DOE Reports Wind Power Data, Clean Energy Funding
A briefing on the latest federal funding programs and other activities serving the clean energy sector.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published three reports detailing the expansion of wind power deployment in 2022. It also announced four programs fueling $160.8 million into clean energy research and development, critical mineral resources, direct air capture, and energy workforce development.
Wind turbines on a mountain. Image used courtesy of Pixabay/by ELG21
New Wind Deployment Data
According to three DOE reports about the growth of wind power in the U.S., wind now serves 43 million homes nationwide and claims a 10% share of electricity generation. Wind accounted for 22% of new capacity added in 2022 and attracted $12 billion in capital investment.
Here’s a quick summary of the takeaways of each report.
Land-based wind: Wind projects added 8.5 gigawatts (GW) of capacity to the power grid in 2022, bringing the cumulative total to over 144 GW. However, wind power deployment slowed last year, slumping to the lowest levels seen since 2018 amid supply chain challenges, interest rate hikes, and interconnection delays. A record 300 GW of wind projects are currently sitting in transmission interconnection queues.
Meanwhile, wind turbines continue to get bigger, with the average capacity of new installations increasing 7% from 2021 to 2022 at 3.2 megawatts (MW). Hub height also grew 4% to 321.8 feet.
U.S. wind capacity additions from the late-1990s through 2022. Image used courtesy of the DOE (slide 6)
Offshore wind: Operational and developing projects grew in capacity by 15% to 52.6 GW, enough to power over 18 million homes. Only two offshore wind facilities totaling 42 MW are operational today, but 47.6 GW is in development across 40 projects, and another 5 GW is in the planning stages. New leasing activity spurred most of the 6.9 GW of growth in project pipeline capacity, primarily in the Gulf of Mexico. Still, many projects face economic headwinds from rising capital costs and interest rates.
The offshore wind pipeline in the U.S. totals 52.6 GW of capacity, including projects already installed, those under or approved for construction and undergoing permitting, and existing lease areas and potential areas that haven’t yet been leased. Image used courtesy of the DOE
Distributed wind power: This category covers projects that meet on-site energy demand or support local electricity distribution networks. Over 1,700 distributed wind turbines totaling 29.5 MW of new capacity were added in over a dozen states last year, bringing the cumulative figure to 1.1 GW across more than 90,000 turbines. Agriculture took the lead with the highest volume of projects, while the utility sector added the most capacity.
Energy Research & Development Grants ($126M)
The DOE awarded $126 million across 106 research and development (R&D) grants to 90 small businesses leading projects in several areas, from cleantech to grid security to fusion energy and nuclear nonproliferation. The median award allocation is $1.1 million for two years.
Under Phase II of the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer programs, the DOE selected projects that demonstrated viability in the first phase or are continuing prototype development from previous Phase II rewards.
The awardees are tackling a wide array of topics. Clean energy-related projects include carbon capture, advanced energy storage and power conversion systems, bioenergy, geothermal, solar, water and wind energy, hydrogen fuel cells, and nuclear energy waste management and material recovery.
Domestic Supply of Critical Minerals and Rare Earths ($30M)
The DOE announced it would provide $30 million to fund proof-of-concept testing in laboratory or bench-scale facilities to reduce the cost of producing rare earth elements, critical minerals, and coal-based resources in the U.S. Funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the program will support new methods and technologies for extracting materials from coal, coal waste, and byproducts domestically, thus reducing the country’s reliance on imports for over 80% of its rare earth demand.
According to the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) document, grant recipients will study the viability of advanced processes to produce separated, high-purity rare earth oxides/rare earth salts, and high-purity single or binary rare earth metals at a cost 20% lower than conventional separation and conversion technologies in today’s market.
Applications close in October, and the DOE expects to make selection notifications in January 2024. The FOA specifies two topic areas. The first will provide $25-30 million for advanced process development for rare earth metal production and co-production of critical materials from coal-based resources. Five to six awards with a federal share of up to $5 million each will be granted.
The second topic involves producing critical minerals/minerals but removes the focus on rare earth elements and coal-based resources. The DOE will grant one to two awards up to $2.5 million each.
Direct Air Capture ($1.3M)
Thirteen pre-commercial programs will receive $1.3 million to advance carbon dioxide (CO2) removal efforts using direct air capture (DAC) technology. Each semifinalist in the DOE’s DAC EPIC Prize will receive $100,000 in cash for completing the “Think It” phase and can advance to the “Move It” stage, getting one step closer to demonstrating and implementing their projects.
The program sponsors teams in DAC-focused startup incubators and accelerators. For example, Chicago’s gener8tor DAC Accelerator will invest in five DAC startups ($100,000 each) and offer mentorship and coaching; the virtual IgniteX DAC Accelerator will provide a network of experts and partners to support hard-tech DAC and carbon removal technologies.
In related news, the DOE also recently pumped $1.2 billion into two DAC projects in Texas and Louisiana.
Workforce & Technical Capacity for the Energy Transition ($3.5M)
The DOE’s new Capacity Building for Repurposing Energy Assets program will provide up to $3.5 million for local communities with economies historically driven by energy assets, such as coal, oil, and natural gas.
As the country transitions to renewables, workforce gaps will require addressing retired or soon-to-retire energy assets. The program will fund planning and other resources needed to replace lost revenue and add jobs for specialized workers.