Information of Interest, Nov 2011

1. DOE Releases Inaugural Quadrennial Technology Review Report

( – The Energy Department released its inaugural Quadrennial Technology Review report (DOE-QTR) – an assessment of the Department’s energy technology research and development portfolios. The DOE-QTR establishes a robust framework for the Department’s energy technology activities, including principles it can use to prioritize its technology research and development. Inspired by the Quadrennial Defense Review, the DOE-QTR was recommended by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) as an initial step toward a government-wide Quadrennial Energy Review to help formulate a national energy policy.

“With this QTR, we bind together multiple energy technologies with the goal of transforming our energy system,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “By unleashing technological innovation, we can help create new jobs and industries while building a cleaner, more efficient, and more competitive economy.”

In an effort to address our nation’s challenges, energy security and U.S. competitiveness, the DOE-QTR defines six key strategies: increase vehicle efficiency; electrify the light duty fleet; deploy alternative fuels; increase building and industrial efficiency; modernize the electrical grid; and deploy clean electricity. Findings of the DOE-QTR include:

  • DOE should give greater emphasis to the transport sector relative to the stationary sector.
  • Among the transport strategies, DOE will devote its greatest effort to electrification of the vehicle fleet, a sweet spot for pre-competitive DOE R&D.
  • Within the stationary heat and power sector, the DOE-QTR finds that the Department should increase emphasis on efficiency and understanding the grid. It states that the Department’s role as a source of information and as a convener of interested parties – two functions that are often underestimated – are unique and indispensible in advancing energy technologies.
  • Finally, the DOE-QTR highlights the need for the Department to develop stronger, more integrated policy, economics and technical analyses of its research and development activities.


“With nearly 90 percent of the energy system owned and operated by the private sector, the DOE-QTR recognizes that the Department is not the sole agent in transforming the system,” said DOE Under Secretary Steven Koonin. “Through discussions with hundreds of energy stakeholders, we have learned that, beyond our technology development activities, the Department’s unique role as a convener and source of accurate techno-economic information is a great public benefit.”

The DOE-QTR binds together multiple energy technologies, as well as multiple DOE energy technology programs, in the common purpose of solving our energy challenges. The DOE-QTR provides a multi-year framework for program planning by looking at a broader longer-term view than the annual budget process. This allows the Department to provide the consistent and predictable support necessary for the success of our research, development and demonstration activities.

Click here for the full Report:

2. Navy Conducts Alternative Fuel Testing on Landing Craft Utility

( – Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and the Program Executive Office, Ships, conducted alternative fuel testing of the Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1600-class, Oct. 18, 2011, aboard Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Va. The testing is the most recent in a series of alternative fuel maritime vehicle tests supporting the U.S. Navy’s efforts to reduce petroleum using a 50/50 blend of hydro-treated renewable diesel, derived from algal oil and NATO F-76 fuel.

“This demonstration continues the proud tradition of leveraging emerging technology to decrease the energy footprint in our ships and craft,” said Capt. Chris Mercer, program manager for amphibious warfare. “In 2010, we delivered USS Makin Island (LHD 8), introducing hybrid, gas turbine/electric drive technology with a projected savings of $250 million in fuel costs during the ship’s lifecycle.”

During the alternative fuel test and trials, the LCU operated at full load within a wide range of engine speeds. Data was collected to compare traditional F-76 fuel performance to powering performance and engine parameters using the alternative fuel blend. The test also examined engine parameters, such as fuel consumption, exhaust temperatures and engine room temperatures. Test results verified the propulsion system is capable of producing output power similar to NATO F-76 fuel.

The LCU 1600-class was built in the 1970s to replace the World War II landing craft. The 135-foot long displacement craft can carry 180 tons of equipment or 400 combat-equipped Marines up to speeds of 12 knots. The LCU transports troops, equipment and sustainment to and from the shore and amphibious shipping or a seabase.

Recent and upcoming maritime vehicle alternative fuel testing include ongoing Yard Patrol boat demonstration at Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.; Landing Craft Air Cushion demonstration scheduled for December 2011 at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City; and Self Defense Test Ship – a decommissioned Spruance-class destroyer, ex-Paul F. Foster (EDD 964), reconfigured as a remote-controlled test and evaluation asset – demonstration scheduled for November 2011.

3. National Wetland Losses Continue to Outpace Gains

( – America’s wetlands declined slightly from 2004-2009, underscoring the need for continued conservation and restoration efforts, according to a report issued Oct. 6, 2011, by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The findings represent the most up-to-date, comprehensive assessment of wetland habitats in the United States. They document substantial losses in forested wetlands and coastal wetlands that serve as storm buffers, absorb pollution, which would otherwise find its way into the nation’s drinking water, and provide vital habitat for fish, wildlife and plants.

“Wetlands are at a tipping point,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “While we have made great strides in conserving and restoring wetlands since the 1950s when we were losing an area equal to half the size of Rhode Island each year, we remain on a downward trend that is alarming.”

The net wetland loss was estimated to be 62,300 acres between 2004 and 2009, bringing the nation’s total wetlands acreage to just more than 110 million acres in the continental United States, excluding Alaska and Hawaii. The rate of gains from reestablishment of wetlands increased by 17 percent from the previous study period (1998 to 2004), but the wetland loss rate increased 140 percent during the same time period. As a consequence, national wetland losses have outpaced gains. The reasons for wetland losses are complex and reflect a wide variety of factors, including changes in land use and economic conditions, the impacts of the 2005 hurricane season on the Gulf Coast and climate change impacts.

“In a five year period, we lost more than 630,000 acres of forested wetlands, mostly in the Southeast – an area equal to one-half million football fields each year,” Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said.

Wetlands provide a multitude of ecological, economic and social benefits. They provide habitat for fish, wildlife and a variety of plants. Wetlands are nurseries for many saltwater and freshwater fishes and shellfish of commercial and recreational importance. They are also important landscape features because they hold and slowly release flood water and snow melt, recharge groundwater, act as filters to cleanse water of impurities, recycle nutrients and provide recreational opportunities for millions of people.

For more details on the report, visit

4. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Builds Big Beach & Saves City Big Money

( – The Virginia Beach Hurricane Protection System prevented an estimated $104 million in damages for residents and businesses located along the City Of Virginia Beach’s oceanfront during Hurricane Irene. Even though Irene pushed water up to the seawall, it never went over, keeping the most damaging part of a hurricane – the storm surge – from reaching the buildings.

The project stretches six miles along the oceanfront and includes a minimum 100-foot wide, 8.5 foot high beach berm that gently slopes to the water. It also includes a four-mile long concrete sea wall and a two-mile long sand dune system to protect the infrastructure located behind them.

Jennifer Armstrong, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Norfolk District project manager for the protection system, says the recent amount of savings reinforces the need for a big beach. She comments that “since the project has been in place, the system has continually saved the tax payers of Virginia Beach millions of dollars in rebuilding costs from damages that would have occurred if the project wasn’t in place.”

Using a formula that takes into account the height of the water during the storm and determines how far inland the water would surge if no project was in place, economists can determine damage amounts in terms of costs to the community.

“Within the past decade, the beach sand, designed to act as a sacrificial buffer, has slightly eroded away, so we want to go back and put sand back in place to keep the area protected,” Armstrong said. “If you look at the initial $140 million to construct the system nearly a decade ago, the project has more than paid for itself.”

Later this year, in December 2011, USACE and the city are planning to begin a five-month, $12 million beach renourishment project to increase protection back to its prescribed levels. The replenishment will last throughout the winter to minimize potential harm to sea turtles from the dredging work. When complete, the beach will be back to its full protection levels for the next coastal storm event.

5. Great Lakes Region Mercury Pollution – Nearly Forgotten, but Not Gone

( – The scope and intensity of mercury pollution in the Great Lakes region is much greater than previously reported, but additional mercury controls should bring needed improvement, according to a new summary of scientific research on the subject.

Despite general declines in mercury levels in the Great Lakes region within the past four decades, mercury concentrations still exceed human and ecological risk thresholds, especially in inland lakes and rivers, according to the report Great Lakes Mercury Connections: The Extent and Effects of Mercury Pollution in the Great Lakes Region, which summarizes 35 new scientific papers. Also, new research indicates that for some species of fish and wildlife in particular areas, mercury concentrations may again be on the rise.

New studies cited in the report suggest that adverse effects of mercury on the health of fish and wildlife occur at levels much lower than previously reported.

“The good news is that efforts to control mercury pollution have been very beneficial,” says David C. Evers, Ph.D., executive director at Biodiversity Research Institute, and the principal investigator in the Great Lakes study. “However, as we broaden our investigations, we find that fish and wildlife are affected at lower mercury concentrations and across larger areas, and that impacts can be quite serious.”

Great Lakes Mercury Connections distills key results from 35 peer-reviewed papers in special issues of two scientific journals: Ecotoxicology and Environmental Pollution. The report represents the work of more than 170 scientists, researchers and resource managers who used more than 300,000 mercury measurements to document the impact and trends of mercury pollution on the Great Lakes region.

A collaboration of the Biodiversity Research Institute in Gorham, Maine, the Great Lakes Commission based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, the project is the product of a binational, scientific synthesis sponsored by the Commission through its Great Lakes Air Deposition Program, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Atmospheric emissions are the primary source of mercury deposition in the Great Lakes basin. The report projects that further controls on those emissions “are expected to lower mercury concentrations in the food web, yielding multiple benefits to fish, wildlife and people in the Great Lakes region.”

Great Lakes Mercury Connections and related multimedia materials are available online at:

6. Scientists Bring Energy Solutions to the Afghan Desert

( – How to heat and to cool in the desert without heating and cooling the desert is being answered by Project Manager-Mobile Electric Power (PM-MEP) in the form of the Afghan Microgrid Project (AMP). Forward engineering support for the project is provided in part by the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Field Assistance in Science and Technology Center nested in the 401st Army Field Support Brigade. The 401st AFSB, working through its parent, Army Sustainment Command, delivers integrated logistics solutions to operating forces – in this case, reliable power generation featuring centralized distribution and efficient use of resources.

When a camp or operating base is first set up, power is generated by tactical quiet generators or TQGs. As the footprint expands, commercial generators purchased locally or provided by contractors are often added to augment the existing point generation. This frequently results in more power being produced than is actually needed. Generators are run constantly and consume fuel at a constant rate regardless of power demands that may fluctuate during the day. Running generators at a low load results in “wet stacking,” which decreases efficiency, increases pollution and reduces the time between maintenance actions and useful life of the equipment.

The RFAST-C team and PM-MEP installed a one-megawatt microgrid at Camp Sabalu-Harrison that can replace up to 20 60-watt TQGs that had been collectively producing more than 1,300 kilowatts of power to meet a demand of less than 400 kilowatts. The microgrid can be configured through distribution networks to provide power to 66 structures and has the advantage of being able to match power generation with demand as opposed to running stand-alone generators 24-hours per day.

“The microgrid balances supply and demand,” said Lt. Col. Alan C. Samuels, RFAST-C director, 401st AFSB. “The microgrid includes a computer-controlled system that senses demand and provides centralized distribution instead of point generation.”

“The Intelligent Micro Grid provides 100 percent power to the end user,” said Joe Barniak, a contractor with PM-MEP, who keeps the microgrid running and collects daily system data. “It delivers what’s needed at the time they need it without having to take a generator off-line for maintenance.”

The four large generators in the microgrid system are turned on and off automatically by the system as peaks and valleys in power demand occur throughout the day, according to Barniak. He said the microgrid captures fuel usage and fuel efficiency and generates load profiles. The microgrid generators are rotated automatically by the system’s computer to balance the number of hours on all engines.