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Question: What effect will the dramatically reduced funding level that you have proposed for FY87 have on the DOE Five-Year Research Plan that you have already committed to with the photovoltaic industry and research community?
Answer: Many important milestones in the five year plan will be pursued as vigorously as in prior years; some will be stretched out. Many of the activities are no longer needed since industry has matured sufficiently to pursue these without government support (examples are silicon material, silicon sheet, and flat plate silicon module reliability). Other activities will be stretched out to allow more fundamental work to be completed before pursuing application-oriented research. Typical fundamental studies include amorphous silicon light-induced degradation, improved deposition technology for all thin-film devices and improved materials measurement technology.
Question: Your budget statement indicates that it is this Administrations policy to concentrate on longer-term research and development and to withdraw from continued efforts in more mature technologies. Does the photovoltaic industry and research community agree with your assessment that photovoltaics is now a sufficiently developed technology to warrant significant reduction of base research funds in this area?
Answer: The various members of the photovoltaics community have different views on the DOE assessment ranging all the way from (a) do nothing other than very fundamental research to (b) help the industry by purchasing large quantities of finished products. The DOE PV program for FY 1987 is in-between these extremes and will pursue both basic research and applied research associated with thin-film photovoltaic devices. The selected areas of research have broad-based industry support.
Question: What percentage of the proposed funding for photovoltaics will go to applied research and demonstration projects versus basic research such as materials development or development of corrosion inhibitors?
Answer: No funds are planned for demonstration projects. The funds will be divided approximately 50:50 between basic research and applied research.
Question: What is the specific funding level proposed in your budget for continuation of the photovoltaic research effort currently sponsored by Sandia National Laboratories and conducted by Arizona State University?
Answer: The Sandia National Laboratories has been supporting Arizona State University (ASU) for many years in the testing of concentrator cells and modules. In late FY 1985, the ASU was funded for $83,000 to continue this work until January 1987. At the end of FY 1986, continuation funding will be considered for this contract for an additional year of effort.
Question. What work, if any, is DOE doing in the area of cogeneration (use of fossil fuel exhaust gases to generate thermal heat)?
Answer. DOE is conducting research and development on improved cogeneration systems that either have improved conversion efficiencies, provide increased electrical to thermal output ratios, or provide fuel flexibility.
Industrial cogeneration activities have been reduced from the FY 1986 activities. Work on the externally fired Brayton will be concluded at the end of FY 1986. The Thermionics direct conversion work and the sodium heat engine development will continue. A 1000 watt unit of the latter will be fabricated.
The successful combustion of coal in a diesel has been achieved in a test installation. Wear studies are to be conducted, and the initial design of a test facility is being prepared.
The externally fired Brayton development has concluded its topping combustor test that would allow the fluidized bed-gas turbine system to reach full temperature.
Laboratory tests of an advanced high temperature steam turbine system will continue, allowing a 70% increase in electrical output from a cogeneration system.
The bottoming cycle research will be concluded in FY 1986. This includes evaluation and improvement of working fluids and an advanced prime mover that has low projected costs.
Question. It is my understanding that some phases of the cogeneration technology are about to move toward commercialization. What role is DOE playing or planning to play in the development of operating standards for the co-generation industry?
Answer: DOE is not playing or planning to play any role in the development of operating standards for cogeneration. This is considered a commercialization function. We do from time to time participate in developing technical design standards which is consistent with our research and development function.
The Cogeneration Research Institue, which will be dedicated in Tempe, Arizona next month, will formulate operating standards for cogeneration. The Institute will be housed in Arizona State University in Tempe.
Question: As you may be aware, several Western and Southwestern electric utilities have had a long-standing interest in solar central receiver technology. About a year ago Arizona Public Service Company, Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison Company submitted a proposal to your for funds to pursue three coordinated studies which, upon completion, would help define the most appropriate steps to commercialize solar thermal technology. Specifically, these coordinated studies would define: the most cost-effective systems and a baseline commercial plant concept; the most timely and cost-efficient means of eliminating technical risks; the most appropriate steps for commercialization; and the most prudent use of existing facilities to support commercialization. Would you please advise me as to the action DOE contemplates taking with regard to the proposal submitted by these three companies?
Answer: The proposals have been favorably reviewed and the Department is proceding into negotiations with the three utilities. It is anticipated that cooperative agreements will be implemented this summer.
Restion: Are any specific funds earmarked in the FY87 budget for research of the nature proposed by APS, PG&E and Southern California Edison? If funds are identified please describe the specific project(s) for which they are intended.
Answer: The proposals are for performing the studies in two phases: 1) definition of a baseline commercial plant concept and 2) a technical plan for eliminating technical risks. Cooperative agreements are currently being negotiated and therefore, funding requirements are not finalized. The first phase will be completed in early FY 1987. The final scope of phase 2 will depend on the results from phase 1. An assessment of program priorities will be made at the conclusion of phase 1 regarding the initiation of the phase 2 studies.
Question: Do you now consider solar thermal energy systems to be a mature technology and does the solar thermal energy systems industry and research community agree with your assessment of the status of the technology?
Answer: Some types of solar thermal systems are already enjoying commercial investment, such as the parabolic trough collector systems installed by Luz for Southern California Edison. Technology development is proceeding well in central receivers. Subsystems and components are being built to substantiate the research program results. Several years of additional development and testing is still required to verify technology status. Issues still remain concerning efficiencies, lifetimes and scale. Proof of concept at scale and integrated operation are still two key issues which must be answered before the technology can be considered mature. The utility public planning studies are a deliberate attempt to obtain industry and the research community assessments of the status of the technology. Utilities are all watching the experience in Southern California regarding the comparative performance of parabolic trough/tube receivers versus central receivers.
Distributed (1.e. dish) systems still require development of technology for efficient and reliable engines. Research and development is proceeding to reach a status that will promote industrial development. Certain engines (1.e. Stirling) are being developed by industry but other engines with the potential for higher reliability and performance require further development.
Superconducting Super Collider
Question: As you know, Arizona is quite interested and supportive of the SSC project. Those of us who are supporters of the SSC realize the many ramifications and potential benefits of the project, and we recognize the need for basic research if the U.S. is to regain its technological edge. What will be the keys to building on the momentum of support that the SSC is gaining? How can those of us who recognize the need for the SSC see that it is built in this country?
Answer: As discussed earlier, the Secretary is planning to reach a decision this summer on whether to seek authorization for construction initiation of the project in FY 1988 or some future year. If the decision is to go forward and the President endorses the project, the project will clearly benefit from the support and enthusiasm the project is now receiving from the public to successfully proceed through the authorization, site selection, and construction processes. We appreciate very much this initiative and support.
Question: One of the primary issues of the SSC is the multidisciplinary research and spin-off developments that would occur; i.e., the SSC means not just high energy physics but also cutting edge technologies in computer science, engineering, underground construction and tunneling, superconductivity, robotics, etc. Do you think there is a realization of the true magnitude of the potential benefits?
Answer: Indeed, the SSC would be involved with cutting edge technology in all of the areas you mention, the spin-offs from the SSC at the cutting edge of technology have already begun. For example, as part of the SSC R&D, superconducting wire performance has already been substantially improved by about 50 percent over the wire available for the Tevatron magnets. Superconducting wire is used in many new areas of technology, including the fabrication of large magnets required for advanced methods of medical diagnostics. The improved superconducting wire will make these magnets cheaper and more readily available. The SSC would also play an important role in education and training, providing outstanding research challenges to a generation of science and engineering students. The benefits from past basic research permeate every aspect of the nation's well-being and security. It is exceedingly difficult, however, to predict ahead of time the discoveries which will proceed from basic research and advanced technology activities like high energy physics, much less the extent of the benefits which will result.
Question: We know that many of the engineering and science graduate students studying in our universities are foreign nationals who will return to their own countries once their educations here are finished. There is little doubt that the U.S. is losing its lead in basic high technology and science, and we are not producing the graduate students to ever help us regain that lead. In light of this doesn't it seem that it is essential for the U.S. to do all it can to promote basic research and scientific development and isn't the SSC a crucial component to starting that effort?
Answer: The SSC would certainly be a very important element, along with other basic research activities, in the carrying out of forefront research and in the education and training of the nation's future scientists and engineers. The scientific attraction and technological challenges of the SSC can be expected to attract some of the most outstanding of the nation's young people into careers in science and technology and also will provide a rigorous training ground.
Question: From a technical standpoint, how well do these superconducting magnets function and how reliable are they in quantity?
Answer: The design, fabrication, and successful testing of many models of several different styles of superconducting magnets, as part of the SSC R&D program, confirm that this new technology is adequately nature and well-understood to be the basis for the SSC facility. The field uniformity and field strength of the magnets are excellent and fully predictable. The quality of the magnets is enhanced by the success in first understanding and then improving the quality, reproducibility, and manufacturing characteristics of the superconducting wire. These are key factors in the cost and reproducibility of the magnets and major improvements have been made as a result of a DOE supported collaborative university/ laboratory research effort with U.S. industry. Reliability and quality control are critical factors in a complex project of this magnitude. They will be addressed in the conceptual Design Report and emphasized throughout the design, construction, and operation of the facility. The successful operation of the Tevatron for several years now with its nearly 1000 superconducting magnets, adds to the credibility of and confidence in this new technology.
Question: What are the economics involved in SSC; i.e., will the prices for these superconducting magnets escalate, can DOE cover the remaining planning costs within its proposed budget, etc.?
Answer: It appears that the estimated costs for the SSC by the Central Design Group are generally consistent with those of the Reference Designs Study (RDS) and perhaps somewhat lower. The R&D of the past two years has successfully verified the critical technical assumptions of the RDS and shown that the earlier estimates were based on a good foundation. The Conceptual Design Report, due in April, will contain a new detailed, bottoms-up