Clean energy news brief July 24: Canada funding next-gen clean energy projects

solar powered hospital

Solar powered hospital

Also in this brief:  US Energy Dept. gives $46.2 million for 48 solar tech projects, US fuel ethanol production continues to grow in 2017

Canadian government looking to fund next-generation clean energy infrastructure projects

Investing in next generation clean energy infrastructure and technologies will advance Canada’s efforts to build a clean economy, create well-paying jobs for middle-class Canadians and help us reach the country reach its climate change goals.

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Jim Carr, today announced a call for expressions of interest for funding aimed at driving an innovative and sustainable economy.

Natural Resources Canada received funding in Budget 2017 for the implementation of new national programs, including projects to support next-generation smart grid systems, reduce the reliance of northern and Indigenous communities on diesel fuel, increase the number of electric vehicle stations and help build new net-zero buildings across Canada.

Natural Resources Canada is now seeking information from potential applicants through a project concept questionnaire and expressions of interest. A call for full project proposals will follow later this year.

Energy Department announces $46.2 million for 48 projects to advance solar power technologies

The US Department of Energy announced $46.2 million for 48 projects as part of its SunShot Initiative, projects intended to develop innovative, early-stage solar power technologies are aimed at lowering costs and improving reliability and efficiency.

“The SunShot Initiative is a proven driver of solar energy innovation,” SunShot Initiative Director Charlie Gay said. “These projects ensure there’s a pipeline of knowledge, human resources, transformative technology solutions, and research to support the industry.”

The projects span two SunShot programs: Photovoltaics Research and Development 2: Modules and Systems (PVRD2), which will advance research in solar photovoltaic technology; and Technology to Market 3 (T2M3), which supports early-stage solar technology research.

In addition, cost share requirements will leverage additional private sector funding, yielding a total public and private investment of nearly $65 million.

The funds are cooperative agreements that involve substantial federal oversight and consist of go/no go technical benchmarks, which reinforce attentive project stewardship.

PVRD2 supports a wide variety of photovoltaics research pathways, including module design, high-risk emerging research, and technology facilitating rapid installation.

Nearly 80 percent of these projects are led by academic institutions, ensuring that the next generation of energy researchers pursue cutting-edge solar technologies. These projects will investigate new solar concepts that have the potential to be broadly applied across the industry. The program is the latest of SunShot’s efforts to fund early-stage research and development designed to make solar one of the most cost-efficient energy sources in the nation.

T2M3 selects solar energy technologies and focuses on research to address early-stage, pre-commercial risk reduction. To maintain solar energy’s current growth trajectory, the industry needs a wide variety of products and services that can increase system values while reducing costs, increase consumer access to solar, and facilitate solar grid integration. Despite solar’s rapid growth, the challenge remains for small businesses to find funding for early-stage, transformative technology research and development.

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US fuel ethanol production continues to grow in 2017

Through the first six months of 2017, U.S. weekly ethanol production averaged 1.02 million barrels per day (b/d), an increase of 5 per cent over the same period in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

On a weekly basis, U.S. ethanol production set a record of 1.06 million b/d in the week of Jan. 27, 2017, and it has averaged near or above 1 million b/d in every week of 2017 except for a few weeks in April, when ethanol plants typically undergo seasonal maintenance.

If ethanol production remains relatively high through the second half of the year, as EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) expects, 2017 will set a new record for annual fuel ethanol production.

Corn is the primary feedstock of ethanol in the United States, and large corn harvests have contributed to increased ethanol production in recent years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the United States produced a record 15.1 billion bushels of corn in the 2016–17 harvest year, 11 per cent more than the 2015–16 harvest.

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Increased corn production and relatively stable corn prices have helped make increased ethanol production more profitable and less susceptible to corn price shocks that had affected ethanol profitability and output in the past.

U.S. ethanol plant capacity increased for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, reaching a nameplate capacity of approximately 15.5 billion gallons per year in Jan.

Total ethanol production is expected to reach 1.02 million barrels per day in 2017, a rate equivalent to 15.8 billion gallons.

Annual ethanol production is able to exceed capacity for two reasons: new production capacity has likely been added since the January 2017 capacity survey date, and many ethanol plants are able to operate at levels beyond their nameplate production capacity.

In the United States, ethanol is primarily used as a blending component in the production of motor gasoline and mainly blended in volumes up to 10 per cent ethanol, also known as E10.

In recent years, ethanol production increased as a result of higher Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets and growth in domestic motor gasoline consumption, almost all of which is now blended with 10 per cent ethanol by volume. Demand for higher ethanol blends such as E15 and E85 remains limited.

U.S. motor gasoline consumption has grown the past four years, increasing from 8.7 million b/d in 2012 to 9.3 million b/d in 2016, resulting in an increase of 7 per cent in additional ethanol demand by way of E10 blending that has helped to support consistent growth in ethanol production over the same period.

Exports of ethanol have also been increasing. Through the first four months of 2017, U.S. gross ethanol exports have averaged 96,000 barrels per day—40 per cent higher than exports during the same period in 2016—and the highest level on record for that period of the year.

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