The funding is intended to help the solar and geothermal industries overcome technical barriers, demonstrate new technologies, and provide support for clean energy jobs.
"We have a choice," said the President, addressing armed services personnel and legislators at Nellis Air Force Base. "We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy. We can hand over the jobs of the future to our competitors, or we can confront what they have already recognized as the great opportunity of our time: the nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy. That’s the nation I want America to be."
The President announced the new funding on the 100th day after he signed the Recovery Act while standing near the largest solar electric plant of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. More than 72,000 solar panels built on an old landfill provide 25 percent of the electricity for the 12,000 people who live and work at Nellis.
The system was inaugurated in a ceremony on December 17, 2007 and is expected to save the Air Force $1 million each year through 2027.
"Today, projects like the one at Nellis are still the exception to the rule, unfortunately," Obama said. "America produces less than three percent of our electricity through renewable sources of energy like wind and solar - less than three percent," he emphasized. "In contrast, Denmark produces 20 percent of their electricity through wind. We pioneered solar technology, but we've fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in generating it, even though they get less sun than we do. They certainly get less sun than Nevada."
President Obama toured the solar power array at Nellis Air Force Base (Photo Airman 1st Class Nadine Barclay courtesy U.S. Air Force)
At Nellis, Obama announced a solar program by which the U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, will provide $117.6 million in Recovery Act funding to accelerate widespread commercialization of clean solar energy technologies across America.
These activities will leverage partnerships that include DOE’s national laboratories, universities, local government, and the private sector, to strengthen the U.S. solar industry and make it a leader in international markets.
The solar program has three components. DOE will invest $51.5 million in advanced photovoltaic concepts and high impact technologies, with the aim of making solar energy cost-competitive with conventional sources of electricity and to strengthen the competitiveness and capabilities of domestic manufacturers.
DOE will invest $40.5 million to strengthen solar energy deployment, focusing on non-technical barriers to solar energy deployment, including grid connection, market barriers to solar energy adoption in cities, and the shortage of trained solar energy installers.
Combined with new technology development, these deployment activities will help clear the path for wider adoption of solar energy in residential, commercial, and municipal environments.
In addition, DOE will invest $25.6 million in concentrating solar power research and development. This work will focus on improving the reliability of concentrating solar power technologies and enhancing the capabilities of DOE National Laboratories to provide test and evaluation support to the solar industry.
President Barack Obama addresses an Air Force audience at Nellis Air Force Base. May 27, 2009 (Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force)
Solar Energy Industries Association President and CEO Rhone Resch said the new funding will help create jobs.
"We have seen this job creation momentum in action as the solar industry is currently playing an important role in our economy by helping revive U.S. manufacturing and growing local economies," Resch said Wednesday. "In Oregon, SolarWorld opened a manufacturing facility that will eventually employ 1,000 workers. Meanwhile, in New Mexico, SCHOTT Solar opened a manufacturing facility earlier this month that has plans to eventually employ up to 1,500 workers. Dow Corning just today announced it has expanded its manufacturing operations in Michigan, and states such as Tennessee are increasing their investment in solar."
In addition to the new solar program, President Obama announced a $350 million new investment in geothermal technology, much larger than previous government commitments.
"The second program I'm announcing will help develop the use of geothermal energy in America," said Obama. "Already, Nevada has 17 industrial scale geothermal plants, and your capacity to generate this type of power is expected to increase in the next few years. The program we're announcing will help accelerate this process, here, and across America. This will create more jobs, it will create more businesses, and more affordable electricity for the American people."
The new geothermal program has four components. Funding of $140 million will support demonstration projects to advance geothermal energy in new geographic areas, and also from oil and natural gas fields, geopressured fields, and low to moderate temperature geothermal resources.
Funding of $80 million will support research of enhanced geothermal systems technology to allow geothermal power generation across the country. Conventional geothermal energy systems must be located near easily-accessible geothermal water resources, limiting its nationwide use, the DOE explains. Enhanced geothermal systems technology makes use of available heat resources through engineered reservoirs, which can be tapped to produce electricity. Research and development is needed to demonstrate the technology’s readiness.
Funding of $100 million will support projects that include exploration, siting, drilling, and characterization of a series of exploration wells utilizing innovative geothermal exploration techniques.
Exploration of geothermal energy resources can carry a high upfront risk, says the Department of Energy. By investing in and validating innovative exploration technologies and methods, DOE can help reduce the level of upfront risk for the private sector, allowing for increased investment and discovery of new geothermal resources.
The long-term success of geothermal energy technologies depends upon a detailed characterization of geothermal energy resources nationwide, the DOE says. In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted an assessment of high temperature resource potential in the Western United States.
To fully leverage new low-temperature, geopressured, co-production, and enhanced geothermal systems technologies, DOE will invest $30 million in`a nationwide assessment of geothermal resources, working through the USGS and other partners. Finally, DOE will support the development of a nationwide data system to make resource data available to academia, researchers, and the private sector. The DOE also will support the development of a geothermal resource classification system for use in determining site potential.
The Geothermal Energy Association, an industry group, says geothermal power is "poised for dramatic growth."
"The West has a huge untapped geothermal energy potential," according to GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell.
With new federal and state incentives, he said, there will be billions of dollars of new investment in geothermal power bringing tens of thousands of new jobs to the United States.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.