremental cost.

The technologies and techniques that are developed for net-zero buildings are also applicable for buildings that do not meet this goal; including the existing stock of buildings all across the country whose energy efficiency profiles (and carbon emission profiles) could be significantly improved using net-zero technologies and design techniques.

As with any complex interconnected system of systems there are many spinoff effects. By promoting the spread of net-zero (as well as much lower energy consumptive) buildings the need for new power generation facilities can be avoided or dirty coal facilities can be retired early replaced by clean renewable power generation. The national electric grid, which is currently stretched to the breaking point will become less burdened as N-ZEB buildings reduce or completely eliminate their draw down from the grid. The same is also true for the national network of gas pipelines – and if water conservation, re-use and harvesting techniques are incorporated into these buildings the sewage and water pipe networks as well.

The Selected Facilities

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge, Tennessee) will receive $34.7 million for carbon fiber manufacturing and processing to construct the Carbon Fiber Technology Center. The Center will investigate novel manufacturing processes and alternative feedstocks in order to lower the cost of carbon fiber from the current $10-$20 per pound to under $5 per pound.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge, Tennessee) will receive $20.2 million to develop an Integrated Net-Zero Energy Buildings Research Laboratory that includes a commercial building field research platform.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley, California) will receive $15.9 million to build and operate a National User Facility for Net-Zero Energy Buildings Research that will contain a series of coordinated integration test beds that address key technical challenges for net-zero energy buildings.

National Energy Technology Laboratory (Morgantown, West Virginia) will receive $13.9 million to construct a 35,000 square foot Performance Verification Laboratory to perform nearly 17,000 verifications tests per year on a broad range of residential and commercial appliances.

Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne, Illinois) will receive $8.8 million to construct three battery research and development facilities: a Battery Prototype Cell Fabrication Facility, a Materials Production Scale-Up Facility, and a Post-Test Analysis Facility.

Idaho National Laboratory (Idaho Falls, Idaho) will receive $5 million to establish a High Energy Battery Test Facility. The High Energy Battery Test Facility will possess capabilities that will enable development of low cost batteries that meet real world performance requirements.

Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, New Mexico) will receive $4.2 million to modify and enhance its Battery Abuse Testing Laboratory. Abusive testing includes such conditions as over-charging, over-discharge, short circuits, fire, and external heat exposure. The improved battery abuse testing facilities will possess capabilities critical for developing low cost batteries that meet real world performance requirements.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colorado) will receive $2 million to establish a Battery Thermal and Life Test Facility. The Battery Thermal and Life Test Facility will enable researchers to develop lower cost, more robust battery thermal management systems and battery designs.

© 2009 – 2010, Chris de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Chris de Morsella (146 Articles)

After a decade performing as a lead guitarist for rock bands, Chris de Morsella decided to return to the career his uncle mentored him in as a youth....Software Engineering. Since that time he has thrown himself into his work. He has designed a compound document publishing architecture for regulatory submissions capable of handling very large multi-document FDA regulatory drug approval submissions, for Liquent, a division of Thompson Publishing. At the Associated Press, Chris worked with senior editors at facilities around the world, to develop a solution for replacing existing editorial systems with an integrated international content management solution. He lead the design effort at Microsoft for a help system for mobile devices designed to provide contextual help for users. Chris also helped to develop the web assisted installer for LifeCam2.0, the software for Microsoft’s web cam and developed late breaking features for the product He also served with the Rhapsody client team to redesign and build a major new release of Real Networks Rhapsody client product. His most recent assignment has been Working with the Outlook Mobile Time Management team for the next release of Outlook Mobile for the SmartPhone. Chris' interests are in green building and architecture, smart grid, the cloud, geo-thermal energy, solar energy, smart growth, organic farming and permaculture. Follow Chris on Twitter.

  • Lawrence Baker

    More pandering by Dr. Chu and :Locke to advance who’s agenda?
    “for three research areas–fuels, capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants, and long-range electric vehicle batteries”
    What about SCIENCE that would outmode coal. SCIENCE is second to whom?.
    Fact: American green energy innovation and ingenuity, science really, hasn’t been funded since 2001.

    New renewable energy inventors have no stimulus grant money to develop their inventions. The Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and in particular, Dr. Chu, has snuffed any new green energy advancements. Their agenda is to do research and development of product line for the multinational corporations and keep American innovation down.
    Old patented green energy inventions were bought up by the multinational corporations and kept off of the market so that they would not upset their New World Order agenda. The last World conquer was Hitler.
    Yes, it’s a win- win for Communist China and the multinational corporations and a loss- loss for Democracy and Freedom and the American people. Remember, the American manufacturing base moved to China for cheap labor; (graduate engineer $7,000 a year and most everyone else $700 a year) their allegiance is now with Communist China.
    Bush played the bad cop, Obama plays the good cop, but the fact is we are still on the same agenda. There is no change, the free press is gone. The treason of the multinational corporations and their owned and controlled congress continues. There will be no rebuilding of America’s manufacturing capabilities from the ground up with new inventions. There will only be more debt for the American people and dominance of our government by the multinational corporations New World Order agenda.
    Ask your government representatives WHY there is no funding for new inventions (advancement in science) to build a new American economy.