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Monday, March 31, 2014

USDA to Co-Host Paccific Northwest Wood-to-Biofuel Conference

USDA Blog Post:

In conjunction with Washington State University Extension, USDA is co-hosting the Northwest Wood-Based Biofuels/Co-Products Conference in late April. The conference will be April 28-30, 2014 in Seattle, Wash.
The goal of the conference is to bring together the community of researchers, business leaders, government agencies, and economic development personnel to share and exchange research findings, ideas, and strategies for the common goal of sustainable development of wood-based bio-refineries for production of biofuels and co-products in the Pacific Northwest.
As Secretary Vilsack has noted, advanced biofuels are a key component of President Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil and take control of America’s energy future.  Energy derived from woody biomass has enormous potential benefits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing clean, home-grown energy, and providing economic opportunities for rural America. Markets for woody biomass can also bolster forest restoration activities on both public and private lands, improving the ecological health of our forests and reducing the impacts of global climate change.
For more information, contact Vikram Yadama at 509-335-6261 or email:

Scientists Track 3D Nanoscale Changes in Rechargeable Battery Material During Operation

Brookhaven National Laboratory News Release:

Scientists Track 3D Nanoscale Changes in Rechargeable Battery Material During Operation

First 3D nanoscale observations of microstructural degradation during charge-discharge cycles could point to new ways to engineer battery electrode materials for better performance

Jun Wang, Jiajun Wang, Christopher Eng, and Karen Chen
Click on the image to download a high-resolution version.Jun Wang with members of her research team: Jiajun Wang (sitting), Christopher Eng, and Karen Chen.
UPTON, NY—Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have made the first 3D observations of how the structure of a lithium-ion battery anode evolves at the nanoscale in a real battery cell as it discharges and recharges. The details of this research, described in a paper published in Angewandte Chemie, could point to new ways to engineer battery materials to increase the capacity and lifetime of rechargeable batteries.
"For the first time, we have captured the microstructural details of an operating battery anode in 3D with nanoscale resolution."
— Brookhaven physicist Jun Wang
"This work offers a direct way to look inside the electrochemical reaction of batteries at the nanoscale to better understand the mechanism of structural degradation that occurs during a battery's charge/discharge cycles," said Brookhaven physicist Jun Wang, who led the research. "These findings can be used to guide the engineering and processing of advanced electrode materials and improve theoretical simulations with accurate 3D parameters."
Chemical reactions in which lithium ions move from a negatively charged electrode to a positive one are what carry electric current from a lithium-ion battery to power devices such as laptops and cell phones. When an external current is applied—say, by plugging the device into an outlet—the reaction runs in reverse to recharge the battery. 
tin particles evolve in three dimensions
Click on the image to download a high-resolution version.The top row shows how tin particles evolve in three dimensions during the first two lithiation–delithiation cycles in the model lithium-ion rechargeable battery cell. The bottom row shows "cross-sectional" images of a single tin particle during the first two cycles. Severe fracture and pulverization occur during the initial stage of cycling. The particle stays mechanically stable after the first cycle, while the electrochemical reaction proceeds reversibly.
Scientists have long known that repeated charging/discharging (lithiation and delithiation) introduces microstructural changes in the electrode material, particularly in some high-capacity silicon and tin-based anode materials. These microstructural changes reduce the battery's capacity—the energy the battery can store—and its cycle life—how many times the battery can be recharged over its lifetime. Understanding in detail how and when in the process the damage occurs could point to ways to avoid or minimize it. 
"It has been very challenging to directly visualize the microstructural evolution and chemical composition distribution changes in 3D within electrodes when a real battery cell is going through charge and discharge," said Wang.
A team led by Vanessa Wood of the university ETH Zurich, working at the Swiss Light Source, recently performed in situ 3D tomography at micrometer scale resolution during battery cell charge and discharge cycles. 
Achieving nanoscale resolution has been the ultimate goal.
"For the first time," said Wang, "we have captured the microstructural details of an operating battery anode in 3D with nanoscale resolution, using a new in-situ micro-battery-cell we developed for synchrotron x-ray nano-tomography—an invaluable tool for reaching this goal." This advance provides a powerful new source of insight into microstructural degradation.

Building a micro battery 

3D images of changes in tin particles during the first two charge/discharge cycles of a model lithium-ion battery cell.
Developing a working micro battery cell for nanoscale x-ray 3D imaging was very challenging. Common coin-cell batteries aren't small enough, plus they block the x-ray beam when it is rotated. 
"The whole micro cell has to be less than one millimeter in size but with all battery components—the electrode being studied, a liquid electrolyte, and the counter electrode—supported by relatively transparent materials to allow transmission of the x-rays, and properly sealed to ensure that the cell can work normally and be stable for repeated cycling," Wang said. The paper explains in detail how Wang's team built a fully functioning battery cell with all three battery components contained within a quartz capillary measuring one millimeter in diameter. 
By placing the cell in the path of high-intensity x-ray beams generated at beamline X8C of Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), the scientists produced more than 1400 two-dimensional x-ray images of the anode material with a resolution of approximately 30 nanometers. These 2D images were later reconstructed into 3D images, much like a medical CT scan but with nanometer-scale clarity. Because the x-rays pass through the material without destroying it, the scientists were able to capture and reconstruct how the material changed over time as the cell discharged and recharged, cycle after cycle. 
individual tin particle changes
Click on the image to download a high-resolution version.These images show how the surface morphology and internal microstructure of an individual tin particle changes from the fresh state through the initial lithiation and delithiation cycle (charge/discharge). Most notable are the expansion in overall particle volume during lithiation, and reduction in volume and pulverization during delithiation. The cross-sectional images reveal that delithiation is incomplete, with the core of the particle retaining lithium surround by a layer of pure tin.
Using this method, the scientists revealed that, "severe microstructural changes occur during the first delithiation and subsequent second lithiation, after which the particles reach structural equilibrium with no further significant morphological changes."
Specifically, the particles making up the tin-based anode developed significant curvatures during the early charge/discharge cycles leading to high stress. "We propose that this high stress led to fracture and pulverization of the anode material during the first delithiation," Wang said. Additional concave features after the first delithiation further induced structural instability in the second lithiation, but no significant changes developed after that point.
"After these initial two cycles, the tin anode shows a stable discharge capacity and reversibility," Wang said.  
"Our results suggest that the substantial microstructural changes in the electrodes during the initial electrochemical cycle—called forming in the energy storage industry—are a critical factor affecting how a battery retains much of its current capacity after it is formed," she said. "Typically a battery loses a substantial portion of its capacity during this initial forming process. Our study will improve understanding of how this happens and help us develop better controls of the forming process with the goal of improving the performance of energy storage devices."
Jiajun Wang, Karen Chen and Jun Wang
Click on the image to download a high-resolution version.Jiajun Wang, Karen Chen and Jun Wang prepare a sample for study at NSLS beamline X8C.
Wang pointed out that while the current study looked specifically at a battery with tin as the anode, the electrochemical cell her team developed and the x-ray nanotomography technique can be applied to studies of other anode and cathode materials. The general methodology for monitoring structural changes in three dimensions as materials operate also launches an opportunity to monitor chemical states and phase transformations in catalysts, other types of materials for energy storage, and biological molecules.
The transmission x-ray microscope used for this study will soon move to a full-field x-ray imaging (FXI) beamline at NSLS-II, a world-class synchrotron facility now nearing completion at Brookhaven Lab. This new facility will produce x-ray beams 10,000 times brighter than those at NSLS, enabling dynamic studies of various materials as they perform their particular functions.
Jiajun Wang and Yu-chen Karen Chen-Wiegart are research associates in Wang's research group and performed the work together. 
This research was funded as a Laboratory Directed Research and Development project at Brookhaven Lab and by the DOE Office of Science. The transmission x-ray microscope used in this work was built with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

Sunday, March 30, 2014

University competition cars visit Argonne for testing

Argonne National Laboratory News Release:

University competition cars visit Argonne for testing

ARGONNE, Ill. – Three university teams competing to win the EcoCAR 2challenge will visit the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory this week. The national contest offers students a unique hands-on experience to select and implement advanced technologies that increase vehicle fuel efficiency.
Students teams from Colorado State University (CSU), the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle and the University of Victoria (UVic) in Canada will converge on Argonne's Advanced Powertrain Research Facility March 25-28 to test their reengineered 2013 Chevy Malibu vehicles, which were donated by General Motors, an EcoCAR 2 partner.
EcoCAR 2 is a three-year collegiate competition that gives the next generation of automotive engineers experience in the design and integration of more fuel-efficient technologies into vehicle systems. The students’ goals are to reduce fuel consumption, and greenhouse gas and tailpipe emissions, without sacrificing performance, safety or utility.
The testing is the last chance for teams to gather data in order to make final tweaks to their vehicles before a winner is selected this June in Washington, D.C., during the competition's final phase. The three teams will be competing with 12 others whose vehicles are being test elsewhere. The cars are put on a dynamometer, which simulates urban, highway and aggressive driving conditions for eight hours. Each car will be tested for emissions and fuel economy. This test is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for all vehicle models driven in the United States.
During the first year of the competition, teams designed major subsystems including hybrid powertrain and high-power electrical systems.  In the second year, students integrated their customized powertrain systems and subsystems into their respective Malibu. The students followed GM’s Vehicle Design Process, which provides an outline of how to produce their prototype vehicles. 
The UW team's car has an electric traction motor in the back to drive the rear wheels, and in the vehicle's front, the team placed a biodiesel diesel engine to power the car when the battery is fully drained. 
CSU is the only team in the EcoCAR 2 competition to use hydrogen fuel cell technology. The team picked a hydrogen fuel cell series plug-in hybrid to power their car because it enables fast refueling while maintaining zero tailpipe emissions in all modes of operation.
The UVic team is using a series-parallel plug-in hybrid electric vehicle architecture powered by a high-capacity lithium-ion battery pack, which will also store energy from the grid.
EcoCAR 2 is a competition from the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy that promotes the power of public/private partnerships to provide experience and training to students entering the North American job market. 
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. For more information, visit

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Energy Systems Integration Facility Named Lab of the Year

NREL News Release:

Energy Systems Integration Facility Named Lab of the Year

Energy Department User Facility already helping partners achieve technology advancements

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The editors of R&D Magazine have named the Energy Department's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) as the 2014 Laboratory of the Year. Located on the campus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., research at ESIF transforms how the nation generates, delivers and uses energy by modernizing the interplay between energy sources, infrastructure, and data.

ESIF received this prestigious international award for being a first-of-its-kind research user facility that uniquely merges three very specialized components: an ultra-energy efficient workplace that consumes 74% less energy than the national average for office buildings, one of the world's most energy efficient high performance computing data centers, and sophisticated high-bay laboratory spaces with outdoor test areas. All of the labs in the 182,500-square-foot building are connected by a research electrical distribution bus (REDB), which functions as a power integration circuit capable of connecting multiple sources of energy with experiments.

"With ESIF, DOE is able to leverage even stronger partnerships with manufacturers and utilities to help integrate renewable energy into a smarter, more resilient energy system," DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson said.

Only in its first year of operation, strides are being made at ESIF to advance clean energy technologies and grid integration. NREL and its partners are using state-of-the-art capabilities to develop advanced PV inverter technology, high performance computer (HPC) cooling systems, microgrid controls, plug-in electric vehicles, and hybrid power systems.

"We've known that industry was eager for a place like ESIF, which allows utility companies and investors to see technology working in real time and on a large scale," NREL Director Dan Arvizu said. "ESIF continues to demonstrate the importance of partnerships among the national labs, industry, and academia. We have many partners already doing work at ESIF, and many more have expressed interest in helping advance these technologies."

Second Lab of the Year Recognition for NREL
In 2008, NREL was recognized by R&D Magazine with a special award for the Science & Technology Facility. The 71,000-square-foot laboratory was the first federal building to achieve the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building rating from the U.S. Green Buildings Council and marked the beginning of a series of LEED Platinum high-performance buildings at NREL.

Constructed by the design-build team of SmithGroupJJR and JE Dunn, ESIF became the fifth facility at NREL to earn a LEED platinum designation. Home to 200 scientists and engineers, the multi-story building fits into the sloping side of a mesa and is bounded by an arroyo on one side. Care was taken to minimize disturbing the natural terrain during construction.

ESIF achieved all 56 LEED points applied for, and the facility is 40% more energy efficient than the baseline building built according to ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2004. This is an exceptional achievement when considering that the ESIF has a 1 megawatt (MW) AC electric grid simulator, a 1 MW photovoltaic simulator, and a 1 MW load bank connected through the REDB, along with a variety of high and medium voltage outdoor testing areas.
The total cost to build and equip ESIF was $135 million.

"To have the ESIF facility, which advances research capabilities that don't exist anywhere else in the world, recognized for such a prestigious award only proves the hard work and dedication of the project team," states Brad Woodman, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, vice president and director of SmithGroupJJR's Phoenix office. "Congratulations to the entire ESIF team for a job well done on a project that will change the future of energy thought and use worldwide."

ESIF's high performance computing data center is a key factor in the building's energy efficiency. NREL reuses the "waste" heat generated by the HPC system as the primary heat source in ESIF offices and lab space.
Combining the efficiency of the data center the energy efficiency features of the HPC system and reusing the system's heat to reduce overall energy use saves approximately $1 million in annual operating costs compared to a traditional data center.
Awards for the Laboratory of the Year will be presented at the 2014 Laboratory Design Conference on April 3, at the Westin Waltham Boston Hotel in Massachusetts.
NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.


Monday, March 24, 2014

NREL Driving Research on Hydrogen Fuel Cells

NREL News Release:

NREL Driving Research on Hydrogen Fuel Cells

March 24, 2014

In this photo, the hose of a hydrogen refueling device forms an arc above two men. In the foreground to the right is the side of a car, with the device plugged into what looks like a standard gasoline fuel tank. To the left in the foreground is a large sign that says Enlarge image
Andrew Bermingham, left, fills up his Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL car with hydrogen with the help of NREL's Mike Peters at NREL's National Wind Technology Center. Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda all have committed to putting fuel cell vehicles on the market by 2015.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) were the belles of the ball at recent auto shows in Los Angeles and Tokyo, and researchers at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) continue to play a key part in improving performance and durability while driving down costs.
The driving public has long been tantalized by the allure of a vehicle that emits nothing but water from its tailpipe, but now that Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda have all committed to putting them on the market by 2015, the stakes have changed.
It's one thing for the automakers each to sell 1,000 or so cars the inaugural year, but quite another to ramp it up to 10,000 and beyond until these cars are an appreciable percentage of the marketplace.
Sunken engineering costs and the drive to improve economics through economies of scale are challenges for any new vehicles introduced to the market, including early internal-combustion hybrids, said Bryan Pivovar, fuel cell group manager in the Chemical and Materials Sciences Center located at NREL'sEnergy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF). But, no one doubts that the Prius is now a success—not just in being the best-selling hybrid on the market, but by enhancing Toyota's image as a green company and technology leader, he added.
Fuel cell electric vehicles could follow that same trajectory, but they have an extra hurdle to clear. They won't become commonplace until there's an infrastructure of fueling stations—and only a fraction of what is required has been built so far. "Nobody wants to have a hydrogen fueling station if there aren't enough fuel cell cars to support it," Pivovar said. Likewise, auto manufacturers are reluctant to go into full-scale production if there aren't enough places to fill up. "It's a chicken and egg scenario."

Cleaner Fuels a Research Priority at Energy Department

In this photo, a man wearing safety glasses and plastic gloves leans into laboratory equipment to make an adjustment.Enlarge image
NREL research scientist K.C. Neyerlin applies catalyst layers to a fuel cell through a spray process that delivers a more even distribution of material, improving performance.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
NREL hydrogen researchers are working with auto manufacturers, component vendors, and others to take a hard look at both the infrastructure and the cost challenges. NREL's new ESIF includes 7,000 square feet of lab space built for hydrogen and fuel cell research. Approximately 50 researchers contribute to hydrogen or fuel cell related tasks, including production, storage, codes and standards, technology validation, and analysis.
Researchers at NREL are examining the best ways to create hydrogen via electrolysis using wind and solar power. The most common way to produce hydrogen today is through steam reforming of natural gas—a tried-and-true approach, but one that generates greenhouse gases.
Just a few months ago, the Energy Department's Fuel Cell Technologies Office, within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which supports NREL's research at the ESIF, announced more than $7 million for projects in Georgia, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee that will help bring cost-effective, advanced hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to market faster. In the past five years, fuel cell durability has doubled; since 2005, the amount of expensive platinum needed in fuel cells has fallen by 80%, according to the Energy Department.
Pivovar predicts that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will take off first on islands such as Hawaii or Japan where a car can't get too far away from the nearest refueling station and fuel costs are often higher, and metropolises such as Los Angeles where smog provides an extra incentive for clean engines. "The motivations for cleaner engines often rise from local concerns, rather than global concerns."
NREL is analyzing the barriers and costs associated with installing enough hydrogen refueling stations to make fuel cell vehicles viable. One intriguing shortcut is to use existing natural gas lines to distribute hydrogen. Studies are exploring limiting hydrogen concentrations to less than 15% of the gas in the lines to avoid issues such as hydrogen embrittlement and to reduce the high capital costs of installing completely independent infrastructure.

Lowering the Amount of Platinum Key to Lowering Cost

In this photo, a man stands behind a large yellow robot with his hands on the robot's arm. Enlarge image
Preparing for the day when hydrogen fueling stations may be as common as gas stations, NREL research engineer Kevin Harrison uses a robot to simulate hydrogen refueling. The robot can simulate the refueling of a vehicle hundreds of times a day.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
The NREL fuel cell group has a strong focus on helping lower the cost of fuel cells. One important avenue is to decrease the amount of the precious metal platinum used in the fuel cell. Platinum plays a key role as a catalyst for the electrochemical reactions that occur in a fuel cell that convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, heat, and water.
Fuel cells produce electricity directly and can lead to much higher efficiencies than are possible with combustion engines.
Internal combustion engines powered by gasoline burn the carbon-based fuel in the presence of oxygen, producing carbon dioxide and other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) as byproducts. In fuel-cell vehicles, the only thing coming out of the tailpipe is water. In fact, they are so clean and efficient that they have provided both the electricity and water used by astronauts in space.
A typical FCEV uses polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells, which combine hundreds of single cells to make a fuel cell stack. The single cells consist of polymer membranes that are coated with catalysts, typically platinum supported on carbon. The high-pressure hydrogen gas cylinders on board release just enough hydrogen through the stack to produce the electricity needed to power the car. The vehicles use compressed hydrogen gas cylinders now, but could someday store the fuel in powder form.
"At NREL, we do a lot of work that is focused on enabling the materials science for the next generation of technologies for fuel cells," Pivovar said. The 2015 FCEVs will entice current and future customers, but the fuel cells will be using more platinum than will ultimately be cost competitive.
NREL scientists also have demonstrated activity and durability improvements for platinum if the surface is extended. "We're trying to make ultra-thin platinum films limited to a few atomic layers, while still making sure it covers the surface," Pivovar said. If platinum levels can be further dropped by two-thirds, hydrogen fuel cells could reach precious metal loadings on parity with catalytic converters in today's internal-combustion engines. The catalytic converters mandated for pollution concerns in conventional vehicles are not needed for the ultra-clean exhaust of fuel cell vehicles.
"We're getting very close to parity with the precious metals on the catalytic converter," he said. "Most of our projects focus on decreasing the platinum loading and making the performance of the cell higher and more durable, while lowering the cost. The key is addressing cost, performance, and durability at the same time."

NREL Analyzing Contaminants, Components

NREL is working with GM on improving the understanding of how contaminants affect fuel cells. Eventually, fuel cell systems will use inexpensive plastic, similar to the kind that is used to make containers, but without some of the added chemicals. NREL is examining which chemicals can be taken out of the plastic—and which need to stay in—in order to ensure reliable performance at a low price.
NREL is analyzing the components that will be needed to power hydrogen fuel cells. One approach is to put promising component materials in water, leach out potential contaminants, and carefully test for possible negative impact. "We perform analytical characterization of what's coming out in what I refer to as our CSI lab," Pivovar said, alluding to the popular Crime Scene Investigation TV series. Test results lead to recommendations for different materials or tweaks to current materials.
NREL's instruments can test efficiency while conditions change on catalyst-coated membranes, or while different contaminants are introduced. NREL also tests the electrochemical performance of the catalysts, a way to discover just how much platinum can be removed from the cell before it hampers efficiency. Considerations are also given for how materials can be recovered and recycled, particularly platinum. For fuel cell component manufacturing, NREL's unique web-line and quality-control diagnostic techniques are being employed to help manufacturers address costs and scale up issues associated with increased production volumes. Specifically, NREL is developing diagnostic techniques and applying them to roll-to-roll goods to ensure product quality requirements can be met at high production volumes.

Industry Demonstrates Commitment to Hydrogen

In the past 18 months, several auto manufacturers have formed partnerships to build platforms for fuel cell vehicles. So, when BMW comes out with its first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, it will use the same platform as Toyota. Likewise, Nissan, Ford, and Daimler have formed a partnership for a fuel cell and drivetrain platform. Honda and GM also are working together. "They realize that if fuel cells are going to succeed, they can't succeed just for one manufacturer, but for all of them," Pivovar said. "Working together lowers research costs and risks. And having just a few platforms, rather than several, will help them get their volumes up much quicker. It shows a commitment that they are really going to do this."
NREL's data show that fuel cells made striking improvements between 2005 and 2013. An important benchmark will be when fuel cell vehicles cost about the same as other vehicles amortized over a lifetime.
"We look to perform an enabling role," Pivovar says of NREL's hydrogen R&D program, which has a budget of about $13 million a year. "Today's materials still need advances for large-scale deployment. Our role is to help enable the advances to allow them to become cheap enough and durable enough to get to manufacturing."
Learn more about NREL's hydrogen and fuel cell research.
— Bill Scanlon

Robot Tests Resiliency of Hydrogen Refueling

A bright yellow robot the size of a power forward bends and twists a hydrogen fueling hose hundreds of times a day, testing the durability of the hoses that someday soon will refuel America's hydrogen vehicles.
The robot is the colorful keystone of the hose reliability project at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), the newest building at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
With a long arm where its nose should be, the robot simulates the bending and twisting that humans do when they refill their gasoline engines today, and what they'll do in slightly different fashion in 2015 and beyond as car manufacturers bring vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells to market.
The robot has a twisty wrist that can turn the hose assembly deftly onto a pin to mate with the vehicle's exterior where the refueling will happen. The repetitive motion puts stress on the hose, so researchers can identify opportunities to increase the lifespan and reduce the cost of the hose assembly. The test also includes low-temperature and pressurized hydrogen gas conditions that will be part of the real-world refueling process.
NREL Senior Engineer Kevin Harrison notes that today's gas stations use the same hoses for thousands of fill-ups before they need to be replaced, and hydrogen fuel cell stations will need to reach that same level of reliability with their hose assembly. "This is a matter of adding value and working with industry to reduce the cost of the hose and the hydrogen infrastructure in general," Harrison said. "This facility [ESIF] allows industry to perform testing they can't do anywhere else in the world."
— Bill Scanlon

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Energy Department Invests $17 Million in Small Businesses to Accelerate Clean Energy Innovation

DOE News Release:

March 20, 2014

WASHINGTON -- Building on President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to continue U.S. leadership in clean energy innovation, the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) today awarded $17 million in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) projects to help small businesses in 13 states develop prototype technologies that could improve manufacturing energy efficiency, reduce the cost of installing clean energy projects, and generate electricity from renewable energy sources.  These projects will include technologies such as wind turbine blades that are easier to transport and use less energy, an electrochromic window technology that can achieve a 30% reduction in energy use, and a solar energy system that reduces installation costs and generates power in less time.    
"Small businesses employ half of America’s workers and create two out of every three new jobs in the United States," said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson. "By supporting small businesses and driving American leadership in clean energy innovation, we can create new job and business opportunities, strengthen U.S. competitiveness in a growing global market and provide more clean, affordable energy to communities across the country.”  
Supported by EERE, these projects will focus on developing clean energy technologies with a strong potential for commercialization and job creation.  Technologies from the 17 projects include:
·         Hydropower: Based in Keokuk, Iowa, Amjet Turbine Systems, LLC will develop lightweight, low-cost hydro turbines that can generate electricity from low-head dams and rivers all over the world.
·         Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling:  Austin, Texas-based Sheetak, Inc. aims to develop a low-cost solid-state heat pump technology that cuts the energy needed to heat water for commercial buildings and homes.
·         Electric Vehicles: Headquartered in Rockledge, Florida, Mainstream Engineering Corporation will develop a hybrid electric turbocharger to help charge plug-in electric vehicles faster – providing drivers with more options to  save money on fuel and cut carbon emissions.
These awards are for Phase II SBIR projects to further develop Phase I projects and produce a prototype or equivalent within two years.  See the full list of projects HERE and find more information on the Department’s Small Business Innovation Research program

Saturday, March 22, 2014

First Solar and GE Shape Next-Generation PV Power Plant

GE Press Release:

First Solar and GE Shape Next-Generation PV Power Plant

NEW YORK---March 19, 2014---First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) and GE's Power Conversion business (NYSE: GE) are utilizing their recently established technology and commercial partnership to develop a more cost-effective and productive utility-scale PV power plant design that combines First Solar's thin-film CdTe modules with GE's new ProSolar 1,500-volt inverter/transformer system.
First Solar has integrated new technology into its modules and optimized them for 1,500-volt DC applications. Combined with GE's 4-megawatt (MW) ProSolar 1,500-volt inverter/transformer stations, this development enables power plant engineering design that significantly increases the size of the solar array served by each inverter and reduces the number of inverter/transformer stations required for each plant to convert the power from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) and feed electricity to a commercial electrical grid. The resulting plant design maintains high power delivery while lowering installation and maintenance costs.
"This is a significant step in establishing the next generation of utility-scale PV power plants," said Mahesh Morjaria, First Solar's vice president of product management. "Partnering with an industry giant such as GE, we are able to take our power plant design to the next level and bring additional value to our customers." Morjaria also noted that future generations of First Solar modules will increase optimization, benefiting from advances gained in part from the acquisition last fall of GE thin-film PV technology.
"GE is known throughout the industry as an established leader in power generation technology. With our ProSolar inverters, we were able to draw from our experience developing and manufacturing technology for traditional power plants to create a highly efficient solution with industry-leading capabilities," said Joe Mastrangelo, CEO of GE Power Conversion. "The inverters' design enables our customers to apply engineering design that significantly increases efficiency of energy production. Together with First Solar, we can help customers get the most out of their solar power systems."
Morjaria said that First Solar already has identified projects under construction for initial deployment of the new 1,500-volt system. The 4-MW ProSolar 1,500-volt station is the largest inverter in the industry capable of accommodating 1,500-volt DC solar arrays, which is a major factor in utilizing economies of scale by significantly increasing the array size and reducing the number of inverters required by a solar power plant.
About First Solar, Inc.
First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar systems which use its advanced module and system technology. The company's integrated power plant solutions deliver an economically attractive alternative to fossil-fuel electricity generation today. From raw material sourcing through end-of-life module recycling, First Solar's renewable energy systems protect and enhance the environment. For more information about First Solar, please visit
About GE Power Conversion
GE's Power Conversion business applies the science and systems of power conversion to help drive the electrification of the world's energy infrastructure by designing and delivering advanced motor, drive and control technologies that evolve today's industrial processes for a cleaner, more productive future. Serving specialized sectors such as energy, marine, oil and gas, renewables and industry, through customized solutions and advanced technologies, GE Power Conversion partners with customers to maximize efficiency. To learn more, please visit:
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For First Solar Investors
This release contains forward-looking statements which are made pursuant to safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements include statements, among other things, concerning: our business strategy, including anticipated trends and developments in and management plans for our business and the markets in which we operate; future financial results, operating results, revenues, gross margin, operating expenses, products, projected costs, warranties, solar module efficiency and balance of systems ("BoS") cost reduction roadmaps, restructuring, product reliability and capital expenditures; our ability to continue to reduce the cost per watt of our solar modules; our ability to reduce the costs to construct photovoltaic ("PV") solar power systems; research and development programs and our ability to improve the conversion efficiency of our solar modules; sales and marketing initiatives; and competition. These forward-looking statements are often characterized by the use of words such as "estimate," "expect," "anticipate," "project," "plan," "intend," "believe," "forecast," "foresee," "likely," "may," "should," "goal," "target," "might," "will," "could," "predict," "continue" and the negative or plural of these words and other comparable terminology. Forward-looking statements are only predictions based on our current expectations and our projections about future events. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. We undertake no obligation to update any of these forward-looking statements for any reason. These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause our actual results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these statements. These factors include, but are not limited to, the matters discussed in Item 1A: "Risk Factors," of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2012, as updated and supplemented by risk factors included in our Prospectus dated June 12, 2013 filed with the SEC pursuant to Rule 424(b)(5) (the "Prospectus"), Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and other reports filed with the SEC.