France Walks the Walk for Reduction of Fossil Energy

It appears that France is walking the walk with its call for a reduction of use of fossil fuels. The country uses more nuclear energy than any other; yet, have publicly stated they will phase out its use of thermal power. According to a new report, from GlobalData, “Thermal Power in France, Market Outlook to 2020, 2012 Update – Capacity, Generation, Regulations, Power Plants, Companies,” France is one of the few European countries will is capable of achieving a reduction of fossil use by the end of the decade.

The largest share of the French power market is occupied by the nuclear industry, which at 63,130 MW will account for almost half of the country’s 2012 total installed capacity. While nuclear power will still increase by the end of the decade, it will be only marginally, with installed capacity expected to reach 67,530 MW by 2020.

The country is forecasted to drop from 27,720 Megawatts (MW) in 2012 to 23,783 MW in 2020, declining at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 1.9%. At the same time, other major European nations such as Germany, Italy and the UK are expected to increase thermal installed capacity during this period.

As a result of France’s reduction of use of thermal power, they are increasing their use of renewable energy. Today, the county generates 130,231 MW in today and is estimated to increase to 156,639 MW in 2020. The government is factoring in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as energy efficiency in all decisions and is planning on installing a five million solar thermal units by 2020 with 80 percent of the solar arrays installed on homes.

Offshore Wind Project Hub Installation Scheduled

The Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration Site has sailed some rough waters but now appears to be back on course with smooth sailing ahead. SeaRoc, who was recently awarded a contract for the project, has announced it will charter MPI Adventure to aid in the installation of Narec’s Offshore Anemometry Hub (NOAH). MPI Adventure is a dedicated vessel to transport, lift and install wind turbines and their foundations. Construction is scheduled to take begin this October.

“MPI Adventure is a state of the art vessel coming into this project off the back of a very successful installation campaign at London Array. We consequently feel the NOAH installation is in very safe hands,” said SeaRoc Operations Director Toby Mead.

NOAH will be constructed three nautical miles off the coast of Blyth and consist of a 635t tripod foundation, 100t platform and 25t meteorological mast. Once complete, NOAH will provide site wind speed measurements along side SeaRoc sister company Zephir Ltd’s already installed ZephIR 300 wind lidar. It will also provide needed data for the team constructing and operating the offshore wind energy farm.

“We very much look forward to working with SeaRoc on this challenging project which utilises Adventure to her full potential. She is one of very few vessels on the market capable of installing the 635t tripod in the water depths concerned and will as such be a great asset to the project,” added MPI Offshore Project Manager David Robinson.

DOE Announces More Solar Grants

Yesterday I brought you the story that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a $10 million grant to develop concentrating solar power (CSP). As a follow-up, the DOE has announcement five more awards as part of its solar power innovation program SunShot Initiative that also supports research projects focused on lowering the cost of photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies.

The teams who received the award will collaboratively work together and work jointly with industry experts, universities and national laboratories to work together at the Department’s Scientific User Facilities, a national network of unique facilities that
provide over 10,000 scientists and engineers each year with open access to some of the best instruments and tools in the world, including x-ray sources, accelerators, supercomputers and nanoscale research centers.

“The past decade has seen explosive growth in the global solar energy market. American companies are helping to lead this dramatic progress – driving lower costs and introducing new, better performing technologies into the marketplace. These collaborative projects announced today harness the immense capabilities of our Scientific User Facilities to invent and deploy new technologies that will strengthen American manufacturing and technical competitiveness,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Chu. “As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, advanced solar energy technologies are helping to provide clean, renewable electricity for homes and businesses across the country while diversifying the United States’ energy economy.”

The five research projects selected fall under two levels: establishing scientific user facility research partnerships and developing a new scientific user facility instrument. Two projects were awarded a total of $900,000 in the first level and three projects were awarded $2.6 million.

PLANT PV will partner with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry to develop 3D mapping tools for higher performing thin film solar material. The University of Colorado will use tools available at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to research high-temperature inexpensive materials for concentrating solar power technologies.

Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories will partner with the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies in New Mexico to improve the efficiency of thin film photovoltaic materials, while Arizona State University will use x-ray technologies at Argonne National Laboratory to address solar cell material performance. In addition, Stanford University will partner with SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to research inexpensive ways to print solar cells.

UC Davis Works to Develop Renewable Diesel Fuels

Researchers at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) located at University of California, Riverside, are working to develop diesel formulations with higher levels of renewable biofuels. The research supports the goal of California to reduce emissions in fuels and lower greenhouse gases.

So far, researchers have evaluated the potential impacts of using biodiesel in diesel sold in the state. A common biodiesel blend is B20 (20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent diesel) and many believe that higher blends can be successfully used. Research has shown that biodiesel lowers carbon dioxide emissions because it is produced from renewable sources.

Biodiesel use and production is on the upward swing in the U.S. and over the past decade has jumped from 2 million gallons produced annually in 2002 to 1.1 billion gallons produced in 2011 according the National Biodiesel Board.

Although biodiesel provides benefits in a number of emissions components, such as hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter, one issue with biodiesel is its potential to increase nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, a key contributor to smog. Therefore, researchers are studying this closely to develop diesel formulations that would use biodiesel at higher levels, such as B20, while reducing or eliminating any NOx emissions.

“The results show that research is still needed to find optimal biofuel blends that achieve maximum environmental benefits in all aspects,” said Thomas D. Durbin, a research engineer at CE-CERT and the lead author of the recent journal article in Environmental Science and Technology where the findings were outlined.

California is looking to increase the use of B5 blends but is looking for more research before adopting widespread use of higher biodiesel blends.

PV Training Yard to be Unveiled

Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) Green Academy is unveiling Utah’s only Solar Photovoltaic (PV) training yard on September 6, 2012. The launch will highlight the Solar PV training yard and classroom space, and will feature student and faculty-led abbreviated labs and solar panel demonstrations.

“The completion of the photovoltaic training yard is an exciting addition to sustainable green energy practice and workforce development in Utah. It’s been great to be a part of this project—it demonstrates the College’s commitment to help prepare Utah’s workforce for renewable energy technologies and conservation,” said SLCC Dean of the School of Professional and Economic Development Karen Gunn. “The new training yard is the first of its kind in the state and will facilitate Utah’s capacity to meet industry demands for highly skilled green energy technicians.”

The college has received two grants from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for a total of $2.1 million. SLCC was selected as one of only a dozen sites nationally for Deborah Buterbaugh, Energy Project Specialist for DOE to visit to see how the College has developed its innovative Solar PV training yard. She will be on hand for the unveiling celebration.

The Solar PV Training yard is a resource for industry professional and prospective technicians looking to learn about solar technologies through hands-on training. The curriculum for the courses are provided by North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners and is taught by certified instructors.

KSU Coach Bill Snyder Plays for Ethanol

Kansas State University head coach Bill Snyder is playing for ethanol. He has become a spokesperson for a radio campaign to promote the benefits of ethanol sponsored by the Kansas Association of Ethanol Producers (KAEP). The radio ads are part of a season-long ethanol promotion and will be aired on KSU’s 33-station network during all regular season football games and Bill Snyder Show radio call-in shows. The first program airs on August 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm CDT.

The ethanol industry will also serve as the official game sponsor of the K-State vs. North Texas football game on September 15, hosting a tailgate party for their fuel retailer customers and providing the game’s halftime interview.

“KAEP is thrilled to be partnering with Kansas State Football and our agricultural friends on this exciting opportunity to share the message of ethanol’s benefits to the economy and environment,” said Mike Chisam, general manager of Kansas Ethanol, LLC and KAEP Board Chairman. “We hope that all football fans will learn more about how they can join us in advancing Kansas’ home grown fuel.”

The Kansas Corn Commission, Kansas Sorghum Commission and Growth Energy are also participating with KAEP in the promotion.

Kelly Davis Joins RFA

Kelly Davis is joining the Renewable Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) as Director of Regulatory Affairs. She is an ethanol veteran and before joining RFA full time, Davis chaired the RFA Technical Committee while working for Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company located in Benson, Minnesota. Davis will start with RFA on September 4, 2012 and be based out of the St. Louis, Missouri office.

“Kelly will add immediate value to the members of the RFA, helping them to navigate the myriad of regulatory issues that come down from the federal government,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen.

“Kelly’s expertise will add greater depth to the RFA’s already deep knowledge of the regulatory and technical issues that can be the difference between profit and not for many RFA members. In particular, Kelly has tremendous expertise in ethanol exports, the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED), and carbon accounting here and abroad. With her recent experience working with an ethanol marketing firm, she will also be a great asset to the RFA’s E15 regulatory team. We are thrilled to welcome Kelly to the RFA and are proud that she will continue to serve this industry as a member of our staff,” concluded Dinneen.

DOE Invests $10M for 2 Solar Projects

The Department of Energy has awarded $10 million over five years for two university-led projects to advance the technological development of concentrating solar power (CSP). The award is part of two programs: SunShot Initiative, a federally funded program whose goal is to help solar energy become cost competitive with other energy sources by 2020; and the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, which brings together university teams from different scientific disciplines to focus on innovation.

The grant awardees are:

  • University of California – Los Angeles ($5 million over five years) is leading a team with researchers from Yale University and the University of California – Berkeley to investigate liquid metals as potential heat transfer fluids with the ability to withstand higher temperatures.
  • University of Arizona ($5 million over five years) is teaming with researchers from Arizona State University and Georgia Tech to develop and demonstrate new, molten salt-based, fluids as possible alternatives to traditional heat transfer fluids.

CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat that can be used to produce electricity. Therefore, heat transfer fluids are a key component of CSP systems the the grants were awarded to universities that are focused on improving heat transfer fluids. This advancement will increase efficiency and lower costs of CSP systems.

“Advanced concentrating solar power systems represent a promising pathway for utilities to provide reliable, affordable solar electricity to American families and businesses,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Chu. “The investments made today as part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy will help accelerate commercialization of new, lower cost renewable energy technologies and diversify our nation’s energy portfolio.”

IKEA Plugs-In Largest Solar PV System in Minnesota

I must confess to you readers that I have furniture by IKEA in my home and in fact, drove to Minneapolis/St. Paul for a weekend just to go shopping. Now, this same store officially plugged-in its new solar panels installed in its Twin Cities store in Bloomington, Minnesota. The 128,000 square-foot PV array consists of 1,014 kW system built with 4,316 panels. It is now the largest photovoltaic array in the state and is estimated to produce approximately 1,161,328 kWh of clean electricity annually.

The rooftop solar energy system is the 31st completed project for the company with eight projects still under construction. Design, development and installation was overseen by SoCore Energy.

“We at IKEA believe in the never-ending job of improving the sustainability of our day-to-day business,” said James Organ, IKEA store manager.  “The Twin Cities coworkers are excited to contribute to this goal with our newly operational solar panels.  We appreciate the support of the City of Bloomington, Xcel Energy and SoCore Energy, our partners in this project.”

Today, 89% of IKEA stores in the U.S. are powered with solar with a total generation of 38 MW. IKEA owns and operates each solar PV system and globally has allocated €590 million to invest in renewable energy, focusing on solar and wind during the coming three years.

NPS Turbines Surpass 2M Hours of Operation

The wind is definitely blowing these days and this is one of the reasons that wind energy is a great alternative energy source. Today Northern Power Systems is celebrating a milestone: its NPS 100 permanent magnet direct drive (PM/DD) wind turbine fleet has surpassed two million hours of operation. The company’s 100 kW fleet began operating in 2008 at nearly 98% demonstrating high energy production and little downtime. Currently, more than 175 NPS 100 wind turbines are installed and operating in the 25 U.S. states as well as in the Bahamas, Canada, Italy, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

“We are very proud to have achieved the two million hour milestone while maintaining high fleet availability,” said Troy Patton, President and CEO at Northern Power Systems. “Northern Power’s PM/DD technology delivers the performance and reliability that are fundamental to the long term success of distributed power generation around the world.”

With hurricane season upon us, wind turbines can help detect wind speeds. Last year when Hurricane Irene, a Class III hurricane, hit the Bahamas directly, the turbines detected high winds of up to 107.1 miles per hour (mph) and automatically entered safe mode. The next morning, the winds died down and the NPS 100 turbines began operating normally with no need for any maintenance or repair. NPS turbines are designed to stand up to winds up to 133 mph (59.5 m/s).

A little wind fact: if wind speeds are to high, usually during major storms, wind turbines are shut down for safety.

“Our NPS 100 customers get clean, cost effective renewable energy from turbines that fit perfectly in remote locations as well as industrial areas and communities. The turbine’s reliable, safe and simple operation gives owners peace of mind and delivers the highest energy output in its class for the best return on their investment,” said Reinout Oussoren, Vice President of Global Sales at Northern Power Systems.

With the proof in the wind of the success of NPS 100 wind turbines, Northern Power Systems is expanding its turbine portfolio citing several key benefits of the turbines including the the need for only minimal infrastructure, provide easy installation and maintenance, and eliminate the need for transmission lines for grid connectivity.

Tell Governors No to RFS Waiver

As the political frenzy heats up leading into the Democratic and Republican Conventions, the ethanol industry’s campaign to stop a waiver to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) is heating up as well. This week, several ethanol organizations have sent out letters to key legislatures including governors explaining why there is no need for a waiver. The governors who are advocating for a waiver include Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, and New Mexico.

The letter from Growth Energy supports statements made by others in the industry including an explanation of the inherent flexibility built into the RFS and how obligated parties can easily meet the volume requirements this year. The letter also debunks the fallacy of the total corn crop that is actually used in ethanol production. In addition, the letter explains that waiving the RFS would not have any significant impact on corn prices; rather, commodity prices are affected by speculation and Mother Nature.

Growth Energy
CEO Tom Buis dropped by the Farm Progress Show Tuesday just before heading to Tampa for the Republican convention and Cindy Zimmerman was able to speak with him in more detail about why a waiver for the RFS would not help, but hurt farmers, the ethanol industry and most important consumers.

You can listen to the full interview with Tom Buis here: Tell Governors No to RFS Waiver

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said in his organization’s letter, “The rash of governors rushing to appease the pleas of the livestock and food processing industries are ignoring the damage a waiver would do to consumers at the pump. Removing ethanol from our fuel mix would drive oil and gasoline prices higher, adding pain at the pump and increased cost at the checkout counter due to higher energy costs for farmers, food processors, and food transporters. These increases in gas prices would far outpace any negligible relief to food prices from a waiver. The alleged economic harm cited by these governors does not rise to the kind of economic harm EPA determined necessary to waive the RFS. The facts cited in support of their case also fail to pass muster.”

Gas Prices Rise with Isaac’s Arrival

Gas prices are beginning to rise in anticipation of hurricane Isaac, directly headed to New Orleans nearly seven years after hurricane Katrina. While evacuation plans were underway in the city, President Obama was in Ames, Iowa and Monte Shaw, the executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association brought a letter for the president asking him to take emergency action to suspend the federal petroleum mandate for the next four to six week so retailers could use higher blends of ethanol. This would help make up for any lost petroleum production if any refineries should take a hit during the storm.

The letter reads, “With the busy Labor Day weekend right around the corner, the last thing American consumers need is higher gasoline prices – but that is just what they’ll get.  Nearly 80 percent of the daily oil production in the Gulf region has been halted due to Tropical Storm Isaac.  The storm has also shut down the refining operations in the area – 40 percent of America’s entire refining capacity.  According to the National Journal, these operations are expected to be off-line at least two weeks.

Therefore, IRFA is asking you to take emergency action to suspend the federal petroleum mandate for the next four to six weeks. Currently federal law requires that a minimum of 85 percent of every gallon of gas sold in America be from petroleum sources. If retailers sell or consumers buy a fuel blended with less petroleum (i.e. more ethanol) they are subject to a $37,500 per day fine by the federal government.

Due to the current petroleum challenges, if gasoline prices increase by only a modest 20 cents per gallon for four weeks, that equates to a “mandate tax” of over $300 million dollars – more than a quarter of a billion dollars!

According to the Energy Information Administration, there are over 775 million gallons of ethanol in storage today. If provided the regulatory flexibility to do so, retailers could use this ethanol to make up for the lost petroleum production over the next few weeks during this emergency situation.  Not only would ethanol add supply to the market, but ethanol is already less expensive than gasoline.”

Getting More Products From Soybeans

During the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society a new integrated soybean biorefinery was revealed. The technology is designed to create a wider portfolio of products from soybeans.

“Mention soybeans to most people, and they immediately think of the oil,” said Ramani Narayan, Michigan State (MSU) University Distinguished Professor, who reported on the new biorefinery technology. “Soybean oil is the world’s most widely used edible oil. It’s in some margarines, shortenings, mayonnaise, salad dressings, frozen foods, baked goods and many other items. But soybeans are about more than oil. Soybeans are nuggets of green gold that can be a treasure trove of ingredients for other products, and our new biorefinery provides a glimpse of that potential.”

The biorefinery is a fairly new product, often times it is associated with second generation feedstocks such as corn stover, algae and agricultural waste that can produce biofuels, biomaterials and biochemicals. Until now, the mention of soybeans in this emerging environment was rare.

Narayan aid that soybeans pack similar potential as corn as a feedstock but until now, soybean processing facilities have typically focused on producing oils and meal for livestock feed. Switching to the biorefinery concept, the soybean can be transformed into a much wider array of valuable materials. For example, components of a soybean could be turned into polyurethanes, including rigid foam insulation, flexible foams for packaging, as well as coatings, adhesives and elastomers.

The soybean meal could be further processed to yield components used in polyester plastics for fabrics, ropes, car tires, plastic bottles, and LCD screens as well as used in Nylon and Kevlar for bulletproof vests and fire-resistant Nomex. Not enough? Soybeans could also be broken down and built back up as as an ingredient is formaldehyde, a toxic chemical used in a range of products from paint to clothing to children’s toys. And the list goes on.

“The biorefinery can utilize essentially every component of the soybean in the production of bio-based ingredients for high-value products,” Narayan added. “It makes sense from a sustainability standpoint, in which we strive to reduce our dependence on petroleum as a feedstock. It also benefits the soybean farmers and raises the value of the local economy.”

Railroad Transportation Company Turns to Propane

Trains may not run on alternative fuels just yet, but one of the companies that provides railroad crew transportation solutions does. Rezenberger recently unveiled ten 2012 ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas fueled Ford E-350 shuttle vans for its California fleet.

The unveiling took place during an event called “Less Traffic, Lower Emissions — Crew Transportation Company Rides Clean with Propane Autogas,” held at the BNSF San Bernardino Intermodal Facility. During the event key members of the Rezenberger and ROUSH CleanTech team showcased the benefits of propane. Attendees were able to experience the performance of propane by test-driving the vehicles.

“Choosing propane autogas to fuel our fleet vehicles has allowed Renzenberger to reduce the carbon footprint of our company and lower fuel costs, while providing a safe, sustainable and reliable transportation solution to transport California employees,” said Karen Seitter, president of Renzenberger. “This area is known for congestion, and we are reducing both traffic and emissions.”

When considering the switch, Renzenberger estimated they will save nearly $14,500 per vehicle in fuel costs each year. This is important because the company logs more than 60 million miles each year transporting railroad, oil and gas and its employees to and from work sites across the country. The company has a private on-site station at its San Bernardino, California location and also takes advantage of public propane autogras stations across Southern California.

Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH added, “We are excited to help Renzenberger achieve their safety and sustainability goals with this clean-burning alternative to gasoline. Renzenberger plays an important role in safely transporting railway crew from job site to job site. They’re now able to do this cleaner, safer and less expensively using propane autogas.”

Ethanol Industry Seeks Obama’s Support

The newly formed Biofuels Producers Coordinating Council sent a letter this week to President Obama in an effort to stress the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Many organizations have been calling for a waiver of the RFS due to severe drought conditions this summer but the ethanol industry says that the RFS was developed to allow flexibility for various situations including severe weather conditions. The letter also explains several counterintuitive consequences of waiving the RFS.

One of the Biofuels Producers Coordinating Council members, Growth Energy, said about the letter, “While the Environmental Protection Agency has the fiduciary duty to review the petitions filed by state governors, I felt it was critical that the industry communicated the importance of the RFS and how a waiver will not accomplish the goal of bringing down grain prices,” said Tom Buis CEO of Growth Energy.

The Council says that blaming ethanol industry is disingenuous and misplaced and in the letter addresses much of the misinformation. For instance, the letter says, ethanol production does not use 40 percent of the corn, only 16 percent of the total net corn acreage. The starch is removed and the fiber is used for animal feed. In addition, the Council says the market is already working in the response to high commodity prices.

One other fact the Council points out is that obligated parties will continue to use ethanol blends in gasoline because it remins the cheapest way to increase octane. Should ethanol be removed from the fuel supply, gas prices would go up, not down, and negatively affect consumers.

In conclusion, the letter says that one isolated event should not dictate policy decisions. Click here to read the letter in full.