Highlights in 2018
Update on clean energy innovation policies and strategies
The United States is moving forward swiftly with a true “all of the above” energy strategy founded on a new energy realism to drive clean energy progress through innovation. This includes a definition of clean energy that recognizes the role of nuclear energy and high-efficiency fossil fuels in the energy mix for the foreseeable future, as well as the strong progress of cost competitive renewable energy technologies in the marketplace. Cutting edge research and development (R&D) in highly efficient fossil fuels, next generation nuclear reactors and fuels, renewable energy technologies, energy storage and grid technologies, and energy efficiency remains a critical element of the overall energy and economic strategy of the United States.
Recognition of R&D Success
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) engages in a wide range of R&D activities in energy and basic science. Research at DOE’s National Laboratories is widely recognized in the scientific community as cutting edge. In 2018, DOE researchers won or shared 32 of the 100 awards given out by R&D Magazine and received “Special Recognitions” for “Green Tech,” “Market Disruptor—Products,” and “Corporate Social Responsibility.” The annual R&D 100 Awards are given in recognition of exceptional new products or processes that were developed and introduced into the marketplace during the previous year. DOE’s national laboratories have received more than 800 R&D 100 awards since the annual competition began in 1962. The awards are selected by an independent panel of judges based on the technical significance, uniqueness, and usefulness of projects and technologies from across industry, government, and academia. Many of these projects were developed in collaboration with private companies or academic institutions.
Through a multiyear, multipart funding opportunity announcement (FOA), U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Energy Technology Development, DOE established cost-shared private-public partnerships with U.S. companies for multiple domestic advanced nuclear technology projects, totaling approximately $98 million.
At the same time, a partnership with NuScale continues, assuring advanced Small Modular Reactor design can be completed and made available for deployment in the mid-2020s.
Grid Integration of Renewables
In October 2018, the U.S. DOE announced up to $46 million in new funding for new technologies that increase the resiliency of solar generated electricity. With more and more solar generation coming online every day, grid operators need the tools and technologies to ensure that the electric grid is resilient and energy services are delivered to critical infrastructure. These projects will develop and validate control strategies, real-time system monitoring, robust communications and other technologies to make solar power at the bulk power and distribution levels more resilient.
In March 2019, the DOE selected up to $36 million in research projects that will advance solar energy’s role in strengthening the resilience of the Nation’s electricity grid. While fires, natural disasters, and cyberattacks can cause wide-spread power losses, even temporary disruptions in power quality can result in major economic losses. With more and more solar being added to the U.S. electricity generation portfolio, these projects will enable grid operators to rapidly detect physical and cyber-based abnormalities in the power system and utilize solar generation to recover quickly from power outages, in many cases without human control.
Expanding the Renewables Workforce
In October 2018, the DOE announced up to $53 million in new projects to advance early-stage solar technologies; aims include lowered electricity costs and workforce expansion, including training programs for veterans and transitioning military personnel.
In March 2019, the DOE announced up to $130 million for new research to advance early-stage solar technologies. These projects will help to achieve affordable and reliable energy to enhance America’s economic growth and energy security. This funding program targets five research areas: photovoltaics (PV), concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP), soft costs reduction, innovations in manufacturing, and solar systems integration. These projects will make solar energy more affordable, reliable, and secure, while working to boost domestic solar manufacturing, reduce red tape, and make PV more resilient to cyberattack.
In March 2019, the DOE announced up to $28.1 million in funding aimed at advancing wind energy nationwide across the land-based, offshore, and distributed wind sectors. While utility-scale wind energy in the United States has grown to 90 gigawatts, significant opportunities for cost reductions remain, especially in the areas of offshore wind, distributed wind, and tall wind.
Enhancing Oil Recovery and Natural Gas Midstream Infrastructure, and Mitigating Methane Emissions
On April 16, 2019, the DOE announced up to $39 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects that aim to improve oil and natural gas technologies. One of the research areas aims to improve efficiency and capabilities for enhanced oil recovery in offshore wells. The other research area is to enhance the safety, mitigate methane emissions and efficiency of the nation’s natural gas production, gathering, transmission, and storage infrastructure.
In 2018, DOE reaffirmed U.S. superiority in high performance computing (HPC). The Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) topped the TOP500 list of the world’s fastest, with Sierra at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory ranked as number two. Two teams of DOE-supported researchers shared the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize for the world’s most outstanding HPC application, cementing the U.S. lead in supercomputing hardware, software, and applications.
Major innovation initiatives in 2018/19
Water Security Grand Challenge (WSGC)
In October 2018, Secretary Perry announced the launch of the WSGC, a White House-initiated, DOE-led framework to advance transformational technologies to meet the global need for clean, abundant and affordable water.
Using a coordinated suite of prizes, competitions, early-stage research and development funding opportunities, critical partnerships, and other programs, the Water Security Grand Challenge sets the following goals for the United States to reach by 2030:
- Launch desalination technologies that deliver cost-competitive clean water
- Transform the energy sector’s produced water from a waste to a resource
- Achieve near-zero water impact for new thermoelectric power plants, and significantly lower freshwater use intensity within the existing fleet
- Double resource recovery from municipal wastewater
- Develop small, modular energy-water systems for urban, rural, tribal, national security, and disaster response settings.
In February 2019, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced the selection of eight projects to receive nearly $24 million in federal funds for cost-shared R&D for Novel and Enabling Carbon Capture Transformational Technologies. The selected projects will focus on the development of solvent, sorbent, and membrane technologies to address scientific challenges and knowledge gaps associated with reducing the cost of carbon capture. These projects will allow the United States, along with the rest of the world, to use both coal and natural gas with near-zero emissions.
Advance Hydropower and Marine Energy
On April 1, 2019, DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel Simmons announced up to $26.1 million in funding to drive innovative industry-led technology solutions to advance the marine and hydrokinetics (MHK) industry and increase hydropower’s ability to serve as a flexible grid resource. The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) will select projects that aim to increase affordability of hydropower and marine energy, strengthen U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, and build on Department-wide energy storage initiatives to improve the capability of technologies to deliver value to the grid.
Hydropower has significant capabilities for flexible operation, making it well-positioned to contribute to system reliability and resilience in an evolving electricity system. Today, the complexity of multi-use constraints affects many hydropower plants, and together with the wide variability in plant configurations across the fleet, understanding the fleet’s potential for flexibility is a formidable challenge. This area seeks to quantify the flexible capabilities of hydropower and advance operational strategies to increase such flexibility to better serve an evolving grid.