WASHINGTON, DC, November 30, 2009 (ENS) – The Department of Energy is awarding $620 million for projects around the country to demonstrate advanced Smart Grid technologies and integrated systems that will help build a smarter, more efficient, more resilient electrical grid.

The funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be leveraged with $1 billion in funds from the private sector to support more than $1.6 billion in total Smart Grid projects nationally.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced last week that the smart grid funding would go to 32 demonstration projects, including large-scale energy storage, smart meters, distribution and transmission system monitoring devices, and a range of other smart technologies.

Secretary Chu also announced funding for a new $45 million wind energy utility-scale test facility and $18 in small business clean energy innovation projects.

The wind energy test facility will be built at Clemson University’s Restoration Institute in South Carolina. It will test the performance, durability, and reliability of next-generation utility-scale wind turbines.

“Wind power holds tremendous potential to help create new jobs and reduce carbon pollution,” said Secretary Chu. “We are at the beginning of a new Industrial Revolution when it comes to clean energy and projects like these will help us get there faster.”

Wind turbine sizes have increased with each new generation of turbines, and have outgrown the capacity of existing U.S. drivetrain testing facilities. The new Large Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing facility is expected to improve U.S. competitiveness in wind energy technology, maintain rapid growth in the deployment of wind energy systems, and ultimately lower energy costs for consumers.

The new facility will be located at the Charleston Naval Complex, a former Navy base in North Charleston, South Carolina and will be a part of the Clemson University Restoration Institute campus.

The Clemson University Restoration Institute and its partners have received $53 million of matching funds in addition to the $45 million DOE grant, to build and operate a large-scale wind turbine drive train testing facility at the institute’s research campus on the former Navy base.

The university’s partners are: the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority; the South Carolina Department of Commerce; the State of South Carolina; South Carolina Public Railways; the South Carolina State Ports Authority; and private partners RENK AG, Tony Bakker and James Meadors.

In the short term, the Restoration Institute estimates the initiative will create at least 113 temporary jobs associated with construction of the facility and 21 full-time jobs. It also will generate 568 indirect jobs for a total of 852 jobs. The DOE estimates that South Carolina could gain 10,000 to 20,000 new jobs related to the wind power industry over the next 20 years.

“As the wind energy market emerges along the East Coast and turbines continue to grow in size and weight, South Carolina is strategically positioned to serve as an industrial hub for this evolving industry,” said John Kelly, executive director of the Clemson University Restoration Institute.

The test facility will operate as a nonprofit organization with a business model designed for sustainability while providing ongoing state-of-the-art testing to wind turbine manufacturers.

The Large Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing facility will feature power analysis equipment capable of performing highly accelerated life testing of land-based and offshore wind turbine drive systems rated at 5-15 megawatts.

These dynamometer tests of drivetrains are required to demonstrate compliance with wind turbine design standards, reduce wind turbine costs, secure product financing, and reduce the technical and financial risk of deploying mass-produced wind turbine models.

In addition, the Department of Energy is giving 125 grants of up to $150,000 each to 107 small advanced technology firms across the country.

“Small businesses are drivers of innovation and are crucial to the development of a competitive clean energy U.S. economy,” said Secretary Chu. “These investments will help ensure small businesses are able to compete in the clean energy economy, creating jobs and developing new technologies to help decrease carbon pollution and increase energy efficiency.

The companies were competitively selected from a pool of 950 applicants through a special fast-track process with an emphasis on near-term commercialization and job creation.

Companies that demonstrate successful results with their new technologies and show potential to meet market needs will be eligible for $60 million in a second round of grants in the summer of 2010.

Grants were awarded in 10 topic areas:

  • Advanced Building Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, Thermal Load Shifting, and Cool Roofs – Improving efficiency of air conditioning and refrigeration while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing peak demand, and reducing thermal loads on roofs.
  • Water Usage in Electric Power Production – Decreasing the amount of water used in thermoelectric power generation, improving water quality through the development of advanced water treatment technologies, and developing innovative approaches to desalination using Combined Heat and Power projects.
  • Power Plant Cooling – Advanced heat exchange technology for power plant cooling.
  • Advanced Gas Turbines and Materials – Researching high temperature materials and component cooling techniques, high performance materials for nuclear applications, materials that help save energy and diminish carbon emissions, and novel designs for high-efficiency and low-cost distributed power systems.
  • Sensors, Controls, and Wireless Networks – Developing building applications to minimize power use, sensors and controls for efficient industrial processes, wireless networks and sensors for monitoring nuclear power systems, and power line sensor systems for the Smart Grid.
  • Advanced Water Power Technology Development – Advancing hydropower systems or subsystems, as well as new approaches to wave and current energy technologies and ocean thermal energy conversion systems.
  • Smart Controllers for Smart Grid Applications – Developing smart controllers for household appliance to enable Smart Grid services, technologies to support electric vehicles, and support of distributed energy generation systems.
  • Advanced Solar Technologies – Achieving cost and performance improvements over current technologies, solar-powered systems that produce fuels, and Concentrated Solar Power systems for distributed applications.
  • Advanced Industrial Technologies Development – Improving efficiency and environmental performance in the cement industry, low-cost manufacturing processes for innovative nanomaterials, novel approaches to water heat recovery, and transformational technologies to address high Global Warming Potential industrial gases.
  • Advanced Manufacturing Processes – Mitigating heat losses, fouling and scaling in unit operations, and improving heat and energy losses in energy intensive manufacturing processes, including distillation and dewatering systems.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.