U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz praised Department of Energy projects at Oak Ridge during a speech Friday at the University of Tennessee, saying they were central to America’s science and economic competitiveness.
The Oak Ridge Reservation in Anderson and Roane counties includes the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the East Tennessee Technology Park and the Y-12 National Security Complex.
Moniz, delivering the university’s Baker Distinguished Lecture on Energy and the Environment, said technologies under development there are an important part of the country’s transition to a clean-energy economy. They include technologies for producing more fuel-efficient vehicles, advanced biofuels and lower-cost batteries for electric vehicles.
He also highlighted the reservation’s role in developing advanced materials. A project to develop affordable carbon fiber products has a wide range of applications from lightweight vehicles to wind turbines, he said, adding a joking apology to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander for mentioning wind energy. Alexander, who was in the audience, has been an outspoken critic of wind power technology.
Carbon fiber is lightweight and stronger than steel, but currently it is expensive to produce. It is used in products like high-end bicycles. To make it cheaper, the DOE‘s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy awarded a $35 million grant to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for a manufacturing demonstration facility.
Moniz also highlighted a research center for 3-D printing at Oak Ridge and the reservation’s Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors, the first Department of Energy innovation hub, which, he said, has already produced products.
“As we build the domestic clean-energy economy, we’re also building opportunities for exports,” he said. But he said that “if we dawdle, we’re not going to be at the front of the train.”