Gas Prices Up, Up and Away

As gas prices have been on the rise for more than 32 days, Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) says that AAA might want to reconsider its recent attacks on ethanol. He writes in a post titled, “As Prices at the Pump Go Up, Up, Up American Ethanol is the Motorist’s Friend,” that through Memorial Day, gasoline prices will likely keep going up up, up.

Gas Prices in Soux City Photo Credit AP“Over the past five years,” writes Dinneen, “gasoline prices have risen an average of $0.51 per gallon between New Year’s Day and the Memorial Day weekend. That means we could be looking at prices well above $4 per gallon as summer begins and families hit the road for vacation.”

“America’s growing use of domestically-produced ethanol reduced wholesale gasoline prices by an average of $1.09 per gallon in 2011, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available, according to a recent study conducted by economics professors at the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University for the Center for Agricultural Research and Rural Development (CARD).”

Dinneen, after reviewing the positive impacts ethanol is having on both gasoline prices as well as dependence on foreign oil, concludes:

“All of this is something members of Congress need to consider as they assess legislation promoted by the oil industry to repeal or reform the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The RFS is working to expand domestic energy supply, encourage investment in new technologies, and reduce gasoline prices at the pump.”

Solar Energy to Get Boost from New Forecasting

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is spearheading a three-year, nationwide project to create an unprecedented, 36-hour forecasts of incoming energy from the Sun for solar energy power plants. The research team is designing a prototype system to forecast sunlight and resulting power every 15 minutes over specific solar facilities. This should enable utilities to forecast the amount of available solar energy. The project is primarily funded with a $4.1 million DOE grant.

Clouds“It’s critical for utility managers to know how much sunlight will be reaching solar energy plants in order to have confidence that they can supply sufficient power when their customers need it,” said Sue Ellen Haupt, director of NCAR’s Weather Systems and Assessment Program and the lead researcher on the solar energy project. “These detailed cloud and irradiance forecasts are a vital step in using more energy from the Sun.”

According to NCAR, the research will take aim a one of the biggest challenges in meteorology- accurately predicting cloud cover over specific areas. Solar energy output is affected both by when and where clouds form and  also by the types of clouds present. The thickness and elevation of clouds have greatly differing effects on the amount of sunlight reaching the ground. Wispy cirrus clouds several miles above the surface, for example, block far less sunlight than thick, low-lying stratus clouds. Therefore, cloud predictions can both improve the accuracy of short-term weather forecasts in addition to aiding utilities to tap solar energy more effectively.

“Improving forecasts for renewable energy from the Sun produces a major return on investment for society,” added Thomas Bogdan, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which manages NCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation. “By helping utilities produce energy more efficiently from the Sun, we can make this market more cost competitive.”

Bioenergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFA new report has been released “Global Markets and Technologies for Biofuel Enzymes,” that includes an overview of the global market for biofuels enzymes, including amylases, lipases, cellulases, and proteases; and fuels, which include biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, and biogas. The report also includes an analysis of global market trends, identification of markets by industrial end users, such as the aviation industry, road transport, heating purposes, and off-road equipment, and a discussion of new and different types of regulations.
  • ReneSola Ltd has announced its 72-cell polysilicon modules have been listed by UL (“Underwriters Laboratories”) as meeting required standards for use in PV systems up to 1,000 volts. At the same time, the Company’s 60-cell and 72-cell modules have been listed by UL as meeting required standards for use in PV systems up to 600 volts.
  • Real Good Solar is partnering with Smart Center San Francisco to giveaway a three-year lease on a 2013 smart electric drive vehicle and 1.5kW solar power system to off-set the energy required to charge it. Entrants must live in CA, CO, CT, MA, NJ or VT.
  • Amyris has appointed Zanna McFerson as Chief Business Officer.
  • The Eagle Leasing Company has completed two photovoltaic solar systems at the company’s facilities in Orange, CT and Oxford, MA.  Eagle Leasing teamed with Dynamic Energy to install systems totaling 246.74 kW, consisting of 978 solar panels on the roof of the facilities.


State-by-State Ethanol Update

The Renewable Fuels Association has released a state-by-state update to the “Contribution of the Ethanol Industry to the Economy of the United States,” an economic impact analysis performed by Cardno ENTRIX. The original report, released earlier this month at RFA’s National Ethanol Conference, found that the industry has supported over 383,000 direct and indirect and induced jobs across all sectors of the economy last year. The industry contributed $43.3 billion to GDP and $30.2 billion in household income.

Ethanol Jobs FlowchartCommenting on the state-by-state breakout, Bob Dinneen, RFA’s president and CEO, said, “It is clear that the ethanol industry is a powerful economic driver. We are successfully creating job and economic opportunities in a tough economy. Not only are we helping revitalize rural communities across this country, we are positively impacting states outside of the Corn Belt. We are building ethanol refineries and hiring staff for newly operational plants across this nation. We are becoming an economic engine coast to coast, border to border.”

“This economic momentum should not be jeopardized by tampering with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS is a proven success when it comes to creating jobs, increasing American energy independence, and improving the environment. Don’t mess with the RFS,” concluded Dinneen.

The top ten states experiencing the economic benefits of having ethanol plants operating locally are: Iowa, Illinois,  Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Kansas, and North Dakota.

Click here to read the full report.

RMI Announces Solar Research Project

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is launching a Simple BoS project, or Balance of Systems, in partnership with Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), to explore the cost divide between the U.S. and Germany for residential solar photovoltaic systems. BoS costs now account for more than 60 percent of the price of U.S. rooftop PV systems, according to RMI, yet such costs are 75 percent lower in Germany, who is the solar PV global leader.

gI_87078_solarpanelinstallerRMI sees reducing BoS costs—all the related solar energy system costs besides the panels themselves including permitting, financing, installation, and inspection—as a critical pathway to affordable PV and widespread solar adoption. RMI and GTRI are partnering with key solar installers across the two countries to explore specific components of the cost divide between solar installation processes in the U.S. and Germany. Using survey data and time-and-motion studies, the project will measure the status quo in both countries, analyze key differences, and then propose solutions to improve the installation process in the U.S. and beyond.

“Despite the U.S.’s failure to lower soft costs to date, others—notably Germany—show it can be done,” said Jon Creyts, program director at RMI. “Identifying the key drivers of price differences between the two markets will help us understand how U.S. installers can dramatically lower these costs and drive the industry into the future.”

Building on the recommendations of RMI’s 2010 charrette on achieving low-cost solar PV, the Simple BoS project will delve deeply into the installation processes and will look at several key factors in the solar installation process, including the labor hours of PV installation, the impact of local government involvement and permitting regulations on installation time and pricing, and the difference in time-to-system activation—the length of time it takes for a solar project to go from signed contract to energized system—between the U.S. and Germany.

RMI is actively recruiting installers now to participate. Interested companies should click here.

North Carolina Releases PEV Readiness Plan

The North Carolina Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Taskforce has released the first draft of its PEV Readiness Plan along with four regional plans. The plans were created through the N.C. PEV Readiness Initiative: Plugging-in from Mountains to Sea and was one of 16 projects awarded from the U.S. Department of Energy. The project covered the entire state of North Carolina with a focus on four metropolitan areas in the Greater Asheville, Charlotte, Piedmont Triad and Triangle areas.

The report includes a survey of incentives offered by neighboring states and provides recommendations for state and local policy options. North Carolina offers no state incentives for the purchase of PEVs or charging stations while nearby South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Maryland do, the report reveals.

NC PEV Plan“Electric vehicles offer substantial gains in efficiency, emissions and long term savings to the purchaser and incentives can play an important role to spur more wide spread adoption,” said Anne Tazewell, the N.C. Solar Center’s Transportation Manager.

Other key highlights from the NC PEV Roadmap Plan include: there are more than 700 PEVs registered in North Carolina and estimates indicate there will more than 750,000 PEV on state’s roads by 2030; and there are 350 public and 170 private charging stations in the state.

“Currently, North Carolina is still in the beginning stages of plug-in electric vehicle adoption and the statewide NC PEV Roadmap recommends continuing to move forward with collaborative efforts to ensure a more seamless integration of these vehicles and to maintain its position as a leader in plug-in electric vehicle readiness,” said Katie Drye, project manager, Transportation Initiatives, Advanced Energy.

The N.C. Solar Center was one of five principle partners who worked on the PEV project. The Center’s Clean Transportation program co-lead the Piedmont Triad PEV planning process with Piedmont Triad Regional Council and lead the state wide Incentives and Economic Development (IED) Work Group with the N.C. Dept. of Commerce Green Economy team.

American Ethanol Continues Support of Austin Dillon

American Ethanol will be continuing its partnership with Richard Childress Racing and driver Austin Dillon, who won Rookie of the Year last year, for the 2013 NASCAR season. Dillon will race the No. 33 American Ethanol Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway on June 16 and will drive a RCR-fielded entry in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Eldora Speedway on July 24 with an American Ethanol paint scheme.

We want to show the people coast-to-coast there is a great alternative to imported oil and our association with NASCAR and RCR is doing that extremely well,” said Jon American Ethanol Car photo credit Chuck ZimmermanHolzfaster, a Paxton, NE farmer and chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s NASCAR Advisory Committee. “Ethanol is also responsible for bringing a rural renaissance from Main Street to the family farm.”

In addition to the races mentioned above, American Ethanol, a program that seeks to expand consumer awareness of the benefits of ethanol and E15, will be an associate sponsor of Dillon’s No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday, Feb. 23, and Honey Nut Cheerios No. 33 car in the Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

“American Ethanol is extremely pleased to once again partner with Austin Dillon, Richard Childress and the entire RCR team to help promote a sustainable homegrown American fuel that is better for our environment, reduces our dependence on foreign oil and creates jobs right here in the U.S., while revitalizing rural economies across America,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

As part of the sponsorship, Dillon has become and official spokesperson for American Ethanol. “It feels good to be able to help spread the news about American Ethanol and encourage every American to run the fuel of the future, American Ethanol, in their personal vehicles,” said Dillon. “If American Ethanol can withstand the rigors of NASCAR, it can withstand everyday driving. Homegrown biofuels like American Ethanol have stepped up to help our nation’s economy, and are proving to be a better fuel. I am proud to wear the American Ethanol colors in NASCAR and I hope I can bring them to Victory Lane in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2013.”

TRANSCAER Honors RFA’s Missy Ruff

Missy Ruff, Market Development Manager with Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), was recognized by the TRANSCAER Executive Committee for a 2012 TRANSCAER Individual Recognition for her successful efforts to plan, organize and implement TRANSCAER training dedicated to safe handling of ethanol and awareness response training for emergency responders across the U.S. More specifically, the award is given to an individual or company who has gone beyond the normal call of duty to advocate, demonstrate and implement TRANSCAER’s principles, Missy Ruffenhance their public recognition and increase participation in their programs.

“Missy’s dedication and commitment to ensuring that our emergency responders from across the U.S. are trained on the safe response to ethanol is impressive,” said Donna Lepik, Staff Executive, TRANSCAER. “The TRANSCAER Awards program allows us to acknowledge and thank our dedicated volunteers for their truly remarkable accomplishments, demonstrated through their continuous efforts to ensure communities are prepared to deal with possible hazardous materials transportation related incidents.”

For more than five years, Ruff has worked to expand ethanol infrastructure around the country. She has helped retailers understand the benefits of blending mid-level and higher blends of ethanol and has played an important role in the increasing number of E85 and blender pumps across the country. She also works with first responders to ensure their safety and the safety of communities, by teaching them how to handle ethanol should an accident occur.

“I am honored to receive this recognition from TRANSCAER,” said Ruff. “Safety is a priority in the ethanol industry. Educating and preparing first responders on how to properly respond to ethanol emergencies is extremely important for their own safety and for the communities they protect.”

UPS Adds Solar to Distribution Facilities

UPS Parsippany solar projectUPS is adding solar power to its distribution facilities located in Parsippany, New Jersey and Secaucus, New Jersey.  The 1.2 megawatt Parsippany project was completed in the fall of 2012 and the 1.2 megawatt Secaucus project is planned for completion in the spring of 2013. These projects will expand UPS’s solar power generating capacity from 360 kilowatts to 2,760 kilowatts and will produce in excess of 3 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy per year.

UPS says the projects are part of its continued sustainability initiatives and decided to finance and build its own solar projects following a drop in solar panel installation costs, continued improvements in the technology and the availability of supportive government incentives.

“Federal and state government incentives encouraged our investments in solar energy sources,” said Steve Leffin, director of global sustainability at UPS. “We develop, engineer, own and operate our solar capacity, which is a departure from contracted power-purchase agreements in which a company pays a solar power provider for a set price of electricity for 20 years. Under this arrangement, we not only benefit at UPS, but can also help community power grids by providing a hedge against possible energy price hikes during peak usage times.”

New Jersey has also established incentives for the generation of renewable power that serve as a catalyst for businesses to adopt renewable energy.  The state is currently second in the U.S. for total installed capacity of solar energy technology.

Bioenergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFSolectria Renewables has announced today that SolarOne Financial, has chosen their Solectria’s PVI 60-95KW inverters to power the 1.2MW solar PV installation at Fleamasters Market in Fort Myers, Florida.
  • Genomatica and DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products Company, LLC have announced the first successful commercial- scale production of 1,4-Butanediol (BDO) using a bio-based manufacturing process.
  • CalCharge and San Jose State University (SJSU) are teaming up to launch a “battery university” in the high-tech capital of the world  – Silicon Valley. Battery university courses—to be offered through SJSU’s professional education program—will educate a specialty workforce needed now for the rapidly growing battery industry. Classes are expected to start this summer in partnership with SJSU’s engineering college, which produces more engineering professionals to Silicon Valley than any other university.
  • According to the report, “Reaching for the Sun: How San Antonio and Austin are showing that solar is a powerful energy option for Texas,” sponsored by Environment Texas Research & Policy Center, the Metroplex, Dallas and Fort Worth, lag behind in solar power. The report finds there are 972 kilowatts (KW) of solar energy that have been installed in Fort Worth and 1,243 KW in Dallas, in part from incentives from the local utility Oncor. The report  finds that the municipally owned utilities in the two cities installed four times more solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity than the rest of Texas combined or 85 percent of the state total. The report credits the cities’ strong policies that encourage solar power on residences and businesses, and in utility-scale installations.
  • E2 Technologies (E2T), a joint venture between the University of Dayton Research Institute and Concurrent Technologies Corporation has been awarded a five-year Air Force Research Laboratory contract with a $99 million ceiling for research, testing and transition of new energy and environmental technologies to the Air Force and other Department of Defense agencies. The contract included an initial award of $1.5 million for evaluation, testing and installation of advanced renewable energy storage and management technologies at the Maui High Performance Computing Center.
  • Real Goods Solar has appointed Tony DiPaolo as Chief Financial Officer, succeeding interim CFO Angy Chin who will remain in an advisory role during the transition. DiPaolo previously served as president and chief financial officer of Incentra Solutions (now Presilient).

Anacaho Wind Farm Dedicated

Anacacho Wind FarmE.ON Climate & Renewables (EC&R) has officially dedicated its new Anacacho Wind Farm. The project, located in Kinney County, Texas, is approximately 14 miles southeast of Brackettville and consists of 55 Vestas 1.8 megawatt (MW) turbines providing 100 MW of power. Anacacho Wind Farm began commercial operation in December.

“We are honored to be a part of the local community and we look forward to providing economic support and renewable, homegrown energy for many years to come,” said Steve Trenholm, CEO, EC&R North America. “Wind farms create jobs, and provide an economic shot in the arm to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities across America.”

The company says it has invested more than $5 billion dollars in the U.S. in the last five years. Locally, this project will contribute more than $17 million in local taxes, while paying $8 million in local salaries and more than $34 million to landowners. This is the company’s 18th operational wind farm in North America.

“Airnasium” Takes School Off Grid

A new “airnasium,” or solar panel-lined roof on a metal structure constructed by Allied Steel Buildings has helped take the Virgin Islands Montessori School and International Academy off the electrical grid. The school is located in St. Thomas and is the only school in the territory completely powered by solar energy. Electrical costs for the school were nearly $84,00o per year,  but school officials say with the new solar power system and steel structure, that cost is now zero.

gI_112505_photo“The school was undergoing a major expansion, and we were brought in to provide design and build options for the gymnasium and other structures,” said Mike Stock, who spearheaded the project for Allied Steel Buildings’ Caribbean and Latin American Department. “We worked with them on the design so they could get off the grid.”

The 9,000-square-foot outdoor structure has no walls and will serve multiple purposes – both an auditorium and a sports facility. There is a playground for toddlers with sand on one side, and also has a dedicated area that can be set up with a stage for special events. The solar panels on the roof of the building have an output of about 13,000 kilowatt/hours of power a month. When combined with other solar-powered projects, that’s enough to power the entire school. The new building is also used to collect rain water, and has the capacity to provide 25,000 gallons of water for the school to use on irrigation.

To celebrate the new building, the school held a Solar Splash Concert with a number of local bands performing at an eco-fair event under the roof lined with solar panels. At the event, attendees got the chance to learn more about how they can start to save on energy bills while at the same time helping the environment.

ROUSH Reveals 3 New Ford AutoGas Fuel Systems

ROUSH CleanTech is now offering three new propane autogas fuel systems for Ford F-59, F-53 and E-450 stripped chassis. The company is the first Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) to offer fuel systems for these platforms.

gI_80766_Ford F-59 stripped chassisAccording to ROUSH, the Ford F-59 commercial step van chassis and the Ford E-450 stripped chassis adapt to numerous fleet delivery applications, such as bakery, textile, multi-stop package delivery service, linen and medical services. The company says the Ford F-53 platform offers a flexible commercial platform for trolleys, lunch trucks and more. The size and cargo capabilities of all three platforms are customizable for specific business vehicle applications.

“With excellent vehicle range and affordable price points, these platforms are a home run for hub and spoke model fleets,” said Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech. “These commercial stripped chassis platforms operating on propane autogas can help companies save $35,000 or more in fuel and operating expenses over the vehicle’s lifetime. And whether fleets use public fueling stations or install onsite private refueling, they’ll find refueling is inexpensive and easy.”

Built on a 2013 model year or newer chassis with a 6.8-liter, V10 engine, the ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas powered Ford F-53 and F-59 feature a 67-usable gallon propane autogas fuel tank. The ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas powered Ford E-450 stripped chassis comes equipped with a 41-usable gallon propane autogas fuel tank.

How High Will Gas Prices Go? Seriously, How High?

Ugh! I filled up my “economical” car today with gas for the low price of $41! It would have cost even more but I used ethanol, which in Iowa saves me nearly 10 cents a gallon. What I find so amazing is that we’re supposed to have so much oil, yet strangely despite a “surplus,” gas prices keep getting higher and higher. So what am I going to do about this? I’m heading to D.C. to participate in the American Coalition for Ethanol’s (ACE) Biofuels Beltway Fly-in.

ACE Biofuels Beltway LogoIn case you haven’t heard, I’m on a mission for lower prices at the pump and I know that consumer fuel choice will provide this. So does ACE. I also know that every voice counts and our elected leaders in D.C. need to hear them. So does ACE.

There is a lot on the line for the biofuels industry this year. There are well-funded attacks underway against the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and E15. These are two issues the ACE team, along with dozens of people from across the country will be speaking with the DC faction about, in their own words, telling their own stories.

“With nearly 100 new members of Congress taking office earlier this year, many with little exposure to ethanol, we need ethanol advocates in Washington more than ever,” says Shannon Gustafson, director of strategic projects for ACE. “The attacks on the RFS and E15 have been mounting, and ACE hopes to meet with a record number of Congressional offices to spread the message that the RFS is working and promoting consumer fuel choice.”

But the industry can’t do this if there is not a swarm of people on the ground in D.C.  We need LOTS of people to come along and tell their stories of how the biofuels industry has affected them. I am challenging the industry to have at least one ethanol advocate from every state – yeah, that means you too Alaska and Hawaii, to join ACE and others in DC this March 13-14th. To date, there are 20 people registered from Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. This is a good start but this industry can do MUCH better.

The time to register is now. To participate, visit, or contact Shannon Gustafson at (605) 334-3381 ext. 16 or via email.

New Report Shows Wind Energy Continues to Expand

According to a report from the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), global installed wind energy capacity increased by 19 percent in 2012 to 282,000 megawatts (MW).  Canada remains a global wind energy leader as it experienced the 9th largest increase in installed capacity in 2012 (936 MW). Both China and the United States, the world’s wind energy leaders, installed more than 13,000 MW of new capacity in 2012.

“While China paused for breath, both the US and European markets had exceptionally strong years,” said Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of GWEC. “Asia still led global markets, but with North America a close second, and Europe not far behind.”

Global Wind Statistics 2012Canada now ranks 9th globally in total installed capacity with more than 6,500 MW of wind energy in operation – providing enough power to meet the annual needs of almost 2,000,000 Canadian homes. Ontario is the Canadian leader in the production of clean wind energy with more than 2,000 MW of installed capacity now supplying over 3 percent of the province’s electricity demand. Both Ontario and Quebec will lead the country with new installations of clean wind energy in 2013 as the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) expects to see a record year for new installations with the addition of almost 1,500 MW of new capacity – driving over $3 billion in new investments.

The growth of wind energy development in Ontario and Quebec continues to have strong public support. According to a survey, 69 percent of Ontarians agreed that, “Ontario should be a leader in wind and solar energy production,” compared to only 20 percent that disagreed. The same poll also found that solar and wind energy scored highest in a top-of-mind question about Ontarians’ preferred choice for new electricity generation.

“Wind energy continues to enjoy strong majority support as a choice for new electricity generation in Ontario and Quebec because it is understood to be both good for the environment and a provider of significant economic benefits for local economies that host developments,” said Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA. “Less well known is the fact that wind energy is also now cost-competitive with virtually every option for new electricity generation. It is for these reasons that wind energy continues to be the fastest growing mainstream source of electricity in the world.”

The rapid growth of wind energy in Canada is also reflected south of the border where the American wind industry had its best year ever in 2012, with more than 13,000 MW installed. The extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) in the U.S. means that although the market will slow substantially in 2013, it is unlikely to be as much of a slowdown as originally expected, said Sawyer.