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Manufacturing Clean Energy Blog

Manufacturing Clean Energy is the official blog of the Clean Energy Manufacturing Analysis Center (CEMAC). It features insights from CEMAC staff, partners, and guests. To contribute to Manufacturing Clean Energy, contact us.

A Win for Global Value Chain and Manufacturing Analysis on Geothermal Power Plant Turbines

January 4, 2018

By Sertaç Akar, CEMAC Analyst

Award certificate with the Geothermal Resources Council logo near the top,  and award text reading GRC Best Presentation Award.

To understand more about the opportunities to improve and expand the geothermal power market, CEMAC developed a manufacturing analysis methodology of geothermal power plant turbines including materials, manufacturing equipment, machining process and cost model. We presented our case study findings at the Geothermal Resources Council annual meeting—the world's largest annual geothermal energy event—and were surprised to learn afterward that we won a Best Presentation Award.

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Workshop: The Future's Bright for Oil & Gas and Renewables

October 26, 2017

By Jill Engel-Cox, CEMAC Director

Photo of business people wearing sunglasses and suits standing in dark room

Can the oil and gas industry work with renewable energy industry to bring about a clean energy future? That question was the basis for the recent workshop on the Nexus of Oil & Gas and Renewables in the Energy Future held at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and sponsored by the International Energy Agency (IEA)'s Gas and Oil Technologies Collaboration Program (GOTCP).

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Innovation clusters and their influence on manufacturing

September 18, 2017

By Derek Hill, NSF, and Jill Engel-Cox, CEMAC Director

A three-part image shows the three major technologies described in the report: a wind farm, an ethanol plant behind a corn field, and solar panels on top of a building at NREL.

In our latest report, we explore the link between innovation clusters and manufacturing. We examined several case studies of innovation clusters for three different clean energy technologies: solar PV clusters in California and the province of Jiangsu in China, wind turbine clusters in Germany and the U.S. Great Lakes region, and ethanol clusters in the U.S. Midwest and the state of São Paulo in Brazil. Learn more about our findings on the CEMAC blog.

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Systems Analysis of Manufacturing Supply Chains

August 8, 2017

By James McCall, CEMAC Analyst

A diagram maps the flow of material across several clean energy manufacturing industries. The diagram begins with raw materials, such as silica, steel, and polyethylene, on the left, and progresses through types of processed materials, components, products, and technologies, to end on clean energy ecosystems on the right. The diagram illustrates how some materials, such as steel, flow into many products, while others, such as cobalt, are more limited.

Despite the recent boom in advanced clean energy technologies, little work has been done to understand the complexities and interconnections within these technologies' supply chains. New work by CEMAC strives to capture the materials, products, supply chains, and their linkages across the clean energy manufacturing landscape. We are now seeking partners and sponsors to help us expand this analysis.

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Piecing Together the Fragments: the Importance of Independent Supply Chain Analysis to Private Industry

June 21, 2017

By Steven Freilich, Vice-Chair CEMAC Advisory Committee, DuPont (emeritus)

An image shows a few fragmented pieces of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, showing black ink scrawled on tattered parchment.

CEMAC's Benchmarks of Global Clean Energy Manufacturing is a tour de force of data collection and unbiased interpretation from honest brokers. It demonstrates the importance of independent analysis for private industry, which is often difficult for those industries to accomplish on their own.

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When Comparing Costs of Automotive Lithium-Ion Batteries, Know the Context

May 30, 2017

By Emma Elgqvist, CEMAC Analyst

A photo shows several electric vehicles parked in a parking garage.

When comparing the costs of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, understanding the context is crucial. In the latest CEMAC blog, analyst Emma Elgqvist compares modeled and market prices for Li-ion batteries and observes that market factors—not manufacturing costs—are currently influencing pricing decisions. It's all based on a recent factsheet develop for the Department of Energy.

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Wind Turbines Made in the USA

April 18, 2017

By Parthiv Kurup and Timothy Remo, CEMAC Analysts

A map of utility-scale wind component manufacturing in the United States show majors concentrations of facilities in the Great Lakes and Midwest regions, with a few other clusters e.g. in Colorado and Texas.

The wind industry in the United States is growing rapidly, supported by a large domestic manufacturing sector. Now, manufacturers are seeking new ways to make their turbines bigger and more efficient. What role could additive manufacturing play in the future of the American wind energy industry? In this blog, CEMAC analysts highlight the state of U.S. wind manufacturing and how new advanced manufacturing technologies such as additive manufacturing could change it.

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SiC-based Motor Drives: Manufacturing the Next Generation of Industrial Energy Savings

April 12, 2017

By Kelsey Horowitz, Timothy Remo, and Samantha Reese, CEMAC Analysts

A silicon-carbide wafer reflects light in a rainbow of colors.

Silicon-carbide power electronics aren't just the next generation of energy savings in industrial motors and motor drives. They're a great, high-tech manufacturing opportunity. But where will this opportunity materialize? In this blog, CEMAC analysts break down the most competitive regions for silicon-carbide manufacturing, as presented in our latest report. And they look to the future, exploring the potential impacts of new innovations in silicon-carbide power electronics.

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Photovoltaics Made in the USA

March 27, 2017

by Sadie Fulton, CEMAC analyst

A map of solar manufacturing capacity in the United States reveals major manufacturing clusters in the Northwest and Great Lakes regions.

The American solar photovoltaic market is dynamic and rapidly growing. In 2016, the U.S. solar industry installed 14.8 gigawatts (GW) of solar, a 97% increase over the capacity installed in 2015. Solar's growth trajectory and increasing market share continue to excite electricity producers and consumers alike. Yet, despite this success, PV manufacturing is not an industry for the faint of heart.

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Four Benchmarks We Use to Measure Clean Energy Manufacturing

February 27, 2017

By Debbie Sandor, Project Leader of CEMAC Benchmark report

An image of the Earth from space, crisscrossed by lines, is the cover image of the Benchmarks of Clean Energy Manufacturing report.

Benchmarks of Global Clean Energy Manufacturing—CEMAC's flagship report—is a first-of-its-kind effort to isolate and quantify the economic impacts of the clean energy manufacturing sector. The report establishes a baseline picture of where clean energy technologies are manufactured around the world, so we can track the development of the sector over the coming years.

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Hydropower Turbine Market and Trade Values: A closer look at small hydro turbines in the U.S.

December 14, 2016

By Parthiv Kurup, NREL, and Megan Johnson, ORNL

Global map showing the export and import trade flow of small hydropower turbines to and from the U.S., with green lines representing imports, blue lines representing exports, and the thickness of lines representing the value of the trade in dollars.

Hydropower has been a long-term stable power generation source in the U.S. for decades, and research shows there is significant electricity generation potential from powering domestic, non-power hydro dams, which would utilize smaller turbines. This potential growth in the U.S. and international market demand for small hydropower turbines could offer greater opportunities for local and more energy-efficient manufacturing practices, both within the U.S. and for export.

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Workforce Development and Investment is a Win-Win for All

December 7, 2016

By Heather Head and Chuck Kurnik, NREL

Two warehouse workers in blue shirts and hard hats point to an object above, as three individuals look on and take notes.

Transitioning to a new clean energy economy requires investment in workforce development, as new technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines are manufactured, installed, and operated. Training for skilled workforce performance is essential to meet the needs of these clean energy industries.

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Entrepot Trade and Its Effect on Trade Flow Perception

November 18, 2016

By Samantha Reese, CEMAC Analyst

Hong Kong shipping port at night with city lights and bridge above

An essential part of every CEMAC project is to examine the global trade flow of a product's critical components as well as the end product itself. In Fiscal Year 2016, CEMAC studied the value chain of integrated light-emitting diode (LED) lighting.

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Clean Energy and Manufacturing for Society: Notes from the 2016 STS Forum

October 25, 2016

By Jill Engel-Cox, Ph.D., CEMAC Director

Japanese Prime Minister speaking at podium before a full room at the 2016 STS Forum.

This month, I had the great honor to participate in the 2016 Science and Technology in Society (STS) Forum in Kyoto, Japan, where experts from across the globe engaged in discussion on energy, health, information technology, and engineering.

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Bio-Based Carbon Fiber: An Exciting New Product, But There's Work to Do

September 29, 2016

By Anelia Milbrandt and Sam Booth, CEMAC

Abstract image of carbon fiber materials being manufactured.

Carbon fiber, also known as graphite fiber, is a lightweight, strong, and flexible material used in both structural applications (load-bearing) and non-structural applications (e.g., thermal insulation). The high cost of precursor materials and manufacturing, however, have kept carbon fiber in a niche market for applications that are mostly limited to high-performance structural products.

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Modeling Industrial Materials Flows to Reduce Energy Demand and Carbon Emissions

August 29, 2016

By Rebecca Hanes and Alberta Carpenter, NREL

Red and green network diagram of the NREL's Materials Flow through Industry recipe database, where lines and dots resemble the relationship from one commodity to another.

NREL's Materials Flow through Industry (MFI) tool provides valuable insight into supply chain energy, greenhouse gases, resources and materials to inform future research on clean manufacturing technologies.

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Mitigating Maritime Shipping Impacts on Manufacturing Costs

August 1, 2016

By Samantha Reese, CEMAC Analyst, and Maggie Mann, CEMAC Technical Director

Line graph and table displaying percentage increase in container port traffic from 2000 to 2014.

Manufacturing is not just making products in a single facility. It includes the complex logistics of shipping materials from processing facilities and subcomponents from a network of suppliers.

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Democratization of Manufacturing: Notes from the American Energy & Manufacturing Competitiveness Summit

June 3, 2016

By Jill Engel-Cox, Ph.D., CEMAC Director

Three panel member businesspeople chatting on a stage.

On May 12, I had the privilege of attending and participating in a panel at the 2016 American Energy & Manufacturing Competitiveness (AEMC) Summit at the City College of New York's Great Hall. It was especially exciting to share some of CEMAC's progress and findings since it was formally launched at the previous AEMC Summit in September 2015.

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Geothermal Power Plant Turbines: First Look at the Manufacturing Value Chain

June 3, 2016

By Sertac Akar, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Global trade flows in geothermal turbines, 2005-2015.

In the 10 years ending in December 2015, global geothermal power capacity increased by 4.4 GW to 13.3 GW. See the major players in turbine manufacturing in this first look at CEMAC's geothermal market analysis.

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Minimum Sustainable Price: Understanding Sustainable Business Practices in Clean Energy Technology

May 12, 2016

By Kelsey Horowitz, Mike Woodhouse, and Ran Fu (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) and Tonio Buonassisi (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Picture of two solar photovoltaic panels on a table.

CEMAC researchers explain minimum sustainable price and why it can be crucial to industry sustainability.

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Lithium Ion Battery Key Elements — More Than Just Lithium

April 13, 2016

By Emma Elgqvist, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

An electric vehicle charges in an NREL test facility.

NREL's Emma Elqgvist shares early results of CEMAC's latest study on the manufacturing value chains of automotive lithium ion batteries, an essential part of the transition to a clean energy economy.

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Helping U.S. Advanced Industries, which are Crucial for the U.S. Economy

March 4, 2016

By Derek Hill, National Science Foundation

A mechanical arm engages in an Oak Ridge National Laboratory experiment regarding use of plutonium-238 as an energy source for space exploration.

The performance of high tech and R&D-intensive U.S. industries may provide insight to the successes and challenges of regions with clean energy manufacturing.

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From Classroom to Factory Floor

January 29, 2016

By Jill Engel-Cox, Ph.D., Clean Energy Manufacturing Analysis Center

Students examine factory equipment.

The U.S. Energy Department's Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs) program celebrates 40 years of service to industry this year.

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Notes from the Solar Future Symposium

January 21, 2016

By Michael Woodhouse, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Solar farm in a desert

Last November, I traveled to Saudi Arabia, a leading producer of oil, to deliver a keynote talk at the Solar Future 2015 Symposium.

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Notes from the Fuel Cell Seminar and Energy Exposition 2015

December 23, 2015

By Ahmad Mayyas, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

A 700 bar hydrogen fueling station at NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility is the first of its kind in Colorado and in the national lab system.

The annual Fuel Cell Seminar and Energy Exposition is one of the best places for hydrogen and fuel cell professionals to see and be seen.

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Reflecting on The Wealth of Nations

December 9, 2015

By Tom Catania, Executive in Residence, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, University of Michigan

The NREL library uses energy-saving appliances and natural light to create a comfortable space for research and reflection.

Smith describes how the collective impact of individuals pursuing their own interest contributes to the collective good.

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View from Above: Importance of Clean Energy Manufacturing to Cities and their Residents

November 10, 2015

By Jill Engel-Cox, Clean Energy Manufacturing Analysis Center (CEMAC) program director

>Picture of Los Angeles from overhead during sunrise.

Twenty-five years ago, I started my career as a junior air quality engineer, climbing the smokestacks of industrial manufacturing plants in southern California.

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Manufacturing the Future: CEMAC's Official Launch

October 23, 2015

By Doug Arent, Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis executive director

Doug Arent speaking at the American Manufacturing and Competitiveness Summit

In September, I was honored to speak at the American Manufacturing and Competitiveness Summit in Washington, D.C.

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Manufacturing a Career that Matters

June 22, 2015

By Maggie Mann, CEMAC Technical Director

Photo of Suzanne Tegen of the Market and Policy Impact Analysis group at NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis Center and Nate Blair, Manager of the Energy Forecasting and Modeling group, looking at a computer screen showing a renewable energy risk performance model.

It's the people at the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) who have made a tremendous difference in developing amazing technologies that can really change the world.

I have worked as an analyst and manager at NREL for more than 20 years, and I've recently taken on a new role as the technical director of the Clean Energy Manufacturing Analysis Center (CEMAC).

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