Solar Industry Responds to Solar Anti-Dumping Rulings

After a year, The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) has released its final findings regarding the Countervailing Duty and Anti-Dumping rules regarding the imports of billions of dollars of solar cells from China.

DOC ruled that there will be no change of scope with the exception that small consumer goods are now excluded. In addition, the effective rate on Suntech has gone up a few percentage points, down four percent for Yingli and Canadian Solar with Trina down 12 percentage points from the preliminary numbers. The DOC also recommended anti-subsidy duty percentages of 14.78 percent for imports made by Suntech, 15.97 percent Trina Solar and 15.24 percent for all other Chinese manufacturers. Lastly, critical circumstances are in effect save for Suntech’s anti-dumping tariffs.
Jigar Shah, the president of The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) responded by saying, “We are gratified that the scope of today’s decision is limited only to solar cells made in China and that the Department did not significantly increase the tariff from its preliminary decision in May. We are hopeful that continued innovations in technology, a competitive global marketplace, and demand-generated pressure for lower prices will take precedence moving forward. At the same time, we remain concerned about the growing global trade war, which will only hurt American solar industry jobs, growth and consumers.

He added that CASE believes global competition is good for American solar consumers and companies and that the tariffs will not stop the development of solar energy.

In its final decision, the DOC determined that crystalline silicon photovoltaic (“PV”) cells produced in China, whether or not assembled into modules, would be subject to antidumping and countervailing duties. Under the ruling, solar modules assembled in China from cells produced in third countries do not fall within the scope of the duties. Based on this, PV cells produced in China by JA Solar will be subject to an antidumping duty of 25.96 percent and countervailing duty of 15.24 percent.

Jonathan Pickering, president of JA Solar USA, commented, “We are pleased that the dispute is coming to a close and that the scope of the investigation was not expanded. JA Solar cooperated fully with the DOC during its investigation, and we continue to state our case to the International Trade Commission (ITC).” The ITC will make its final ruling on or before November 23, 2012.

Pickering added, “We remain focused on addressing our customers’ need for high-quality, high-performance products, and we’re determined to play an active role in the rapid growth of the U.S. market.”

Navy: Biofuel Technology is Here

According to an article on Military.com, biofuel technology has arrived. While several legislators fight to stop the military from pursuing the use of biofuels, Secretary Ray Mabus says the Navy will continue to develop biofuel technology for use in its ships and aircraft. During a luncheon on October 9th, Mabus said the technology is already here.

Research shows that between 2018 and 2024, biofuels will be a viable alternative fuel. What Mabus is focusing on is how to speed up that timeframe and make biofuel technology more competitive with current technologies.

The Navy is currently putting together a “Green Fleet” of ships that use alternative fuels. They are also developing a “Green Hornet” F-18 based on the same concept they are using for their ships.

Mabus says one of the more interesting technologies the Navy is pursing is to hone the chemistry for producing jet fuel while in “theater”. In other words, the ability to develop alternative jet fuel when a troop is deployed. The most promising pricess would catalytically convert carbon dioxide hydrogen gas directly to liquid hydrocarbon fuel used as JP-5, a process being developed and honed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

The article says that NRL has already successfully developed and demonstrated technologies for the recovery of carbon dioxide and the production of hydrogen gas from seawater using an electrochemical acidification cell. From there the hydrogen gas is converted to hydrocarbons that can be used to produce jet fuel.

Yet despite the promising technology, Mabus says the Navy doesn’t have a favorite technology and their goal is to simply keep develop alternatives.

Gevo Awarded Two Patents

Gevo, a company focused on developing biobutanol technology,  has been awarded two patents. The first is US Patent No. 8,273,565, entitled “Methods of Increasing Dihydroxy Acid Dehydratase Activity to Improve Production of Fuels, Chemicals, and Amino Acids.” The patent covers suppression of a glutaredoxin protein called GRX3. In combination with other Gevo patented technologies, deletion of GRX3 significantly increases the production of isobutanol by yeast cells.

The second patent awarded was U.S. Patent No. 8,283,505, which protects Gevo’s Integrated Fermentation Technology (GIFT). The GIFT system permits the continuous removal of isobutanol as it is formed in the fermentation broth. This increases productivity of the genetically modified yeast cells because yeast does not thrive in high concentrations of isobutanol. The technology also increases final isobutanol concentrations extracted from the fermentation broth.

Global Renewable Energy Investments Growing

Despite global struggles with the economy, investments in renewable energy technologies have continued to grow in 2011. New investments in renewable power and fuels (excluding large hydropower and solar hot water) reached $257 billion, and increase $37 billion from 2010. This according to research conducted by the WorldWatch Institute’s Climate and Energy program. In addition, during 2011, investments in renewable energy were $40 billion greater than in fossil fuel based technologies.

In 2011:

  • Total renewable energy investment in industrial countries accounted for 65 percent of global investment. This is an increase of 21 percent to $168 billion in total.
  • The 35 percent of global new investment that went to developing countries increased 10 percent to $89 billion. Of this total, China, India and Brazil accounted for $71 billion.
  • “Financial new investment” in renewable energy installations in industrial countries outpaced investments in developing world. In 2010 investments in this category in developing countries surpassed those in industrial countries.
  • Driven by a 50 percent reduction in price from 2010 to 2011, $147.4 billion was invested in solar compared with $83.8 for wind projects and $10.6 billion for biomass and waste-to-energy.
  • Biofuels attracted the fourth highest total investment with $6.8 billion, followed by $5.8 billion for small hydro and $2.9 billion for geothermal installations. Continue reading

Ethanol Industry Pumps $5B Into MN State Economy

According to a new report from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the state’s ethanol industry generated more than $5 billion in total economic activity in 2011. In addition, the ethanol industry supported more than 12,600 jobs. The state is 5th nationwide in ethanol production with 21 ethanol biorefineries.

According to the MDA report, ethanol added $912 million to the value of the state’s corn crop in 2011, a second record high. For every bushel of corn processed into ethanol, $2.07 was generated in additional revenue. The report also shows that for every dollar invested into the ethanol plants, more than eight dollars were generated for the Minnesota economy.

“While there have been ups and downs in the ethanol industry, the fact is it’s a huge advantage for us to keep more of the value of the corn we produce rather than ship it to another state or country as a raw commodity,” said Su Ye, the author of the report. “The ethanol industry is an important economic driver that adds value to every bushel of corn grown by the roughly 11,000 farmers who supply it to the plants.”

Last year, of the 1.2 billion bushels of corn harvested by Minnesota growers, 440 million bushels were put into production of ethanol and its co-products including distillers grains. Forty-two percent of the corn is exported and 39 percent is processed. In comparison, 12 percent of the total U.S. corn crop is exported and 50 percent is processed. Ye says the ethanol industry continues to have a critical role in bringing increased returns to the state’s largest agricultural crop.

Platts Acquires Global Sugar & Biofuels Info Provider

Platts, a division of McGraw-Hill, is in the process of acquiring Kingsman, SA, a Switzerland-based provider of price information and analytics for the global sugar and biofuels markets. If all goes as planned, the acquisition will become official on November 1, 2012. Platts focuses on delivering news to the agricultural and energy sectors.

“Kingsman is widely recognized as the leading global brand for sugar market data and analytics,” said Larry Neal, president of Platts. “Our acquisition of Kingsman deepens Platts’ capabilities in biofuels and gives us a springboard for growth in the global agricultural markets.  It also reinforces our commitment to becoming a leader in market analytics as well as news and price information.”

Neal said the deal was a good fit for the company because it will allow the company to develop benchmarks that support market evolution and enhance price transparency. Kingsman has analysts, researchers and report writers in key markets including London Montreal, New Delhi and  Sao Paulo and the company offers a variety of subscription publications covering sugar, ethanol and biodiesel.

Clean Currents Hosts Wind Powered Baltimore Week

Clean Currents, based in Maryland, is hosting Wind Powered Baltimore Week October 15 – 21, 2012 to celebrate Baltimore’s growing community of businesses, non-profits, and homes powered by wind. During the week there will be a series of events and promotions and the official kick-off of the Green Neighborhood Challenge will take place, a program that gives community groups an opportunity to raise funds for green projects while increasing support for clean energy.

There are over 35 businesses who are powered by wind, as well as a number of community groups participating in Wind Powered Baltimore Week. Events range from a B2B networking mixer to benefit Baltimore Green Works to Not Your Mom’s Ice Cream Social spoken word slam with Taharka Brothers.

“Since our Baltimore office opened, we have been welcomed by businesses and residents eager to reduce their environmental impact,” said Gary Skulnik, President and co-founder of Clean Currents, a retail electricity supplier that focuses exclusively on green electricity. “We’re hosting Wind Powered Baltimore Week to celebrate the impressive community of non-profits, triple bottom line businesses, and community leaders that embrace renewable energy and sustainability.”

Darius Wilmore of Taharka Brothers added, “Businesses have a big impact on consumer behavior, and we hope that by setting an example as an environmentally responsible business, we can inspire our customers to be environmentally responsible as well. Wind Powered Baltimore Week is a great way to encourage the entire Baltimore community to be more environmentally responsible and join the wind power movement.”

For complete list of activities, visit www.windpoweredbmore.com.

Propel 8th Fastest Growing Company in Silicon Valley

Propel Fuels was recognized as the 8th fastest growing company in Silicon Vally by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal as part of their Fast Private Awards. The award was based on a three-year growth rate in revenues of more than 400 percent. Today, Propel operates 28 fueling locations throughout California and Washington state with more than 200 locations planned for the next two years.

“With more than 1 million alternative fuel capable vehicles on California’s roads right now, Propel must continue to grow our network of stations to meet the rising demand from consumers who want cleaner mobility options and a better choice at the pump,” said Matt Horton, CEO of Propel. “We thank our growing base of loyal customers for helping us receive this recognition as we improve access to renewable fuels, and make progress on our nation’s clean energy goals.”

Propel is one of the leading retailers who offer renewable fuel blends such as E85 and biodiesel blends as well as conventional gasoline. Yet unlike most retailers, Propel offers services beyond the pump including the ability for drivers to calculate their carbon offset from their fuel purchases, tips on how to improve fuel economy, help consumers find rideshare opportunities and more. In addition, Propel is looking to bring drivers future fuels such as natural gas and electric vehicle charging.

ACE Kicks Off RFS Benefits Campaign

As the ink dries on all the letters of support for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2), the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) has launched a public letter writing campaign to help raise awareness of how ethanol and the RFS benefits America. Another goal of the campaign is to counter inaccurate stories about ethanol and the industry.

A view that is missing, says Brian Jennings, ACE executive vice president, are the everyday, personal stories that humanize the positive benefits of ethanol.

“This grassroots letter writing campaign can effectively help convey from the ground-up what is at stake if opponents succeed in repealing the RFS,” said Jennings. “We encourage ethanol supporters to take part in ACE’s effort to tell stories of how the RFS benefits their communities and economies. The campaign will succeed only if people get involved and take action.”

Letter writing topics include the RFS, consumer fuel choice through E15, midlevel blends, job creation, food and fuel, and energy security.

The campaign, that targets national media markets as well as local media outlets, will run through the remainder of 2012 and is part of a multi-step grassroots effort ACE is engaged in to help promote ethanol and defend the merits of the RFS. Campaign participants will be entered in drawings to win Amazon gift cards or the grand prize of an Amazon Kindle Fire. You can get more info about the public letter writing campaign by clicking here.

EV Connect Launches EV Dealer Program

In anticipation of the growing electric vehicle market – nearly 29 different EV models will be launched and hit the lots next year – EV Connect is launching its new Dealer EV program. The goal is to make EV sales easier by helping car dealerships learn to overcome consumer concerns about owning an EV vehicle. The company has also added a dedicated Dealer Liaison Team to boost communication and build stronger relationships between EV Connect and dealerships.

“Unlike traditional vehicle sales, EV sales force car dealerships to learn a new language centered on the electric drive train, batteries, kilowatts, amps, volts, and how they affect the daily life of an EV owner. In addition, the single most frequent sales objection from potential EV buyers is regarding how they will charge their vehicle” said Jordan Ramer, CEO, EV Connect. “Dealer EV is a program through which dealers can refer EV buyers to EV Connect for charge station education, deployment solutions and management services. EV Connect will do the rest of the heavy-lifting.”

EV Connect currently manages thousands of EV charging stations across the country. As part of this program, they work with EV drivers to ensure they get the information and charge station location information they need.

Palm Oil Production Creates High GHG Emissions

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently reviewing whether to allow biofuels produced from palm oil as an allowable renewable fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). The palm oil industry and the Indonesian and Malaysian governments are applying pressure to the EPA to reverse its finding that the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from palm oil production are too high to quality as a biofuel under RFS2.

In a new study published in Nature Climate Change, by researchers from Yale and Stanford, expanding the use of palm oil in the Indonesian part of Borneo would significantly increase emissions. The area was the focus on the study because of its current use of palm oil, that includes conversion into biofuels. The study finds that if the use of palm oil is expanded:

  • Palm oil expansion is projected to release more than 558 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2020, more than all of Canada’s fossil fuel emissions.
  • Palm oil expansion in Borneo alone is projected to contribute 18 percent to 22 percent of Indonesia’s 2020 C02- equivalent emissions.
  • Full lease development would convert an additional 93,844 square kilometers of land in Borneo to oil palm plantations, including 41 percent intact forest. This is in addition to the three fold increase in land converted to palm plantations between 1990-2012, 90% of which was rainforest.

The study also links an increase in deforestation resulting from palm oil production in addition to palm oil production being a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

RFS Waiver Comment Period Comes to a Close

With the RFS waiver request comment period coming to a close yesterday, the ethanol industry sent another round of comments to the EPA saying a waiver was not needed. But the ethanol industry was not the only sector to respond, the National Corn Growers Association submitted a letter in support of the RFS as is, as did the Governors of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota and Oregon. In addition, a group of 22 CEOs, presidents and other executives from bioenergy and agricultural sectors submitted a letter.

Tom Buis CEO of Growth Energy noted that several governors and big food companies who have been pushing for the waiver have failed to show severe economic harm directly attributable to the RFS.

He noted in the comments submitted by his organization, “A decision to grant the waiver requests would come at a great cost to the United States, both economically and through the sacrifice of larger policy goals. A full waiver of the national Renewable Fuel Standard could lead to closed or idled biorefineries throughout the nation, resulting in as many as 3,000 to 8,300 job losses in ethanol producing areas and $2.9 to $7.8 billion in lost revenues.”

“Consumers would then suffer much higher prices at the gas station, costing U.S. drivers more than $7.5 billion a year or $62.70 per household – far more than any potential impact on food prices,” the comments continued, ” The waiver could also mean losses of between $5.8 and $27.75 billion for U.S. corn farmers, exacerbating what is already a time of economic hardship in rural America.”

Comments submitted by the Renewable Fuels Association added that those requesting were unable to show that waiving the RFS would cure the claimed harm; failed to recognize the impact of RFS compliance flexibilities; and failed to consider the economic benefits of the RFS.

After taking all these failures into account coupled with the fact the RFS has shown to work as intended, RFA CEO and President Bob Dinneen said, “EPA has no option but to deny the waiver requests because they are procedurally incomplete, legally insufficient, and factually flawed.  Perhaps most outrageous is the fact the petitioners make no mention of the RFS program’s inherent flexibilities, and they blatantly ignore the fact that the ethanol industry is responding rationally to current grain market conditions by significantly reducing production.

“Supporters of a waiver overlook the impact of RIN credit banking, borrowing, and trading provisions. The very provision that allows obligated parties to meet up to 20 percent of their current year RFS obligation with RINs generated in the previous compliance year was designed specifically to mitigate the impacts of a drought on agricultural markets. The RFS is unquestionably working as intended. It is a proven success, and it absolutely should not be waived,” concluded Dinneen.

Colorado Mountain Express Adopts Propane

Colorado Mountain Express (CME) has converted a portion of its shuttle vans to propane autogas. This is the first step the company has taken to convert its entire shuttle fleet to run on renewable fuels. CME is operating four 15-passenger ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas powered Ford E-350 vans that serve resorts in Vail, Colorado.

“CME has been through years of testing alternative fuel vehicles and we’re now ready to speak about our satisfaction with the performance of propane autogas,” said Robert Tschupp, vice president and general manager of CME. “Propane autogas has become the alternative fuel of choice for the shared-ride industry. This domestic fuel is not only more economical than gasoline, its clean-burning properties work to preserve the pristine environment in which we live and work — something that is extremely important to our company.”

After about a year of testing the fuel, CME’s average price per gallon for fuel has been $1.72 per gallon compared to the current average cost for gasoline at $3.80 per gallon. Tschupp says each van is saving CME more than $18,600 at the pump.

CME worked with Ferrellgas to identify publicly accessible refueling locations that are convenient for the company, based on the areas they serve. “The fact that propane autogas has such a strong refueling network already in place was appealing to us when we weighed this alternative option against other clean fuels,” added Tschupp.

New Option to Lower Wind Farm Maintenance Costs

With concern over the loss of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), many wind farms are looking for ways to improve efficiency. Mass Megawatts Wind Power says it’s new wind augmentation system allows customers to avoid excessive maintenance issues related to mechanical equipment not having several years of an operational history.

The aftermarket accessory, according to the company, utilizes a less complicated and inexpensive wind-focusing technique to increase the wind velocity directed at the turbine by an average of 70 percent. This results in a three-fold increase in the electrical power generated by the turbine.

The augmentation system eliminates the need for turbine structures to exceed a height of 80 feet to realize adequate wind velocity, says Mass Megawatts Wind Power. This reduces material and installation costs while expediting zoning approval in many locations. Additionally, the augmenter technology makes it possible for turbines to operate profitably in lower wind-speed locations.

The company also says that using horizontal or propeller type turbine blades, the cost per rated kilowatt is projected to be less than $1,000 and anticipated to approach $600 in mass production. This compares very favorably with traditional wind power systems that realize a cost of $1,500 to $2,000 per rated kilowatt.

H-POWER EfW Facility Expansion Completed

The expansion of the H-Power Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facility in Honolulu is complete. The facility is owned by the city of Honolulu and was designed, built and is operated by Covanta Energy. A third boiler was added increasing the facility’s capacity by 900 tons of municipal solid waste per day, with daily capacity is now at 3,000 tons.

With the completion of the project, all of the island’s post-recycled municipal solid waste is processed. In addition, the EfW plant can produce nearly 90 megawatts of renewable energy each year, which is about eight percent of the island’s total energy needs.

“Covanta is proud of our successful partnership with the City and County of Honolulu. The completed third boiler marks three years of hard work by the Covanta team, and celebrates the innovative thinking of the City and County in making the decision to move forward with this expansion.  The completed project brings a multitude of benefits including increased diversion of waste from landfills, reduction of greenhouse gases, more renewable energy and new jobs that will make a significant impact on Oahu’s economy and energy independence,” said Seth Myones, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Covanta.

The facility is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost one million tons each year due to the avoidance of methane from landfills, the offset of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel electrical production and the recovery of metals for recycling.

“By reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and creating energy from trash, H-POWER benefits the City environmentally and financially,” added Mayor Peter Carlisle. “With the third boiler, we can now divert even more opala from the landfill and continue to emphasize more recycling.”