More Corn in the Bins

usda-logoThere’s more corn in the bins than there was a year ago at this time. USDA’s newest Grain Stocks report shows 1.24 billion bushels of old crop corn in all positions as of September 1, up 50 percent from the same time last year. Of the total stocks, 462 million bushels of corn were stored on farms and 774 million bushels were stored off the farm, up 68 and 42 percent from the prior year, respectively. The U.S. corn disappearance totaled 2.62 billion bushels during June-August, up from 1.95 billion bushels during the same period last year.

il-harvest-14Meanwhile, the corn harvest nationwide is running behind average for this time of year and just a bit ahead of last year, but the crop continues to look good.

According to USDA, the condition of the corn crop remains 74% good to excellent, 60% of the crop is mature, and 12% was harvested as of Sunday. All states are behind normal pace in the harvest.

The Illinois Corn Growers Facebook page has been showcasing harvest photos from around the state, including this one here submitted by Jordan Miles.

Renewables Outpacing Nuclear

According to a recent Vital Signs, renewable energy is outpacing nuclear electricity expansion even though renewables still have a long way to go to catch up with fossil fuel power plants. Michael Renner, senior researcher with Worldwatch Institute writes that nuclear energy’s share of global power production has declined steadily from a peak of 17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 2013. Renewables increased their share from 18.7 percent in 2000 to 22.7 percent in 2012.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, following a rapid rise from its beginnings in the mid-1950s, global nuclear power generating capacity peaked at 375.3 gigawatts (GW) in 2010. Capacity has since declined to 371.8 GW in 2013. Adverse economics, concern about reactor safety and proliferation and the unresolved question of what to do with nuclear waste have put the brakes on the industry according to Renner.

Vital Signs - NuclearIn contrast, wind and solar power generating capacities are now on the same soaring trajectory that nuclear power was on in the 1970s and 1980s. Wind capacity of 320 GW in 2013 is equivalent to nuclear capacity in 1990. The 140 GW in solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is still considerably smaller, but growing rapidly.

In recent years, renewable energy has attracted far greater investments than nuclear power. According to estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA), nuclear investments averaged US$8 billion per year between 2000 and 2013, compared with $37 billion for solar PV and $43 billion for wind. Individual countries, of course, set diverging priorities, but nowhere did nuclear have a major role in power generation investments.

In contrast with investment priorities, research budgets still favor nuclear technologies. Nuclear energy attracted $295 billion, or 51 percent, of total energy R&D spending between 1974 and 2012. But this number has declined over time, from a high of 73.6 percent in 1974 to 26 percent today. Renewable energy received a cumulative total of $59 billion during the same period (10.2 percent), but its share has risen year after year. Because wind and solar power can be deployed at variable scales, and their facilities constructed in less time, these technologies are far more practical and affordable for most countries than nuclear power reactors. Worldwide, 31 countries are operating nuclear reactors on their territories. This compares to at least 85 countries that have commercial wind turbine installations.

The chances of a nuclear revival seem slim writes Renner. Renewable energy, by contrast, appears to be on the right track. But it is clear that renewables have a long way to go before they can hope to supplant fossil fuels as the planet’s principal electricity source.

Largest Vermont Solar Farm Completed

AllEarth Renewables and Claire Solar Partners have announced the completion of a 2.2MW solar tracker farm in South Burlington, Vt. According to the companies, it’s the largest solar project in North America to feature distributed inverters and dual-axis trackers to maximize production.

AllSun TrackersJA Solar provided multi-crystalline 260 watt PID resistant modules for the project. Claire Solar utilized 366 AllSun Trackers and highly efficient modules from JA Solar, to further maximize the farm’s output. The ground-mounted pre-engineered solar trackers, which track the sun throughout the day, produce up to 30 percent more energy than fix ground-mounted systems per JA Solar. The company also says its multi-crystalline 260 watt modules outperform the peers’ modules by 5-10 watts in terms of power rating.

The project was constructed under Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development (SPEED) standard-offer program and will produce over 3 million kilowatt hours of emissions-free energy a year. AllEarth Renewables also served as the EPC for the project. In 2011, AllEarth Renewables utilized their solar trackers for a 2.1MW solar farm across the road from the Claire Solar site.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFDuring the United Nations Climate Summit in New York last week, a Global Geothermal Alliance was created. Partners include: Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Fiji, Iceland, Kenya, Nicaragua, the Philippines; The Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank Group; and The International Renewable Energy Agency. The Global Geothermal Alliance Action Statement (PDF) states it is “a platform for dialogue and knowledge-sharing among partners as well as a coalition for action to increase the share of installed geothermal electricity and heat generation worldwide.” The partnership plans to develop and adopt a detailed Work Plan for the Alliance by January 2015.
  • The Illinois Farm Bureau RFD Radio Broadcast featured the Midwest Energy International Symposium tomorrow on September 30, 2014. Patriot Renewable Fuels Judd Hulting joined event organizer Sheri Fieweger. You can listen online at rfdradio.com.
  • AcuComm has announced that its Biomass Business Finder Worldwide sales support database now provides access to more than 1,403 biomass plant developments in 106 countries worldwide. Biomass Business Finder Worldwide is the most comprehensive monitor of biomass plant development and upgrade available.
  • Energy companies from 26 countries have been selected as finalists for the Platts Global Energy Awards, an annual program recognizing exemplary industry leadership. The 2014 finalists, chosen from nearly 250 nominees from three dozen nominating countries and representing 6 continents, were announced today by program host Platts, a leading global provider of energy, petrochemicals, metals and agriculture information. Established in 1999 and often described as “the Oscars of the energy industry,” the Platts Global Energy Awards highlight corporate and individual innovation, leadership and superior performance in 18 categories that span the entire energy complex.

Urban Air Initiative Launches Public Campaign

Urban Air Initiative has launched a public awareness campaign with the first phase the launch of a new website. The consumer-focused site draws attention to the problem of toxic compounds in gas with a call to action for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate some of the most harmful components in fuel.

fixourfuelAccording to Urban Air Initiative President David VanderGriend, “There’s a problem with the air we’re all breathing and it stems from what’s in our gasoline. It’s something that’s too small to see, but too big to ignore.”

The new website is fixourfuel.com and explains why the country needs to clean up gasoline and protect public health through lowered emissions from vehicles said VanderGriend.

“The website takes a story-like approach to make a complicated subject easier to understand. “Right now, toxic compounds called aromatics are added to gasoline to provide octane boost,” added VanderGriend. However that boost is hurting your health. Aromatics, such as benzene, come out of the tailpipe as invisible, odorless ultrafine particles (UFP’s). These UFP’s have been linked to ailments from lung cancer and stroke, to birth defects and developmental disorders in children.”

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to remove these harmful aromatics from gasoline, but not enough is being done. According to Urban Air Initiative officials, there are cleaner and cheaper options available, such as mid-level blends of ethanol. Increased use of these mid-level blends will reduce toxic aromatics and UFP’s.

Ford Hauls Bad Guys Away with Biodiesel and E85

fordptv1Ford is doing its part in helping clean up the streets while also cleaning the environment. The automaker has introduced its new 2015 Ford Transit Prisoner Transport Vehicle, or Transit PTV, capable of hauling up to 12 prisoners at a time and able to run on biodiesel or E85 ethanol.

“Transit PTV is the latest example of Ford’s deep commitment to helping provide law enforcement agencies with capable vehicles,” said Jonathan Honeycutt, Ford police marketing manager. “This concept proves Transit is upfit-ready and designed to Built Ford Tough standards.”

Transit is available in three roof heights, two wheelbases, three lengths and four body styles. It provides a range of powertrain choices with a lineup that includes two gasoline engine options, an E85-capable 3.7-liter V6 and an available 3.5-liter EcoBoost® as well as an available 3.2-liter Power Stroke® diesel [able to run on B20 biodiesel].

Ford is known for its police vehicles, with the Transit PTV joining Ford’s Police Interceptor sedan and utility vehicle, Special Service Police Sedan, F-150 Special Service Vehicle and Expedition Special Service Vehicle in the company’s law enforcement vehicle lineup.

The only people who probably won’t like the Transit PTV would probably be, well, the prisoners it hauls.

ReEnergy Lands $289 Mil Biomass Plant Contract

ReEnergyBiomass power plant builder ReEnergy Holdings LLC landed a nearly $289 million contract to provide renewable energy for the U.S. Army’s Fort Drum in upstate New York, home to 37,000 soldiers and family members and employing nearly 4,000 civilians. This news release from ReEnergy says it’s the largest renewable energy project in the history of the U.S. Army.

“This is good news not only for ReEnergy, but for Fort Drum and the North Country region. This will enhance energy security and position Fort Drum as a leader in meeting the military’s ambitious renewable energy goals,” said Larry D. Richardson, the chief executive officer of ReEnergy Holdings. “The ReEnergy team is proud to assist the U.S. Army in meeting its renewable energy goals, and looks forward to enhancing the North Country’s green energy economy.”

The ReEnergy Black River facility, located inside the fence at Fort Drum, has 60 megawatts of generation capacity. Before it was idled in early 2010 by its former owner, the facility primarily burned coal to produce electricity.

Starting November 1st, the facility will turn out all of Fort Drum’s electrical load.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe Department of Energy (DOE) has posted resources about renewable energy for students and teachers. The Get Current coloring book introduces sources such as geothermal energy for young students. The Get Current activity book uses puzzles and games to teach energy efficiency and renewable energy concepts. Perfect for pre-K and kindergarten students, the coloring book takes the student through solar, wind, water, hydropower, bioenergy and geothermal before demonstrating ways to improve energy efficiency—like plug in electric vehicles. The activity book includes crosswords, word games, math puzzles and more challenging fun ways to help students, learn, understand, and internalize the principles of energy literacy, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.
  • The University of California, Davis and SunPower Corp. plan to build a 16-megawatt, ground-mounted solar power plant that is expected to generate 14 percent of UC Davis’ electricity needs. The university anticipates that, when the plant is completed in 2015, more than one-third of total electricity demand on campus will be served from carbon neutral energy sources. On completion, the project will be the largest solar power installation in the University of California system, and the largest solar power plant to offset the electricity demand of a U.S. university or college campus.
  • ECOHZ has a Call for Projects for landowners, project developers and cooperatives who have renewable energy projects that are close to being realized, but lack top financing. In phase I, ECOHZ is primarily looking at financing mature technology projects using solar, wind or hydropower. The scope is initially limited to projects in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany. The eligible projects need to have the required permits, access to the grid and project start-up planned within a year. The top financing ranges from EUR 50,000 to 500,000, and is limited to 15% of the total investment. In Phase II, ECOHZ will look to top finance projects with different technologies in more geographies.
  • Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company and Coronal Group LLC has announced the completion of nine solar projects in Tulare and Kings Counties in Central California. The projects provide 16.2 MW of energy to Southern California Edison’s grid to power approximately 14,500 homes annually.

DNV GL Releases Offshore Wind Manifesto

DNV GL has released its finding of a report, “Offshore wind: a manifesto for cost reduction,” at WindEnergy Hamburg 2014. The offshore wind industry is looking to reduce costs to ensure growth. In response to this need, DNV GL is offering the industry its manifesto for offshore wind cost reduction identifies and quantifies cost reduction opportunities. It also set out a challenge and the company has committed to take action on the issue.

DNV GL Pledges to Help Reduce Offshore Wind Costs by 25%The cost reduction strategies outlined in the manifesto are categorized into three basic types: “Doing it right,” by mitigating risk and increasing certainty; “Doing it better,” by improving the efficiency of existing processes; and “Doing it differently,” by innovating for the future. Working with industry partners, the actions DNV GL commits to in the manifesto have the potential to achieve reductions in the cost of energy of up to 25 percent. According to DNV GL, these savings, combined with trends in other areas such as improved supply chain efficiency, has the potential of delivering a total reduction of 40 percent which is recognized by many stakeholders as the level required to secure the future of the industry.

CEO for DNV GL – Energy, David Walker, said, “This is about securing the future of offshore wind. Achieving cost reduction is about more than just new technology and innovation. It also requires us to get the basics right which means getting people together, assessing the issues in detail and defining best practice. This may be seen as incremental or even unglamorous, but it is exactly what a maturing industry looks like and it is exactly what is required to drive down costs.

“The good news is that we are seeing signs of progress, but we need to do much more as an industry,” added Walker. In this manifesto document, we in DNV GL recognise the role we can play in the cost reduction story – we are committed to helping offshore wind do it right, do it better and do it differently.”

The manifesto document contains 14 specific pledges across a wide range of topics from reducing subsea cable installation risks through to accelerating the commercialization of floating offshore wind technology:

European Refiner Eyes Biodiesel Upgrade for Facility

total_logoEurope’s largest refiner of oil is considering putting in a biodiesel operation as part of an upgrade to a refinery in France. This article from Reuters says Total could convert some of its La Mede refinery near Marseille to producing biodiesel with a decision expected in the spring of 2015.

[Total's head of refining Patrick] Pouyanne said a plan to merge the La Mede refinery near Marseille with the neighbouring Lavera plant belonging to Petrochina and Ineos had failed, two union sources said, due in part to the large investments needed to upgrade the site.

The group nonetheless announced it was working on plans to convert the site, including the construction of a biodiesel making unit and a scrubber, which filters some pollutants, to make the site compatible with environmental legislation by 2018.

“I’m ready to invest the equivalent of three years of losses to make the site sustainable,” Pouyanne told unions, according to the two separate accounts made to Reuters.

La Mede was losing about 100 million euros ($127 million) a year, which would mean upgrades of about 300 million euros, the union sources said.

According to the article, Total has seen its European refining margins drop to near four-year lows this year, losing share to more efficient Middle Eastern plants, as well as too much capacity in Europe and a drop off in gasoline and diesel consumption on the continent.

IRENA: Biomass Could be 60% of World’s Renewable Energy

irenareportBiomass could make up 60 percent of the world’s renewable energy sources – one-fifth of the globe’s total energy supply – by the year 2030. That’s according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which forecasts a major role for modern, sustainable biomass technologies in the report titled, “Global Bioenergy Supply and Demand Projections for the Year 2030.”

“Sustainable bioenergy has the potential to be a game-changer in the global energy mix,” said IRENA Director of Innovation and Technology Dolf Gielen. “Sustainably sourced biomass, such as residues, and the use of more efficient technology and processes can shift biomass energy production from traditional to modern and sustainable forms, simultaneously reducing air pollution and saving lives.”

The new IRENA report shows that approximately 40% of the total global biomass supply potential would originate from agricultural residues and waste, with another 30% originating from sustainable forestry products.

The report also points out that these biomass resources do not compete with food production requirements, such as land and water, and could make significant cuts to global greenhouse gases.

Iowa GOP Makes Biodiesel Campaign Stop

branstad-ernstIowa biodiesel producers and soybean farmers hosted Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst at the REG Newton biodiesel plant last week.

Industry representatives also had a private meeting with Ernst where Iowa Biodiesel Board executive director Grant Kimberley said they discussed the pending federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) decision from EPA. “Our industry needs smart, consistent federal energy policy,” Kimberley said. “The economic and energy security benefits biodiesel provides are remarkable, making the RFS one of the finest policies we have.”

In remarks at the plant, Ernst said she favors renewable fuels because of her agricultural background and her service in Iraq as member of the Iowa National Guard. “Anything that we can do to make our nation more energy secure, more energy independent I certainly am going to support those efforts,” Ernst said.

Calling Iowa the “renewable fuels capital of the United States” Branstad said the entire industry is important to the economy, farm income, quality jobs, and reducing dependency on foreign oil. “So that’s why I’m so passionate and why I’ve fought so hard for the renewable fuel standard,” he said.

Under EPA’s current proposal, volume obligations for both biodiesel and ethanol would decline. A final decision on the proposal has yet to be announced.

Sunliquid 20 Fuel (E20) Sees Success in Auto Tests

Since January of this year, Clariant, Haltermann and Mercedes-Benz have been testing E20 known as sunliquid 20 fuel that contains 20 percent of cellulosic ethanol coming from wheat straw. The cellulosic ethanol comes from Clariant’s sunliquid demonstration plant in Straubing.

According to tests, Sunliquid® 20 improves engine efficiency so that its 4 percent lesser energy content, as compared to E10, is more than compensated. Another notable finding was the 50 percent improvement in particle count emissions of sunliquid® 20 in contrast to the EU reference fuel EU5. In addition, the fuel blend the cellulosic ethanol 20 demonstrates greenhouse gas emission savings of up to 95 percent across the entire value chain (well-to-wheel) without competing with food production or agricultural acreage.

Wheat Straw Bale Abstract @AkulamatiauWith the success of the the automotive fuel tests, consumers could now fill their tanks with sunliquid 20 fuel without making any adjustments to the gas station infrastructure in Europe and without compromising fuel range and driving comfort.

“Cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues can play a key role in creating more sustainable mobility in Germany, Europe and worldwide. Here we have the latest generation of truly advanced biofuel, the high performance of which was confirmed in the fleet test on series vehicles,” said Professor Andre Koltermann, head of Group Biotechnology at Clariant. “Second generation biofuels coming from agricultural residues are now technologically ready and available for production and application.”

Koltermann continued, “A change in energies used for transport must also be successful now; for this to happen, we urgently need stable framework conditions such as the mandatory blending rate for advanced biofuels being discussed at EU level. Our main task is to shape solutions to create sustainable mobility for the future. Gasoline with 20% ethanol can already be used easily in our latest Mercedes-Benz BlueDIRECT gasoline engines.

sunliquid® 20 is an E20 fuel with 20 percent cellulosic ethanol. Using wheat straw or other non-edible agricultural residues the feedstocks are converted into cellulosic ethanol using Clariant’s sunliquid process. The production of cellulosic ethanol is virtually CO2-neutral, saving almost 100 percent of CO2 emissions compared to gasoline according to Clariant.

Haltermann then mixes the cellulosic ethanol with conventional fuel components to form the new fuel sunliquid 20. The 20 percent cellulosic ethanol gives the fuel a high octane number (RON) of over 100, guaranteeing optimal efficiency.

Fuels America Campaign Focuses on Nat’l Security

As the U.S. government fights ISIS, this week oil fields became a target in the war on terror Fuels America is running a new series of ads online, radio, cable and in the Washington, D.C. market. The ads tell the public and decision makers that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) could end American’s addiction to foreign oil. The radio ads will run for one week, and the television ads will run during the Sunday morning talk shows as well as Sunday, Monday and Tuesday programming.

The ad warns that the Obama Administration’s proposal to gut the RFS would leave America’s renewable fuel industry—and the thousands of American jobs it supports—at the mercy of the oil industry. Meanwhile, maintaining a strong Renewable Fuel Standard would support American innovation and thousands of American jobs that can’t be outsourced.

The President’s decision on the EPA’s proposal is expected in the coming days. It is currently under review with the Office of Management and Budget and it is not actually known if the final volumes will be lower than the year before and lower than mandated by the legislation. Fuels America points out this the public unveiling of the final 2014 rule comes as oil producing regions around the world remain unstable. As a net importer of oil, every gallon of domestic biofuels the U.S. produces means less foreign oil we must import from hostile foreign regions.

Those ads come alongside a digital campaign that includes a Politico Morning Energy Sponsorship by the Fuels America coalition, which says “Despite the mess in the Middle East, the Obama Administration is calling for a 1.3 billion gallon cut in America’s renewable fuel production—making us even more foreign oil dependent,” and “With turmoil in the Middle East, this isn’t the time to cut back on the clean, domestic alternatives to foreign oil.”

Ethanol Report on 2014 Export Exchange

ethanol-report-adComing up October 20-22 is the 2014 Export Exchange sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) to bring international coarse grain buyers and U.S. suppliers together, with a particular focus on the ethanol co-product distillers dried grains with solubles – better known as DDGS or distillers feed.

2014-export-exchangeThis edition of the Ethanol Report features comments from RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen, USGC president and CEO Tom Sleight, and industry relations director Lyndsey Erb-Sharkey.

Ethanol Report on 2014 Export Exchange