71 Responses to Energy and global warming news for February 7, 2011: Chu’s Department of Energy seeks to cut solar costs 75% by 2020 in its “Sun Shot” program
JR: Many experts I know think that a 40% to 50% cut by about 2016 is quite doable — based as much on advances in deployment as in technology gains. The tough part, of course, will be competing with Chinese who have a much more aggressive R&D and deployment program — and a long-term commitment that conservatives in this country reject.
Of course, even six cents a kilowatt hour will not mean PV competes with existing coal. As always, if you want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sharply enough to avert multiple catastrophes, you need a high and rising price on CO2.
The U.S. Department of Energy said on Friday it will spend $27 million on a new effort to reduce the costs of solar power by 75 percent by the end of the decade in a bid to make the renewable power source as cheap as fossil fuels.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu dubbed the program a “sun shot” that was patterned on President John F. Kennedy’s “moon shot” goal in the 1960s that called for the United States to land a man on the moon.
Chu said cutting the cost of installed solar power by 75 percent would put the price at about $1 per watt, he said, or about 6 cents per kilowatt hour.
“That would make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies of any kind,” he told a conference call.
Costs for to install photovoltaic solar panels, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, currently run above 22 cents per kilowatt per hour, although federal grants and state incentives can trim that to below 15 cents for large projects.
Many U.S. solar industry advocates have long complained that the Chinese government’s support of its solar companies has enabled its companies to take market share from U.S. manufacturers.
The global race is heating up to create the next generation of miracle drugs, the technology that will put electric cars in every garage and ultra-fast computers to tackle complex problems such as climate change.
President Barack Obama has called for increased total U.S. spending on scientific research and development, which is currently at about $375 billion a year. Much of it would go into clean-energy research, but also into biotechnology, nanotechnology and other fields where competition from China and other Asian nations is on the rise.
“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” Obama said in his State of the Union address on Jan. 25, referring to the Soviet satellite that beat the U.S. to space and launched the space race.
“After investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs,” he said. “We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.”
An important measure of innovation is funding for research and development. The U.S. government and private sector invested 2.7 percent of gross domestic product in R&D in 2007, compared with China’s 1.4 percent, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. China’s leaders have vowed to increase R&D spending to 2.5 percent of GDP. Other Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea, already have passed the U.S. in this measure.
Iowa officials called on Congress and the next U.S. president to create 2 million new jobs in two years through a $100 billion investment in renewable fuels.
Environmental advocates gathered on the steps of the state Capitol on Saturday amid signs of “We’re ready. Green jobs now” to emphasize how Iowa can benefit from growth in renewable energy, such as ethanol and wind power.
The rally, organized by the 1Sky Campaign, was one of more than 660 events held nationwide Saturday as part of an effort to rally the federal government to build an environmentally friendly economy.
About 30 supporters sporting green hard hats stood next to contrasting images of an Iowa wind farm and a smokestack belchng out carbon.
“These jobs will eventually drive our economy and provide much relief to a job market that has seen over 600,000 jobs lost this year alone,” Ben Murry, political director of the United Steelworkers in Iowa, said in a press release.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu says three Massachusetts companies will receive $12.6 million from the federal government to help develop the country’s advanced solar energy technologies.
The funding announced Friday is part of the Department of Energy’s “SunShot” initiative to reduce the total costs of large-scale solar energy systems by about 75 percent by the end of the decade. That, experts hope, will make it possible for the solar energy to be competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies.
Massachusetts projects that will benefit from the funding include run by 1366 Technologies of Lexington, Veeco Solar Equipment of Lowell and Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates Inc. of Gloucester.
The projects are part of $20 million in awards intended to develop U.S. supply chains for photovoltaic solar manufacturing.
Senior Obama administration officials will be in Norfolk on Monday to announce a coordinated effort by several federal agencies to more quickly develop wind energy off Virginia’s coast by streamlining regulations and timetables, according to a source familiar with the announcement.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will be at the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center near Nauticus to explain new efforts to “accelerate the responsible siting and development of offshore wind energy projects,” according to a statement issued Friday by their departments.
Chu and Salazar also are expected to announce the availability of $50 million in competitive funding for efforts related to wind energy, the source said.
Virginia leaders and environmental officials have long supported exploring the development of wind power and have hoped that Hampton Roads could be a prime location for developing the industry.
Glen Besa, director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter, said Friday that he didn’t know any details but hopes that areas will be identified as sites for potential wind energy development.
“Any progress in this area is most welcome,” said Besa, an advocate for developing alternative energy sources.
“When you go from using food stamps and all of a sudden you have the power to support yourself, it changes the way you see yourself, it changes how the world sees you.”
When Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins was 12 years old, her mom went from welfare to work and Phaedra’s life changed.
“If you know what that feels like, you can’t not want to do it for others.”
Phaedra said Friday’s announcement that unemployment has dropped means more people are now feeling that same sentiment. “It’s not enough, it’s not perfect, but it’s a sign of hope,” she said. “It means people are working again.”
Phaedra, 34, is the CEO of Green For All, which works to get people back to work through green jobs. Partnering with individuals, small businesses and cities, and the Obama Administration, the organization is working to make the green economy a central part of the economic recovery.
Phaedra got her start in the labor movement in San Jose, California, fighting for airport employees and helping to establish universal healthcare for children in Santa Clara County.
Price of a set of poster-sized ads in two Washington, D.C. metro stations: $250,000.
Sending your message to lawmakers and Congressional staffers one last time before they head home from work: Priceless.
The oil and wind power industries battle constantly on Capitol Hill for the hearts and minds of lawmakers. Now, the two industries are chasing lawmakers and staffers during their commutes.
The American Wind Energy Association paid $250,000 to position large advertisements in the the Capitol South and Union Station Metro stops that flank Capitol Hill offices on the south and north.
The ads picture hard-working, smiling people proud to have welcomed wind turbines into their communities.
“The point we’re making is that there are plenty of people who are YIMBYs “” Yes In My Back Yard people “” and that they’re not all NIMBYs,” said Peter Kelley, a spokesman for the group.