Department of Energy launches clean manufacturing initiative

Department of Energy launches clean manufacturing initiative

The Department of Energy announced an initiative to boost U.S. manufacturing of clean energy products.

Called the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, its goal is to accelerate U.S.-based manufacturing of cost-competitive clean energy technologies, such as wind, solar, geothermal, batteries and biofuels.

Another goal is to increase competitiveness in U.S. manufacturing generally by helping the sector adopt greater energy efficiency, combined heat and power, and other energy sources that improve energy productivity.

Under the Recovery Act, manufacturers that make clean-tech equipment were eligible for a 30 percent tax credit, but President Barack Obama couldn't get it renewed. This initiative is another way to supporting his goals for advanced manufacturing in the U.S.

The DOE has already awarded $23 million for R&D projects that can enhance manufacturing in these areas, and released a $15 million funding opportunity to reduce the manufacturing costs of solar PV and concentrating solar over the next few years.

"We are at a critical moment in the history of energy in our nation. Over just the last seven years, global investment in the clean energy sector has grown nearly fivefold to over $260 billion and these markets will grow into the trillions of dollars in the years to come," said David Danielson, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

"Our nation faces a stark choice: The energy technologies of the future can be developed and manufactured in America for export around the world, or we can cede global leadership and import these technologies from other nations. As part of President Obama's plan to revitalize American manufacturing, the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative will seize this opportunity to ensure U.S. leadership in the clean energy sector and advance the global competitiveness of American manufacturers," he said.

The announcement was made at the ribbon cutting of the DOE's  Carbon Fiber Technology Facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that will provide manufacturers with a place to test and develop carbon fiber materials.

The goal is to cut the cost of these materials, which are critical for efficient lightweight vehicles, next generation wind turbines, and a wide array of consumer and industrial products.  

"In particular, carbon fiber has tremendous opportunity to boost American competitiveness as the leading manufacturer of fuel-efficient gasoline and electric vehicles," the DOE says. 

Lightweight materials, such as carbon-fiber composites, could reduce the weight of passenger cars by 50 percent while raising fuel efficiency 35 percent without compromising performance or safety.  

But the cost of these materials needs to come down and the process for making them needs to be simplified to compete with aluminum and steel.

The facility will produce about 25 tons of carbon fiber a year, providing companies with enough material, infrastructure and technical resources to test and scale various approaches to lower costs and make production more efficient.

Supported by a $35 million DOE grant, the 42,000-square-foot facility has attracted a consortium of more than 40 private and public sector partners, including Ford, Dow Chemical and Volkswagen of America.

Visit the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative website for more information. 

Photo of geothermal energy facility provided by Cardaf/Shutterstock.