Register Now: 2013 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit

Registration for the 7th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show is officially open and has one of the best return on investments around – it’s free. Sponsored by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), renewable industry members, renewable energy enthusiasts and just plain old interested citizens can attend the Summit on January 30, 2013 being held at The Meadows Conference Center in Altoona, Iowa.

Speakers will highlight the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (in case you missed it, the EPA denied waiver requests to lower the ethanol mandate), initiatives to expand E15 availability to consumers and current opportunities facing the biodiesel industry. Featured speakers will be announced as the event draws closer.

“The Renewable Fuels Summit is Iowa’s premier renewable fuels event bringing together industry leaders, decision makers and the general public to shape Iowa’s energy future,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “This event provides a great opportunity to hear experts address state and national issues facing the future of renewable fuels, as well as network with biofuels professionals and business leaders throughout the Midwest.”

Visit the 2012 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit website to learn more and to register. As in past years, DomesticFuel will be there bringing our readers live coverage, photos and interviews from the event.

DOE Announces Alt Energy Vehicle Grants

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced 20 new projects to help states and local governments develop infrastructure, training, and regional planning needed to help accelerate the adoption of alternative fuel cars and trucks. These alternative vehicles can run on “fuels” such as natural gas, electricity and propane. In total, the DOE has awarded nearly $11 million.

“Building a clean and secure U.S. transportation system that leverages our domestic energy sources will give American families, businesses, and communities more options and reduce fueling costs,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a press statement. “At the same time, these projects will help lead the way to further reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and protecting our nation’s air and water.”

Through the DOE’s Clean Cities initiative, projects will address a range of community infrastructure and training needs, such as providing safety and technical training for fleet operators, mechanics, first responders, and code officials; streamlining permitting and procurement processes; and helping public and private fleets integrate petroleum reduction strategies into their operations.

For example, the American Lung Association in Minnesota, based in St. Paul, Minnesota was awarded $248,788. The funds will be used for The Accelerating Alternatives for Minnesota Drivers project, that will provide safety and technical assistance and training related to Plug-in Vehicle (PEV) and natural gas fueling infrastructure; establish the Minnesota Natural Gas Vehicle Workgroup and create a strategic plan for statewide natural gas vehicle implementation; establish a Minnesota green fleet recognition program; and create the website as an online resource for electric vehicle (EV) users (and potential EV users) in Minnesota.

Click here for a full list of Clean Cities Coalitions that were awarded funds.

GE Purchasing 2,000 C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrids

General Electric (GE) is purchasing 2,000 C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrids as part of its commitment to convert half of its global fleet to alternative fuel vehicles. The purchase ups GE’s alternative vehicle fleet to 5,000 in its goal of 25,000 vehicles. The EPA has rated C-MAX Energi with a 108 miles per gallon city rating and 620 mile single tank range. In addition to the purchase, Ford, who manufactures the electric vehicles (EVs), will promote GE’s WattStation charging station and CNG in a Box, natural gas fueling station with commercial buyers.

“Ford is launching six new electrified vehicles – a big bet that fuel prices will continue rising and lead to more demand for advanced fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “We are pleased to partner with GE, a company that is charting a similar course, to promote advanced technology and energy savings.”

The two companies will also work with researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology to study GE employee driving and charging habits, with the goal of improving all-electric driving and charging performance. Researchers will use Ford’s MyFord Mobile app – with real-time battery charge status and value charging that automatically recharges at lower-cost, off-peak electricity rates.

Mark Vachon, vice president of ecomagination at GE, said “At GE, we are focused on providing our customers and our fleet with more economically and environmentally efficient vehicles. The Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid is a great addition to our expanding fleet of alternative fuel vehicles.”

According to Professor Bert Bras of Georgia Tech, understanding driving and charging habits are key to advancing vehicle charging infrastructure. He said the acceleration of research and development of new technologies will help to improve efficiency  driver satisfaction and environmental benefits. The findings of the study will be shared with commercial customers to provide insights and help foster continued adoption of EVs into fleets.

Human Waste to Biodiesel Project in Ghana A Go

A pilot facility has gone online in Ghana to convert human waste, or fecal sludge (FS), into biodiesel. The event was celebrated on World Toilet Day where researchers at Columbia University’s Engineering School in conjunction with Ghana with Waste Enterprises, Ltd., the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, are working together to take research developed in the lab to the community. The goal is to prove out a much needed new sanitation model for people in emerging countries.

“The FS to biodiesel pilot project could potentially address sustainable sanitation and introduce a new dimension into the sanitation value chain not only in Kumasi but globally, thus helping to ‘kill two birds with one stone,” said Anthony Mensah, Waste Management Director for the city of Kumasi. “The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly is therefore delighted to be part of this novel partnership.”

Entering its second year, the project is led by Kartik Chandran, an associate professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University’s school of engineering and applied science and Ashley Murray, Founder and CEO of Waste Enterprisers Ltd, a Ghanaian company that is working to reinvent the economics of sanitation in the developing world.

As part of this project, Chandran is developing an innovative technology to transform fecal sludge into biodiesel fuel and is working on converting a waste-processing facility into a biorefinery.

“This is a very exciting project for us,” said Chandran. “We are aiming to create a next-generation urban sanitation facility that will set new standards and serve as a model around the world. With the capacity to receive and treat 10,000 liters, or 2,500 gallons—a full sanitation truck carrying concentrated fecal matter from at least 5,000 people—of fecal sludge per day, this facility reaches way beyond the lab scale.” Continue reading

This Season Let’s Do a Bit of Green Gift Giving

This past weekend marked the holiday shopping season with “Black Friday”. Hopefully you survived the lines and the crowd and are reading my blog post about my “E2 Gift Giving Guide”  (E2 = energy and environment). Modeled after the “12 Days of Christmas” (yes, I’m even drafting a song in my head as I write), I’m looking for ideas from you readers, on what should be included in my guide.

I’m looking for book ideas, solar ideas, cool products that would help others (for example through the National Arbor Day Foundation you can donate trees for planting) and more.

So bust out your Zen of Pitching guide and pitch me some unique ideas by November 30, 2012. You can contact me via email, Twitter, LinkedIn or via a comment to this post. And who knows, maybe Santa will donate some of the E2 gifts so several of our readers can have an extra present in his or her stocking this year.

Just in case you forgot the lyrics to “12 Days of Christmas” here is a brief summation:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
12 Drummers Drumming
11 Pipers Piping
10 Lords-a-Leaping
9 Ladies Dancing
8 Maids-a-Milking
7 Swans-a-Swimming
6 Geese-a-Laying
5 Gold Rings
4 Colly Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Oh, and just in case you would like to get me a holiday present, I would quite enjoy a Chevy Volt, named the Greenest Car in the World by Motor Trend in 2012.

Plug-In Vehicle Owners Group Launches in St. Paul

A new Plug-In Vehicle Owners Group has come together geared towards Minnesota owners of electric vehicles and plug-in electric hybrids. During the first meeting, owners came together at the American Lung Association in Minnesota headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota to share experiences, ideas and learn more about electric-technology transportation.

More than two dozen plug-in pioneers shared their experiences and heard an overview on the latest developments in plug-in vehicles. The meeting, which included a look at the new Telsa Model S all-electric sedan (Motor Trend 2013 Car of the Year) was recognized as a National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day Odyssey. Odyssey is supported in part by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, through a grant for the Advanced Electric Drive Vehicle Education Program.

The Minnesota Plug-in Vehicle Owners Circle, will meet every other month and EV enthusiasts are encouraged to join. Visit their website for information.

EC: Save Carbon Trading System; Need Key Actions

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has been busy promoting wind energy throughout the European Union (EU). Last week, the European Commission identified key actions to develop the internal energy market by 2014 that included the phasing-out of regulated electricity prices and the Commission was also critical of capacity payments. In addition, the proposal lacks further development of the internal energy market after 2014.

But EWEA says these actions do not go far enough as both regulated prices and capacity payments are major obstacles to a properly functioning EU energy market. “Regulated prices, fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies, market concentration and lack of market transparency are the main problems that need to be tackled urgently. The communication focuses too much on renewable energy support mechanisms and not enough on the most critical distortions,” explained Paul Wilczek, EWEA Senior Regulatory Affairs Advisor.

Wilczek says the European Commission is right to be critical of capacity payments, which are a disincentive to invest in urgently needed grid infrastructure and create another distortion to the energy market, and also adds that the European wind industry is very strongly in favour of a single market in electricity and has been critical of the slow progress towards it.

Last week the European Commission also published “structural measures” that called for “backloading” of emission allowances. EWEA says this is needed to stop the massive oversupply of emission allowances and to re-establish confidence in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). Stéphane Bourgeois, Head of Regulatory Affairs for EWEA added that while it is a necessary first step, it will only delay and not solve the structural problem of oversupply in the ETS and a structural solution must be agreed or the carbon price will not recover. Continue reading

2012 State-by-State Resource for Renewable Energy

The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) has released its 2012 Renewable Energy in the 50 States, an online, interactive resource. The report compiles updated financial data, resource potentials, market, and policy information for the renewable energy sector for all 50 U.S. states.

In 2011, the total installed base of renewable electricity exceeded 145 GW in the United States, with more than 67 GW from non-hydropower sources, according to the report. Every region in the country experienced growth in the 2011-2012 period, from new wind farms in the Midwest, advanced biofuel facilities in the Southeast, solar farms in the West, to hydropower facility improvements in the Northeast. Washington, California and Texas led the way in cumulative renewable power capacity, while Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois were the leaders in renewable fuels capacity.

According to the report, several market drivers of renewable energy included renewable energy targets in 29 states plus Washington, D.C., and several state production incentives. Legislation, along with incentives, have encourage manufactures, developers and end users to invest in and use renewable energy.

However, even as some states are passing new and expanded support structures, others face the scaling back of important incentives. Such actions, coupled with reduced federal support (the Production Tax Credit for wind energy is set to expire on December 31, 2012), could stifle once booming state markets. As a result, ACORE is calling on renewable energy proponents throughout the country to increase renewable energy education with a focus on economic, environmental and health benefits.

Energy Research Centre Blesses ZephIR 300

The Energy Research Centre for the Netherlands (ECN) has completed a 12 month offshore measurement campaign with the ZephIR 300 system as part of a four year campaign within the Dutch project “Meteorological Research Wind at Sea” where the ZephIR has been compared against the 108 metre Met Mast Ijmuiden (MMIJM) at the ECN Wind Turbine test facility EWTW. During a 60 week continuous period, the ZephIR was measured at over 98 percent, with the only period of unavailability being attributed to a mast power supply failure from which the ZephIR was being powered.

The data from the tests has been delivered to the wind energy industry on behalf of the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation. ECN’s initial conclusion is that ZephIR can be considered as a valid stand-alone system for wind resource assessments, especially given the industry’s tendency towards higher hub heights.

ECN’s Wind Energy Coordinator of Experiments & Measurements, Henk Oostrum noted, “ZephIR is very capable of providing high quality, 10 minute average wind speed and direction data at all heights well above traditional tall mast heights. Correlation is excellent to our IEC compliant mast and site. ZephIR can therefore be considered, in our initial opinion, to be used in a stand-alone application for wind resource measurements.”

Measurements at the EWTW and MMIJM are in accordance with IEC 61400-12. All masts are equipped with Thies class 1 cup anemometers and wind vanes as well as WindSensor p2456a cup anemometers. All calibrations are performed in a MEASNET approved wind tunnel and are covered by ISO 17025 ILAC accreditation.

“This is an exciting development in the ZephIR program – we never imagined that we would actually be operating within a met mast structure,” said Ian Locker, MD at Zephir Ltd. “The work that ECN has done independently, and now publicly, verifies not only the excellent core performance of ZephIR compared to a mast but also the ability to be deployed in this unique way. In both onshore and offshore applications, ZephIR has been proven to operate in a stand-alone manner providing finance-grade wind measurements for the progression of wind farm development and on-going performance analysis and optimisation.”

FuelCell Plant in the Works in Cheyenne, WY

A stationary fuel cell power plant to support Microsoft’s data center research project in Cheyenne, Wyoming is in the works. The power plant will use renewable biogas generated by a wastewater treatment facility as the fuel source to generate clean, carbon-neutral electricity. The project will be used by Microsoft to evaluate the effectiveness of using FuelCell Energy power plants to convert biogas to power.

“With the demand for renewable energy resources outstripping available power supplies today, Microsoft is researching new methods to help our operations become more efficient and environmentally sustainable,” said Gregg McKnight, general manager, Data Center Advanced Development at Microsoft. “We’re excited by the potential for using stationary fuel cells to capture and recycle natural byproducts like biogas. This project will study methods to provide an economical and reliable power supply for data centers that is also scalable and economical for use by other industries.”

By Spring 2013, the sub-megawatt Direct FuelCell power plant will be installed at the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The fuel cell plant will provide 200 kilowatts of power for Microsoft’s Data Plant which will be housed in a modular IT pre-assembled component (ITPAC) that will house servers to recreate a data center environment. Excess power not used by the data center will be provided to the water reclamation facility to offset their electric costs. In the event of a grid outage, the Data Plant project and fuel cell plant will be configured to operate independently to provide continuous power. Continue reading

Edeniq Expands Into Brazil

Edeniq, with its partner Usina Vale, a Brazilian sugar and ethanol producer, has begun to engineer and construct a bagasse to sugars demonstration-scale plant. The biorefinery will produce cellulosic sugars from sugarcane bagasse and then convert it into ethanol. The plant will handle up to 20 tons per day of bagasse and will be co-located at Usina Vale’s ethanol and sugar production site in São Paulo State, Brazil. One goal of the project is to demonstrate how sugarcane mills can economically increase ethanol production with Edeniq’s bolt-on technologies.

After a feasibility study was completed, Usina Vale signed a collaboration agreement with Edeniq under which they are jointly funding the bagasse to sugar demonstration-scale plant, believed to be the first of its kind in the region. Co-locating the demo plant at Usina Vale’s commercial site will accelerate the technology scale-up from demo to full-scale, and the technology will then be deployed at affiliated ethanol plants.

“Brazil has a large and growing demand for ethanol,” said Pedro Augusto Menezes de Toledo Florencio, CEO of Usina Vale. “We believe Edeniq’s technology will allow us to increase ethanol production in a very economical way, allowing us to meet the growing demand of our customers and our country.”

According to Edeniq, their technologies efficiently break down biomass to liberate cellulosic sugars that can be converted into ethanol and other products. Edeniq owns and operates a fully integrated two ton per day pilot plant in Visalia, California, in partnership with Logos Technologies, using its proprietary Cellunator, which mechanically pre-treats biomass so that it can be more easily converted to sugars, increasing sugar yield and thus driving an increase in ethanol yield. The Brazil plant will also include this technology.

“Through this partnership with Usina Vale, we are further demonstrating our model of increasing the efficiency, scalability and sustainability of biofuels through low capital and operating cost technologies that can be integrated directly into existing ethanol production sites,” added Brian Thome, President and CEO of Edeniq. “Edeniq is developing the lowest cost route to cellulosic sugars, which will lead to low cost ethanol production for our partners like Usina Vale.”

RFA Calls for Removal of Trade Distorting Policies

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling on the Obama Administration to help remove certain trade distorting policies in Brazil that they say have contributed to the dramatic decline in exports of ethanol to Brazil. The organization’s President and CEO, Bob Dinneen, sent a letter to US Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk asking for assistance on the matter.

The letter seeks assistance from the USTR in convincing Brazil to reverse its decision to reduce blend volumes from 25 percent to 18 percent, and remove a tariff imposed by the state of Sao Paulo that is discriminating against a vast majority of exports to Brazil. While imports of ethanol from Brazil continue to flow into the U.S. at the rate of about 50 – 60 million gallons per month with the help of the RFS, exports to Brazil have been reduced significantly as a result of these trade barriers.

Most analysts expect the U.S. to export just 650-750 million gallons for the entire year, with only about 10-15 percent of the ethanol going to Brazil.

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

U of L Establishes $50,000 Renewable Energy Prize

The University of Louisville (U of L) is now offering a new $50,000 award – the Leigh Ann Conn Prize for Renewable Energy – to recognize outstanding energy ideas or achievements that have shown or likely will have global impact. The goal of the award is to spotlight wide-ranging research related to the science, technology, engineering and commercialization of renewable energy and energy efficiency throughout the world.

The prize, managed by U of L’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research, is named for the late daughter of Hank and Rebecca Conn of Atlanta, research center supporters and prize benefactors. The recipient will be announced in fall 2013 and will give a public talk in Louisville about the winning work and participate in community and campus events as well as a medal ceremony.

“This unique prize will show the world that U of L and the Conn family are serious about growing, fostering and rewarding innovation in energy research,” said U of L President James Ramsey.

Nominations will be judged on factors such as economic effect, level of challenge, originality, creativity, scientific merit, commercialization and global impact on energy use and demand reduction. Organizers encourage nominations from scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, technologists, professional groups, publishers and university leaders. Award submissions will go through several levels of review, including an external panel with representatives from industry, academia and national laboratories.

Nominations for the first Leigh Ann Conn Prize recipient will be accepted through March 1, 2013. To learn more visit the Leigh Ann Conn Prize website.

Vidaris Expands Renewable Energy Division

Vidaris Inc. has expanded its Vadaris Renewable Energy Division to address the growing demand for renewable energy solutions. The company’s industry list includes solar photovoltaic, building-integrated building-integrated photovoltaic, building-applied photovoltaic, wind, and solar thermal integrated technologies. More specifically, the company has expertise in renewable energy systems including solar photovoltaic, BIPV, BAPV, wind, and solar thermal systems for both new construction projects and existing building upgrades.

The company provides clients with an independent, third-party advisor to evaluate project opportunities and assist in the design, integration and implementation of renewable energy technologies.

“Our Renewable Energy Division enables clients to strategically navigate the renewable energy marketplace and take advantage of the many benefits renewable energy offers to building value,” concluded John Hannum, PE, VP of Energy Services.

This December Head to Canada

This December head to Ottawa, Canada for the 9th Annual Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit (CRFS) being held December 3-5, 2012. This year’s theme, “Sustainable, Secure & Diverse Energy Now!” will focus on Canadian policy for the ethanol and biodiesel industries.

Program topics include: The Future of the Bioeconomy in Canada; Forces Shaping the North America Biodiesel Industry; Ensuring Market Opportunities and Fuel Quality Throughout the Supply Chain; Dedicated Crop Opportunities for Drop-In Renewable Jet Fuel; Industry Perspectives on Next Generation Production in Canada; and Updates from International Sustainability & Carbon Certification Association (ISCC) and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).

Conference keynote speakers include: Chantal Hébert, Columnist for the Toronto Star; Mark Jaccard, Professor, Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University; Senator JoAnne L. Buth, Senate of Canada; and many more.

Click here to learn more about this year’s program and to register online.