Innovative clean energy products are a key enabler to ensuring our nation’s competitive edge in manufacturing. In order to compete globally, our country must strive to produce clean and efficient products while equally investing in advanced manufacturing technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) agency recently announced the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative (CEMI) to put our manufacturing sector on a path to increased energy productivity and toward a stronger, more vibrant economy.
The CEMI does more than simply concentrate funding toward projects for advanced manufacturing technologies and clean energy products. As you may have read in a recent post by Warren Hunt, the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) is one of the newest key activities that contributes to the same goals of producing clean energy technologies as the CEMI. This interagency initiative is intended to foster several regional institutes to serve as public-private partnership hubs for the development of innovative manufacturing technologies.
CEMI also takes full advantage of existing programs and government agencies that have a hand in the advancement of new manufacturing technologies. Prior to the announcement of the CEMI, the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) has been hosting a public-private consortium effort to build collaborative manufacturing communities around sites known as Manufacturing Demonstration Facilities (MDFs). These facilities will allow manufacturers to access a variety of state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities and openly exchange information regarding process optimization and best practices associated with advanced manufacturing technologies. MDFs will host workers from academia, industry, and government agencies that specialize in a wide array of disciplines. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is home to the MDF dedicated to additive manufacturing and low-cost carbon fiber production.
The Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative was announced at the AMO’s new center under the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility: the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility. This facility supports the goals of the CEMI by focusing research toward affordable production of carbon fiber and manufacturing optimization of carbon fiber reinforced composite structures for strong, stiff, lightweight products that earn the title of clean energy technologies. In the same way that the NNMI will host an array of different institutes to focus expertise and address challenges of advanced manufacturing technologies, MDFs will serve as collaboration centers for manufacturers to access high-tech physical and virtual tools and pursue the same outcome of low-cost manufacturing techniques and clean energy products.
We are on the right track to deliver U.S. manufacturers the resources needed to produce clean energy products and advanced manufacturing processes, giving our manufacturing sector a competitive advantage on a global scale. Within a decade, the CEMI will be a smart way to support the U.S. manufacturing sector and ensure that our investments in solar, wind, vehicles, buildings, and other clean energy technologies will become directly cost-competitive without the need for additional subsidies.