AWEA Wants New 2030 Renewable Energy Target

Several Ministers met earlier this week at an informal Energy Council meeting in Nicosia. In response, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) warned that their credibility was at risk if they debated future renewable energy policy without considering a new 2030 European Union (EU) Renewable Energy target. The discussion was not on the group’s agenda.

“There is no point debating future renewable energy policy without discussing a 2030 target,” warned Stephane Bourgeois, Head of Regulatory Affairs at EWEA in Brussels. “It makes no sense to ignore the one policy that has worked most successfully up to now. Ministers should recognise the benefits of such a target.”

The European Commission has released information about its Renewable Energy Strategy. The accompanying impact assessment was believed to support a 2030 Renewable energy target. This, the strategy outlined, would create more economic activity, reduce fossil fuel dependence, and create more innovation and competition across the European technology sector.

Bourgeois added, “an EU renewables policy cannot be based only on emission reductions and decarbonisation, as some ministers might wish. Only by enabling investment in renewables can the EU cut the cost of fuel imports and be sure to create European jobs.”

Biodiesel Requirement in RFS Increases

The Obama Administration has announced that there will be an increase in the biodiesel volume requirement for next year under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision was released today in a draft proposal that would increase the requirement for biomass-based diesel to 1.28 billion gallons. This represents a modest increase from the industry’s record production last year of nearly 1.1 billion gallons and puts the industry on course for steady, sustainable growth in the coming years.

“This was an incredibly important decision, and the Obama Administration got it right,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), the industry trade association. “It will allow biodiesel plants across the country to invest and expand, creating thousands of jobs. At the same time, it sends a strong signal that the U.S. is standing firm behind its commitment to producing clean, American-made energy to strengthen our energy security and break our dependence on petroleum.”

According to a recent economic study, the 2013 volume increase will support more than 10,000 new jobs. Already, the industry supports more than 39,000 jobs, with plants in nearly every U.S. state with Iowa leading the pack.

Biodiesel is the first and only EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel being produced on a commercial scale across the country. The “advanced biofuel” designation means that the fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent as compared to traditional fuels. The EPA estimates that biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 57 percent to 86 percent depending on the feedstock and production technology.

“We applaud President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for supporting an ‘all of the above’ energy approach. We also want to thank Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for his strong advocacy,” added Jobe. “This decision will continue to diversify our fuel supplies so that we’re not so vulnerable to global petroleum markets and this endless cycle of price spikes. The Renewable Fuel Standard is clearly working to do that, and the benefits of doing so are clear: We’ll continue to create good jobs, expand our economy and reduce harmful emissions. It’s just smart energy policy.”

Ag Energy Coalition Urges Passage of Farm Bill

The 2012 Farm Bill has been big news this week as the agricultural industry, along with dozens of other groups, call for Congress to pass the bill before it sunsets on September 30, 2012.  Earlier this week the Farm Bill Now coalition held a rally in Washington, D.C. that included participation of all Iowa legislators.  The Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC) participated in the rally calling on Congress to pass the five-year Farm Bill that includes mandatory funding for a strong Energy Title.

To date, the Senate has passed a version of the bill and the House Agriculture Committee has also passed its a version of the Bill. Yet Congress is not taking action. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) participated in the Farm Bill Now rally urging Congress to pass the 2012 Farm Bill.

Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the AgEC, said, “Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have worked hard this year to move forward with fiscally responsible Farm Bills, and final passage is within reach. Passage of a five-year Farm Bill will provide necessary economic stability and confidence to agricultural producers and rural communities across the country. Inclusion of a strong Energy Title with mandatory funding will increase the economic opportunities in those rural communities.”

Ritter continued, “Farm Bill energy programs have helped the renewable energy industry create thousands of jobs across the country in rural communities where they are very much needed. They have also helped farmers put more than 160,000 acres of underutilized farmland across 12 states back into production. And they have helped hundreds of new American businesses generate 100,000 jobs producing home-grown biobased products. These effective programs are a vital part of the overall Farm Bill.”

Magellan Completes Biodiesel Distribution Facility

Magellan Pipeline Company has completed a new biodiesel distribution facility in Des Moines, Iowa. The new equipment will allow for unloading, storage and blending of biodiesel at the terminal. The infrastructure upgrade will enhance distribution of biodiesel by making it simple for petroleum distributors to access pre-blended fuel.

“Having biodiesel available at major distribution points is critical to maintaining the state’s leadership position in biodiesel,” said Randy Olson, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, where the announcement of completion was made during the association’s annual board meeting. “Improved distribution capabilities will enhance consumer access to biodiesel, and help the state’s biodiesel industry stand to capture a larger share of federal renewable fuel requirements nationwide.”

Magellan’s Director of Transportation & Marketing Shawn Barker said, “Magellan is pleased to offer biodiesel storage and blending services to our customers in Des Moines. This state-of-the-art system offers our customers accuracy, quality and a variety of biodiesel blend options.”

Magellan received partial funding for the project from the Iowa Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Board, the Iowa Soybean Association and soybean checkoff program, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (funded by the U.S. Department of Energy).

New Study on Water-wise Biofuel Crops

A new study has shown that putting the water-use-efficient and turbo-charged photosynthesis from plants such as agave into woody biomass plants can hedge against high temperatures and low moisture. It can also enable growers to plant dedicated energy crops on marginal land.

A team of researchers including John Cushman, a biochemistry professor at the University of Nevada, Reno; Xiaohan Yang at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); James Hartwell at the University of Liverpool, UK; and Anne Borland at Newcastle University, UK and ORNL are exploring the genetic mechanisms of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) and drought tolerance in desert-adapted plants as a way to improve drought resistance for biofuel crops.

The study is part of a five-year, multi-institutional $14.3 million U.D. Department of Energy (DOE) grant, “Engineering CAM Photosynthetic Machinery into Bioenergy Crops for Biofuels Production in Marginal Environments.” The funds are through the DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Genomic Science: Biosystems Design to Enable Next-Generation Biofuels.

The team will develop novel technologies to redesign bioenergy crops to grow on economically marginal agricultural lands and produce yields of biomass that can readily be converted to biofuels. The development of water-use efficient, fast-growing trees such as poplar for such sites will also help reduce competition with food crops for usable farmland according to the research team.

“With climate change predictions for a 7 degree Fahrenheit (3.8 degree C) increase in temperature and a decrease in reliable precipitation patterns by 2080 for much of America’s breadbasket, and with a greater need for sources of biofuels for transportation, these biodesign approaches to enhancing biomass production become very important,” Cushman, director of the project, said.

The ultimate goal of the project is to significantly improve an energy crop’s drought resistance by enabling the crop to adapt to hotter, drier climates.  Continue reading

Blender Pump Opens in Cresco, Iowa

A new blender pump is opening today in Cresco, Iowa. Twenty-nine local investors applied and were approved for a Resource Enhancement and Protection grant (REAP). They group also received Iowa Infrastructure funding to aid with the costs of installation. The FAST STOP flex-fuel station is located at 22268 Highway 9 West, Cresco, Iowa.

During a grand opening event today from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, the FAST STOP station offered discounts on all ethanol blends, E15, E30 and E85. To my knowledge, this is the first station in Iowa to sell E15 after it became a legal fuel last month.  In addition to ethanol, three blends of biodiesel, B2 and B10 and off road B5 are being sold. The biodiesel is GROWMARK’S Dieselex Gold premium fuel.

Several industry representatives were on hand during the event to help celebrate with FAST STOP. Groups included GROWMARK, AgVantage FS, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Iowa Corn Growers Association.

Iowa Groups Call for Renewal of PTC

Nearly 65 entities in Iowa have come together from all walks including agriculture, education, labor, business, public health, and the environment, in a call to Iowa’s congressional delegation to extend the wind production tax credit (PTC) for wind. A letter was sent to the legislators highlighting the wide reach of the wind industry from manufacturing jobs to income for farmers to the generation of taxes for rural communities.

The letter states: “The wind industry in Iowa has diversified our rural economy. Since 1992, 2,978 wind turbines have been installed on 104 utility scale and community scale wind farms. Iowa now has 4,322 MW of electric generation capacity and 450 MW are under construction. This represents nearly $5 billion funneling through Iowa’s economy. Thousands of Iowans depend on the wind industry to support their families through construction, manufacturing, operations and maintenance jobs. In addition, land owner easement payments to farmers exceed $11 million annually and are extremely important in trying economic times.”

Signers of the letter included the Iowa Wind Energy Association, the Iowa Environmental Council and Environmental Law & Policy Center. Other signers included the Iowa Farm Bureau; Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council and all three public universities and every community college in the state; and the Iowa chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“We often remind people that wind supports as many as 7,000 jobs in Iowa,” said Harold D. Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association. “This letter shows the breadth of the impact of wind, which ranges from our schools which are educating the renewable energy leaders of tomorrow, to the labor groups who are building wind in Iowa, to our farmers who benefit from the added income of land leases.”

Renewable energy, including wind, is a hot topic in the presidential campaign and in the state campaign ads are running about the importance of the industry in Iowa.

Steve Falck, senior policy analyst with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Des Moines said, “Iowa was the first state to generate 20 percent of its electricity from wind and we could get so much further. But without renewal of the PTC we the breaks will slam on Iowa wind, all of this economic progress will be reversed, jobs will be lost, and income for farmers will dry up.”

Indiana Tech Installs Wind Turbine on Campus

Universities across the country have been integrating renewable energy classes but Indiana Tech has gone one step further than most. They have installed a wind turbine on its Fort Wayne campus to help engineering students learn about alternative energy. The turbine is located next to the Zollner Engineering Center and a gift from the Steel Dynamics Foundation covered the cost of the equipment, installation and software.

The wind turbine tower is 120 feet tall and the blades have a diameter of 26.5 feet. The total height is 134 feet and is expected to generated between 700 and 1,000 kilowatt hours per month. This is approximately the amount of energy one average size household uses each month. The power produced by the wind turbine will flow back to the power grid and will be credited to Indiana Tech’s electric bill.

“This an excellent teaching tool for our students,” said Dr. John Renie, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “We’ll have real-time monitoring equipment so that students and others can see how much energy is being produced.”

Indiana Tech offers a bachelor’s degree in energy engineering, and the wind turbine on campus will allow firsthand study of wind power. The operation of the turbine also will have applications in the mechanical engineering and electrical engineering programs.

Wind Blades By Rail

As you travel along major U.S. highways, it is not unusual to see semis traveling in packs of three transporting wind turbine blades. But have you ever seen them blow by on rail? Not yet but this may be a new transportation option going forward. For the first time in Europe, 55-metre long wind blades have been delivered from Germany to Denmark by rail.

“We took an innovative approach to lowering the cost of energy while at the same time reducing impact on the environment,” said Mette Heileskov Bülow, Transportation Chief Specialist at Vestas. The company coordinated the first blade-by-train transport that consisted of nine wind blades manufactured at Vestas’ production facility to the port of Esbjerg, Denmark. The trip took less than 20 hours; by road it would have taken 72 hours, nine trucks and 18 safety cars.

SNCF Geodis and Vestas are designing rail connections between Vestas’ production facilities, research centres, warehouses and erection locations throughout Europe. Vestas said changing the mode of transport for the majority of these onshore wind turbine components in Europe in the near future will reduce transportation cost. Early estimates indicate at least a 15 percent savings.

Pierre Blayau, CEO of SNCF Geodis, added, “This new transportation concept shows the beneficial strategic fit between SNCF Geodis and Vestas. Both our companies are role models for creating sustainable solutions in our respective industries.”

ReadiJet Fuel Ready for the Skies

ReadiJet Fuel, a drop-in renewable fuel for aviation use, is ready to fly the skies. Developer Applied Research Associates (ARA) along with Chevron Lummus Global (CLG), are partnering with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to evaluate the fuel in flight. The fuel, produced under contract to AFRL, was produced by ARA from Agrisoma’s Resonance feedstock crop (mustard oilseed family) using CLG’s and ARA’s Biofuel ISOCONVERSION process.

The jet fuel will first be tested by ARA and NRC against ASTM standards and military specifications in ground based engine tests. Once ReadiJet is given the green light, a test flight will occur with the NRC Falcon-20 twin engine jet. According to ARA, this will be the first time in the world a jet aircraft is powered by 100%, un-blended, renewable jet fuel that meets petroleum jet fuel specifications.

“The integrated ARA/CLG Biofuel ISOCONVERSION process and Agrisoma’s Resonance feedstock provide a pathway for fulfilling the commercial and military markets’ requirements for alternative fuels at parity with petroleum while spurring opportunities for farmers,” said Chuck Red, ARA’s Alternative Fuels Program Lead. “We look forward to this partnership with NRC to help us validate the combination of Canadian developed and grown feedstocks and our processing technology as a leading alternative fuel solution.”

During the test flight a second aircraft, the National Research Council’s T33 jet, will fly behind the Falcon 20 to measure the emissions of the engine operating on both the ReadiJet biofuel and on conventional petroleum-based aviation fuel. Systems onboard the Falcon 20 will allow NRC’s flight research team to switch back and forth between the two fuel types throughout the flight. These data will be used to evaluate biojet fuel emissions of an aircraft engine operating on 100% biofuel. The end goal is to validate the jet fuel for use by the aviation industry.

Solar Freedom Now Campaign Launched

The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) has launched a new campaign, Solar Freedom Now (SFN). The initiative aims to attack a major barrier to solar energy deployment – cost and the paperwork and red tape that doubles installation costs. The goal of ASES is to make it fast and easy to install rooftop solar panels. The first step of the Solar Freedom Now campaign is to begin working at the grassroots level to educate consumers about the issue and segway that into wide spread support.

Studies out of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, both conclude that in the U.S., higher prices are almost exclusively related to the paperwork it takes to “officially” install a standard rooftop system.

“Solar systems cost twice as much in the U.S. compared to Germany,” said solar industry leader Barry Cinnamon. This red tape is holding back the industry from creating even more jobs, driving innovation, and building true energy security for our nation.”

ASES says a national approach to paperwork and red tape is required. Susan Greene, ASES president, said approximately 18,000 cities and 3,000 utilities and all 50 states have set different rules and procedures for installation. This needs to be coordinated and legislated into one nationwide approach. Solar Freedom Now, said Greene, is a coordinated effort across the county to do just this.

“It takes only days to install a system in Germany compared to months in the U.S,” said former Sharp Solar executive Ron Kenedi. “I can tell you from personal experience — as well as 30 years in the solar industry — that we can install safe, code-compliant systems here in the U.S. just as fast as they do in Germany. All the extra time, paperwork and inspections simply add to the installed cost of our systems.”

Wind Farms – A Win for America

According to a new report, “American Wind Farms: Breaking Down the Benefits from Planning to Production,” released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), on average a 250 megawatt wind farm will create 1,079 jobs throughout the sector including manufacturing, construction engineering and management. Yet, NRDC says the benefits don’t end there. A second study, “At Wind Speed: How the U.S. Wind Industry is Rapidly Growing Our Local Economies,” on the secondary impacts of wind energy also shows that wind farms help to revitalize communities by generating new taxes, lease payments to landowners, and economic development revenues.

While the wind industry generates around 50,000 megawatts of clean energy and employs nearly 75,000 Americans, it is in jeopardy because Congress has not renewed the 2.2 cent per kilowatt Production Tax Credit (PTC) that’s set to expire at the end of this year. The Senate is expected to take up the PTC as early as this week.

NRDC policy advocate Cai Steger, co-author of the report, said: “Every time a wind farm gets built, American jobs are created. These reports show what the PTC has done for the wind industry – and why it’s essential that it is extended.”

The NRDC supply chain report says that jobs are created at 14 different steps along the way of building a wind farm. Non-construction businesses account for an estimated 557 jobs. They include 432 workers in manufacturing, 80 in planning and development, 18 in sales and distribution and 27 in operations and maintenance.

Construction jobs add another 522 jobs to a typical wind farm. These workers are spread between three categories, with 273 working on on-site civil works, such as roads, and foundations; 202 working on the installation of the wind turbines and 47 working on on-site electrical work, such as grid connection.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet is leading efforts in the Senate to extend the PTC. “The case is clear. The wind energy industry supports jobs and drives economic development. It’s time for Congress to make extending the bi-partisan wind PTC a top priority. In Colorado and across the country, workers are already paying the price for Congressional inaction on the PTC. Those jobs losses are only a glimpse of what could happen if we let the tax credit expire.”

RFS Waiver Comment Period Extended

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a 15 day extension of the comment period on the requests for a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), who filed for an extension on August 30, 2012, applauded EPA’s decision. They requested the waiver so corn growers and other energy crop farmers had a chance to participate more fully in the process. This will also enable the EPA to have a more accurate picture of the year’s final corn supply.

“We are pleased to see the EPA take this important action to help ensure that the process outlined in the Renewable Fuel Standard moves forward in a thoughtful, analytical fashion,” said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer. “This extension will allow our farmers, who are currently harvesting the crop, to participate more fully and for a more accurate assessment of the final corn supply to emerge.”

In its weekly crop progress report issued yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that 15 percent of the nation’s corn has been harvested – triple the five-year average at this point in time. The reason is the impact of this year’s devastating drought and the recognition that farmers won’t gain much by delaying their corn harvest. Tomorrow the USDA will be releasing its monthly production and supply-and-demand reports.

The comment period was originally scheduled to close at the end of September, but will now remain open until October 11, 2012. During a previous comment period in 2008 for a partial waiver of the RFS, EPA received more than 15,000 submissions from throughout the country.

FFV Drivers in Nebraska Save More at Pump

Flex fuel vehicles in Nebraska are on the rise. The state has shown an increase of FFVs by more than 20 percent from last year with greater than 143,000 registered in the state. FFVs can run on ethanol fuel blends up to E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline). Many drivers are unaware they have an FFV. Most FFVs now have yellow gas caps and/or an FFV logo on the back of the vehicle. Still not sure? Check the U.S. Department of Energy’s website to identify all makes and models of flex fuel vehicles.

There are several benefits for FFV drivers: saving money, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting Nebraska’s economy. Several Nebraska fuel stations are selling E85 at 68 cents per gallon under regular unleaded prices. But economic studies have found that ethanol lowers gas prices for everyone – even non-FFV drivers – by extending our gas supply.

“FFV drivers have an opportunity to make more fuel choices at the pump,” said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. “These choices have the additional advantage of lower prices than gasoline. More drivers are realizing the benefits of renewable fuels like ethanol by switching to FFVs.”

Tomorrow, FFV drivers in Nebraska can save even more. Two gas stations in Grand Island are offering discounts on ethanol fuels on September 12 from 11-am to 1 pm. The stations are Pump & Pantry, 1235 Allen Drive, and Aurora Cooperative A-Stop at 4155 E. Hwy 30 in Grand Island.

Drivers of flex fuel vehicles can find details about additional ethanol fuel promotions by checking the Nebraska Ethanol Board web site.

Solar Industry Responds to Anti-Dumping Allegations

The Chinese solar community is responding to anti-dumping allegations of Chinese solar products. The European Commission is currently reviewing charges by several European companies. Representatives of JinkoSolar, based in Shanghai, said the charges are unfounded and unfair and do not reflect the reality of the highly-competitive global solar industry. They also believe that trade protectionism will only harm fair competition in the market, hinder development of the entire PV industry and also harm consumers.

“JinkoSolar, as one of the leading photovoltaic manufacturers in the industry, will actively cooperate with the European Commission’s investigation. The company will continue expanding into emerging markets, including China, South Africa, India and Australia to alleviate possible impacts that could result from the potential trade friction,” said Xiande Li, JinkoSolar’s Chairman.

Complaints were lodged in July of this year that solar panels and their key components imported from China enter the European market at prices below market value. According to a press statement, in terms of import value affected, this is the most significant anti-dumping complaint the European Commission has received so far.

Dr. Peng Fang, CEO of JA Solar, also based in Shanghai, responded by saying, “JA Solar believes in fair and open trade. As a public company, we conduct all our business transactions in a transparent manner. The imposition of antidumping tariffs on Chinese solar products would be highly damaging to both the European and global solar markets. Strong and fair competition across the global solar market has been the catalyst for rapid innovation and has allowed millions of consumers in Europe and around the world to access clean and affordable renewable energy. We believe that antidumping tariffs would jeopardize the huge progress the industry has made in recent years.”

The Commission will respond to the charges within the next nine months. During this time, an investigation will be conducted and it will determined if any measures will be taken.