Book Review – Demystifying Food From Farm to Fork

This week I read, “Demystifying Food from Farm to Fork,” by Maurice J. Hladik. Many of you may be familiar with Hladik, an agricultural expert who has spoken at events all around the world including Commodity Classic. The goal of the book is to take a look at food production from “farm to fork”.

demystifying-food-from-farm-to-forkAs with many concepts, farm to fork can be defined in many ways. Hladik defines it as, “Pertaining to the human food chain from agricultural production to consumption. In other words, from our readers farm to my table.”

As Hladik takes the reader through the varying stages in between the planting, growing and harvesting of food through manufacturing and eventually to the table, he explained the pros and cons, addressed any surrounding controversies and presented both sides of each argument. For this I was very impressed, as many writers take the view of “it’s my way or no way”.

Hladik also points out certain areas that he says are portrayed in the media as myths. One area he addressed was that of ethanol production and food prices. He writes, “There is a widespread conviction that the use of massive quantities of corn for the production of ethanol, and to a lesser extent soy beans for biodiesel, substantially contributes to hunger throughout the world….In reality, there is enough food in the world to go around, but getting it to all those who need it is a challenge.”

He continues by writing that the world does not need all the corn and other grains that are dedicated to biofuel production, and thus corn might as well be used for this purpose (he also rightly points out that a diet solely of corn does not constitute a balanced diet). In addition, he explains during his examination of “food versus fuel” that because of the increased need for corn for ethanol, along with the fact that growers are harvesting more bushels per acre than ever before, that should the unforeseen happen, the corn can be diverted to other areas – in essence, ethanol production is “money in the bank”.

This book is very well suited to those of us who are not very familiar with agriculture, and gives the reader a good, brief introduction into all the steps it takes to deliver our food to the table.

Bioenergy Bytes

Iberdrola Renewables Completes 3 Wind Farms

IRI_Groton-3336Iberdrola Renewables has completed three new wind energy projects in the U.S. The wind farms were all commissioned in December 2012, representing a total investment of approximately $700 million, and most of the power has already been purchased via long-term contracts. The three projects include:

  • The Manzana Wind Power Project located in Kern County, California includes 126 GE 1.5MW wind turbines, with the capacity to produce 189 MW of wind energy each year. Lease payments to landowners are estimated to be more than $30 million over the life of the wind farm.
  • The Hoosac Wind Power Project is located in Monroe, Massachusetts and expands into Florida, Massachusetts. The wind farm consists of 19 GE 1.5 MW wind turbines with the ability to generate 28.5 MW annually. Lease payments to landowners are estimated to be $3 million over the life of the wind farm.
  • The Groton Wind Farm is situated along two ridge features in the town of Groton, New Hampshire. The wind farm consists of 24 Gamesa G87, 2.0 MW wind turbines and has the capacity to produce 48MW per year.

“These projects have begun delivering the environmental benefits of clean, renewable energy, but they also create significant economic impacts resulting from hiring numerous local workers and companies, and making long-term tax and lease payments to the local communities,” said Martín Mugíca, president and CEO of Iberdrola Renewables, LLC. “Each project represents the culmination of years of hard work, and we could not do it without the vision and support of our shareholders, customers and employees.”

Earlier in 2012, Iberdrola Renewables completed a 46-MW project in Pennsylvania, a 100-MW project in Iowa and a 304-MW project in Ohio.

E15 Hot Topic at Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit

Giving consumers more choice at the pump with an E15 ethanol fuel blend will be a feature presentation during the 7th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show being held in Altoona, Iowa on January 30, 2013.

IowaRFA logo“E15 and Beyond – The Future of Consumer Fuel Choice” panel will include Scott Zaremba, President of Zarco 66, the nation’s first fuel retailer to offer E15 as a registered fuel to 2001 and newer vehicles. Mr. Zaremba will discuss his experience in becoming the nation’s first E15 retailer. Joining Zaremba will be Jim Becthold, Service Manager for Linn Co-op Oil Company. Becthold will discuss his role in becoming the first retailer in Iowa to offer E15 to 2001 and newer vehicles, as well as the benefits of the fuel. The final panelist and moderator, Lucy Norton, Managing Director, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, will highlight the impact of E15 on consumer fuel choice and how ethanol fits into future engine concepts.

“This panel will provide the Summit audience with a glimpse of what to expect in the future regarding E15 and consumer fuel choice,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Managing Director Lucy Norton. “This panel will be an excellent compliment to an already great lineup of announced speakers like Gov. Terry Branstad, Author and Energy Security Expert Anne Korin, Growth Energy President Tom Buis and USDA Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager.”

Norton says the FREE Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit provides a great opportunity to hear experts address state and national issues facing the future of renewable fuels. Also discussed will be opportunities for the biofuels industry.

Although the Summit is free, pre-registration is required by January 23, 2013. The event is taking place at The Meadows Conference Center in Altoona, Iowa.

Iowa Wind Energy Association Announces 6th Conference

The Iowa Wind Energy Association has announced the dates for its 6th Annual Wind Conference: March 25-27, 2013 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. This year’s event will focus on four general themes that reflect the national and world leadership position that Iowa has achieved in the wind energy sector. Topics include technology development, small and community wind, operation and maintenance, education and training, and research. Confirmed speakers include Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.

Prior Wind Energy DayGeneral session presentations will focus on national policy and wind energy growth and sustainability issues. Many of these sessions will focus on the utility scale segment of the wind energy industry with a major presentation about transmission development and large scale wind farm deployment in Iowa and the nation.

Again this year, IWEA will provide a Research Poster Display project, sponsored by Exelon Energy, that will provide an opportunity to highlight research being done to improve the function and profitability of the wind energy industry.

I had the opportunity to speak with IWEA Executive Director Harold Prior, Ph.D. during Iowa Wind Energy Day at the Iowa State Capitol. Prior said that the conference has a good history of attracting the six Iowa Congressional delegation who give attendees an update on public policy issues in Washington.

Prior noted that the wind industry is a relatively young industry and one of the key benefits of the conference is the ability for IWEA members and attendees to network.  Despite its youth, Iowa is the nation’s leader in the number of wind energy manufacturing companies and number of wind energy jobs. Prior said Iowa is ranked as the 7th best wind resource in the nation and the state is a central location with convenient access to major navigable rivers and the national interstate highway system.

For more information about the conference, listen to my interview with Harold here: 6th Annual Wind Energy Conference

Marginal Lands Well Suited for Biomass

alternative_energy Photo Credit Phil Robertson MSUAccording to an article in Nature, researchers with Michigan State University (MSU) show that marginal lands can serve as prime real estate for meeting alternative energy production goals. By growing mixed-species cellulosic biomass, marginal lands could annually produce up to 5.5 billion gallons of ethanol in the Midwest alone.

“Understanding the environmental impact of widespread biofuel production is a major unanswered question in the U.S. and worldwide,” said Ilya Gelfand, lead author of the paper. “We estimate that using marginal lands for growing cellulosic biomass crops could provide up to 215 gallons of ethanol per acre with substantial greenhouse gas mitigation.” According to Gelfand, this is the first study to provide an estimate for greenhouse gas benefits, and an assessment of the total potential of these lands to produce significant amounts of biomass.

Researchers from MSU, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland used 20 years of data, focused on 10 Midwestern states, from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site. Kellogg Biological Station is one of 26 such NSF LTER sites in ecosystems around the world from grasslands to deserts, coral reefs to tundra.

“The study underscores the critical role that long-term basic research plays in determining the optimum balance between economic prosperity and environmental sustainability,” said Saran Twombly, program director in NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology. “Long-term basic experiments suggest that wise management of marginal lands, rather than wholesale conversion of valuable agricultural lands, could contribute significantly to a sustainable future.” Continue reading

Europe Plans for Electric Vehicles

A European consortium, consisting of DNV KEMA, Fraunhofer ISE, EMD International, RAH and RFVV, have begun an EU funded project to develop modeling and simulation tools for optimally integrating electrical vehicles (EVs) into electricity networks. The project, Novel E-Mobility Grid Model (NEMO), will play a key role in the continued development of electric mobility in Europe and will also be an important element in the further development of smart grids.

EV charging in EuropeAs electric vehicle adoption grows in Europe and charging stations are installed and connected to the existing grid, the NEMO project will support European grid operators and service providers in assessing the impact of EVs on the power grid, and to evaluate possible solutions such as grid extension or load management.

The consortium will develop a NEMO simulation and optimization tool suite based on the existing complementary simulation tools PLATOS, SimTOOL and energyPRO, which were each developed by the respective NEMO core partners. When combined, the simulation tools will address both market-oriented and technical problems that may result from the predicted influx of EVs on the electricity grid, such as identifying grid constraints in the network or determining the optimal use of available electricity generators.

“Our three tools will be further extended and integrated into one single tool suite to assess the impact of a large volume of EVs on both the electricity network and energy markets in its entirety. The combined project team will be able to offer cooperative services that none of the partners could offer individually,” said Dr. Martijn Huibers, NEMO project coordinator at DNV KEMA.

The project team aims to enable the exchange of simulation data between the models of each tool, and the NEMO consortium will work closely with stakeholders to ensure the suite addresses key market needs.

Iowa Wind Energy Day Huge Success

branstad-iwea-13January 16, 2013 was Iowa Wind Energy Day, and dozens of companies showcased their wind energy technologies to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad along with state legislators. The second annual event was hosted by the Iowa Wind Energy Association (IWEA). Branstad gave remarks as part of the program, and congratulated IWEA for its fifth year of continuous operations. “You sure have done a lot to make Iowa a better place these last five years,” said Brandstad who was recently the chairman of the Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition. “And you have build an impressive membership of nearly 200 members representing all aspects of wind energy.”

“As governor way back in 1983, my first in office, I had the honor of signing the first renewable generation portfolio. And as a result of that, we now have over 20 other states that have copied Iowa’s law,” noted Branstad.

Branstad said that Iowa remains a “real leader” in installation and capacity. Iowa is number one in its electricity produced by wind exceeding 20 percent, more than any other state. “Something we can be very proud of,” he said. “We’re first in the number of wind energy related manufacturing facilities and wind related businesses as well. Perhaps the most important impact wind has had on our state is high quality, good paying jobs and also been a good source of rental income for our farmers,” continued Branstad.

He said he was pleased to see the wind Production Tax Credit was passed as part of the fiscal cliff legislation that passed on New Year’s day. “Now don’t get me wrong, the fiscal cliff package was a mixed bag, but at least we got this important piece of legislation passed as part of the package,” he said. “While the deal is certianly not perfect, I’m happy to have played a leadership role on behalf of the industry and how important this is to the Iowa economy.”

Listen to Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad’s full remarks here: Iowa Wind Energy Day

See the 2013 Iowa Wind Energy Day Photo Album.

RFA Urges CARB to Revise Land Use Change

It has been more than two years since the California Air Resources Board (CARB) committed to revise indirect land use change (ILUC) penalties assessed against certain biofuels as part of its Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS). Since it went into effect, a federal district judge has ruled the LCFS unconstitutional; however, CARB was able to move forward with the law while litigation continues.

rfa-logo-09Since ILUC came to forefront, many peer-reviewed studies have been published that show CARB, along with other entities, have overstated the overall carbon intensity of corn ethanol. Despite the growing number of more accurate studies, CARB has yet to make any changes to the LCFS program’s indirect land use change estimates or direct carbon intensity values for corn ethanol. In response to the lack of action, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) sent a letter to Mary Nichols, CARB Chairwoman.

“I am writing to again encourage CARB to honor its commitments to expeditiously revise the ILUC penalty factor assessed against corn ethanol and to utilize the ‘best available science’ when determining direct [carbon intensity, or CI] values,” wrote RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Revising the direct and indirect CI values for corn ethanol would be much more than a mere academic exercise; rather, a continued failure to update these CI values will jeopardize the ability of regulated parties to reasonably comply with the LCFS program’s increasingly rigid CI standards in 2013, 2014 and beyond.”

Dinneen’s letter cites a number of reports and studies published in the past several years that demonstrate CARB’s corn ethanol carbon intensity estimates are “unjustifiably inflated.” The most recent study, conducted by GREET model creator Michael Wang at Argonne National Laboratory and published in Environmental Research Letters, found the carbon intensity of average corn ethanol to be 62 grams of CO2-equivalent per megajoule (g/MJ), including possible emissions from ILUC. That’s 38 percent lower than CARB’s current estimate of 99.4 g/MJ for average Midwest corn ethanol. Continue reading

ARA and Blue Sun Energy to Partner

Applied Research Associates, Inc. (ARA) and Blue Sun Energy, Inc. will be partnering for the design, construction and operation of a biofuels ISOCONVERSION Process (BIC) demonstration system using the ARA and Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) process for the production of certification quantities of 100 percent drop-in renewable jet, diesel and gasoline. The demonstration facility is scheduled for ground breaking in St. Joseph, Missouri in the first quarter of 2013 and will be operational in the third quarter of 2013.

According to ARA, CLG and their Biofuels ISOCONVERSION process produces fuels which are ready to use, without blending, in turbine and diesel engines designed to operate on petroleum-based fuels. The low-cost process converts any non-edible fats and oils directly into high-density aromatic, cycloparaffin, and isoparaffin hydrocarbons that are ideal for drop-in jet (JP-5, JP-8 and Jet A) and diesel (ASTM D 975 and F-76 Naval Distillate) fuels.

ARA and Blue Sun Partnership“The scale up of the Biofuels ISOCONVERSION process with our partners at Blue Sun will allow us to take a significant step toward commercial scale production of 100% drop-in fuels at prices competitive with petroleum in the 2015 timeframe,” said Chuck Red, ARA’s Biofuels Program Manager. “The hundred barrels-per-day demonstration system will be capable of producing large fuel samples, a key enabler for ASTM certification of our fuels.”

The Secretary of the Navy has set energy goals that include achieving 50 percent of energy consumption from alternative sources by 2015 for non-tactical uses and by 2020 for Navy-wide uses. To achieve the goal, the Navy has tested biofuels for both jets and ships.

“This partnership aligns perfectly with Department of Defense goals for production of alternative fuels,” said Leigh Freeman, CEO of Blue Sun. “The skill sets and experience of Blue Sun and ARA cover all aspects required to deliver renewable jet and diesel at DoD cost targets, on DoD timelines.”

Blue Sun also operates a biodiesel facility in Saint Joseph, Missouri, and has completed capital investments and the final steps to commercialize a new enzymatic processing technology. Blue Sun says its technology will produce the highest quality fuel from any feedstock at the lowest production costs in the U.S.

Solar PV Atlas Report Released

The new report, “Solar PV Atlas: solar power in harmony with nature,” has been released by WWF. The report shows that even if all electricity is generated by renewable energy sources, using solar photovoltaic (PV) alone, it would take only an insignificant amount of total land area. The report shows, through seven cases in six countries and one region, that less than 1 percent of the total land mass would be required to meet 100 percent of electricity demand in 2050 if generation electricity with with only solar PV.

WWF teamed up with First Solar, 3TIER and Fresh Generation to develop the report. It looks at Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, Turkey, and the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. According to WWF, the regions represent diverse geographies, demographics, natural environments, economies and political structures. They receive Solar PV Atlasdifferent but good average levels of sunshine, and all show vast potential for widespread development of solar PV.

“Research has found that PV power plants provide considerable environmental benefits, including a low carbon footprint and a short energy pay-back time. Replacing existing grid electricity with PV arrays significantly reduces greenhouse gas and heavy metal emissions as well water usage,” said Lettemieke Mulder, First Solar vice president for Sustainability.

The report illustrates that PV technology, when well-planned, does not conflict with conservation goals and clarifies that no country or region must choose between solar PV and space for humans and nature. Solar PV Atlas, supports WWF’s vision of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The organization is actively promoting investments and measures in renewable energy technologies.

Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF’s Global Climate & Energy Initiative, added, “As climate change increasingly threatens people and the natural world, it is more important than ever to work for the rapid and wide-scale adoption of well sited, responsibly operated renewable energy power facilities.”

PMEC Home of Wave Energy Test Site

Pacific Energy Marine CenterNewport, Oregon has been selected as the home for future site of a utility-scale, grid connected, wave energy test site. The project will be hosted by the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC) and run by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) based at Oregon State University. As part of the project, PMEC, will test energy generation potential and the environmental impacts of wave energy devices, at an ocean site about five miles from shore. Subsea cables will transmit energy from the wave energy devices to the local power grid, and data to scientists and engineers at on-shore facilities.

“PMEC represents a major step toward the development of energy from Oregon’s ocean waters,” said Jason Busch of the Oregon Wave Energy Trust. “I’m certain that Oregon will reap benefits from PMEC for many years to come, and the research and development performed at PMEC will help usher in this new form of reliable electricity from the sea.” The first installment of funding for PMEC was received in September, 2012, consisting of $4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, along with a non-federal cost match.

PMEC design and specific site characterization will begin soon, along with the permitting and regulatory process. The exact ocean location for the PMEC site will be finalized in the next few months in a zone that has been selected in collaboration with ocean stakeholders. The goal is to install the wave energy technology in an area that will not impede shipping lanes and takes environmental impacts into consideration.

The project will consist of four “test berths,” open spaces of water dedicated to testing individual devices or small arrays of devices, each of which will be connected to the community’s electrical grid. Data associated with environmental and human dimension impacts will also be collected. Completion will take several years.

“This site selection builds on the global reputation of Oregon State University in both renewable energy research and marine science,” added Rick Spinrad, OSU vice president for research. “Future research results from this site will help ensure our state’s leadership in these critical areas.”

Bioenergy Bytes

  • The Third International Conference on Thermochemical Conversion of Biomass, has announced a call for papers. The conference will take place September 3-6, 2013 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. Abstracts are due by March 15, 2013.
  • Become a Solar Citizen. The American Solar Energy Society is looking for solar success stories. Submit your story here.
  • The Geothermal Resources Council has elected its Board of Directors. New board members include Louis Capuano, III is Drilling Engineer/Project Manager at Capuano Engineering Company and Dennis J. Gilles, a member of the Board of Directors for U.S. Geothermal and formally the Senior Vice President with Calpine Corporation.
  • The City of San Diego has launched a new solar initiative called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program known as FIGTREE.  Applications are being accepted to provide commercial property owners with 100% up-front, long-term financing for energy and water efficiency building upgrades and renewable energy systems.

Nebraska Student Awarded NEC Scholarship

Wade Hunt, a native of Sterling, Nebraska, has been awarded the National Ethanol Conference (NEC) Scholarship. Wade began his university academic career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a chemical engineering student. From there, he was accepted as a research internship for the Undergraduate Creative Academic Research Experience (UCARE) program. He also selected to participate in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory program, where he worked on proof of concept research for an extractor system. While in this position, he was able to perform analogous tests to degrade a common, large protein in aqueous solution. His senior project is to develop a packed bed reactor for the production of biodiesel. Wade is a firm supporter of renewable fuel resources and believes great strides need to be taken to further develop current and future processes to secure the world’s energy needs.

RFA Conference Logo[2]The opportunity to attend the NEC Conference: Driving Forward, in Las Vegas February 5-7, 2013 was made available by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the Renewable Fuels Foundation (RFF).  The focus of the foundation is toward academia, industry and public policy makers as the industry addresses issues related to new users, new feedstocks and new technologies that will impact the future of ethanol. This is the fourth consecutive year the scholarship has been available to students in higher education with a focus on renewable fuels and intending to pursue a career in the industry. Wade will receive complimentary registration to the conference, providing him an invaluable experience and opportunity to connect with hundreds of ethanol leaders, policy makers and experts in the renewable fuels industry.

“The NEC presents an extraordinary opportunity to those eager to learn about the industry, and we are proud to present another commendable student the chance to join us this year,” said Mike Jerke, RFF Chairman and General Manager of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company. “Ethanol’s best will be on hand to showcase the bright future that lies ahead of the industry, and we hope Wade will leave even more encouraged by what our speakers have to offer.”

This year’s NEC program will highlight critical regulatory, marketing and policy issues facing the ethanol industry. Experts will speak to the current market situation, and address how we as an industry can continue to grow through innovation, new technologies and feedstocks, and by developing more diverse and global markets. Keynote speakers include USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Linda DiVall, President and CEO of American Viewpoint, RFA President and CEO Bob Dineen will give the state of ethanol report, among others.

Ag Secy Vilsack to Address NBB Conference

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who just accepted a second four-year term as part of the Obama Administration’s second term, will give a keynote address at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Las Vegas February 4-7, 2013. Vilsack is widely recognized for his leadership in support of the biofuels industry. His address will close out the conference on Thursday, Feb. 7.

Tom Vilsack and biofuels Photo USDA,jpg“Sec. Vilsack is one of the strongest advocates for renewable fuels in the nation, and we are thrilled to have him speak to our industry at the conference,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. “Federal biodiesel policies reduce dependence on foreign oil, build green jobs at home, and are stimulating a rural renaissance. Sec. Vilsack has played a huge role in the continued support for these policies, and we’re looking forward to thanking him for his unwavering support.”

Vilsack has called the biodiesel industry a shining example of the promise of a new rural economy, creating opportunities for energy security, farmers, and revitalized job growth in small towns.

In March 2011, President Obama laid out is goal of reducing oil imports by half by 2020 in his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future. As part of the plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has increased the federal targets for biodiesel under the Renewable Fuel Standard to 1.28 billion gallons. Another win for energy security came on Jan. 1, 2013 when Congress passed the American Tax Relief Act, which included a $1 dollar per gallon biodiesel tax incentive.

Jobe added, “As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Biodiesel Board, one of our goals for this conference is to examine where we see America’s Advanced Biofuel in the next 20 years. The Secretary has a vision for American agriculture’s contribution to energy security and the economy, and we are eager to hear his insight on our long-term role.”