Pacific Ag Bales Bundles of Energy

Bill Levy Pacific AgLast week Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol biorefinery went online and is expected to produce 25 million gallons of advanced ethanol per year as well as 21 MW of bioenergy. But how exactly does the corn and wheat residue get from the fields to the biorefinery in a economical and efficient way? Enter Pacific Ag.

The company was founded by Bill Levy in 1998 and began by baling residue for growers and using the biomass for animal feed both in the U.S. and internationally. It was a natural progression for Pacific Ag to get involved in cellulosic production in the U.S. and to become a major supplier to the industry.

I asked Levy to talk about their residue removal model. He noted that since their inception, they have always focused on having a balanced residue program for growers and they are finding value for those products for them. So taking their successful model from the Northwest and applying it to the Midwest was a good fit. “The fundamentals of having residue removed on a timely basis and in a sustainable way is really the same,” explained Levy. Today they are in California, North Carolina, Iowa, Kansas and he says they have innovated to become “energy balers” because of the new bioenergy market for residue.

There has been talk about the best biomass model for the biofuels industry. I posed this question to Levy and he explained how they have refined their model to be financial feasible. “We have tried to make it easy for growers to be part of the program by taking care of the harvest, we own the machinery, we schedule the harvest or the removal of the residue, or energy crop with the grower and then we provide them with an income stream for that product,” Levy answerPacific Ag Hugoton Kansas teamed. “It’s very important that we have the size that allows us to invest in that equipment and a lot of times it doesn’t make sense financially for a grower to to invest in that harvest equipment just to harvest the residue.” Pacific Ag is the largest purchaser and owner of baling equipment in the world.

“So what growers enjoy is being able to sit back and enjoy a residue removal program and the income from that but not have to put a lot of effort into it,” added Levy.

Pacific Ag is looking for growers of rice, wheat, corn and other biomass crops who are interested in working with them. As cellulosic ethanol plants including Abengoa continue to ramp up to nameplate capacity, more biomass will be needed and Pacific Ag is ready to be the advanced biofuels partner to help make the cellulosic industry and the growers who plant the bioenergy crops, successful.

Learn more about Pacific Ag and how to become involved in the biomass energy revolution by listening to my interview with Bill Levy: Interview with Bill Levy, Pacific Ag

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

Allison Details Abengoa’s Cellulosic Plant

Danny Allison Abengoa Plant ManagerWho better to learn about how Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol plant works then from Plant Manager Danny Allison. He explained to the standing room only crowd during Abengoa’s grand opening celebration, how the state-of-the-art biorefinery will produce cellulosic ethanol, bioenergy and other byproducts including ash that farmers can use as organic fertilizer on their fields.

Here is how the plant works:

Biomass: biomass harvested from local growers corn and wheat fields by Pacific Ag is delivered to the Abengoa plant to begin the ethanol production process. Each bale is quality tested for moisture, dust and other contaminants that could hinder the conversion process.

Biomass In-take Lines: six-packs of residue travel down conveyor belts to be separated into single bales by a singulator. Each bale goes through a chopper, cutting the biomass Biomass in-take lines at Hugoton Kansas Abengoa biorefineryinto easy-to-handle materials and then fed into a grinder.

Pre-Treatment: The pre-treatment process is where the starch is converted to sugars using Abengoa’s proprietary enzymes. From there fermentation occurs suing industrial yeast to convert the sugar to alcohol. At the end of fermentation, the liquid, now 5 percent alcohol, goes into a 1.3 million gallon tank, or beer well.

Distillation System and Ethanol Holding Tanks: All solids, water vapor and alcohol are removed. The now 95 percent pure ethanol moves to a column while the remaining 5 percent goes to the bottom for reprocessing and reclamation. After all impurities and water are removed, the finished ethanol is pumped to half-million storage tanks and ready for shipment by rail or truck.

Electrical Power Station: The Abengoa bioenergy plant will also produce up to 21MW of renewable electricity used to power the plant. Excess electricity will be fed to the grid for city use.

Learn more about the process by listening to Danny Allison’s remarks: Danny Allison Remarks

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFEcoEngineers, a company that provides compliance and market access solutions to the renewable energy industry, is the winner of the 2014 Best Kept Secret Award, which spotlights a Des Moines, Iowa business that is quietly building a reputation for excellence on a national or global scale, but often flies under the radar locally due to the nature of the industry or market it serves. The award is part of the 2014 Economic Impact and Celebrate Business Awards, sponsored by the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Des Moines Business Record.
  • DEINOVE is now proceeding to test the technology with its DEINOL technology on industrial biomass in partnership with MBI who is in the process of scaling up a transformational biomass pretreatment technology, called AFEX. AFEX is designed to be a sustainable, economically viable source of pretreated biomass for food, feed, fuel, and other biorefinery applications. Preliminary DEINOVE lab results have demonstrated that Deinococcus assimilates over 95% of the sugars present in AFEX pretreated biomass and efficiently converts these sugars into ethanol, they represent an important step forward on the road to commercial production.
  • Ecoplexus, Inc. announced that it has closed financing and commenced construction on three solar photovoltaic projects (Langley PV1, Carter PV1, and Pecan PV1) totaling 21 megawatts (MW), representing approximately $40 million in project costs. The projects have signed long-term power purchase agreements contracts with Duke Energy Progress and are expected to achieve commercial operations in 2014.
  • Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital, Inc. has announced a $144 million investment in a portfolio of 10 operating wind projects owned by an affiliate of JP Morgan Chase. The transaction enables Hannon Armstrong to participate in the priority cash flows associated with these wind projects. Hannon Armstrong also raised $115 million of new fixed-rate non-recourse debt from Bank of America, N.A, using the investment as collateral.

Sierra Club Releases EV Finder Tool

Consumers interested in electric vehicles (EVs) now have a way to do their research. A new ‘pick-a-plug‘ web tool has been released by the Sierra Club. The app asks the user a few questions about driving habits and vehicle needs, and then generates a list of Pick a Plug In AppEVs that fit the bill. Sierra Club said there is no overall best EV – the best EV for any given driver depends on how many miles a day the person drives, whether the person takes frequent long trips, whether there is a place to plug in the car, and how much money the person is prepared to spend.

“There are a lot of compelling reasons why more than a quarter million Americans have already bought EVs since they first came on the mass market a few years ago,” said Gina Coplon-Newfield, director of the Sierra Club’s Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles Initiative. “They are cool high-tech wonders, there is little or no need to ever visit a gas station, they are much cheaper to fuel -the equivalent of about $1 a gallon, and they are much better for the environment -even when considering the emissions from the electricity to charge them up.”

Today there is a $2,500-7,500 federal tax credit that comes with the purchase of an EV, and many cities and states offer additional incentives, like a purchase/lease rebate, carpool lane access, and special utility rates for EV drivers. Linked to the new ‘pick-a-plug-in’ web tool is Sierra Club’s online EV Guide where all of this information is available by zip code, as well as a tool that calculates how much carbon emissions and fueling costs the EV will save compared to the average conventional car.

Currently, less than 1 percent of U.S. households have an EV, but according to a poll conducted last year by the Consumers Union and the Union of Concerned Scientists, nearly half of American households could purchase an EV for their next car based on driving needs and access to electrical outlets or EV charging stations.

ACORE Report: Monitize U.S. Energy Security

dodshieldThe American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) has released a new report, “Monetizing Energy Security,” that outlines liabilities fostered by the natural dependence of the Department of Defense (DOD) on energy resources. The paper proposes the DOD should consider the actual, total cost of energy it takes to achieve energy security and assign a dollar value.

“As the largest, most technologically advanced, and geographically dispersed military in the world, DOD has sought to develop a more comprehensive energy strategy to reduce liability on limited energy resources,” said Lesley Hunter, ACORE’s lead researcher and the paper’s editor. “We believe, and our research backs this up, that there’s significant room for improvement in cost-accounting of DOD’s present energy strategy, and that renewable energy and microgrid technologies can add real value in the push for energy security.”

This white paper demonstrates that renewable energy offers greater lifecycle value when compared to fossil or nuclear energy, and provides a more reliable and secure resource that ultimately lowers the actual levelized cost to DOD. acore.jpgFurthermore, the paper asserts that – with improved supply-chain accounting for costs of present installation energy and realignment of some federal processes – private, third-party capital investment in military renewable energy would exponentially grow.

President and CEO of ACORE, Michael Brower, noted the challenges associated with of shifting one of the world’s largest energy consumers to a modern, reliable and diverse system. “This essential matter is very complex and subject to the views of many stakeholders. ACORE is very optimistic that the paradigm is positively shifting as reflected by the joint services’ recent actions.”

The report concludes by noting that energy security and resilience on DOD installations, as well as the reduction of the growing level of costs and uncertainty energy security represents for DOD planners, is increasingly recognized as being essentially intertwined with DOD’s primary mission to protect and defend.

Big Oil Denied Again

Big Oil has been denied again. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has found that the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Engine Products E15 Bargain!Group (EPG) did not have standing against keeping E15 out of the marketplace. In the rule the judge wrote, “they cannot show that their members have suffered or are threatened with suffering a relevant injury.”

The court held to their previous ruling in GMA v. EPA and likewise denied standing to those who challenged the E15 waiver decision. Growth Energy successfully sought a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2009 to allow retailers and consumers to choose E15 – a blend of up to 15 percent ethanol. EPA granted the waiver in 2011 for all 2001 and newer motor vehicles.

“Today is another victory for ethanol and the American motorist,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “To continue to achieve the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard, [RFS] Growth Energy led the fight for E15 which is now being sold by over 90 retailers in 14 states. This decision is important because it continues to uphold the choice and savings for the American motorist with E15.”

Fuels America Launches Pro Biofuels Campaign

Fuels America has launched a new TV and radio campaign thanking American renewable fuels supporters Minnesota Senator Al Franken, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry and Michigan Rep. Gary Peters for fighting for local jobs and working to end America’s reliance on foreign oil.

The ads, on the radio in Minnesota and in Michigan and on television in Nebraska, thank the elected officials for supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the policy that allows domestic renewable fuels to compete in the motor fuel market.

Ads include:

  • Michigan Statewide: Radio ad titled “Our Pockets” about Gary Peters’ support of the RFS and fight to break America’s addiction to foreign oil, and how the Koch Brothers and Big Oil have spent millions against Peters.
  • Minnesota Statewide: Radio ad titled “Next Caller” highlighting Senator Franken’s support of the RFS and his work pushing the Obama Administration to increase production of renewable fuels.
  • Minnesota’s 7th District: Radio ad titled “Change Course” highlighting Collin Peterson’s support for a strong RFS, reduced reliance on foreign oil, and a stronger rural economy.
  • Nebraska’s 2nd District: TV ad titled “Solution” highlighting Lee Terry’s support of the RFS.

Analysis: EU Can Cut Natural Gas Imports By Half

Ecofys natural gas reportAccording to a new report, ramping up cost-effective investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency can help the European Union cut its dependency on natural gas by half. The analysis also found this measure could reduce carbon emissions by 49 percent or more, or drop emissions below the 1990 level by 2030, more than is currently proposed. The report was released just days before the European Council meets to set new climate change targets.

The study, “Increasing the EU’s Energy Independence: A No-Regrets Strategy for Energy Security and Climate Change,” was authored by international consultants Ecofys as part of the Open Climate Network (OCN). The report finds that natural gas consumption can be halved overall by implementing cost-effective measures that accelerate the use of renewable energy and efficiency improvements in industry, buildings and energy supply.

Relative to current projections, these measures can achieve:

    • 58% reduction in gas consumption from buildings (equal to 23% of all natural gas presently consumed by EU);
    • 20% reduction in gas consumption from industry (equal to 5% of all natural gas presently consumed by EU); and
    • 63% reduction in gas consumption from power generation (equal to 19% of all natural gas presently consumed by EU).

Replacing natural gas imports with clean alternatives will enhance Europe’s stability in energy supply, increasing resilience to possible interruption from unstable suppliers.

“Contrary to popular belief, Europe can be energy independent,” said Jennifer Morgan, Director of the Climate and Energy Program at World Resources Institute. “This analysis shows that the EU can cut natural gas imports in half without raising costs for consumers. This is a win-win approach for the EU, increasing its energy security and raising the bar for climate action.”

2015 Bi-fuel Chevy Impala Fueled by Trash

Man’s best friend is going to be getting less table scraps now that they can be used to fuel the new 2015 Bi-fuel Chevrolet Impala. The CNG vehicle can motor around town on food and beer waste. Cleveland-based quasar energy group uses organic waste to produce biogas that is converted into Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). The methane gas that is produced from biogas is processed, removing all carbon dioxide and impurities to make Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). When compressed, RNG is a direct replacement for CNG.

Quasar sources raw waste materials from a variety of industries. For instance, its Columbus, Ohio Renewable Energy Facility processes up to 25,000 wet tons of biosolids from the City of Columbus Department of Public Utilities for wastewater. Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, contributes food waste for CNG-production after it’s been macerated in an industrial-sized InSinkErator Grind2Energy garbage disposal and Anheuser-Busch’s Columbus brewery provides an organic by-product to quasar for conversion to methane gas.

2015 Bi-fuel Chevy Impala“If you can buy renewable fuel at $1.95 per gallon while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, everybody wins,” said Mel Kurtz, president of quasar energy group. “quasar’s Columbus facility can produce 1.3 million gasoline gallon equivalents of CNG each year.”

The CNG tank mounted in the trunk has the equivalent capacity of 7.8 gallons of gasoline, which is expected to offer approximately 150 city miles of range on compressed natural gas based on GM testing. With gasoline and compressed natural gas combined, expected range is 500 city miles based on GM testing. EPA estimates are not yet available.

“To avoid feelings of range anxiety common in owners of CNG-only vehicles, we made the Impala bi-fuel, allowing our customers to drive on CNG when available and on gasoline when it’s not,” added Nichole Kraatz, Impala chief engineer.

Impala’s bi-fuel system seamlessly switches to gasoline power when the CNG tank is depleted. Drivers who wish to change fuels while driving can do so by simply pushing a button. A light on the instrument panel indicates when CNG is being used, and there is no interruption in the vehicle’s performance.

Cellerate Receives D3 RIN Certification

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given D3 Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) certification to Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) for its cellulosic ethanol produced with Cellerate Cellerate Processprocess technology. The technology is a collaboration between Syngenta and Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, a subsidiary of QCCP. The biorefinery earned D3 pathway approval from the EPA on Oct. 7, 2014 and Quality Assurance Program (QAP) certification on Oct. 10, 2014. Clearing these hurdles led to production of QCCP’s first QAP D3 RINs on Oct. 16, 2014.

To qualify as cellulosic biofuel, a renewable fuel must meet a 60 percent threshold (aka reduction) for lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. RINs are used for compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program and may be “banked,” traded or sold for use by parties (fuel producers and importers) who must comply with the RFS.

According to QCCP Chief Executive Officer Delayne Johnson, as cellulosic D3 RINs become available on the commercial market, biofuels opponents will no longer be able say there are no D3 RINs as a strategy to weaken the RFS. “The biofuels industry now has the technology available to create two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol – with no more corn,” said Johnson. “QCCP is proud to be one of the first companies to issue D3 RINs. We look forward to higher D3 RIN requirements in 2015 as new production comes on.”

QCCP expects to produce one million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2014 and two million gallons in 2015. Earlier this year.

“Cellerate is designed to increase an ethanol plant’s production by allowing the corn kernel fiber to be converted into cellulosic ethanol,” added Jack Bernens, head of marketing and stakeholder relations for Enogen corn enzyme technology. “Ethanol plants can easily integrate Cellerate process technology into their existing production process. Cellerate, in conjunction with Enogen corn, will deliver notable benefits to ethanol plants beyond what can be achieved through either technology alone.”

Panasonic to Install 68 EV Charging Stations

Panasonic is providing engineering, construction and procurement services to Powertree Services Inc. (Powertree) to build 68 electric vehicle charging stations at several multi-unit residential properties in San Francisco, California. The EV charging stations will be powered by solar energy a battery storage component. When complete the EV charging stations will have the ability to supply high power charging to vehicles, ancillary services provided to the utility to support the grid, solar power to tenants and supplemental power to the buildings. The stations are scheduled to be completed by Earth Day 2015.

Powertree EV charging station“Panasonic is committed to driving new technologies and collaborating with entrepreneurs to help bring about renewable energy options and a sustainable future. Our work now will pay off in terms of future economic and other benefits for building owners, and a reduction in greenhouse gases,” said Panasonic Enterprise Solutions’ Jamie Evans, Eco Solutions Managing Director.

When complete, the 68 stations will result in a total installed capacity of 6.1 megawatts of power and 2.5 megawatts of EV charging capacity. Each station is configured to support up to 70 amps or 18 kilowatts. This is roughly equivalent to 60 to 70 miles of range for every hour of charging. The exact rate of charging depends on vehicle models. The stations will be powered by on site photovoltaic panels, and can generate clean energy for building use, or have the ability to provide backup generation, in the event of a grid outage.

Stacey Reineccius, founder and CEO of Powertree, added, “Owners of multi-tenant apartment and mixed use buildings face a rising demand from tenants, drivers and new regulations that combine to require them to install, manage, upgrade electric charging facilities and support electric vehicles. With Powertree Services owners can turn this potentially burdensome situation into new value and offer attractive new amenities for their tenants even in medium to small urban properties with no capital outlay by the property owner.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFHealthy Planet Partners, LLC (HPP), a Clean Energy Solutions Fund and Kyocera Solar, Inc. have announced the completion of a solar rooftop and carport system at the Seattle Mariners Spring Training facility in Peoria, AZ. HPP developed and financed the project with partner Kyocera Solar which provided engineering and project management support as well as acting as a finance partner. The 345kW solar array will generate approximately 529MWh of clean electricity annually.
  • Mosaic, a peer-to-peer solar finance company, has announced that an affiliate of global reinsurer PartnerRe Ltd. will provide up to $100 million in financing for Mosaic’s home solar loan program. Under the terms of the facility, PartnerRe will finance the purchase of loans originated by Mosaic. The company also expects to continue to grow its successful peer-to-peer lending platform, which has already seen thousands of investors join the Mosaic community.
  • Borrego Solar Systems Inc., a leading designer, developer, installer and financier of grid-tied solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, and sPower (Sustainable Power Group), announced that they are commencing construction on a solar project located in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. Upon completion, the facility, located on sPower-owned land in the Town of Riverhead, will have the capacity to produce 6.3MWac (9.1MWdc) of solar energy.
  • ET Solar Energy Corp. has announced that it has supplied 5 MW polycrystalline photovoltaic modules to a leading mining operation in Suriname. Upon completion, this solar power plant will substantially meet the demand for electricity of the facilities.

Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for US

According to a new report, “Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for U.S. Security and the Economy,” smarter use of energy is the biggest contributor to three positive trends: reducing of oil dependence, slowing the growth of electricity needs and making energy services more affordable to Americans.

“Despite what you may be hearing from a final onslaught of negative campaign ads, the security and affordability of America’s energy services has never been better, and energy efficiency is the most important reason why,” said Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the Natural NRDC 2014 Energy ReportResources Defense Council (NRDC) energy program, who commissioned the study. “The latest data confirms that our consumption of energy, including oil and coal, remains well below its peak levels from a decade ago. However, we can and should do more.”

NRDC’s Second Annual Energy Report is an analysis of new government data on 2013 U.S. energy use that shows optimizing energy use through efficiency continues to contribute more to meeting U.S. energy needs than any other resource, from oil and coal to natural gas and nuclear power.

“Efficiency helps America get more work out of less oil, natural gas, and electricity while pushing our economy forward and cutting residential, business, and industrial customers’ bills,” added Cavanagh. “Far less costly than adding other energy resources like fossil fuels that also create climate-changing pollution, efficiency saves the nation hundreds of billions of dollars annually, prevents millions of tons of carbon emissions, helps U.S. workers and companies compete worldwide, and increases our energy security.”

The report notes the nation is already two-thirds of the way toward meeting President Obama’s goal of cutting 3 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2030 through his administration’s efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings, which also will lower customer energy bills by more than $4 billion. Meanwhile, the government’s proposed emissions standards for existing power plants would keep over 5.3 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. But based on the nation’s positive energy trends, the report says even larger reductions are feasible and cost-effective.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFPlanET Biogas UK Ltd. has commissioned their fifth Biogas plant into service. The 1.5 MW plant is situated on Singleton Birch’s Ltd. site at Melton Ross, Barnetby, North Lincolnshire. The biogas will produce 40% of their onsite power requirements. Four local farmers are providing 30,000 tonnes of feedstock every year.
  • Join Growth Energy and New Holland Agriculture announced the 2014 Growth Energy Individual Membership Sweepstakes winner of 200 hours of usage of a CR8090 combine with a New Holland Twin Rotor® CR8090 combine corn head during the 2014 harvest season is Robert Baker from La Plata, Missouri. The total prize package is valued at $35,584.
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced $1.4 billion in USDA loan guarantees to improve the delivery of electric power to rural communities in 21 states. The announcement includes $106 million for smart grid technologies and $3 million for renewable energy programs and systems. The funding will help diversify energy portfolios and decrease our nation’s reliance on carbon-based fuel sources.
  • First Environment Inc. and Genscape have created a new strategic partnership to provide RFS2 QAP services for bio-methane related pathways. Both companies have been at the forefront of providing quality assurance to environmental markets, and now both companies can leverage a greater wealth of experience and resources for RFS compliance in the bio-methane industry.

DOE’s Moniz Congrats Abengoa on Cellulosic Plant

US Energy Secretary Ernst MonizDepartment of Energy Secretary Ernst Moniz was on hand to help Abengoa Bioenergy celebrate the grand opening of its cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas. With a beautiful day and a full house, excitement was high as Moniz took the stage to congratulate Abengoa’s achievement.

The $500 million biorefinery was supported, in part, by a DOE loan guarantee. Moniz began his remarks by putting the bioenergy plant in perspective of the larger picture and that is as part of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy.

Moniz said the cellulosic ethanol plant serves three major objectives:

  1. Growing the economy – creating jobs.
  2. Advancing our energy security interests. No only for the United States alone, but also for our allies and friends.
  3. Moving towards the low carbon economy- addressing climate change.

Moniz also noted the importance of the innovation chain, “…and what we’re seeing to today is part of that…But if we’re going to kick start this, we have to work with the private sector with state and local governments with our research institutions and laboratories to get these technologies deployed and drive those costs down to be competitive continued Moniz. So this plant shows all of these features.”

He said that while there will be a few rough spots along the road, what the country is seeing today is the beginning of a new industry.

Listen to Energy Secretary Moniz’s complete comments here:

Listen to Energy Secretary Moniz’s remarks: Energy Secretary Moniz Remarks

Check out the Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.