Shell Eco-Marathon Seeks Most Energy Efficient Car

The North America leg of the Shell Eco-Marathon will kick off in Houston, Texas April 25-27, 2014. The event brings hundreds of high school and college students from around the world together to showcase their energy efficient cars. The winning team’s car will travel the farthest distance using the least amount of energy.

For the Houston leg, Linde North America will be the supplier of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Mike Beckman, vice president Hydrogen Fueling, said, “Shell chose Linde as its exclusive worldwide hydrogen supplier because it wanted a solid and technically capable global partner for all of its Eco-marathon events around the world.” The first event of 2014 was held in Manila, Philippines, in February; Rotterdam, Netherlands, will be the site for the May event.

Shell Eco-marathon is also an educational platform, giving innovators practical experience of developing smarter, sustainable transportation. “We’re excited about the opportunity to work 2014 Shell Eco Marathon Prototype Concept Carwith this highly motivated and skilled group of future engineers that falls in line with our support for the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative,” Beckman added. “These young people are our future, and we’re happy to support this effort.”

Linde will be working with eight teams whose vehicles will require hydrogen, and will be providing valuable technical support and advice to the student teams from North and South America.

“The Shell Eco-marathon is a unique competition that challenges students to design, build and drive the world’s most energy-efficient car,” said Norman Koch, Technical Director Shell Eco-marathon. “We are very pleased to partner with Linde for the fourth consecutive year supporting these students to develop energy efficient mobility solutions for the future.”

The Houston event will be held at Discovery Green Park and George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

Farmers Save with Propane

According to a survey from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) 2013 Propane Farm Incentive Program, farmers who installed propane-powered irrigation engines cut their fuel costs by 56 percent per hour compared with similar diesel-powered engines. Participants in the 2013 Propane Farm Incentive Program also reduced overall fuel consumption by 37 percent per hour, the survey data showed.

“The feedback from our participating farmers shows that, without a doubt, clean, American-made propane is a cost effective and efficient fuel source for irrigation,” said Mark Leitman, director of business development and marketing at PERC. “New technologies, like propane-powered irrigation engines, help farmers cut their input costs and increase overall farm profits.”

20130702_PERC_173The results were based on self-reported performance and post-season survey data from 148 program participants in 16 states. Participating farmers installed and demonstrated 214 propane irrigation engines, displacing 180,000 gallons of diesel, and irrigating a total of 21,700 acres of 17 different crops nationwide. Farmers demonstrated 16 different engine models from six original equipment manufacturers.

Propane irrigation engines also garnered high performance and overall satisfaction ratings from program participants. Eighty-six percent of participants who bought a new propane irrigation engine to replace another engine reported that the new propane irrigation engine performed better. Participants rated the performance of their new propane engine 33 percent higher than the diesel engine they replaced. In addition, 93 percent of participants said they were likely or highly like to buy another propane irrigation engine. More than 70 percent of program participants had also considered purchasing a diesel engine, but when they studied the facts, determined propane was the better option.

Producers can still earn up to $5,000 to upgrade to cost-saving, fuel-efficient propane-powered farm equipment, including irrigation engines, grain dryers, building heaters, and other eligible equipment through the 2014 Propane Farm Incentive program.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that an elementary school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has won the annual Energy Star National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings. Teams from more than 3,000 buildings across the country spent the past year competing to obtain the greatest reduction in energy use. Claiborne Elementary School won by cutting its energy use nearly in half.
  • Locus Energy, a solar monitoring and analytics company, has announced that it has signed an agreement with Amicus Solar Cooperative to be its preferred vendor of solar monitoring hardware, software and solar data analytics.
  • OneRoof Energy, Inc., has announced that Valerie Iwinski has joined the company as Senior Vice President of Operations. She will be charged with overseeing company operations, product development, logistics, customer service, and information technology (IT) systems.
  • Victron Energy has announced the launch of EasySolar, an integrated, smart, total power solution. EasySolar combines an Ultra-fast BlueSolar charge controller (MPPT), an inverter/charger and AC distribution all in one enclosure.

DOE Issues Draft Renewable Energy Solicitation

The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a draft loan guarantee solicitation to identify innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. The projects much avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. When finalized, the solicitation is US DOE Energy logoexpected to make as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available to help commercialize technologies that may be unable to obtain full commercial financing.

“Through our existing renewable energy loan guarantees, the Department’s Loan Programs Office helped launch the U.S. utility-scale solar industry and other clean energy technologies that are now contributing to our clean energy portfolio,” said Secretary Ernest Moniz. “We want to replicate that success by focusing on technologies that are on the edge of commercial-scale deployment today.”

The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee solicitation is intended to support technologies that are catalytic, replicable, and market ready. Within the draft solicitation, the DOE has included a sample list illustrative of potential technologies for consideration. While any project that meets the eligibility requirements is eligible to apply, the Department has identified five key technology areas of interest: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities; and efficiency improvements.

The Department welcomes public comment on a range of issues and will consider public feedback in defining the scope of the final solicitation. In addition to initiating a 30-day public comment period, a schedule of public meetings will be posted on DOE’s website. The draft solicitation can be found online at http://lpo.energy.gov.

BayWa Commissioned Solar Farm in Great Britain

BayWa r.e. Commissions 18 MWp Solar Farm in Great BritainBayWa r.e. has commissioned its fourth solar farm, Whitland, in Great Britain. Despite the continual bad weather, the project team were able to construct and commission the 18 MWp solar plant in only nine weeks.

Matthias Taft, Managing Director of BayWa r.e., said of the project, “The rapid implementation of the Whitland solar farm shows that our project team and technical know-how put us in an excellent position. This enables us to finance even larger projects without difficulties. This in turn ensures commissioning on time. Together, this results in a dynamic and economical project implementation at every project stage – from engineering and construction to the ultimate project sale to institutional investors.”

The Whitland solar farm was established on a 28 hectare in the Welsh village of the same name. It comprises 69,000 polycrystalline modules on freestanding supports. Annually, this plant will generate around 17 million kWh green power and can cover the electricity demand of around 5,000 households. Apart from completed projects, BayWa r.e. has significant projects in the pipeline for Great Britain.

A New Option to Finance: Clean Energy Bonds

The Clean Energy Group, the Brookings Institution and the Council of Development Finance Agencies have released a paper on a powerful but underutilized tool for future clean energy investment: state and local bond finance. The report, “Clean Energy Finance through the Bond Market: A New Option for Progress,” find that as Federal clean energy subsidies blogphoto-Wind-solar-moneydecrease, agencies that issue public finance bonds are willing to finance renewable energy and efficiency projects. However, the report says, the clean energy community must embrace the bonds as a new finance tool.

According to the report development agencies are only experimenting with clean energy bonds. However, the bond finance community has accumulated significant experience in getting project finance to scale and knows how to raise large amounts of needed capital by selling bonds to Wall Street. The challenge, then, is to create new models for clean energy bond finance in states, and to establish a new clean energy asset class that can easily be traded in capital markets.

With this in mind, the report argues that state and local bonding authorities and others to do the following:

  • Establish mutually useful partnerships between development finance experts and clean energy officials at the state and local government levels.
  • Expand and scale up bond-financed clean energy projects using credit enhancement and other emerging tools to mitigate risk and through demonstration projects.
  • Improve availability of data and develop standardized documentation so that the risks and rewards of clean energy investments can be better understood.
  • Create a pipeline of rated and private placement deals, a new clean energy asset class, to meet the demand by institutional investors for fixed-income clean energy securities.

“Another report issued this week from the global scientific community at IPCC underscores the urgency of finding new ways to finance no-carbon technologies at massive scale,” said Lewis Milford, president of CEG and co-author of the report. “We need to finance clean energy the same way we have financed large public infrastructure projects and make sound investments that will benefit generations with low bond rates for new, clean energy generation. Our current way of financing clean energy not only makes it too expensive, but it simply cannot meet climate mitigation and adaptation demands in the next few decades.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFFarmer owned, Siouxland Energy Livestock Cooperative have announced that the Board of Directors has approved the name change to Siouxland Energy Corporation. Along with the name change, a new logo was developed.  
  • Dr Martin Read CBE has been appointed as Chair of the CFD Counterparty Company by Energy and Climate Change Secretary of State, Edward Davey. The CFD Counterparty Company is a new Government-owned company being established as part of Government’s Electricity Market Reform. Dr Martin Read will be supported in this three year role by Jim Keohane, as the Senior Independent Director (SID). The two appointees will also take on the Chair and SID positions of the Electricity Settlements Company when it is established.
  • The Offshore Wind China Conference & Exhibition, the Wind Farm O&M China Conference & Exhibition and Distributed Generation China will take place concurrently at Shanghai Mart in Shanghai July 2-4, 2014. Registration for all three events is open.
  • Trina Solar Limited has announced two of its PV power plants in the United Kingdom have successfully completed connection to the grid. The company is an investor in and sole project developer for these projects, which have a total capacity of 23.77 MW. The two projects were developed using Trina PC05A 255Wp modules and will receive 1.6 Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs), equivalent to GBP 42.02 per megawatt-hour (MWh). They are expected to generate 24,673MWh electricity annually.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells Soon to Power Forklifts

Forklifts may soon be powered by zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell systems. Research being conducted by Sandia National Laboratory and Hawaii Hydrogen Carriers (HHC) are looking to design a solid-state hydrogen storage system that can refuel at low pressure four to five times faster than it takes to charge a battery-powered forklift, a $33 billion market in 2013 according to Pell Research. The researchers say this technology would give hydrogen a competitive advantage over batteries.

Dino Vournas, Sandia National Labs

Dino Vournas, Sandia National Labs

“Once you understand how these forklifts operate, the fuel cell advantage is clear,” said Sandia’s project manager Joe Pratt.

Pratt explains that refueling hydrogen fuel cell powered forklifts takes less than three minutes compared to the hours of recharging needed for battery-powered forklifts. In addition, fuel cell-powered forklifts are able to operate continuously for eight or more hours between fills. Whereas today companies using battery-powered forklifts need to purchase three battery packs for each forklift to ensure continuous operation. They also need to set aside warehouse space for battery recharging.

Sandia has worked with the fuel cell forklift industry for several years to help get clean, efficient and cost effective fuel cell systems to market faster. Standards developed by Sandia soon will be published so industry can develop new, high-performing hydrogen fuel systems for industrial trucks.

Intrigued by the potential benefits of fuel cells over the electric batteries that now power most forklifts, HHC obtained a grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and asked Pratt to help improve the design of a hydrogen storage system for fuel cells.

Pratt has spearheaded other Sandia efforts to introduce hydrogen systems into the marketplace. He served as technical lead, for instance, for studies on the use of fuel cells to power construction equipment, personal electronic devices, auxiliary equipment and portable generators. Most recently, he led a study and subsequent demonstration project on commercial use of hydrogen fuel cells to provide power at ports.

HHC is developing technologies for the fuel cell forklift market and expects cost reductions and performance improvements that will help the market grow. The company is developing a low-pressure hydrogen storage system that can be refueled at standard industrial gas pressures. This technology should reduce fuel system cost and expand the market to facilities that can’t accommodate conventional high-pressure fueling systems.

Boy Scouts of America Go Solar

gI_120165_BoyScouts 2 CustomThe Boy Scouts of America’s Capitol Area Council, located in Austin, Texas, has gone solar. The 74.15 kW solar arrays sits atop a 31,400 foot Frank Fickett South Training and Service Center. The solar system is made up of 299 solar modules and can be partially seen from Interstate 35. The project was over seen by Meridan Solar and is expected to save approximately $360,000 in energy savings over 25 years.

For the Boy Scouts, choosing to procure solar energy was an easy choice. Raymond Gray, board president of the Capitol Area Council said, “It didn’t just make financial sense to incorporate solar power; it matched the values we have taught generations of Americans for more than 100 years and continue to believe today. It’s one thing to say we should be ‘green’, invest in new technology and be a good example; it’s another to actually do those things.”

This project was of particular significance to Meridian Solar’s President and Founder, Andrew McCalla. “This organization and its mission are close to my heart, as I am a third generation central Texas Scout. When Meridian decided to partner with the Capitol Area Council to help them capture the benefits of solar energy, I knew that this installation would have benefits well beyond that of lowering the operating costs of the Frank Fickett Center. In addition to freeing up funds to further scouting’s core mission, the installation will serve as an educational platform in the benefits or renewable resources for thousands of present and future Scouts.”

12 U.S. States Dominate Wind Power

According to Today in Energy, 12 states dominated the U.S. wind energy market in 2013. These states accounted for 80 percent of wind-generated electricity according to preliminary data released in the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) March Electric Power Monthly.

Once again, Texas took the honors of top wind power state with nearly 36 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity produced annually. Iowa was second, with more than 15 million MWh, followed by California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Today in Energy 12 Top wind statesCombined, these 12 states produced 134 million MWh of electricity from wind. Nationwide, 167 million MWh of power came from wind in 2013, a 19 percent increase from 2012. Wind power increased its share of U.S. total electricity generation in 2013 from 3.5 percent to 4.1 percent. All but 13 states reported to EIA some generation from wind, and 23 states increased their wind generation more than 10 percent above 2012 production levels. California’s wind generation exceeded geothermal generation for the first time in 2013.

The proportion of wind to total electricity generated varied widely by state. Leading the nation in wind generation share was Iowa with 27.4 percent of net electricity production coming from wind turbines. Second was South Dakota, at 26 percent. Other states with more than twice the national share of 4.1 percent wind power were Kansas, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming, and Texas.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFJim Adams, president of U.S. Operations for Natural Power, has been selected to chair one of the sessions during the upcoming American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) annual conference. The event will take place May 5-8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On May 8th, Adams will chair the morning session in the Wind Resource and Planning track, titled ‘Advancements in Resource Assessment Technology’. This session is expected to discuss new approaches in the estimation of wind energy for assessment purposes, while also maintaining a focus on current methodologies. The panel includes Justin Sharp from Lockheed Martin; Jon Meis, Managing Director at EWC Weather Consult GmbH; and Daran Rife, Global Head of Mesoscale Modeling at DNV GL – Energy.
  • Hanwha SolarOne Co., Ltd. has announced its Chairman and CEO Ki-Joon HONG has retired from the Company. A replacement is expected to be announced by the end of April.
  • According to a recent report from Navigant Research, worldwide sales of hybrid and electric trucks for the commercial market will reach nearly 105,000 by 2020. Despite government support, such as funding under the United States’ economic stimulus efforts, the market for hybrid and electric trucks has struggled to expand beyond a narrow niche. Nevertheless, a significant number of players continue to develop hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), and battery electric vehicle (BEV) trucks for a variety of applications, and the market is expected to pick up steam in the coming years.
  • Energy Storage North America (ESNA), has announced the first round of confirmed keynotes for this year’s ESNA 2014 taking place at the San Jose Convention Center from September 30 – October 2, 2014. Early bird registration is open.

Brazilian Ethanol Sales Break Record

Domestic ethanol sales in Brazil have reached an all-time high according to data compiled through the end of March for the 2013/2014 harvest. The total sales volume reached 23.07 billion liters, as compared to 18.68 liters in the same 2012/2013 harvest period.

sugarcane field photo-dowIn Brazil, the majority of the ethanol is hydrous ethanol, which saw a 16.27 percent growth to 13.70 billion liters. Sales of hydrous ethanol also saw records with an increase of 35.84 percent as compared to last season’s harvest.

“Raising the level of mixture of anhydrous ethanol in gasoline to 25 percent in May 2013 was the right decision, and the industry responded to increased demand without any kind of problem,” explained Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, technical director of UNICA, the association that represents the Brazilian sugarcane industry. “The production capacity of the dry mills indicates the possibility of new expansion in the supply of the product if the government opts for the approval of the increase of the mixture to 27.5 percent.
 
Information collected by the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) show that the current production capacity of ethanol for the 2014/2015 harvest is exceeding production recorded in 2013/2014 harvest. In the case of anhydrous ethanol, the capacity indicated by the ANP is 101 million liters, compared to around 70 million per day actually produced this season.

Rodrigues noted that the majority of alcohol (ethanol) production takes place at the beginning of the harvest and this year the trend will continue a few months longer due to lower demand for sugar on the global market and the need for liquidity and cash flow my mills with financial problems.

U.S. Clean Energy Struggling from Policy Uncertainty

According to research from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the U.S. clean energy sector continues to be buffeted by policy uncertainty with 2013 investment down 9 percent from 2012 to $36.7 billion. The annual report, “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2013,” found that steep declines in the installation of wind overshadowed a record annual deployment of 4.4 gigawatts of solar.

THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS“Lower technology prices have made the small-distributed solar market very competitive, and the United States has been a leader in developing innovative financing models that are spurring steadily increasing deployment,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s clean energy program. “We also remain a world leader in venture capital, biofuels, and energy-smart technologies, like smart meters and LED lighting. Wind, however, has been subject to the vagaries of U.S. energy policy. As Congress debates tax extenders, it should aim to level the playing field, accelerate clean energy deployment, and provide long-term certainty to investors.”

The report found in the U.S. marketplace, solar technology prices have declined 60 percent since 2011, and new financing models have spurred more than $17 billion in investment, a 7 percent increase from 2012. The U.S. continued to garner world-leading financing in the biofuels and energy efficient/low-carbon technology subsectors. It also remained the dominant recipient of public market and venture capital/private equity investment, attracting $6.8 billion and $2.2 billion, respectively.

Although wind investment was relatively stable at $14 billion, U.S. wind installations in 2013 were down more than 90 percent—from more than 13 GW in 2012 to less than 1 GW last year found the report. When the production tax credit was renewed in early 2013, slight changes in the law precipitated deferrals in deployment of new wind capacity into 2014, when a strong rebound in capacity additions was forecast. By comparison, China deployed 12.1 GW of solar and 14.1 GW of wind capacity.

The regional and global market remains dominated by China, attracting $54.2 billion, with the U.S. in second place. Japan was third with $28.6 billion. Globally, clean energy investment fell 11 percent, to $254 billion, and renewable power generating capacity additions declined by 1 percent in 2013. Overall, installed clean energy capacity reached 735 GW.

Stanford Scientists Convert Carbon Monoxide to Ethanol

Stanford University scientists have discovered a new way to produce liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas. The researchers believe the discovery could provide an “green” alternative to conventional ethanol production from corn and other crops. The results were published in the April issue of Nature.

“We have discovered the first metal catalyst that can produce appreciable amounts of ethanol from carbon monoxide at room temperature and pressure – a notoriously difficult electrochemical reaction,” said Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford and coauthor of the Nature study.

Stanford's Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry, co-authored a study on producing liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide.

Stanford’s Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry, co-authored a study on producing liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide.

According to Kanan, most ethanol today is produced at high-temperature fermentation facilities that chemically convert corn, sugarcane and other plants into liquid fuel. But growing crops for biofuel requires thousands of acres of land and vast quantities of fertilizer and water. He cites a study that found it takes more than 800 gallons of water to grow a bushel of corn, which in turn yields around 3 gallons of ethanol.

The new technique developed by Kanan and Stanford graduate student Christina Li requires no fermentation and, if scaled up, they team says could help address many of the land- and water-use issues surrounding ethanol production today.

“Our study demonstrates the feasibility of making ethanol by electrocatalysis,” Kanan said. “But we have a lot more work to do to make a device that is practical.”

Two years ago, Kanan and Li created a novel electrode made of a material they called oxide-derived copper. They used the term “oxide-derived” because the metallic electrode was produced from copper oxide.

“Conventional copper electrodes consist of individual nanoparticles that just sit on top of each other,” Kanan explained. “Oxide-derived copper, on the other hand, is made of copper nanocrystals that are all linked together in a continuous network with well-defined grain boundaries. The process of transforming copper oxide into metallic copper creates the network of nanocrystals.” Continue reading

ILUC Modeling Still Unverifiable

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released their 2014 Climate Change Mitigation Report. According to the Global Renewable Fuels Association (GRFA), the report confirms that biofuels production is economically beneficial and that Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) modelling is unverifiable. The report, says GRFA spokesperson Bliss Baker, is further proof that biofuels contribute to local economies and that ILUC modelling is nothing more than a flawed theory.

The report found that “Bioenergy projects can be economically beneficial by raising and diversifying farm incomes and increasing rural employment through the production of biofuels for domestic or export markets. The IPCC report went on further to say that “Brazilian sugar cane ethanol production provides six times more jobs than the Brazilian petroleum sector and spreads income benefits across numerous municipalities…Worker income is higher than in nearly all other agricultural sectors and several sustainability standards have been adopted.”

Baker says the IPCC report’s finding are consistent with one of their 2012 reports that found that global ethanol production in 2010 supported nearly 1.4 million jobs in all sectors worldwide and contributed over $273 million to the global economy. In the European Union WGIII_AR5_Cover_webalone the ethanol industry created 70,000 direct and indirect jobs. The IPCC report’s findings also align with a recent study conducted by ABF Economics, which found that the U.S ethanol industry in 2013 created 86,503 jobs, sustained an additional 300,277 indirect and induced jobs while contributing $44 billion to the United States’ Gross Domestic Product and added $30.7 billion to household incomes.

“Not only do biofuels, particularly ethanol, have the lowest CO2 abatements compared to any other renewable energy but the latest IPCC climate change mitigation report confirmed that they make significant contributions to economies around the world and in some cases like Brazil, biofuels employment is eclipsing crude oil,” added Baker.

Baker says the IPCC report contained another significant finding regarding ILUC: an attempt to predict future land use patterns globally. The report stated, “These estimates of global LUC (Land Use Change) are highly uncertain, unobservable, unverifiable, and dependent on assumed policy, economic contexts, and inputs used in the modelling.”

According to Baker, these significant findings mean that the IPCC has joined the overwhelming number of scientists and academics that have found the ILUC theory to be faulty because modeling relies on hundreds of assumptions, not facts, to predict future land use patterns around the world.

“The GRFA applauds the UN for recognizing that the ILUC theory has no ability to accurately predict future land use patterns and hopefully it can now focus on the real challenges to food security like rising crude oil prices and food waste,” Baker concluded.