DOE Gives Hundreds of Millions in Funds for Energy Efficiency Research Projects

Friday October 7, 2011
Posted at 09:24


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a massive campaign of funding for the research and development of key energy efficiency technologies.

Between Sept. 1 and Sept. 8, the DOE announced that it would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to advance four energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, including solar power, hydropower, offshore wind energy and geothermal power. Funding for a fifth series of projects to develop and produce drop-in biofuels was announced Aug. 31.

Funding for the research will be provided through the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the advances that result from the research will play an important role in helping achieve President Obama’s goal of ensuring that the United States is able to generate 80 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

Solar Power

The DOE will provide more than $145 million in funds for its ambitious SunShot Initiative, a series of 69 projects across 24 states that seek to make solar power systems more affordable — without the use of long-term federal or state subsidies — by reducing the cost of the systems by about 75 percent by the end of the decade.


The DOE and the U.S. Department of the Interior will partner to provide almost $17 million in funding over the next three years to 16 projects in 11 states that will advance sustainable renewable energy generation from small hydropower resources, improve the environmental impact of hydropower, test cost-effective technologies and increase the deployment of pumped storage hydropower, which can improve the reliability of the electric grid in times of peak demand.

Offshore Wind Energy

Forty-one projects across 20 states will receive $43 million in DOE funding over the next five years to support research leading to faster innovation in wind energy technologies, decrease costs and decrease the amount of time it takes to deploy offshore wind energy systems.

Geothermal Power

In an effort to reduce the cost of geothermal power technology and make it more competitive with conventional sources of electricity, the DOE is providing $38 million in funding over three years to support 32 geothermal research and development projects in 14 states.

Drop-In Biofuels

Three small-scale projects in Illinois, Wisconsin and North Carolina will receive up to $12 million in DOE funding to accelerate the development of advanced drop-in biofuels and other bio-based chemicals. Drop-in biofuels are fuels that can serve as replacements or supplements to existing gasoline, diesel fuels and jet fuels without requiring changes to existing engines or fuel distribution networks and technologies. Many hope that drop-in biofuels will lead directly to the reduction of the United States’ dependence on foreign oil.


Department of Energy Announces up to $12 Million in Investments to Support Development and Production of Drop-In Biofuels,” U.S. Department of Energy press release, Aug. 31, 2011.

DOE Awards More Than $145 Million for Advanced Solar Technologies,” U.S. Department of Energy press release, Sept. 1, 2011.

Energy and Interior Award Nearly $17 Million for Hydropower Technologies,” U.S. Department of Energy press release, Sept. 6, 2011.

Department of Energy Awards $43 Million to Spur Offshore Wind Energy,” U.S. Department of Energy press release, Sept. 8, 2011.

$38 Million Awarded to Advance Technology and Reduce Cost of Geothermal Energy,” U.S. Department of Energy press release, Sept. 8, 2011.

Solar Competitions for Students Spur Innovation and Energy-Saving Technologies

Tuesday September 13, 2011
Posted at 08:10

Dow Corning and Dow Chemical sponsoring separate solar technology competitions for students

Two Michigan-based industrial giants have announced sponsorships of separate solar energy competitions that seek to engage students and encourage innovative ideas that advance solar power technology.

Dow Corning Corporation, a company that specializes in silicone and silicone-based technology — the material foundation of most solar cells — will sponsor the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2011.

The biannual competition will be held from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C. The Decathlon will select 20 collegiate teams to compete over the course of two years in the design, construction and operation of solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.

In addition to engaging college students, Dow Corning also announced that it will reach out to middle school students during the competition by creating educational resources that will help them improve their understanding of solar energy and sustainability and reinforce the importance of science, technology, engineering and math. The resources include school curriculum for teachers, a Student Welcome & Education Center on the decathlon grounds and a Solar Decathlon program aimed at middle school students.

Meanwhile, Dow Chemical Company, one of the world’s largest chemical companies, announced the launch of the Dow Solar Design to Zero Competition, an international competition for college students that will award cash prizes for the development of innovative projects that incorporate active and passive solar technologies and other sustainable construction-related solutions in order to design multi-family dwellings that use very little to no energy.

For more information about the Solar Decathlon 2011, visit To learn more about the Dow Solar Design to Zero Competition, visit


Industrial Spotlight: Dow Solar, Dow Corning Sponsor Separate Solar Competitions,” Midland Daily News, Aug. 21, 2011.

Arizona Company Sets World Record for Cadmium-Telluride Solar Cell Efficiency

Tuesday August 23, 2011
Posted at 08:11

A new world record has been set for the energy efficiency of a specific type of thin-film photovoltaic solar cell that turns sunlight into electricity at a fraction of the cost of traditional silicon cells, according to the company that manufactured the cell.

First Solar Inc., based in Tempe, Ariz., announced last week that a test of its thin-film cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic solar cell set a record efficiency of 17.3 percent, which is an overall measurement of several types of efficiencies Some of the efficiencies included in this measurement are the absorption of light, the conversion of photons into electrons and the ability of electrons to move through the solar cell material and be captured as electricity.

The efficiency of First Solar’s CdTe cell eclipsed the previous record of 16.6 percent set in 2001 and was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab.

Although CdTe solar cells are cheaper to produce than thin-film crystalline silicon cells, they’re also less efficient. Currently, crystalline silicon cells produce efficiencies from the high teens to the low 20s.

First Solar uses a continuous manufacturing process that transforms a sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than 2.5 hours. The company said that it expects its roadmap for CdTe solar cells to lead to production of thin-film CdTe cells with efficiencies of between 13.5 percent and 14.5 percent by the end of 2014.


How Stuff Works website, “How Solar Cells Work.”

Solar Power Lightens Up with Thin-Film Technology,” Scientific American, April 25, 2008.

First Solar Sets World Record for CdTe Solar PV Efficiency,” First Solar Inc. press release, July 26, 2011.

New Cell Sets Record,” Today’s Energy Solutions, Aug. 2, 2011.