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.”

Sungevity Secures $125 Million

Sungevity has completed a series of venture capital and project financings securing up to $125 million. The funding includes $40 million in equity financings raised in 2012 led by Oakland-based impact investment fund, Brightpath Capital Partners, and home improvement retailer, Lowe’s. New equity investors Vision Ridge Partners, Craton Equity Partners and Eastern Sun Capital Partners, LLC, also participated. The funding also includes a combined $85 million in new project financing commitments from two parties including Energy Capital Partners (ECP) and an undisclosed commercial bank.

Sungevity Solar Installation Photo Credit Hardy WilsonAccording to the company, the funds will be used to support the development of solar projects across nine U.S. states. The company also has a presence in Europe through Netherlands-based, Zonline, and in Australia through a joint venture called Sungevity Australia.

“Our ability to attract substantial investment from a list of respected backers is a powerful vote of confidence in our highly scalable growth model and customer-centric approach to doing business,” said Andrew Birch, Sungevity’s Chief Executive Officer. “We believe this new funding will take us into the next phase of growth and allow us to deliver on our mission of building the world’s most energized network of customers who power their lives with sunshine.”

In 2012, the company optimized its Solar Social Strategy, which helped the company overcome the sector’s common hurdle of high-cost customer acquisition. Key components of the strategy include partnerships along with software that allows Sungevity customers to make referrals. The company also leverages Internet and satellite technology to circumvent the high overhead costs related to providing potential customers with pricing quotes, and it partners with a network of preferred local installers to offset staff-related installation costs. As a result, the company has reduced installation costs by 30 percent in 2012.

Nazar Massouh, who leads ECP’s energy-focused mezzanine investment activities, added, “Energy Capital is excited to partner with Sungevity to provide an innovative and flexible capital solution to efficiently finance its on-going solar installations. Sungevity’s unique customer acquisition approach, scalable business model and stable cash flow generated by its established customer base, is a natural fit for our diversified energy portfolio.”

POET Producing Corn Oil at 25 Biorefineries

viola-logoNearly all of POET’s ethanol plants have now producing corn oil: 25 of their 27 plants have installed corn oil technology bringing its total capacity to approximately 250,000 tons per year, enough feedstock to produce 68 million gallons of biodiesel annually. Branded Voilà, POET has been selling the corn oil since January 2011 with its ethanol plant in Hudson, South Dakota the first.

“Having a more diverse portfolio of products has been a benefit for POET, particularly when ethanol margins are challenging,” said POET CEO Jeff Lautt. “Expanding our product line is an important part of our strategy for growth.”

According to Lautt, one of POET’s four four Ingreenuity goals is to increase production of bio-based products, and corn oil is playing an important role in reaching that goal.

“There’s a bio-based solution to so much of what petroleum supplies today. It’s exciting for me to see POET playing a large part in providing those solutions,” added Lautt.

Evance Wind Turbines Receive Certification

Evance_R9000_wind_turbineEvance Wind Turbines, a manufacturer of small wind turbines, has received full certification from the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) for its 5kW R9000 turbine. The SWCC is a U.S.-based independent body that certifies small turbines for performance and safety. The Evance R9000 successfully passed rigorous safety, function, performance and durability testing, in accordance with the American Wind Energy Association Standard (AWEA), to become one of only four turbines to achieve full certification from the SWCC.

Kevin Parslow, CEO of Evance Wind Turbines said, “It is great news that we have received full SWCC certification for our R9000 turbine. There are R9000 small wind turbines installed across some 17 states, and we’re looking to expand this significantly during 2013. Customers already know our turbine is highly efficient and durable; however, it’s good to receive independent confirmation from the SWCC – not only promoting consumer confidence and industry credibility, but also helping to establish pathways to qualify for incentives.”

Mike Langert, who lives in Montana, installed a R9000 to generate wind energy to power his home. “Our home has been built to be energy efficient – with well-planned windows, lighting, insulation, and a GSHP heating/cooling system – but we still use 12,000 to 15,000kWh of electricity a year. With the Evance turbine now generating up to 75 percent of our requirements, we are saving a substantial amount on energy costs and reducing our use of power generated from fossil fuels,” explained Langert.

The Evance R9000 is a UK-designed and manufactured 3-blade, upwind, horizontal axis wind turbine with a swept area of 23.8 m2. The AWEA Rated Annual Energy is 9,160kWh, for one year based on an average wind speed of 5 m/s (11.2 mph), and the AWEA Rated Power is 4.7kW at 11 m/s.

Bioenergy Bytes

BioEnergyBytesDFIntroducing Bioenergy Bytes, a new weekly feature that will provide quick industry updates. Have news you would like to consider for inclusion? Send us an email.

People on the Move
> The Renewable Energy Group (REG) has named Eric Bowen to the newly created position of Vice President, Corporate Business Development and Legal Affairs.
> Lonnie Ingram, a distinguished professor in the University of Florida’s microbiology and cell science department, has been named the 2013 Medalist by the Florida Academy of Sciences.

Upcoming Events
> The FREE 2013 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Expo is January 30, 2013 in Altoona, Iowa and the registration deadline in January 23.
> Registration is still open for the 2013 National Biodiesel Board Conference & Expo being held February 4-7 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
> The National Renewable Energy Policy Forum is February 5-6, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
> Early Bird registration ends on January 19, 2013 for the National Ethanol Conference being held in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 5-7, 2013.
> Nominations close February 1, 2013 for the 5th annual Sustainable Biofuels Awards. Winners will be announced during the World Biofuels Markets Congress & Exhibition on March 13, 2013 being held in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
> The Municipal Solid Waste to Biofuels and Bio-Products Summit, is taking place in Orlando, Florida on February 20-21, 2013.
> Registration is now open for the 2013 ASES National Solar Conference, Solar 2013, being held April 16-20, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Industry Updates
> Support the biodiesel industry by supporting the National Biodiesel Foundation.
> New Energy Farms is offering a complete source guide for biomass feedstocks.

Biofuel Production
> The EPA reports that 69 million gallons of biodiesel were produced in November 2012, reporting year-to-date production of more than 994 million gallons through the end of November.
> According to EIA data, ethanol production averaged 32.93 million gallons daily for the week ending January 11, 2013. The four week average for ethanol production stood at 813,000 b/d for an annualized rate of 12.46 billion gallons. Stocks of ethanol stood at 20.4 million barrels and imports of ethanol showed 27,000 barrels per day.

Renewable Energy Installed Capacity Grows by Leaps and Bounds

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects has released its latest “Energy Infrastructure Update,” and finds that renewable energy sources including biomass, geothermal, solar, water, and wind, accounted by 49.10 percent of all new domestic electrical generating capacity installed during 2012. The total was 12,956 MW and more than a quarter of that new capacity, or 3,276 MW, came online during December 2012 alone.

geothermal-energyWind power led the way in 2012 with 164 new “units” totaling 10,689 MW installed. Solar power followed with 240 units totaling 1,476 MW installed. Biomass added 100 new units totaling 543 MW while geothermal steam and water each had 13 new units with installed capacities of 149 MW and 99 MW respectively. By comparison, during 2012, new natural gas generation in service totaled 8,746 MW (33.15%) followed by coal (4,510 MW -17.09%), nuclear (125 MW – 0.47%), and oil (49 MW – 0.19%).

New capacity from renewable energy sources in 2012 increased by 51.16 percent compared to 2011 when those sources added 8,571 MW. In 2011, renewables accounted for 39.33 percent of all new in-service generation capacity. Renewable sources now account for 15.40 percent of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: water – 8.47 percent, wind – 4.97 percent, biomass – 1.30 percent, solar – 0.34 percent, and geothermal – 0.32 percent. This is more than nuclear (9.24%) and oil (3.57%) combined.

“If there were still any lingering doubts about the ability of renewable energy technologies to come on-line quickly and in amounts sufficient to displace fossil fuels and nuclear power, the 2012 numbers have put those doubts to rest,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Not only has renewable energy become a major player in the U.S. electrical generation market, but it has also emerged in 2012 as THE reigning champion.”

USDA Under Sec Dallas Tonsager Heads to Iowa

Portrait Dallas Tonsagar Under Secretary for Rural DevelopmentUSDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager, is heading to Iowa to speak at the 7th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show on January 30, 2013. Additional speakers include Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad; Growth Energy’s Tom Buis; Anne Korin of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security; and Nathan Kauffman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

“Hearing the USDA’s outlook for renewable fuels and the role they play in rural development in America will be one of the many highlights of the 2013 Summit,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Mr. Tonsager has been a great voice for rural America, and the USDA has been a stickler for the facts when it comes to ethanol and biodiesel.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit provides an opportunity to hear experts address state and national issues facing the future of renewable fuels, as well as a chance to network with biofuels professionals and business leaders throughout the Midwest. The Summit, held at The Meadows Conference Center in Altoona, Iowa, is free and open to the public. The registration deadline is January 23, 2013.

Ceres Awarded Zayed Future Energy Prize

Ceres has been awarded the top prize in the non-governmental organization (NGO) category of the Zayed Future Energy Prize that honors innovative companies who have had a positive impact and shown strong leadership in the renewable energy and sustainability sectors. The award is part of the World Future Energy Summit, and this year’s awards attracted 579 submissions from companies in 88 countries.

Zayed Future Energy Prize“We believe that investing in people is the future of our collective prosperity,” said His Highness General Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, at the awards ceremony. “Through the Prize, we are not only recognizing tremendous achievement, but also providing support to help accelerate promising technologies and fund organizations, schools and individuals committed to impacting communities around the world.”

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, President of the Republic of Iceland and Chairman of the Zayed Future Energy Prize Jury, noted that the winners show that change is possible and that vision and innovative thinking hold great promise through practical endeavors.

“Ceres is honored to receive a Zayed Future Energy Prize, and we believe it will enable us to have an even greater impact in our work,” added Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres. “In order to tackle the global challenge of climate change, we must expect even bolder action from investors, businesses, and policymakers. We will use the Prize to expand international investor leadership on clean energy and to grow our ongoing work with leading companies that are striving to integrate sustainability into their operations by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency and sourcing renewable energy.”

API Launches Fuels Campaign

Yesterday the American Petroleum Institute (API) announced a new TV advertising campaign. According to API’s Senior Manager, Cindy Schild, the ad is designed to highlight the importance of the nation’s refining industry. She said a strong energy future for our nation depends in part on our ability to refine and distribute the fuels we need – and that Oil Pipeline in Alaskasound decisions on the Renewable Fuels Standard, transportation infrastructure such as the Keystone XL pipeline, and refinery regulations could contribute to a more robust, competitive refinery sector that would continue to support America’s economy and strengthen its national security.

In response, Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, responded by saying, “The lengths to which Big Oil will go to protect their absolute lock on fuels market are astounding. While they often pay lip service to the importance of renewable fuel for our country’s energy needs, at every turn they work to undermine them. Biofuels have helped reduce our dependence on foreign oil and created a robust domestic renewable fuels industry.” Buis will be speaking during the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Expo on January 30, 2013.

“Just the other day, API discussed how the RFS was broken, citing the blend wall as the primary challenge in a workable RFS. However, when it comes to the blend wall, Big Oil need only look in the mirror to see who is maintaining the status quo by protecting it,” Buis continued. “This is their entire play – if blend wall can’t be broken, the RFS won’t work. But Big Oil is maintaining the blend wall by erecting every possible barrier to bring increased blends of renewable fuel to the marketplace. While they opine for a free market, they are singlehandedly denying consumers a choice and savings at the pump by preventing a lower cost, high performance alternatives, such as E15. Continue reading

Pompeo Bill Would Increase Petroluem Favoritism

Offshore Oil RigU.S. Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kan) has introduced a bill dubbed the “Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act.” The bill eliminates tax credits for new industries attempting to compete with petroleum while maintaining billions in taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil. Furthermore, the bill would immediately eliminate every tax credit for alternatives to petroleum, including cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel and wind. Yet the bill only eliminates two petroleum tax credits (marginal well incentives and enhanced oil recovery credits) that only go into effect when crude oil prices are well below current levels.  Ironically, despite the immediate elimination of all things alternative, the oil tax subsidies would not be eliminated until the end of 2014.

“Rep. Pompeo’s bill ought to be named the ‘Petroleum Monopoly and Big Oil Prosperity Act,’” said  Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA). It’s hard to take seriously the Congressman’s comment that we can’t afford ‘taxpayer-backed subsidies to companies that don’t need them’ when his bill does not eliminate a single oil subsidy currently in use. Rather the bill leaves intact oil subsidies that date back literally 100 years for the most profitable industry in the history of the world. If the question is, ‘When can Big Oil stand on its own two feet without a taxpayer crutch?’ then Rep. Pompeo’s answer is apparently ‘not yet.’”

If the bill were to be passed as is, the petroleum tax subsidies that currently cost taxpayers billions each year including:

  • Percentage depletion allowance
  • Intangible drilling costs expensing
  • Deduction for tertiary injectants
  • Exception from passive loss limitations for oil and gas
  • Oil and gas excess percentage over cost depletion

“This bill simply tilts government policy even further in favor of petroleum,” continued Shaw. Continue reading

Commit to Increasing Biofuels

As the World Future Energy Summit takes place in Abu Dhabi, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance called on policy development, business and technology sector leaders to commit to increasing biofuels’ share of the future global energy mix. The goal of the Summit is to advance future energy, energy efficiency and clean technologies.

World Future Energy Summit Logo“The GRFA has demonstrated that increasing biofuels production and use in the future will lower GHG [greenhouse gases] emissions while positively contributing to our economy and reduce our reliance on crude oil,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance.

According to the GRFA, biofuels will help shape the future of renewable energy because they are good for the global environment and economy. According to a report commissioned by the GRFA, the global biofuels industry contributed $277.3 billion and supported nearly 1.4 million jobs in all sectors of the global economy in 2010. It is estimated that 85.2 billion litres of ethanol were produced in 2012 which is estimated to have reduced GHG emissions by over 100 million tonnes, the equivalent of taking more than 20 million cars off the road.

Baker continued, “Because biofuel feedstocks can be developed anywhere in the world, biofuels are a significant opportunity for all nations, especially developing countries, to develop and be part of an industry that is making such a significant contribution to global economy.” Continue reading

January 15 is Iowa Wind Day

WindTurbineinIowa Photo Joanna SchroederJanuary 15, 2013 is Iowa Wind Day at the Capitol, in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad will be a featured speaker during the event and other speakers include Kathleen Law, the Iowa Wind Energy Association’s (IWEA) Board of Directors President, and Harold D. Prior, IWEA’s executive director.

The free event will feature more than 20 exhibitors representing many aspects of Iowa’s wind energy industry. Exhibits are open from 8 a.m. until 12 noon for legislators and renewable energy enthusiasts to learn more about the wide diversity of opportunity in the wind energy industry.

Iowa leads the nation in the number of wind manufacturers and wind related businesses and was the first state to exceed 20 percent of its electrical generation from wind. The state also leads the nation in the number of wind jobs and its ranked third nationally behind Texas and California in installed capacity. According to IWEA, Iowa is one of four states that would benefit the most from increased wind investment and has outstanding wind resources. Iowa’s central location, access to two navigable rivers and the U.S. Interstate Highway system are also distinct advantages leading to further growth of the wind energy industry in Iowa. Lastly, Iowa has many planned electrical transmission projects that will help move wind power (aka all power) to Iowans living throughout the state.

Los Vientos I & II Wind Farms Completed in Texas

Los Vientos I & II wind farms have been completed in south Texas and now operational, have the capacity to produce 402 megawatts of wind power. Both projects are owned by Duke Energy Renewables and the project marks the company’s largest wind-power project to date. With the geographic location, approximately 120 miles south of Corpus Christi and 20 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, the two wind farms will generate the majority of their power during the day, when peak power demand is highest.

Los Vientos wind farm“2012 was a very significant year for us,” said Duke Energy Renewables President Greg Wolf. “With five new windpower projects and three new solar power projects commissioned into service, we added 800 megawatts of clean, emissions-free energy to our fleet last year alone. Now that Los Vientos I and II are on line, our total renewable power capacity grows to more than 1,700 MW, enough to power about half-million homes.”

All of the output and associated renewable energy credits from the 200 MW Los Vientos I Windpower Project in Willacy County are being sold to San Antonio-based CPS Energy under a 25-year agreement. In addition, Austin Energy is buying all of the output and associated renewable energy credits from the 202 MW Los Vientos II Windpower Project, sited in Willacy and Cameron Counties.

Duke Energy Renewables Vice President Milton Howard added, “We’re proud to be partnering with CPS Energy and Austin Energy to bring renewable energy to this region. And, we couldn’t have done it without the foresight of the leaders, landowners and people of Willacy County. Thanks to them, we were able to bring 600 jobs to the area during construction, and going forward, the Los Vientos projects will continue to boost economic development, support the local school districts, and be a source of dependable tax revenue for years to come.”