BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe Ukrainian government has approved a new National Action Plan state decree for the development of wind energy. The ambitious new goals called for by the decree include increasing the wind energy capacity of the country up to 2.28 GW by the year 2020 — which represents a 500% increase on the current figure of 410 MW.
  • Oman plans to build its first major wind farm at a cost of $125 million to generate electricity in its southern governorate of Dhofar, as part of efforts to limit the use of oil and gas in power generation. The wind farm at Harweel will have a capacity of 50 megawatts, enough to meet about 50 per cent of demand in the governorate during the winter, and is expected to begin operating early in 2017. The project will be coordinated by Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co (Masdar) and financed by a grant from the Abu Dhabi government. The turbines will be made in a Western nation while local contractors will be given a large share of the construction work, RAEC said without elaborating.
  • Bobby Likis, automotive expert and host of nationally syndicated car-talk program “Bobby Likis Car Clinic“, will shared the microphone with Jeff Oestmann, President and CEO of East Kansas Agri-Energy on the Car Clinic globalcast in a hard-hitting discussion of the local, regional and national issues surrounding ethanol production.
  • During the SXSW Eco conference in Austin, Texas, SolarCity and Honda renewed their partnership with a new fund expected to finance $50 million in solar projects. The new commitment will make solar power more affordable and available to Honda and Acura customers and dealerships in the U.S. The companies have completed or initiated a range of solar projects for homeowners, dealerships and corporate facilities that total more than 12.5 MW of solar generation capacity.

Fuels America Is Spilling the ‘Oil’

Fuels America is spilling the oil detailing the amount of money Big Oil has spent to “rig the political system” with lobbyists and campaign cash since 2008. Using data from opensecrets.org, the oil industry has spent more than $1.1 billion, $961 million lobbying Congress and $146 million in campaign contributions. This equates to more than $2 million for each member of Congress. The coalition said a significant amount of the funds were used to “block renewable fuels” and to “rig Congress and campaigns” across the U.S.

The oil industry reaped $93 billion in profits last year and continually receives sweetheart tax breaks upwards of $470 billion and counting, while renewable fuels generate $14.5 billion in tax revenue every year.

Meanwhile, said Fuels America, the oil lobby has continued to fight to kill the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which would permanently outsource thousands of American jobs and increase our reliance on foreign oil from hostile and unstable regions. The coalition has urged President Obama to resist pressure from the oil lobby and reject an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to gut the RFS.

Rigging the Tax Code ad

The ads, which will run for the next week, link to a page that breaks down the numbers and invites Americans to join the fight against oil industry efforts to rig the system and block competition from renewable fuels. They can be seen on sites such as POLITICO.com, RollCall.com and TheHill.com.

RFA Brings Ethanol Safety Program to Canada

Ethanol safety has been shared with the Canadians. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) met with Transport Canada’s Emergency Response Action Plan (ERAP) Task Force to educated them on emergency preparedness.

Ethanol Safety SeminarRFA’s Vice President of Technical Services, Kristy Moore, spoke remotely to Transport Canada’s ERAP Task Force and detailed current RFA safety initiatives, outlined transportation methods available for ethanol distribution specifically focusing on rail, and delivered an overview of the U.S. ethanol industry.

“A solid emergency response program is vital to everyone — no matter the country — and I applaud Transport Canada for having the foresight to get ahead of the game and formulate a national emergency response program,” said Moore. “We are excited to begin working with them to translate RFA safety materials into French and help them develop an ethanol safety seminar program similar to the very successful RFA program here in the States.”

RFA has been involved in ethanol education around transportation safety and emergency response for many years. The Association is a founding member of the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition (EERC) and joined TRANSCAER — a transportation safety initiative that focuses on community emergency response — in 2007. RFA worked with the EERC to establish an ethanol safety seminar program that goes around the country educating local firefighters and first responders on the best way to respond to a potential emergency situation. The seminars utilize the RFA’s “Training Guide to Ethanol Emergency Response”. Nearly 150 safety seminars have been held in 27 states.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFA new analysis identifies many real-world examples where government policies and sustained technological progress in the U.S. are creating opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while delivering net economic benefits. Emerging technologies could help the country achieve deeper reductions even faster with targeted policy support, according to “Seeing Is Believing: Creating a New Climate Economy in the United States,” a study by World Resources Institute.
  • ISM Solar Solutions has partnered with WatershedGeo, a company offering permanent closures for landfills and brownfields using their patented products, including ClosureTurf to design, develop and construct utility scale solar arrays on existing and new ClosureTurf installations. This joint venture will provide innovative solutions specific to landfill closures, while creating opportunities to develop renewable energy across North America.
  • Brazilian electricity utility Light has announced the formal agreement of the largest smart grid project in South American history, in partnership with global energy management company Landis+Gyr. Valued at approximately $313 million US, the five year contract covers the supply, implementation, operation and maintenance of Landis+Gyr’s Gridstream smart grid solution. The collaboration also includes deployment of 1.1 million endpoints, comprised of advance SGP+M anti-tampering meters and automation of power vaults and reclosers.
  • Enovos Luxembourg SA inaugurated its first photovoltaic power plant in Portugal. Located in the Alcoutim region in the south of Portugal, this photovoltaic power plant is comprised of 13,774 concentrator modules with a combined power of 1.29 MWp. The modules are made up of lenses capable of concentrating sunlight 500 times and focus it into small highly efficient, multi-junction solar cells.

Bioenergy for the Birds

A new research paper examines the relationship between bioenergy and the birds. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and published in PLOS ONE, looked at whether corn and perennial grassland fields in southern Wisconsin could provide both biomass for bioenergy as well as a bird habitat.

The answer is yes.

UW-Madison biofuels and bird studyThe study found that where there are grasslands there are birds. For example, grass and wildflower dominated field supported more than three times as many bird species as cornfields. And grassland fields can product ample biomass to be used to produce advanced biofuels.

Monica Turner, UW-Madison professor of zoology, and study lead author Peter Blank, a postdoctoral researcher in her lab, hope the findings help drive decisions that benefit both birds and biofuels, too, by providing information for land managers, farmers, conservationists and policy makers as the bioenergy industry ramps up, particularly in Wisconsin and the central U.S.

The research team selected 30 different grassland sites – three of which are already used for small-scale bioenergy production – and 11 cornfields in southern Wisconsin. Over the course of two years, the researchers characterized the vegetation growing in each field, calculated and estimated the biomass yields possible, and counted the total numbers of birds and bird species observed in them.

According to Blank and Turner, the study is one of the first to examine grassland fields already producing biomass for biofuels and is one of only a few analyses to examine the impact of bioenergy production on birds. While previous studies suggest corn is a more profitable biofuel crop than grasses and other types of vegetation, the new findings indicate grassland fields may represent an acceptable tradeoff between creating biomass for bioenergy and providing habitat for grassland birds. The landscape could benefit other species, too.

Among the grasslands studied, the team found monoculture grasses supported fewer birds and fewer bird species than grasslands with a mix of grass types and other kinds of vegetation, like wildflowers. The team found that the presence of grasslands within one kilometer of the study sites also helped boost bird species diversity and bird density in the area.

This is an opportunity, Turner said, to inform large-scale land use planning. By locating biomass-producing fields near existing grasslands, both birds and the biofuels industry can win.

Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association Working for You

The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is working on behalf of the biofuels industry and consumers throughout Minnesota. With several successes under their belt, the Association has identified several more goals they would like to achieve on behalf of the biofuels industry over the next few years.

“We are hopeful the next two years will lead us into opportunities to develop higher usage of ethanol blends, in particular we will work hard on promoting usage of E15 in 2001 and newer vehicles,” said Brian Kletscher, CEO of Highwater Ethanol and President of the Highwater Ethanol Aerial PhotosBoard of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association. “To help accomplish this we have hired a Biofuels Marketing Manager, this will allow us to directly communicate with the many gas station owners in the State of Minnesota and give them guidance on how to bring in E15 to their gas station while providing and economic benefit to them as owners while also passing on a savings to their customers in lower cost for E15.”

Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association echoes Kletscher’s goal. In addition, Rudnicki said they are continuing to increase the use of E85. “Sales of E85 in Minnesota have been on the rise but there is still plenty of room to grow. There are many flex-fuel vehicle owners who don’t know the benefits of using E85 or even the fact that it’s 80 cents cheaper per gallon on average in Minnesota.”

When asked if the biofuels industry would have seen as many successes without the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, Kletscher said while the industry was growing prior to the formation of the Association, by working with Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Soybean Growers Association and other ethanol related organization, the formation of the Association has allowed the ethanol industry and biofuels industry the opportunity to branch out and grow in supporting and promoting the usage of their products.

“While doing this we have maintained a strong relationship with the associations and related organizations that walked with and grew the biofuels industry to the point that it is today,” said Kletscher.

However, as Rudnicki identifies, the political landscape will have an effect on their work but for the most part, the view of biofuels is positive. “We are fortunate that many of our federal and state-level senators and representatives are supportive of biofuels and support measures to increase its usage,” he said. “We work closely with many of them and they understand how important biofuels are to the economy in Minnesota and its role in reducing prices at the pump, greenhouse gases and our dependence on foreign oil. Biofuels are the only viable solution to removing our dependence on harmful fossil fuels and many of them understand that.” Continue reading

Get to Know the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association

In April 2011 the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association was founded to represent and promote the renewable fuels industry in Minnesota. According to Tim RudnickiTim Rudnicki Executive Director MN Bio-Fuels Association, executive director, as a state and a union, the country faces many challenges on the energy and environmental front and the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is providing solutions to these challenges.

When asked about the Association, Rudnicki explained, “We are a non-profit organization and our members include ethanol producers in Minnesota as well as industry vendors. Our aim is to work with our stakeholders in a collaborative manner to achieve our collective goal of a greener future, a stronger economy in Minnesota, consumer savings at the pump and a more energy independent America.”

The Association has three key areas of focus:

  1. Advocacy: Their active engagement takes place at the state capitol in St Paul with a variety of state agencies and departments as well as through the governor’s office. They work with policymakers and agency officials to give voice to the biofuels industry in matters that impact day-to-day production operations and to further grow the industry.
  2. Fuel Supply Chain Development: They work closely with fuel retailers in the state to increase the availability of fuels such as E15 and E85. They are also able to connect them with wholesale suppliers of E15 and E85 and infrastructure and equipment providers and also educate them on the business case to sell E15 and E85.
  3. Communications: As the representative of the biofuels industry in Minnesota, they organization is constantly communicating and educating consumers on the various benefits of ethanol in transportation fuel as well as changing negative perceptions. Their communication channels include a website with extensive resources on biofuels, social media, advertising and email marketing and they also liaise with the media throughout the state.

One of the founding members of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is Highwater Ethanol, a 59.5 million gallon per year denatured ethanol facility located in Lamberton. They also produce nearly 150,000 tons of dried distillers grains (DDGs) and in April of this year began producing corn oil.

In May of 2006, Brian Kletscher began working with Hightower Ethanol as the president of the Board of Directors and then in November of 2008 was hired as the CEO. He has served as the president of Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association since 2011.

When asked why Highwater Ethanol became involved with the Association, Kletscher noted that being a part of Minnesota biofuel producers, they needed another strong voice to deal directly with potential challenges for the industry and the Association is set up to address many biofuel opportunities. For example, the Association has been participating in bringing additional biofuel usage to Minnesota, by supporting usage of higher blends of ethanol and other biofuels. Continue reading

MIT Boosts Yeast Tolerance

Gregory Stephanopoulos, with the Willard Henry Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT has discovered a way to boost yeast tolerance to ethanol by altering the composition of the medium in which yeast are grown. “Toxicity is probably the single most important problem in cost-effective biofuels production,” said Stephanopoulos. The research was published in the journal, Science.

Ethanol and other alcohols can disrupt yeast cell membranes, eventually killing the cells. The MIT team found that adding potassium and hydroxide ions to the medium in which yeast grow can help cells compensate for that membrane damage. By making these changes, the researchers were able to boost yeast’s ethanol production by about 80 percent. They found the approach works with commercial yeast strains and other types of alcohols, including propanol and butanol, which are even more toxic to yeast.

MIT yeast and ethanol research.jpg“The more we understand about why a molecule is toxic, and methods that will make these organisms more tolerant, the more people will get ideas about how to attack other, more severe problems of toxicity,” explained Stephanopoulos.

The research team began its quest searching for a gene or group of genes that could be manipulated to make yeast more tolerant to ethanol, but this approach did not yield much success. Yet when the researchers began to experiment with altering the medium in which yeast grow, they found some dramatic results. By augmenting the yeast’s environment with potassium chloride, and increasing the pH with potassium hydroxide, the researchers were able to dramatically boost ethanol production. They also found that these changes did not affect the biochemical pathway used by the yeast to produce ethanol: Yeast continued to produce ethanol at the same per-cell rate as long as they remained viable. Instead, the changes influenced their electrochemical membrane gradients — differences in ion concentrations inside and outside the membrane, which produce energy that the cell can harness to control the flow of various molecules into and out of the cell.

Ethanol increases the porosity of the cell membrane, making it very difficult for cells to maintain their electrochemical gradients. Increasing the potassium concentration and pH outside the cells helps them to strengthen the gradients and survive longer; the longer they survive, the more ethanol they make.

Researchers are also working on using this approach to boost the ethanol yield from various industrial feedstocks that, because of starting compounds inherently toxic to yeast, now have low yields.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe SRI Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing will be held November 9-11, 2014 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Conference organizers have announced that Amory B. Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute and Bloomberg New Energy Finance Founder Michael Liebreich have both signed on to be keynote speakers.
  • The proliferation of distributed generation (DG) is beginning to take a toll on utilities, in high penetration markets such as Hawaii, California and Germany. To cope with the intermittent nature of these assets and optimize their performance, companies have developed a new class of software called distributed energy resource management systems, or DERMS. In a new report, “Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems 2014: Technologies, Deployments and Opportunities,” GTM Research forecasts the annual North American DERMS software market to more than double by 2018 to $110 million.
  • Discovery Green, an urban park in downtown Houston, Texas has committed to power the park and facilities through 2016 with 100% wind power from Green Mountain Energy. Discovery Green first teamed with Green Mountain Energy in 2008 and has been powered with 100% wind energy since 2012. The purchase is estimated to avoid an additional 6.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
  • NTC announced that it has been recognized by this year’s Fierce Innovation Awards: Energy Edition, a unique industry awards program powered by the publishers of FierceEnergy and FierceSmartGrid. NTC received top honors in the “Customer Engagement” category.

RSI-CTC Calls for Rail Rulemaking Harmonization

The Railway Supply Institute Committee on Tank Cars (RSI-CTC) has submitted comments to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in response to efforts to create new regulations for the shipment of crude oil and ethanol. While RSI-CTC is glad of the government’s work, they are warning of significant disruption to safety and major sectors of the North American economy is mismatched rules are implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Transport Canada. These disruptions, said RSI-CTC, include the loss of a significant portion of the rail tank car fleet during the modification period, and unintended consequences such as a potential increase in truck shipments of flammable liquids on highways.

To address these potential disruptions and safety hazards, the RSI-CTC called for greater harmonization between the two rulemaking bodies in the U.S. and Canada, and provided insight and specific recommendations across a range of issues that will help reduce the risk of transporting flammable liquids by rail in North America. The comments also urged DOT to focus more on the root causes of most derailments which continue to be track failure and human error, not tank car design.

railway supply institute logo“For years we have been advocating for a holistic approach to safety that will prevent train derailments and address tank car standards, among other issues,” said Tom Simpson, President of RSI. “In our comments today, we reiterated our positions and offered a comprehensive set of practical recommendations that will bring the greatest safety benefit in the quickest ways possible. For instance, we believe the timelines for modifications in the U.S. and Canada should be synchronized and feasible to avoid major disruptions of service. Moreover, the specifications for new tank cars and the rules for packaging of flammable liquids need to match up across North America. Without making these important changes to align the rules, the effect will be to deplete the fleet of tank cars available for service, and those effects to safety and the economy cannot be underestimated.”

RSI-CTC and independent third-party research show that the proposed U.S. rules—in their current form—would effectively force approximately 90,000 tank cars to be withdrawn from service at various times during the modification program and parked until the shop capacity required to carry out the necessary modifications becomes available. Between 2018 and 2020, 30-50 fifty percent of the total crude oil and ethanol tank car fleet would be idled at any given time. To replace the loss in 2017, the year the first compliance deadline hits, theoretically it would require 20,000 trucks carrying more than 370,000 truckloads on North American highways, a practical impossibility and potentially more hazardous outcome given the safety risk associated with transport by truck.

In its comments to PHMSA, the RSI-CTC supports a “commodity-based approach” for selecting the proper tank car that requires shippers to ensure materials are appropriately and safely packaged. The RSI-CTC also asked PHMSA to differentiate the requirements for new and existing cars, which will allow more new or modified cars with enhanced safety features to be put into service more quickly, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

BIB Receives $9.9M Biobased Education Grant

The Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy (BIB) consortium has received a $9.9 million grant to create an Illinois network of biobased training and employment pathways that can be completed in two years or less. BIB is comprised of Southeastern Illinois College (SIC), Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, Carl Sandburg College, Lincoln Land College, and Lewis & Clark College.

Illinois’ bioeconomy is a driving force for economic development and innovation across the state. This biobased industry employs more than 54,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs generating more than $5 billion in total economic output. The grant funding is part of a presidential directive calling upon industry and institutions of higher learning to partner and create robust, fast-track pathways from training to jobs.

US Dept of LaborDr. Jonah Rice, SIC president, said of the grant, “SIC is a very proud partner in this grant that will provide valuable workforce skills. SIC’s biofuels program will continue to benefit and grow as a national leading certificate program because of this grant.”

All course materials developed through this grant will be available as open educational resources so that others can access and build on successful training models. In this final phase of the TAACCTA, SIC will continue to build upon their innovative Biofuels Program to provide a pathway for displaced workers, veterans, and the underemployed to receive relevant training and stackable credentials that lead to employment in today’s rural workplace.

Renee Loesche, SIC’s biofuels instructor, added, “The true innovation of this grant is that training will be created with industry and trade association involvement to allow fast-track certificates that build upon a person’s current skills and education to train them for jobs that exist in the bio-process industries of today.”

These courses will be online and/or hybrid courses that allows those seeking employment to build upon high school diplomas and/or limited skill sets to improve those skills and become eligible for the jobs of the 21st century.

RFA Case Study: Evidence of E85 Price Gouging?

According to a new case study from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), E85 retailers in the St. Louis area may be intentionally price gouging consumers. According to the report, during the 2014 summer driver season, the average E85 price was 12 percent Evidence of Price Gouging RFA Case Studybelow gasoline prices at the wholesale level but one percent higher than gas prices at the retail level. The wholesale-to-retail markup on E85 was nearly twice the markup on gas. In addition, the study concluded that E85 retail prices were around $1 per gallon higher than was justified by wholesale prices for the locally available ethanol blendstock.

The study’s results offer “… clear support for the notion that some gasoline producers/suppliers and their franchised retailers purposely employ E85 pricing strategies meant to discourage E85 consumption and negatively influence consumer perceptions about the fuel.”

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA, said of the case study, “It’s fairly obvious that the retailers examined in this study—all of whom are branded by one of the Big Five oil companies—don’t really want to sell E85. In many cases it appears they were pricing E85 above their branded gasoline for the sole purpose of making their gasoline prices look more attractive to the consumer. Sneaky E85 pricing strategies ultimately give oil refiners the opportunity to wrongly claim that consumers are ‘rejecting’ E85; and it gives them an opportunity to claim they can’t comply with Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements above the so-called ‘blend wall.’ This study exposes the utter hypocrisy of that argument.”

RFA tracked E85 and gasoline (E10) prices at all nine retail stations selling E85 in the St. Louis metro area. All nine stations carry the brand of one of the five largest integrated oil production and refining companies. This makes the St. Louis E85 market highly unusual because nationwide “…retail stations affiliated with a ‘Big Five’ oil company brand are four to six times less likely to offer E85 than independent or unbranded stations.”

Across more than 250 observations during the summer, the average E10 retail price was $3.45 per gallon and the average E85 retail price was $3.476 per gallon. Meanwhile, E85 was available at a local wholesale terminal for an average of $2.58 per gallon, while E10 averaged $2.93 per gallon at the wholesale level. Based on prices for locally available ethanol, hydrocarbon blendstock, RFS RIN (Renewable Identification Number) credits, and a typical markup, E85 could have been offered at retail for $2.44–2.55 per gallon. Continue reading

USDA Report Outlines Biobased Opportunities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a new report, “Why Biobased?” outlining current literature that explores opportunities in the emerging biobased economy. The report is a precursor for a more comprehensive economic study planned for release by the USDA BioPreferred program and will focus on the economic impacts of the biobased products industry.

Why Biobased?“This new report presents the opportunities U.S. agriculture and forests have in the emerging bioeconomy,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The recent inclusion of mature market products into the BioPreferred program strengthens our commitment to the U.S. biobased economy and brings together two of the most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing.”

The new report explores how government policies and industry business-to-business sustainability programs are driving the biobased economy. The report also demonstrates that the biobased economy is, in fact, growing and it offers great potential for increased job creation in numerous sectors across the U.S. For instance, one report cited concludes that biobased chemicals are expected to constitute over 10 percent of the chemical market by 2015. Another report in the study concludes that there is a potential to produce two-thirds of the total volume of chemicals from biobased materials, representing over 50,000 products, a $1 trillion annual global market.

On the heels of this completed study, the USDA BioPreferred program has awarded a contract for a more in-depth economic study of biobased products and economic impacts, including research on job creation and economic value. It will be the first federally sponsored economic report of its kind targeting the biobased products industry in the U.S. Congress mandated the upcoming study in the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has estimated that U.S.-based jobs for the renewable chemicals sector will rise from approximately 40,000 jobs in 2011, which represents 3-4 percent of all chemical sales, to over 237,000 jobs by 2025. This employment level would represent approximately 20 percent of total chemical sales.

Tanzania Mini-Grid Project Underway

Continental Energy Corporation, an emerging international energy investment company, announced that its Tanzanian affiliate, Ruaha River Power Company Ltd. has begun construction of the Phase-I development of its Malolo Mini-Grid. They have also begun signing up first subscribers from a waiting list of 400 customers. The Mini-Grids are being installed in an area surrounding the village of Malolo and three nearby villages, all located in the Kilosa District, Morogoro Region, Tanzania.

The Malolo Mini-Grid is the first of four separate, isolated rural “Mini-Grids” to be built, owned, and operated by the Ruaha Power, from which Tanzania flagit intends to generate, distribute, and sell electrical power directly to consumers at pre-payment meters. When complete, the four Malolo Mini-Grids will have a combined generation capacity of 300kW and each Mini-Grid shall directly deliver 75kW of power to a combined total of approximately 2,500 identified residential, commercial, and light industrial customers.

Phase-I of the Malolo Mini-Grid development is expected to begin delivering power by the end of the first quarter of 2015. It involves the installation and commissioning of the first embedded generators, a 25kW hybrid biomass gasifier and a 25kW diesel generation plant, together with more than four kilometers of low voltage distribution network.

The distribution network will be constructed to standards sufficient for connection to the national grid at such time as it may be extended into the Malolo Mini-Grid area. A 21,500 square-foot site near the village of Malolo has been acquired for the first generator house and power line easements have been arranged. Civil works and the construction of the first powerhouse and office has begun and are expected to be complete by year end.

A Phase-II development is planned to add solar PV capacity to complete a hybrid biomass-solar PV-diesel powered Mini-Grid. Ruaha Power plans to duplicate the Phase-I and Phase-II development at each of the other three villages, one after the other, upon completion of Phase-II of the first network.

Alphabet Energy Introduces Thermoelectric Generator

Alphabet Energy has introduced what they are calling the world’s most powerful thermoelectric generator that captures exhaust heat and converts it into electricity, called the E1. The generator attaches to an exhaust stack and uses Alphabet’s patented thermoelectric materials to convert waste heat into electricity. Thermoelectrics use a temperature differential to generate electricity in the solid state. According to Alphabet Energy, the E1 generates up to 25 kWe per 1,000 kWe engine, saving 52,500 liters of diesel fuel per year, per engine. This product introduction is the first for the company, which was founded in 2009 at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“Today we’re making history and marking a milestone in industrial energy efficiency with the introduction of the E1,” said Alphabet Energy CEO and Founder Matthew L. Scullin. “People have been trying to make an industrial-scale thermoelectric generator for a long time. Customers want waste-heat recovery solutions that are simple pieces of industrial equipment rather than complex power plants.”

“With the E1, waste heat is now valuable,” Scullin added. “Saving fuel has the potential to be one of the biggest levers a company has in reducing operating expenses. That potential is finally realized with the E1, the world’s first waste-heat recovery product that meets the mining’s and oil & gas industry’s criteria for simple, strong, and reliable solutions.”

While NASA has used thermoelectrics since the 1950s, high materials costs made them prohibitive for wider use. However, Alphabet’s proprietary advancements in silicon and tetrahedrite have enabled the company to create the first highly efficient thermoelectric materials that use abundant resources. Thermoelectrics are unique because they are solid-state; which means the E1 operates with technology that has no moving parts, no working fluids and requires minimal maintenance.

Compared to other waste heat recovery systems, the Alphabet Energy said its E1 requires only minor up front engineering scope and no operation by the customer. This makes it ideally suited for remote and industrial applications where ongoing system support capacity is limited. The E1 requires no engine modifications and is installed with a simple process that involves only exhaust coupling and electrical hookup.