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Berkeley Lab expands energy exchanges with India

With the Indian economy growing by leaps and bounds yet hampered by regular power shortages and blackouts, Indian electricity regulators are in a tough spot. How to wring more electricity from very limited infrastructure? The answer lies in energy efficiency. Through collaborations with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, India is hoping to learn from California’s successes in implementing energy efficiency and demand-side management to meet energy demand.

The past week (June 10, 2011) a delegation of 20 electricity regulators from 16 Indian states visited Berkeley Lab for a study tour that included visits to Sacramento to hear from the grid operator and a utility and to Bakersfield to tour a solar power facility. The trip also featured presentations by the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission, which, along with Berkeley Lab, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with India’s Forum of Regulators in 2009 to consult on best practices in utility-based energy-efficiency programs.

This is the second year that Indian electricity regulators have visited California under the MOU, and much progress has been made in the last year, said Berkeley Lab senior scientist Jayant Sathaye, one of the main organizers of the visit. “The public utility company of the state of Maharashtra has set up a demand-side management coordinating committee and started pilot programs for fans and lighting,” he said.

Another step forward has been the launch of the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative, championed by the U.S. Department of Energy and launched by the Clean Energy Ministerial to expand global markets for efficient products in member countries. “India is an active member, probably the most active,” Sathaye said. “The Bureau of Energy Efficiency is running the program in many states and is starting with electric fans. Berkeley Lab is doing all the analysis.”

The program will eventually include TVs, refrigerators, and other household appliances, which are becoming increasingly popular with Indian consumers as more and more enter the middle class. Berkeley Lab researcher Amol Phadke presented analysis to the delegation showing the potential energy savings from higher penetration of super efficient appliances. “We feel 70% of infrastructure that will exist in 2030 has not yet been purchased,” he said. “So let’s not correct mistakes. Let’s avoid mistakes.”

As in the United States, state authorities in India have regulatory power, yet awareness of energy efficiency is still relatively low. “We’ve learned a lot of things here,” said delegation member Ram Pal of the Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission. “The realities in India are different from here, so it won’’t be that easy to implement these programs, but we want to try to realize the savings. We have big shortages in my state.”

Berkeley Lab’s ongoing work in India was formalized in 2008 with the launch of the Berkeley-India Joint Leadership on Energy and the Environment, or BIJLEE (which means “power” in Hindi), a collaboration that also includes UC Berkeley.

Berkeley Lab is also working with India to improve the energy efficiency of its data centers and buildings, two of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy. Researchers collaborate with developers and IT companies such as Tata and Infosys who account for much of the growth in India’s special economic zones.

“They’re building buildings like crazy in India,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Girish Ghatikar. “Infosys designs a new building every 20 days. It’s very important that we guide them to grow sustainably. India needs at least 66% more buildings to be able to support the growth it’s experiencing. If they’re not growing sustainably, energy supply will become a very critical issue.”

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CLEAN ENERGY FUNDING ANNOUNCEMENT – Joint India-U.S. Research

The Indian and U.S. governments have announced a funding opportunity of $50 million for joint research and development (R&D) in three critical fields:

The Indian and U.S. governments are contributing $50 million across the three fields, over five years, to fund transformative, cutting-edge clean energy solutions. Another $50 million is expected in matching funds from
participating entities, raising the total level of expected funding to $100 million. Leading researchers and scientists in both the United States and India are encouraged you to apply.

The Application deadline is August 16, 2011.

* Grant Information*

Details of the funding opportunity, including application guidelines, materials, instructions, cost-sharing, teaming arrangements etc. are available on the websites of the coordinating U.S. and Indian agencies – the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) (http://www.pi.energy.gov/159.htm and
http://www.indousstf.org/JCERDC.html). DOE and IUSSTF are the official contact for the Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center (JCERDC) – the bilateral mechanism established to facilitate this research and any activities needed to ensure implementation.

The funding opportunity is open to joint teams (consortia) of participants from India and the U.S. An extremely wide variety of applicants are encouraged to partner: individual scientists/engineers, technical specialists, academic experts/academic institutions and universities, national laboratories, private corporations including clean-tech startups,
energy entrepreneurs, banks/financial institutions and others.

* * *
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) with our partners the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) and the Council on Energy,Environment and Water (CEEW) share the objective of making this funding opportunity a success, and are working to ensure that the highest caliber of talent in both countries is drawn into the process. We will be disseminating information we find relevant and would be happy to connect you with others in our networks (in both India and the U.S.) who are interested in exploring this funding opportunity. If for any reason you are unable to directly contact the U.S. and India secretariats regarding your queries and interest,

please feel free to reach out to us at (sreddy@nrdc.org or rkhosla@nrdc.org) since we will have a series of discussions to encourage this exciting collaborative opportunity.

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New Solar Sheet Captures 90 Percent of Sunlight

Traditionally, solar powered devices suffer from a two-fold problem.  First, they have difficulty converting the light they capture to electricity.  Second, they only capture a small band of wavelengths out of the wide range of wavelengths found in sunlight striking the Earth.  Improving in either area can offer gains to the net power output (and efficiency) of a solar cell.

Researchers at the University of Missouri are claiming a breakthrough in the second category.  They claim [press release] to have developed a device that can capture 90 percent of sunlight, versus the 20 percent that current photovoltaic (PV) panels capture.

To capture the wider range of wavelengths, Patrick Pinhero, associate professor of chemical engineering, used a special thin, moldable sheet of small antennas called nantenna.  The resulting material converts heat to electricity and can be used both for industrial heat recycling and for solar designs.  In solar designs it is capable of collecting both optical (visible) sunlight and the near infrared band sunlight that most cells miss.

Professor Pinhero collaborated with researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory and Garrett Moddel, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Colorado to develop a complete material with electronic devices capable of harvesting the heat and light collected by the nantenna.

Professor Pinhero is working to port the resulting device to a mass-producable design.  He’s currently securing U.S. Department of Energy funding and money from private investors to accomplish this.  To that end, he’s enlisted the help of Dennis Slafer of MicroContinuum, Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., a solar power and alternative energy firm.

“Our overall goal is to collect and utilize as much solar energy as is theoretically possible and bring it to the commercial market in an inexpensive package that is accessible to everyone,” Professor Pinhero states.  “If successful, this product will put us orders of magnitudes ahead of the current solar energy technologies we have available to us today.”

You can’t fault Professor Pinhero for ambition.  He says that within five years he should be able to deliver a finished material that complements traditional PV panel designs in rooftop installations, solar power plant installations, or rooftop car panels.  This material would bump up the range of collected light, and by proxy bump up the cell’s net efficiency and power output.

The instructor expects to create a broad range of commercial spinoffs based on the technology.  The spinoffs would be infrared (IR) detection based products, including contraband-identifying devices for airports and the military, optical computing, and infrared line-of-sight telecommunications.

A paper on the new device and material has been published [abstract] in the peer-reviewed Journal of Solar Energy Engineering.

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