B20 Powering Navy Building

The first Navy plant in the Mid-Atlantic region to use B20 is located in St. Julien’s Creek Annex in Portsmouth, Virginia. The biodiesel blend will provide steam to heat 16 office buildings and 13 warehouses. Over the course of the winter, 235,000 gallons of B20 are expected to be used to create the heat.

Previously the plant used traditional, petroleum-based fuel oil. According to the National Biodiesel Board, the B20 blend is priced competitively with the petroleum based diesel, and will not increase the Navy’s costs to heat the base, while helping to meet the Secretary of the Navy’s goals for greater energy security.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy) Tom Hicks recently experienced a first-hand look at how biodiesel is being used to heat a Navy base. “The Navy uses an annual average of 30 million barrels of fuel per year which equates to about $4 to $5 billion of fuel cost,” Hicks said during the tour. Because of this, it is important to explore additional and alternative sources like we see here today at St. Julien’s Creek.”

Hicks continued, “This is a perfect example of what the Navy is trying to do by using B20, a 20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent conventional fuel to run the steam plant from domestic sources that are competitively priced.”

Uruguay Expands Wind Power

With the support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Uruguay is planning to expand its wind power generation through the construction of two wind farms: Libertador and Palmatir. Loans totaling $107.7 million will help the country diversify its energy mix and reduce its dependence on hydroelectric generation, which during dry seasons, increases the country’s dependence on energy produced from fossil fuels.

“These projects will be the first two wind farms to be financed by the IDB that are developed within the program launched by UTE, the state-owned electricity company, to promote private sector participation in the renewable energy sector,’’ said Jean-Marc Aboussouan, Chief of the Infrastructure Division at the Structured and Corporate Finance Department, the IDB unit responsible for large-scale private sector project financing.

Aboussouan continued, “The long-term financing provided by the IDB will allow Uruguay to take advantage of the global advances in the wind energy sector as well as improvements in technology and cost reductions that have made wind power a competitive energy source.”

WPE, a fully-owned subsidiary of Brazilian-based IMPSA, will develop the El Libertador wind farm that will feature 44 Vensys IMPSA wind turbines and be located in the department of Lavalleja. The project will receive a $66 million IDB loan. Abengoa S.A. will develop the Palmatir wind farm that will be located in the department of Tacuarembó. This wind farm will feature 25 Gamesa wind turbines and receive a $41.7 million IBD loan.

When the two wind farms are completed, they will have the capacity to produce 115 MW of electricity.  Today, Uruguay has 2.578 MW of power generation capacity, of which approximately 60 percent provides from hydropower plants, 33 percent from fossil fuels and the remaining from biomass and wind energy.

ISU Researchers Growing Algae in Poultry Houses

A research project conducted by several Iowa State University (ISU) researchers is studying the feasibility of growing algae in poultry houses. Poultry manure generates ammonia, a health and safety concern for both animals and workers. Ammonia can burn the eyes, but if released into the atmosphere, could also cause acid rain. But if Honwei Xin, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at ISU he will turn a challenge into an opportunity.

Juhyon Kang, graduate research assistant in food science and human nutrition is joining Xin in the research and are working together, according to an article in the Iowa State Daily, to design and develop a bioreactor that will filter  ammonia out of the exhaust air. The gas will then be repurposed to grow algae in a controlled environment.

“We want to improve the environmental stewardship of the poultry operation,” Xin said. “It would be a perfect match if we could remove ammonia from the exhaust air in poultry houses and use it to grow algae.”

Algae can be used to create a myriad of products including biofuel, biojet fuel, biomaterials, biochemicals and animal feed. Algae thrives on gases that for humans, can negatively affect health such as carbon dioxide and ammonia.

Kang said tests have shown that up to 96 percent of the ammonia is removed from the [air] exhaust. She is currently working on scaling up the algal bioreactor ro commercial scale while other team members study optimal algae growth conditions, analyze algae to produce feed and exploring optimum amounts of ammonia concentration for the algae to grow.

Xin added, “Algae can serve as a feedstock for biorenewable energy or [an additive] for animal feed. It’s a win-win situation; you kill two birds with one stone.”

IRFA Elects 2013 Offers & Executive Committee

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) announced its new Board of Directors Officers and Executive Committee for 2013, elected during its annual meeting held on December 11, 2012. Each producer member has a seat on the Board and votes on officers. New officers will serve a one year term during the 2013 calendar year.

2013 IRFA Board of Directors Officers:

  • President, Rick Schwarck, Absolute Energy
  • Vice President, Steve Bleyl, Green Plains Renewable Energy
  • Treasurer, Brian Cahill, Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy
  • Secretary, Tom Brooks, Western Dubuque Biodiesel
  • Executive Director, Monte Shaw (non-voting)

The IRFA Executive Committee is comprised of the IRFA Officers and other members as elected by the Board. Elected to join the IRFA Officers on the Executive Committee for 2013 are: Past President Brad Albin, Renewable Energy Group; At-Large Craig Willis, ADM; and At-Large Eamonn Byrne, Plymouth Energy.

“2012 was a challenging year for ethanol and biodiesel in Iowa,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “The next twelve months will greatly influence the future of renewable fuels. Leveling the playing field through the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and empowering consumers through wider availability of E15 and higher biodiesel blends will be vital to the continued success of Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel producers in the future.”

Franklin County Wind Farm Powering Local Community

Here is a story about a new wind farm that is just a stone’s throw away. The Franklin County Wind farm, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy Corporation, has begun operations in Franklin County, Iowa. Consisting of 60 wind turbines, the farm is capable of producing nearly 100 megawatts of wind energy – enough to power close to 25,000 homes.

“We are very happy to have the Franklin County Wind Farm producing electricity,” said Patricia Kampling, chairman, president and CEO of Alliant Energy. “The construction team delivered this project on time and on budget with an exemplary safety record. We are also grateful to the landowners and the community for their strong support on this project.”

Franklin County Wind LLC continues to seek a buyer for the energy produced by the wind farm, but in the meantime it will sell the power it generates into the MISO market.

Companies Shifting to Clean Energy

As climate talks begin to wind down in Qatar, a new report, “Power Forward: Why the World’s Largest Companies are Investing in Renewable Energy,” has been released by Calvert Investments, Ceres and World Wildlife Fund. The report concludes that many of the world’s largest companies are not waiting for binding treaties and subsequent polices, rather they are integrating clean energy and lower emissions into their business now.

The report shows that many Fortune 100 companies have set renewable energy commitments, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals, or both. While the movement is strong in the U.S., the trend to sustainability is even stronger internationally.

“The companies that are boldly setting either greenhouse gas or renewable energy goals and making progress on those commitments are demonstrating the business case and real leadership on climate change,” said Marty Spitzer, WWF’s Director of US Climate Policy.  “And, in the process, these companies are changing the game — driving significant renewable energy investment globally and pressing for the right policy and market conditions that will allow companies to do even more.”

The report finds that clean energy practices are becoming standard procedures for some of the largest and most profitable companies in the world. For example, many companies are shifting from purchasing short-term, temporary Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to longer-term investment strategies like Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and on-site projects, indicating a long-term commitment to renewable energy and reaping the benefits of reduced price volatility.

For some companies, there are still key barriers to achieving sustainability goals including: the fact that in some regions renewable energy is not yet at cost-parity with subsidized fossil-based energy; internal competition for capital; and inconsistent policies that send mixed signals to companies and investors in renewable energy projects, particularly instability in renewable energy incentives; and policies that prevent companies from signing green power purchase agreements.

The report also offers several recommendations for U.S. policymakers, including promoting tax credits or other incentives that level the cost playing field for renewable energy, specifically, extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energythis year; establishing Renewable Portfolio Standards in states that do not have them; removing policy hurdles in states that prevent companies from contracting to buy the cheapest renewable power available and building on-site renewable power generation; and market-based solutions that put a price on the pollution from conventional energy generation.

Driving Forward Speakers Announced

Speakers for the National Ethanol Conference (NEC): Driving Forward being held Feburary 5-7, 2013 in Las Vegas have been announced. The conference will kick off with the Chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Neill McKinstray, who is the president, Ethanol Group, The Andersons. The line-up will then feature the much anticipated State of the Industry Address from RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen.

Featured speakers will also include:

  • Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the Advanced Ethanol Council.
  • Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association
  • Rob Vierhout, Secretary General, ePURE
  • Scott Turlow, President, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association
  • James Massie, Principal, The Alpine Group
  • Marty Durbin, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, American Petroleum Institute
  • Shane Karr, Vice President, Federal Government Affairs, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
  • Louis Finkel, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, Grocery Manufacturers Association
  • Linda DiVall, Founder, President and CEO, American Viewpoint
  • Bruce Heine, Director Government Affairs, Magellan Midstream Partners LP
  • Michael Pacheco, Ph.D., Associate Laboratory Director, NREL
  • Scott Zaremba, President, Zarco 66, Inc….and many more.

Click here to see the full line-up and to register. We’ll see you there!

Genuine Bio-fuel Expands to the Caribbean

Genuine Bio-Fuel is expanding to the Caribbean region with the formation of a new subsidiary Caribbean Bio-Fuel (CBF). The company will be based in Puerto Rico and serve Caribbean and South American markets. The company will build a biodiesel plant in the region that will have the capacity to produce nearly 12 million gallons of biodiesel per year. The new 35,000 square foot facility is expected to open in March 2013. Raw materials and feedstocks will be sourced from Puerto Rico and the surrounding islands.

Jeff Longo, executive vice president for Genuine Bio-Fuel said, “This is an exciting time for Genuine Bio-Fuel. This expansion will allows us to be a global competitor in the alternative energy industry, but our mission will ultimately remain the same. With Caribbean Bio-Fuel we strive to build an environmentally responsible facility, create jobs, and help spur economic growth in this region.”

The company will also develop other co-products unique to this region.

San Diego Zoo Goes Solar

The San Diego Zoo has gone solar. It’s Solar-to-EV-project, in partnership with Smart City San Diego, is run by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGR&E). The solar system is comprised of Kyocera Solar photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. All Kyocera solar panels used in this project were manufactured in the U.S. at the company’s San Diego facility.

“Kyocera is celebrating 41 years in San Diego, and 37 years as a leader in solar energy solutions,” said Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar, Inc. “We’re proud to work with other San Diego companies that are equally committed to making sustainable energy a reality, especially at one of the most well-known landmarks in the country.”

Ten solar canopies, designed and installed by Independent Energy Solutions (IES), produce 90 kilowatts (kW) of energy, or enough to power 59 homes, as well as five EV charging stations, including one in a nearby ADA-accessible parking space.

One feature of this system, that varies from most currently operating systems, is that while electric vehicles (EVs) are being charged in the Zoo’s parking lot by the solar power, and then the remaining solar energy goes to the electrical grid, a high-tech battery system stores solar power for future use. Today, most solar systems do not have the ability to store energy for later use.

Using lithium-polymer battery technology, its 100-kW energy storage system is charged by the solar canopies to offset demand on the electrical grid and recharge EVs after sunset. When the battery is full, excess energy generated from sunlight is put into the grid to improve reliability and benefit the surrounding community. The solar canopies also provide shade to approximately 50 cars in the Zoo’s southeast parking area.

Linda Strand, president and CEO of IES added, “This project showcases how energy storage, electric vehicle charging and solar energy can be successfully integrated, providing benefits to the public while remaining environmentally sound.”

Book Review – Who Turned Out the Lights?

Should we be entertained when reading about America’s energy crisis? Dare we be regaled by clever cliches, fun word pairings and sarcasm when learning our basic Energy 101 facts? Yes to infinity. And I experienced just these things when reading “Who Turned Out the Lights?” by Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson. Reading this book  was a guilty pleasure because I enjoyed the lighthearted book just a bit too much when technically the topic of energy, tends to be, well, a bit dull.

The book was a “guided tour” through the country’s energy crisis.  Beginning with reasons why the U.S. needs to get its act together, the book chronicles the country’s failed attempts at energy security and diversity, discussed three flawed ideas that could get the country off track, and laid out 10 facts all people should know about energy. Did you know that one out of four Americans can’t name a fossil fuel? Yikes.

The tour then takes you through a discussion of various types of energy and alternative energy sources. While this section was good, the book was published in 2009 so some of the information was outdated so reader, digest this will a sprinkle of salt. For example, in the section about ethanol (a biofuel that surprisingly the authors don’t hate) they mentioned subsidies and the tariff on Brazilian ethanol (neither of which still exist).

However, there was one element of this section that really stood out. Many argue that the low hanging solution is to improve fuel economy and some go so far to declare that this has been accomplished. While on the outside, yes, this is correct, on the inside, it is not actually the case. As Bittle and Johnson aptly point out, when fuel economy gets better, people drive more. So at the end of the day, actual fuel consumption doesn’t actually go down, it remains virtually the same.

There were other areas this book addressed, and explained well, that other books have not. Continue reading

Should We Shush Wind Turbines?

Scientists in Australia are studying where wind turbine noise comes from and how it might be reduced. Not a new concern, researchers from the University of Adelaide in the Flow and Noise Group at the School of Mechanical Engineering are building a scale-model turbine in a wind tunnel. They are also building an acoustic test room around the turbine.

In a statement, Associate Professor Con Doolan said he believes this will be the most sophisticated wind turbine noise experiment in the world. The team will recreate the environment of a wind farm in the lab, including all the various noises you hear and their sources. From there, the team will use advanced measuring techniques to measure the aerodynamics and microphone arrays for the acoustics. This will help determine which noises are the strongest and their sources. Understanding this will also help the industry learn how to control or eliminate the noises.

The goal of the project is to be able to advise wind turbine manufactures and wind farm developers on design strategies. In addition, Doolan believes they can provide recommendations to governments about wind farm regulation and policy.

Wind power has been criticized for alleged noise impacts on health known as “wind turbine syndrome”. Although largely discounted by several research studies, there is still attention to the issue: Oregon compiled a report on possible health issues of wind turbines as has Massachusetts.  The Oregon report concluded that “sound from wind energy facilities in Oregon could potentially impact people’s health and well-being” when it exceeds state standards.

I recently visited a wind farm in Joice, Iowa and while there, on a very windy day, I filmed a wind turbine in action. I’ll let you be the judge  – should we shush wind turbines?

New EV Charging Station App

ChargePoint has launched a new free electric vehicle (EV) charging station mobile app for all iPhone and Android smart phones. The app features a redesigned look and features all EV charging stations installed in the U.S. The user can browse information about the stations including distance and the cost to charge.

“ChargePoint is the world’s largest electric vehicle global charging network,” said Pat Romano, president and CEO of ChargePoint. “One feature EV drivers have requested is the ability to navigate, access and charge at any electric vehicle charging station, not just those on the ChargePoint network. With more than ten thousand EV charging spots on the ChargePoint network and thousands more out of the network this is the easiest way to find any EV charging station anywhere in North America.”

The EV charging station mobile app also gives drivers real-time charging station status, detailed station information including pricing and the ability to view your home charging station. EV drivers can make EV charging station reservations, payments and find location information as well.

Algae. Tec Facility Continues to Attract Attention

Parliamentary Secretary for Defence and Member for Eden-Monaro Dr Mike Kelly recently visited Alage.Tec facility in Shoalhaven (Australia). The plant is proving out technology that produces low cost, high grade algae-based biofuels. While on site, Dr. Kelly was briefed about the technology by company representatives.

One element with great promise is the fact that algae “eat” carbon to grow. In Israel and China, for example, the carbon-hungry algae are being used to abate emissions from coal-fired power stations that are a similar size to the ones used in Australia.

“This region is fast becoming a flagship for renewable energy in Australia,” said Dr. Kelly during his visit. “We have already seen over $1 billion being invested in renewable energy projects in Eden-Monaro and the lower Shoalhaven region – that includes wind and wave energy, solar, biomass and geothermal.”

Dr. Kelly continued, “To have a company like Algae.Tec here in Bomaderry, which recently signed a collaboration agreement with Lufthansa to produce aviation biofuels and also with Holcim Lanka, is a wonderful boon. The possibilities of this technology are extremely exciting. Their algae technology has almost no impact on the environment and could potentially eliminate emissions from coal-fired power stations.”

Roger Stroud, executive chairman of Algae.Tec noted that that the biofuels technology being used in Shoalhaven is the same technology that will be used by the company to produce aviation and other transportation fuels.

“We currently have feasibility studies underway with interested parties in Texas, Brazil, China, Sri Lanka and Germany, as well as another site in New South Wales,” said Stroud. “The Shoalhaven facility has already had VIP visits from some of the world’s largest companies wanting to see how the technology delivers sustainable low cost fuel, carbon capture, and energy security.”

Propel Receives $21M in Investments

Propel Fuels has closed on the initial phase of its Series D round of funding with $11 million in equity capital from existing investors Nth Power, Craton Equity Partners, and @Ventures as well as a new investor, Gentry Venture Partners. In addition, the company has secured $10 million in debt financing from CapX Partners. With the additional funds, Propels plans to accelerate its build out of its network of alternative energy stations.

Operating on the west coast, Propel has stations that offer E85 and biodiesel blends along with conventional fuels. In addition, the stations help people with other facets of transportation including carbon offsets, tips on improving fuel economy, rideshare opportunities, services for bicyclists, and recycling.

“The continuing support of our existing investors, the new investment from Gentry, and the access to additional debt capital from CapX is a strong endorsement for our vision, our accomplishments, and team,” said Matt Horton, CEO of Propel. “This new funding, combined with grant funding from the State of California, will enable us to accelerate the build out of our alternative fuel stations across state, offering consumers true choice and a better experience at the pump.”

As part of the investment by Gentry, Thomas B. Raterman, a Partner, has joined Propel’s Board of Directors. Raterman has more than 30 years of corporate finance, investment banking, and executive management with rapidly growing entrepreneurial companies.

Raterman added, “We’re witnessing a revolution in transportation, whether it’s innovative new enzymes to create clean fuels, or whole new drivetrains and power systems in the vehicles themselves. Propel is creating a position as a trusted source of the most advanced fuels on the market today – no matter what type of vehicle you drive. We’re excited to help them succeed.”

Solectria Renewables Named A Top Job Creator

Solectria Renewables has been named by Inc.’s Hire Power List, as a top job creator. The awards recognized private businesses that have generated the most jobs in the past three years. The company generated 105 jobs between 2008-2011, ranking them #1 Energy Sector job creator in Massachusetts. The company was also one of the top 10 private business job creators within the U.S. Energy Industry during the same time frame. Today, Solectria has more than 160 employees in various positions including engineering, quality, customer service, assembly, administration, sales, marketing and management.

“Solectria Renewables is extremely honored to receive this prestigious award from Inc. Magazine,” said Aybike Doganci Crott, Chief Operating Officer of Solectria Renewables, who accepted the award during an award ceremony. “Solectria Renewables has been profitable for over 6 years, doubling or tripling sales each year. With this amount of growth, our staff has grown tremendously and we predict this will continue.”

The inaugural Hire Power Awards were sponsored by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. The awards were created to honor American companies who have increased their workforces.

Eric Schurenberg, Inc. editor-in-chief added, “The top 100 companies on the list have created 73,032 American jobs in the three-year period from 2008 to 2011 – an amazing feat, given that much of that job growth came during the heart of the recession. And it isn’t just the big guys that are adding jobs. Companies with less than $50 million in annual revenue make up nearly one-third of the Hire Power list.”