Queen Creek Solar Farm Has Successful Start-Up

The 25.2 megawatt Queen Creek Solar Farm in Queen Creek, Arizona is now operating. Owned by PSEG Solar Source, the Salt River Project (SRP) has a 20-year agreement to purchase all of the solar energy produced by the project. The solar farm is located on 148 acres of land about 30 miles southeast of Phoenix. The solar system is comprised of nearly 90,000 crystalline panels and operates on a single axis tracking system.

“We are pleased to be providing clean, solar energy to Salt River Project,” said Diana Drysdale, president, PSEG Solar Source. “Arizona has the attributes we look for when choosing a project – good sun, a receptive regulatory environment and supportive local officials.  It is exciting to be adding Arizona to the list of states where we have operational solar facilities even while we are beginning construction on an additional site in Delaware.”

The plant is estimated to produce enough energy to serve about 3,300 SRP customers’ homes. The solar system requires no water, and is expected to reduce 21,000 metric tons CO2 emissions each year or the equivalent of taking approximately 4,100 cars off the road.

SRP General Manager Mark Bonsall added, “As we look for ways to diversify our portfolio, it’s also important that we continue to invest in the state and the local economy. Queen Creek Solar not only provides our customers with clean energy, but it’s also a resource that is located right here in Arizona.”

Pacific Ethanol Raises $11M in IPO

Despite concerns over the drought in the U.S. that is effecting the corn harvest, Pacific Ethanol, whose primary feedstock is corn, raised $11 million in its public offering of common stock. The goal was achieved in less than a week. The company had also raised money two months before in an effort to raise funds to regain majority ownership in its ethanol plants that was lost when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

The stock was priced at 40 cents per unit on Sept. 21. On Sept. 26 Pacific Ethanol said that it had closed on its public offering of 27.5 million units for gross offering proceeds of $11 million. The company intended to use the money to repay its $10 million in senior unsecured notes that are due in April of 2013 and this has been accomplished.

Neil Koehler, the company’s president and CEO, said, “The equity we raised on September 26th allowed us to repay the $10.0 million debt in advance of its maturity date, significantly reducing the company’s short-term debt obligations and related interest payments. This and the recent increase in our ownership position in the plants are important milestones marking progress in our plans to improve the profitability of our business.”

Pacific Ethanol now owns a 67 percent interest, or the majority share in New PE Holdco LLC, which owns the company’s plants operating in Boardman, Oregon, Burley, Idaho, Stockton, California, and the idled biorefinery in Madera, California.

Global Biofuels Market Forecast to Grow

According to a new Global Biofuels Market Report, the global biofuels market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 7.7 percent between 2011-2015. A key factor is the expected increase in government funding and subsidies. The report looks at growth in the Americas, the EMEA And APAC regions and includes discussions about key companies operating in the market such as POET, Valero Energy Corp, Archer Daniel Midland Co., BioFuel Energy Corp., and more.

The report aims to answer several key questions that would affect biofuels growth both on a global scale as well as within regions and within countries. For example, the report forecasts market size in 2015 and the rate of growth; identifies key market trends; discusses market drivers and challenges; highlights key companies operating in the biofuels sector including analyses of opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses of each company.

Study Looks at Converting Biomass & Electricity to Fuel

In a collaborative effort between University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, a continuous process for converting biomass and electricity into renewable liquid transportation fuels has been developed. The researchers used a proton-exchange-membrane fuel cell to convert the model biomass compound acetone into isopropanol. This chemical compound can be used in a myriad of pharmaceutical and industrial applications and can also be used as a gasoline additive.

The project, led by George Huber, a UW-Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering, and other members of his research team, say the advance paves the way for researchers to convert biomass molecules such as glucose into hexanes, which are significant components of gasoline currently derived by refining crude oil.

“Essentially, we are making renewable liquid fuel that fits into the existing infrastructure,” said Huber, whose team published its results in the Sept. 7, 2012, issue of the journal ChemSusChem. Unlike other technologies that use large quantities of expensive hydrogen gas to convert biomass to biofuels, the team’s process is driven by electricity, which is inexpensive and readily available in rural areas. And, we’re storing the electrical energy as chemical energy.”

A fuel cell converts chemical energy into electrical energy, or vice versa. Reactions in a proton-exchange-membrane fuel cell, which consists of two “halves,”  require only water, electricity and the biomass-derived molecule. The chemical reaction is facilitated by a positive electrode coupled with a catalyst. The other side-the cathode-consists of a negative electrode and a catalyst.

The next step involves reducing biomass molecules into fuel. Continue reading

VIASPACE Signs Giant King Grass Supply Contract

Tibbar Energy is in the process of developing a 6 megawatt renewable biomass energy project in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the island of St. Croix. The 20 year project will include VIASPACE’s renewable energy crop called Giant King Grass as the primary feedstock to generate biogas. The energy project is slated to be underway in 2013 and in production by the first quarter of 2014.

“We see the U.S. Virgin Islands as the ideal location for this type of renewable energy project with its tropical climate for agriculture, and the strong need for economically viable energy,” said Tania Tomyn, President and CEO of Tibbar Energy. “Electricity on St. Croix, currently generated from diesel and heavy fuel oil, is very expensive and produces substantial carbon dioxide emissions. The Tibbar biogas system uses continuously renewable Giant King Grass, and produces electricity at a much lower cost than fuel oil with negligible carbon dioxide emissions.”

Tibbar has entered into an exclusive partnership with VIASPACE to grow Giant King Grass on St. Croix on a 1,500 acre plantation to supply renewable biomass to the biogas power plant. Tomyn says Giant King Grass is an ideal feedstock because it is not used for food, and has a high crop and biogas yield.

FAPRI Study Weighs Impact of RFS Waiver

A new report has been issued by FAPRI-MU regarding the impacts of various RFS waiver options to inform decision makers who will determine if and how a wavier should be issued to adjust biofuel mandates for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2). The request came from various sources in response to the 2012 drought that still continues.

“Renewable Fuel Standard Waiver Options during the Drought of 2012,” outlays several conclusions:

  • Reducing the overall RFS has a small negative effect on the corn price during the current marketing year because overall ethanol use would be almost as much even if there were no mandate.
  • The waiver might have larger impacts on markets for crops harvested a year from now. A key question is if biofuel use during the waived years can count against future mandates, as is normally permitted within certain limits. If so, then it will be less difficult to meet the larger and more challenging mandates in the future.
  • Biofuel use mandates interact with each other and with markets, leading to potentially offsetting impacts. For example, if the advanced mandate is waived, then ethanol imports and exports are affected more than total domestic use.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President Bob Dinneen responded to the study. “The new FAPRI study is just the latest in a series of recent reports that show waiving the RFS would not have the types of impacts claimed by the livestock groups and grocery manufacturers. The suggestion that an RFS waiver would significantly bring down feed prices and reduce retail meat prices is absolutely absurd. The only real impacts of a waiver would be to discourage farmers from planting corn next spring and to interrupt and delay important investments in new feedstocks and advanced biofuels technologies.”

The research showed that a waiver might be expected to reduce corn use for ethanol by just 1.3 percent in 2012/2013 and reduce corn prices from $7.87 per bushel to $7.83 per bushel. Estimates for the the 2013/2014 market year show that corn use for ethanol might fall 6.6 percent and corn prices might decrease 3.2 percent. In addition, the report found that a waiver of the RFS would not meaningfully increase the amount of corn available for feed use in 2012/2013. Rather there would only be 25 million more bushels of corn being fed to livestock, a 0.6 percent increase over the case where there is no waiver.

FAPRI researchers noted that there are important uncertainties in their analysis. For example, there is a mismatch of marketing year corn data and calendar year biofuel mandates, which could be a source of error. Another is the nature of ethanol demand, particularly how quickly markets could shift back to fuels without any ethanol. A third uncertainty is about current market conditions. The markets for mandate compliance certificates reveal how difficult it is to meet mandates at present and in the near future, but they are newly created by the mandates and are not well understood at this point.

Virginia Tech to Explore Wind & Solar in India

A new Virginia Tech research center is set to open in Tamil Nadu in southeast India with the hope of refining and adapting windmills and solar panels for use in rural India households. With more than a billion people worldwide living in rural communities in extreme poverty, how energy production proceeds will have global impact. Windmills are being designed to work in areas of low and variable wind speed and the solar panels are being designed to work well in low-light conditions.

“The goal is to improve life for 400 million Indians not connected to the grid,” said Guru Ghosh, vice president for international affairs. “There are still some refinements to be made on this amazing technology developed at Virginia Tech. We’re aiming for the point where the solar panels and small windmills can be mass produced, tested in India’s rural communities, and then be deployed to create low-cost, renewable energy worldwide.”

Two years ago Virginia Tech announced an agreement with private-sector partner MARG Swarnabhoomi to establish the Virginia Tech, India campus. MARG Swarnabhoomi has committed $1.8 million for laboratory build-out, which will equal or exceed facilities at the Blacksburg-based Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems, directed by Shashank Priya of the College of Engineering. Virginia Tech is underwriting staff and operations with an initial outlay of $350,000.

Virginia Tech hopes that the technology can help to solve some of the world’s most pressing energy problems. The research center is called VT, India Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science Innovation Center and is currently recruiting graduate students to work on the project.

Tempe Students Learn with Living Laboratories

You are never too old, or too young to learn about energy. Tempe Union High School District (TUHSD) and Chevron Energy Solutions have launched a cross-curricular science, technology, engineering and math (STEM – even the acronym is sciencey) and sustainability program designed to give students more knowledge about energy and environmental issues. Each campus now has a Living Laboratory where students can conduct a myriad of tests of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Each Living Laboratory contains the usual technology, but also contains data collection devices that transmit data to a web-based telemetry system. The labs also integrate with a web-based dashboard, supporting new cross-curricular lesson planning and curriculum development.

“Tempe Union High School District discovered several years ago that studying both sustainability and energy offered an extraordinary opportunity for learning, career preparation and citizenship for our students,” said Greg Wyman, associate superintendent at Tempe Union High School District. “This significant accomplishment for our District offers an extraordinary opportunity for learning and positions our new generation to build a more diverse, energy-efficient and sustainable tomorrow.”

Many of the schools participating in the Living Laboratory program have additional renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that will be woven into the curriculum. For example, one school has a roof-mounted solar thermal collection system, another school has a natural gas powered heat pump system, another has a natural gas powered fuel cell, another has a solar PV system, and one school is in the process of developing an energy storage system showcasing cutting-edge battery technology that will power a greenhouse.

The labs, as well as many of the energy projects were designed, engineered and implemented by Chevron Energy Solutions. “Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for environmentally sustainable operations at Tempe Union High School District – one that will allow its students, faculty and the community the opportunity to experience the benefits of combining sustainability and energy science education,” said Chevron Energy Solutions President Jim Davis. “The District has created a model for collaboration that can be replicated by other districts dedicated to investing in transformative, sustainable programs.”

Deadline for Ethanol Rocks Competition Nears

The “Ethanol Rocks” video competition, sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association, is close to calling it a wrap. But there is still time to enter before the final curtain call. High school and college students from all backgrounds and majors can enter either individually, as a group or through a student organization such as FFA or 4-H. The deadline is October 15, 2012.

“We are looking for a forward looking take on how corn ethanol impacts our lives,” said Chad Willis, Chair of NCGA’s Ethanol
Action Team. “Today’s youth will be shaping tomorrow’s world, and we want to tap their creativity to showcase the economic and environmental benefits of this domestic and renewal source of energy.”

First-place winners in each category (high school and college) will receive a $1,500 prize. For second place, $500 will be awarded. Judges are looking for two minutes or less of video that contains at least four facts about ethanol. Topics can include information on ethanol’s contribution to local economies, decreased reliance on foreign oil and environmental attributes. Winning videos will be selected based on impact, video design and editing, creativity and general appeal.

Click here more information about the “Ethanol Rocks” video contest and to enter.

Report: Distillers Grains Enhance Cattle Diet

According to research conducted by a team from the Department of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska, cattle feed of treated corn stover mixed with distillers grains (DDGS) from ethanol plants can reduce feed costs for cattle feeders. The goal of the research is to continue to provide livestock feeders with options for optimizing feeding efficiency.

The current project included a pretreatment for corn stover, calcium hydroxide, designed to enhance digestibility. The calcium is needed by cattle in feedlot diets. When combined with DDGS, treated corn stover increases digestibility and creates a more efficient feed ration. The research shows that this feed mix offers the livestock industry another feed option.

Nebraska is one of the largest ethanol producing states in the country and a by-product of ethanol production is high-protein distillers grains. When combined with poor quality roughage, researchers say, the feed ration still provides excellent results. This is especially important in drought years, such as this year, as availability of distillers grains have provided a valuable option for livestock feeders.

The evolving University of Nebraska research suggests that the practice of using an alkaline pretreatment on corn residues may offset corn in feedlot diets. This practice is expected to receive close attention by livestock feeders who may wish to offset corn use in livestock diets with other feed ingredients that are less expensive but in some cases more efficient.

Blink Charges Surpasses 1 Million EV Charges

ECOtality has hit a first for the country: it has surpassed one million electric vehicle (EV) residential charge events on its Blink Charges. The company says it is the first in the industry to reach this milestone. At the end of June 2012, the company had 800,000 charge events.

This is not the only milestone the company recently achieved. It has also recorded 40 million miles of driver data records and analyzed that 1.70 million gallons of gas has been saved. Data collected through the EV Project, of which ECOtality is the project manager, is presented on a quarterly basis.

“Through the data recorded on Blink chargers for The EV Project, we have clearly demonstrated the viability of this marketplace and continued growth of EV’s across the nation,” said Ravi Brar, CEO of ECOtality, Inc. “Recording more than 1 million charge events is not only an iconic milestone for ECOtality, The EV Project and the industry, but is also proof that EVs are here to stay.”

Library Adds Solar for Cleaner Environment

The Port Washington Public Library has added thin film solar cells to its roof’s cap sheet layer to generate solar energy. The only building in Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York state to generate power this way, the system has the ability to generate an average of 42,000 kWh of electricity per year and but CO2 emissions by more than 2.2 million pounds each year. During a celebration ceremony, Nancy Curtin, Port Washington’s Public Library Director; Garry Schwall, Chief Operating Officer of Winthrop-University Hospital; and Paul Polizzotto, President and Founder of CBS EcoMedia gave remarks while entertainment was provided by local singer/guitarist Tom Cavanagh, known to library audiences for his Johnny Cash and George Harrison performances.

The new Energy Education Station in the Library displays the actual energy savings from the system for the public to view. In addition, the green initiatives implemented by the Port Washington Public Library also includes a Recycling Center in the Children’s Room.

“The Library is committed to green initiatives and as a center for lifelong learning wishes to lead by example promoting solar energy and a healthy environment for the Port Washington community,” said Nancy Curtin, Port Washington Public Library Director. “This technology is a sustainable solution and we thank Winthrop University Hospital and CBS EcoMedia for their support.”

As the country struggles with economic difficulties, education has been hard hit with the reduction of teachers in schools and staff at libraries. “With this project, the Library sets an important example: by adopting solar power in our homes and businesses, each one of us can cut our own energy costs and emissions,” said Paul Polizzotto, President and Founder of CBS EcoMedia Inc. “Thanks to the generous support of Winthrop-University Hospital, the Library will reduce its carbon footprint and cut its electricity bills, freeing up crucial funds for books, staffing, special programming, and equipment.”

Iowa Bioenergy Tour Huge Success

The 4th Annual Biofuels: Science and Sustainability Tour took place recently hosted by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA). The three-day tour brought several Washington, D.C. policymakers and regulators to Iowa for a inside and hands on look at the renewable fuels and agricultural industry in the state.  Participants had the opportunity to talk with many renewable fuels experts, agriculture leaders and state and university officials on important policy matters, regulatory concerns and technical issues facing the renewable fuels industry.

Several key areas of discussion were the current and future impacts of the drought, Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2), E15, tax policy, biodiesel and advanced biofuels, the 2012 Farm Bill, food and fuel, distillers grains, seed research, crop yield trends, improved environmental practices in agriculture and renewable fuels production, biomass crops, the future of cellulosic ethanol, and the impediments to consumer fuel choice posed by the federal petroleum mandate.

The Tour included visits to:

  • Renewable Energy Group headquarters in Ames, IA
  • Iowa State University’s Sorenson Farm & Biocentury Research Farm in Boone, IA
  • Kevin Jurgens’ family farm in Thornton, IA
  • Soy Energy biodiesel refinery in Mason City, IA
  • Golden Grain Energy ethanol refinery in Mason City, IA
  • Sukup Manufacturing in Sheffield, IA
  • Pioneer DuPont Beaver Creek Research Center in Johnston, IA
  • Pioneer DuPont Carver Center in Johnston, IA
  • Magellan Refined Products Terminal in Des Moines, IA

The Tour was hosted and sponsored by Iowa State University Bioeconomy Institute, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, National Biodiesel Foundation, Renewable Fuels Foundation, Golden Grain Energy, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Renewable Product Marketing Group, Sukup Manufacturing, and Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Click here for more information, presentations and photos from the event.

Major Auto Companies Endorse E15

In response to strong sales of E15 in areas where the ethanol blend is offered, Ford Motor Company and General Motors (GM) announced their recommendations for use of E15 in their new vehicles. GM added the recommendation of E15 for its 2012 and newer vehicles, while Ford recommends E15 for its 2013 and newer vehicles.

In response, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw said, “The IRFA wants to extend our most sincere thank you to GM and Ford for recommending the use of E15 in new vehicles. I believe Iowa consumers will take notice of GM and Ford’s leadership. This is an important step forward for E15. Thirty years ago, auto recognition of E10 began much the same way. First one company, then others followed. First for new cars, then for the legacy fleet. The pressure is now on other auto manufacturers to follow suit or explain why they offer substandard equipment.”

Retailers, who must first register with the EPA before legally selling E15, began to offer the higher ethanol blend quickly upon final approval for E15 for all 2001 and newer vehicles by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The first retailer in the country to sell E15 was in Kansas and retailers in Iowa quickly followed suit. Last month, Linn Co-op Oil Company in Marion, Iowa became the first retailer in the state to offer E15. Several other Iowa retailers are in various stages of moving to offer E15.

Solar in Spain Increases

Two large scale power plants are being connected to the grid south of the Iberian Peninsula in Spain. Coenergy was selected for the installation. The first power plant will have a total capacity of 1.8 KWp and is located in Jerez de la Frontera on an industrial rooftop spanning 24,000 square meters. The second solar power plant will have a total capacity of 320 KWp and has been installed in a 8,000 square meter area in the village of Segura de la Sierra in Jaén Province.

Combined, the two solar power plants use more than 9,000 Coenergy PowerPlus modules and the plants have the ability to produce nearly 3,000 megawatt hours of solar power each year. The solar energy will feed into the Andalusian electrical grid through nine Conergy IPG C central inverters and the sites will be monitored with Coenergy VisionBoxes.

“Sun-blessed Andalusia is a very attractive location for solar power plants and well on its way to achieving grid parity,” said Luis Jimenez Gutierrez, Managing Director of Conergy Spain. “These two projects are another step down this path where product quality, know-how and services become more and more important. Conergy stands for quality and many years’ experience – with large-scale free-field plants as well as industrial and private rooftop plants. This expertise makes us a reliable partner for all solar projects, on whom our customers can count.”