DOE eyes mines as future clean energy sites

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Current or abandoned mines are being considered by the US Department of Energy for experimental clean energy sites below the earth’s surface under a new $500 million grant program.

There are 17,750 mine sites on 1.5 million acres across the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The federal government estimates that up to 89 gigawatts of clean electricity could be generated if all US mining lands were redeveloped with clean energy projects.

The grants are administered by the DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) in conjunction with the National Energy Technology Laboratory and three other DOE offices: Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, Nuclear Energy, and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Created last year by President Joe Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the OCED is endowed with $500 million for this fiscal year through 2026 to demonstrate the technical and economic viability of two to five clean energy projects. on mining lands in geographically diverse areas.

Projects to be considered for government grants must demonstrate at least one of these technologies: geothermal, energy storage (pumped hydro and compressed air), direct air capture, advanced nuclear use, microgrids, or power generation from fossil fuels with capture, use and sequestration. At least two projects must involve solar energy.

When awarding grants, the selected projects can be carried out in the shortest time from authorization to completion, will create the most jobs and will be located in economically disadvantaged areas (especially in former areas coal mining). Consideration will also be given to projects with the greatest potential for technological innovation, commercial deployment and the lowest costs for energy produced or stored.

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“Selected projects will chart a course for navigating federal, state, and local rules and regulations regarding grid siting and interconnection, mine remediation, post-mining land use, safety environmental and other processes important to successfully developing and operating clean energy projects on current or former mining land,” according to the DOE.

The DOE is particularly interested in learning from public input how demonstration programs can be implemented to stimulate follow-on private sector investment and create high-quality jobs, promote local and regional economic development, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse gas.

Scheduled to seek project proposals in 2023, OCED issued an RFI on June 29 seeking input from the clean energy industry and its investors, mining industry and landowners. , federal and state regulatory agencies, state and local governments, labor unions, environmental justice. organizations, tribal representatives, disadvantaged communities, community groups, economic development organizations, conservation and environmental groups, and academic institutions and other research institutions interested in demonstrating clean energy projects on mining land.

Comments are sought on the development of mining lands, operations and program implementation, job creation and technology concerns. Federal priorities for environmental and energy equity and justice will also be taken into account. Only electronic responses to the request for mining project information will be considered and should be emailed to [email protected] by August 15.

Further details are available at https://oced-exchange.energy.gov/.

The mining project aims to support the Biden administration’s goal of having a carbon-free electric grid by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

“Developing clean energy on mining lands is an opportunity for the fossil fuel communities, which have powered our country for a generation, to receive an economic boost and play a leading role in our transition to a clean energy,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said when the information was announced. request.

In June, Granholm announced that an underground hydrogen storage experiment in salt caverns in Utah would receive a $504.4 million loan guarantee after being branded a new clean energy technology project. . Federal funds will help pay to build the world’s largest clean hydrogen storage capable of providing low-cost, long-term seasonal energy storage for the electric grid.

Salt mine

A view of the project site. (Advanced Clean Energy Storage Project via US Department of Energy)

The plan is to combine 220 megawatts of alkaline electrolysis with two massive 4.5 million barrel salt caverns to store clean hydrogen and deploy it as fuel for the Intermountain Power Agency’s power plant which aims to be gradually powered by 100% clean hydrogen by 2045.

Earlier this year, the project was launched, called the Advanced Clean Energy Storage Project. It is a joint venture between Mitsubishi Power Americas Inc., Magnum Development and Haddington Ventures.

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