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DOE launches Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative; awards $23.5M to 5 more manufacturing R&D projects

The US Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative (CEMI), which will focus on growing US manufacturing of clean energy products and boosting US competitiveness through major improvements in manufacturing energy productivity. The initiative includes private sector partnerships, new funding from the Department, and enhanced analysis of the clean energy manufacturing supply chain that will guide DOE’s future funding decisions.

As a part of its increased focus on manufacturing research and development, DOE also awarded $23.5 million to 5 innovative manufacturing research and development projects. This new funding for advanced manufacturing—as well as the $54 million invested in 13 projects during the first round of selections in June of 2012 (earlier post)—is to serve as a ground floor investment in CEMI.

The CEMI announcement was made at the ribbon cutting of the Department’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a new advanced manufacturing facility to reduce the cost of carbon fiber. (Earlier post.) Officials from DOE, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Ford Motor Company, and Dow Chemical launched the facility.

Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative. Key elements of the initiative include:

  • Increasing funding for clean energy manufacturing research and development that will accelerate US-based manufacturing of cost-competitive clean energy technologies, from wind, solar, and geothermal to batteries and biofuels.

    DOE has released a $15-million funding opportunity to reduce the manufacturing costs of solar energy technology, including photovoltaics and concentrated solar power, and demonstrate cost-competitive innovative manufacturing technologies that can achieve commercial production in the next few years.

    In the coming months, DOE plans to issue a new funding opportunity that supports a new manufacturing innovation institute.

  • Providing additional energy productivity training and technical assistance for manufacturers that build on current efforts like the Industrial Assessment Centers that offer no-cost energy efficiency assessments for manufacturers and the Better Plants Challenge.

  • Leveraging the capabilities of our National Laboratories to conduct targeted analysis that evaluates the US competitive position in manufacturing and prioritizes strategic investments that strengthen American competitiveness in the global energy market.

  • Hosting a series of regional and national summits to gather input on manufacturing priorities, identify barriers and opportunities for growing clean energy manufacturing competitiveness and showcase national and regional models that address these priorities.

  • Launching new public-private partnerships focused on improving US clean energy manufacturing competitiveness. For example, the US Council on Competitiveness is partnering with the Energy Department to convene a series of dialogues among government, small business, industry, research institutions and labor leaders to help develop and recommend strategies for growing the US clean energy manufacturing sector.

Awards. The latest selected projects were picked through a competitive application process and are supported by research teams working on foundational process and materials technologies—technologies that have high impact, use project diversity to spread risk, target nationally important innovation at critical decision points, and contribute to quantifiable energy savings.

The selected projects, announced for negotiations today, cover R&D in computational modeling and simulation for automation and equipment; steel fabrication processing; steel heat treatment processing; high value petrochemicals’ and waste heat minimization manufacturing. The selected project recipients and DOE funding request are:

Projects Selected for Award Negotiations in March 2013
Lead organization Description Funding request
Ford Motor Company Rapid Freeform Sheet Metal Forming: Technology Development and System Verification
A highly-flexible, energy-efficient, double-sided sheet metal forming tool capable of creating features on both sides of sheet metal, and eliminating the need for geometry-specific forming dies and the energy used to make and maintain them. The new technology can reduce material scrap by 70%; reduce energy consumption by 70% through elimination of castings and dies; and reduce production cost by 90% through the elimination of customized tooling.
University of Texas at Austin Industrial Scale Demonstration of Smart Manufacturing Achieving Transformational Energy Productivity Gains
A Smart Manufacturing (SM) platform can integrate information technology, performance metrics, and models and simulations driven by real-time plant sensor data. This integrated platform allows manufacturers to optimize energy productivity in real-time, and, in turn, reduce waste and improve energy efficiency up to 30%. The SM platform would allow manufacturers to evaluate and assemble a rigorous system of monitoring and process control regardless of company size or industry type.
Colorado School of Mines Quenching and Partitioning Process Development to Replace Hot Stamping of High Strength Automotive Steel
Quenching and Partitioning (Q&P) processing allows room-temperature stamping to replace hot stamping (typically 900°C) for making advanced high strength, light-weight steels. The estimated energy savings associated with producing 10 million cars annually with Q&P steels is nearly 30 trillion Btu. Additional benefits include lower capital investments associated with room temperature forming lines and reduced manufacturing times due to the elimination of the cooling step.
Novomer Conversion of Waste CO2 and Shale Gas to High Value Chemicals
Waste CO2 from industrial sources and ethane-derivatives from shale gas can be converted into high value chemical intermediates (e.g. acrylic acid) using combustion-assisted solid oxide electrolysis and 99% selective catalytic carbonylation chemistry. Preliminary estimates suggest a 20-40% reduction in both cradle to grave energy usage and cost compared to current production technologies.
TIAX LLC Waste Heat-to-Power in Small-Scale Industry Using Scroll Expander for Organic Rankine Bottoming Cycle
Medium-grade waste heat can be converted to electric power using a novel, scalable scroll expander having an isentropic expansion efficiency of 75% to 80% for a broad range of organic Rankine cycle boiler pressures, condensing temperatures, and speeds. Estimates suggest the system would generate net income in three years and provide national energy savings of 0.90 TBtu/year just for natural gas from coffee roasting applications alone.

Carbon Fiber Technology Facility. Now open to US manufacturers, this facility provides clean energy companies and researchers with a test bed for the development of less expensive, better performing carbon fiber materials and manufacturing processes.

Carbon fiber is a strong, stiff, lightweight material that can lower the cost and improve the performance of fuel-efficient vehicles, wind energy and energy storage components, electronics, power transmission, and aerospace technologies, among others. Next-generation lightweight materials, such as carbon-fiber composites, could reduce passenger car weight by 50% and improve fuel efficiency by about 35% without compromising performance or safety, according to DOE.

The Energy Department estimates that through the strategic use of carbon fiber, automakers could cut the weight of cars and trucks by up to 750 pounds by 2020.

Currently, carbon fiber materials are more expensive and complicated to manufacture than more traditional materials like steel and aluminum. The Carbon Fiber Technology Facility will help industry and researchers develop better and cheaper processes for manufacturing these materials. It will produce up to 25 tons of carbon fiber each year, providing US companies with enough material, infrastructure, and technical resources to test and scale-up different approaches to lower carbon fiber costs and efficient production.

Supported by a $35-million Energy Department grant, the 42,000-square foot facility features a 390-foot-long melt-spun fiber line to produce raw fiber materials and expects to add an additional conversion line in the coming months. The facility has attracted a consortium of more than 40 private and public sector partners, including Ford, Dow Chemical and Volkswagen of America.



Will this $$M be enough to convince local-national manufacturers to clean up their acts and produce more energy efficient products or/

Will they take the hand outs and use it to pay their managers a few $M more?

How much of the grants really go towards the initial goals?


I thought I would post this story on an Aluminum Air range extender. It might catch on some day.


Good question Harvey. I have always wonder why the feds dump so much money into major corps when they have no intention of doing anything but what is most profitable in the short term. GE is one I always suspect is just attempting to keep the funding out of the hands of the competition. On the other hand, smaller companies with narrower portfolios of products have much more incentive to go forward to actual commercialization. I would have a greater tendency to fund smaller companies with less historical management baggage.


TIAX LLC Waste Heat-to-Power in Small-Scale Industry Using Scroll Expander for Organic Rankine Bottoming Cycle

Medium-grade waste heat can be converted to electric power using a novel, scalable scroll expander having an isentropic expansion efficiency of 75% to 80% for a broad range of organic Rankine cycle boiler pressures, condensing temperatures, and speeds. $2,499,253

There is an example of funding smaller projects at small companies that could have a major benefit.

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