House OKs R&D Funding For Wind Power, Heavy-Duty Hybrid Trucks
WASHINGTON, DC, September 10, 2009 (ENS) - The House of Representatives Wednesday voted to pass two bills that will advance research and development of more efficient wind turbines and heavy duty hybrid trucks.

H.R. 3165, Wind Energy Research and Development Act of 2009, which was authored by Energy and Environment Subcommittee Vice Chair Paul Tonko, a New York Democrat, passed by voice vote.

The bill directs the Department of Energy, DOE, to carry out a program of research and development to improve the energy efficiency, reliability, and capacity of wind turbines; optimize the design and adaptability of wind energy systems to the broadest practical range of atmospheric conditions; and reduce the cost of construction, generation, and maintenance of wind energy systems.

"The United States has enough wind energy resources to meet all of our electricity needs several times over, but experience over the last several years has shown that many significant technical issues remain before wind can serve as a major provider of base-load electricity," said Tonko.

The Liberty Turbine, developed by Clipper Windpower in an R&D partnership with NREL and DOE's Wind Energy Program is one of the most efficient, wind turbines ever produced. January 2009. (Photo by Scott Bryant Photography courtesy NREL)

The bill authorizes $200 million for each of the fiscal years 2010 through 2014. If enacted, it would become the first law to set an authorization level for wind research and development since the Department of Energy was established in 1977.

"The bill provides clear direction for the DOE to help the U.S. expand wind-powered electricity generation," said Congressman Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Science and Technology. "The specific areas of R&D in the bill were identified in recent thorough reports by the DOE and the American Wind Energy Association."

"This bipartisan bill will establish a far more comprehensive research, development, and demonstration program for wind energy technologies at the DOE than currently exists. It is based on several recent assessments of the challenges that need to be overcome for wind power to reach its full potential in the U.S., and has been fully endorsed by the American Wind Energy Association," Tonko said.

The House also approved by voice vote H.R. 445, Heavy Duty Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 2009, authored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., a Wisconsin Republican.

The legislation directs the Secretary of Energy to establish a competitive research, development, demonstration, and commercial application program to provide between three and seven grants of up to $3 million per year each to carry out projects to advance research and development and to demonstrate technologies, including plug-in hybrid technology, for advanced heavy duty hybrid vehicles.

"I applaud the House for taking this important step in promoting new technology that will help achieve energy independence and combat climate change," Sensenbrenner said. "This legislation takes an innovative approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, lessening our dependence on foreign oil and strengthening the U.S. economy."

Sensenbrenner said he hopes that Senator Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat who is an original bill co-sponsor, will move the legislation through the Senate with similar success.

"The heavy truck sector accounts for approximately one-fourth of the nation's fuel use and the majority of transportation-based emissions," said Gordon. "Even small improvements in their efficiency can have a substantial impact."

"Hybrid technologies hold the promise of greatly reducing the fuel consumed by the nation's truck fleet," said Gordon. "This bill represents another common sense approach to chipping away at our energy challenge."

If the bill is enacted, manufacturers will be funded to build, test, and ultimately sell plug-in hybrid utility and delivery trucks.

The meausre establishes a pilot program through the DOE National Laboratories and Technology Centers to research and test the effects on the domestic electric power grid of the widespread use of plug-in hybrid vehicles, including plug-in heavy duty hybrid vehicles.

"We have repeatedly learned the hard way just how much the health of our economy can hinge on the commercial transportation sector," said Tonko, who managed the bill on the House Floor. "Costly fuel translates directly into higher prices for consumers since the large majority of products we consume or use, from food to building materials, are at some point transported by a medium-to-heavy duty truck. We must take measures to ensure that this remains a vibrant economic sector."

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.