Solar Boat Breaks Speed Record

Switzerland’s MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, the world’s largest solar boat, has set a new speed record for a transatlantic crossing by solar electric vessel. The boat left  from Las Palmas, Spain, on April 25, 2013, and sailed 2,867miles (5,310 kilometers) across the Atlantic Ocean at the average speed of 5.3 knots before reaching Marigot, St. Martin, in the French West Indies on May 18, 2013. The first-of-its-kind catamaran completed this year’s passage across the Atlantic in 22 of days, PlanetSolar Arrives at St. Martinbesting last year’s record by 4 days. This new world record undertaken by an initiative from Switzerland is currently undergoing an authorization process at Guinness World Records.

“Once again, the boat provided a brilliant demonstration of solar energy’s potential by breaking its own speed record for a transatlantic crossing set in 2010 by completing this year’s journey in 22 days, 12 hours and 32 minutes,” said Gérard d’Aboville, Captain of the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar.

He continued, “It is difficult to compare the two crossings because they were conducted at very different times of the year. But it is certain that in light of the lessons learned during the trip around the world, the major maintenance projects carried out last winter—particularly to the propulsion system—have greatly improved the ship’s performance.”

The PlantSolar team had to carefully manage energy consumption in order to maintain an efficient speed and reach St. Martin in less than 26 days. During the transatlantic crossing, the crew encountered phases of substantial cloudiness for several consecutive days and had to adjust the route. The adjustments increased the travelling distance by 7 percent, but enabled the PlanetSolar crew to avoid winds and unfavorable swells.

The new world record is part of PlanetSolar team’s commitment to push the limits of solar technology. After having demonstrated the potential of solar energy by accomplishing the first around the world tour only powered by the sun, PlanetSolar is now touring the world to illustrate the practical applications of such a vessel. In June, the vessel will arrive in the United States, with stops in Miami, New York and Boston. When docking at the ports the ship transforms into an educational platform to share the excitement and the potential of solar power.

ReneSola & Positive Energy Offering Solar Grants

DesignGroup-470x320ReneSola and Positive Energy Solar are offering three 2.5 kilowatt solar grants for non-profit organizations in Las Cruces, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“Positive Energy Solar is committed to clean, affordable solar electricity in our communities,” said Regina Wheeler, chief executive officer of Positive Energy Solar. “Through these grants, non-profits that might not otherwise be able to, can reduce long-term energy costs and use clean, renewable energy that is aligned with their values.”

The first step in the process is for applicants to create a video about how having solar power would benefit their organization. The videos will be posted on the solar grants Facebook page and the organizations whose videos get the most likes will make it to the next stage of evaluation. Click here for complete grant criteria and step-by-step application instructions.

Brian Armentrout, director of marketing at ReneSola, added, “ReneSola is humbled to have been asked by Positive Energy Solar to support a program that is providing solar for not only the most creative and deserving non-profits, but also for the community as a whole. Both Positive Energy Solar and ReneSola understand the importance of providing such donations and capitalizing on this effort to educate the public about the tremendous financial and environmental benefits associated with solar electricity.”

Sant Lucia Joins “Ten Island Renewable Challenge”

During the Caribbean Conservation Summit held on Necker Island, Saint Lucia announced that it will join Carbon War Room’s Ten Island Challenge. The event was co-hosted by Sir Richard Branson, the Prime Minister of Grenada and the Premier of the British Virgin Islands.

“Solving the energy challenge and marine conservation challenge in the Caribbean go hand-in-hand. I am very pleased that  Saint Lucia has decided to join the Challenge –  and hope more neighbouring islands will follow,” said Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin.

Caribbean Conservation Summit Photo Washington PostLaunched at Rio+20 Summit last June the Ten Island Challenge is working with pioneering island economies to reduce dependency on fossil fuels through the acceleration of commercial opportunities on islands. The Challenge is also attracting engineering firms and investment.

“We are joining the Ten Island Challenge because it is consistent with the goals of our government to develop a renewable energy sector and transition to a Green Economy,” said James Fletcher, Minister of Sustainable Development & Energy, Saint Lucia.

Saint Lucia is focusing its efforts to transition off fossil fuels through a range of initiatives from renewable energies as well as waste and water efficiency. Although sustainability and low carbon plans aren’t new to island economies, successful implementation is. The Ten Island Challenge will highlight the opportunities on the island and Carbon War Room will reach out globally for the best solutions and most competitive bids. Saint Lucia joins its Caribbean neighbor, Aruba – who signed up for the challenge in 2012.

Jose Maria Figueres, President of the Carbon War Room, added, “We want to develop a renewables ‘ blueprint ‘ using those islands that are ready today – and provide replicable models for many more communities isolated by water, desert or just distance from the grid.”

Free Fuel Workshops in Iowa

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) will be hosting a summer workshop series addressing upcoming changes in the fuels shipped to Iowa via the current pipeline system. According to IRFA, these workshops are aimed at assisting fuel retailers, suppliers and marketers in preparing for the first major change in the types of fuel available at retail locations since lead was phased out of gasoline starting in the mid-1970’s.

IowaRFAlogo“Upcoming changes in the types of fuels offered through the major pipeline running through Iowa will force Iowa’s fuel retailers and distributors to make some important business decisions,” said IRFA managing director, Lucy Norton. “These workshops will help participants prepare for this product change, understand the economic considerations and evaluate how renewable fuel blending fits into the new product mix.”

Magellan’s announcement to eliminate regular unleaded gasoline shipments to Iowa will require all retailers to evaluate their product offerings. The workshops will provide details of the new fuel options along with the impact on ethanol blends, future market conditions, and E15 as a new fuel option.

“Fuel distributors and retailers have a lot to take into consideration before the fuel shipped through the major pipeline in Iowa changes in September,” Norton added. “We want to assist the fuel industry in preparing for this significant change to their business portfolio and encourage fuel suppliers and retailers to attend one of the workshops to better understand the fuel options that will affect the future of their businesses.”

GM Adds Solar, EV Charging

General Motors has added four new solar photovoltaic solar projects to its Warren Technical Center campus located in Warren, Michigan. The installations, done by Empower Energies, included a ground-mounted solar array and three solar electric vehicle charging stations. The 49kW ground-mounted array is situated on the north side of the pond adjacent to the GM Vehicle Engineering Center, and according to GM, is outperforming energy production expectations.

“General Motors is committed to promoting the use of 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020, which includes solar installations,” said GM’s Manager – gm-website-1Renewable Energy, Rob Threlkeld. “As the leading automotive user of solar power, we understand the importance of solar projects like this, and we continue to work with companies such as Empower Energies to activate new projects at our facilities around the globe.”

The three EV charging stations are located in parking areas adjoining the Vehicle Engineering Center and the Advanced Engineering Center. The latest of these solar EV charging stations is situated in the parking lot across from GM’s new IT Center. These solar charging stations enable Chevy Volt-owning GM employees to power-up their vehicles while they spend their work-day engineering next-generation EV technologies or taking existing vehicles, such as the Chevy Volt, to market.

“These EV Charging Stations may be small in stature by today’s solar-industry standards,” said Len Jornlin, Empower Energies Chief Executive Officer, “but they represent a huge commitment to Clean Transport Infrastructure, and our ability to scale the technology domestically and abroad using our expertise and extensive relationships, including strategic partners such as China Triumph International Engineering Company (CTIEC).”

Installations such as the solar charging stations at the Warren Tech Center enable Empower Energies and market leaders such as GM to refine product design while honing commercial understanding of EV owner requirements.

SGI Enters Into Algae Partnership with ExxonMobil

Synthetic Genomics (SGI), has entered into a new co-funded research agreement with ExxonMobil to develop algae biofuels. The new agreement is a science research program that focuses on developing algal strains with significantly improved production characteristics by employing synthetic genomic science and technology. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Plant Genomics SGI“We look forward to working with ExxonMobil to undertake this in-depth focus on the basic science research to better understand and enhance algae,” said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., SGI’s founder and chief executive officer.  “The new agreement gives us an opportunity to really focus on improving algal strains using our core synthetic biology technologies to develop biofuels.”

In June 2009, SGI and ExxonMobil announced a research and development alliance focused on naturally occurring and conventionally modified algae strains. According to a news release, during the past four years, the companies have gained considerable knowledge about the challenges in developing economical and scalable algae biofuels. SGI also made significant strides in understanding algae genetics, growth characteristics, and enhancements to algae to improve algal biomass and lipid productivities.

According to SGI, this new agreement places greater emphasis on basic scientific research to develop strains which reproduce quickly, produce a high proportion of lipids and effectively withstand environmental and operational conditions. The company currently has two facilities – a smaller scale research greenhouse and laboratory near the SGI campus in La Jolla, CA, and a larger-scale development and commercial production facility with closed photobioreactors, open ponds and product recovery unit operations in Imperial Valley, CA.

Boston Goes Solar

The Boston/Dedham Commerce Park is the new home of the largest rooftop solar array in the City of Boston. The 974 kilowatt capacity solar project was completed by FireFlower Alternative Energy in partnership with First Highland Management & Development and spans 12,000 square feet. The solar system to produce enough electricity to “fuel” approximately 65 percent of the building’s energy needs.

FIREFLOWER ALTERNATIVE ENERGY KATHY DOYLE“This is an important milestone for the City of Boston,” said FireFlower founder Kathleen C. Doyle. “Large scale solar installations such as this benefit the environment by providing clean, renewable power at no additional cost to the tenants while helping the property owner’s bottom line. It’s a win-win for the tenants and owners and our local economy.” Doyle also powers her own home with solar energy.

First Highland’s Boston/Dedham Commerce Park is a 450,000 SF multi-use building currently home to a diverse group of tenants, including RR Donnelly, the Dancing Deer Baking Company and the nonprofit Hyde Park Open Studios. Broadway Electrical Company, Inc., one of the Northeast’s largest electrical contractors, completed the installation. Financing was provided by Commerce Bank.

The solar array is net metered and interconnected to the NSTAR grid, generating renewable power with an estimated annual market value of over $180,000. Additionally, the sale of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) created by the state to help incentivize solar development in Massachusetts helped make the project possible.

Study: RIN Prices for E85 Expansion

According to recent study by FAPRI-MU higher biofuel blending requirements through the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) increase the incentives to use higher biofuel blends, as seen by high Renewable Identification Number (RIN) prices so far this year. The study began with baseline projections for biofuel and agricultural markets and then built on a series of assumptions about how the RFS will be implemented and how market participants will respond.

FAPRI logoOne key question of the study: what will happen when the RFS requires greater levels of biofuel use than can be achieved with 10 percent ethanol blends and mandated levels of biodiesel use?

The baseline assumes that domestic ethanol use will exceed the 10-percent “blend wall” if the effective cost of ethanol to blenders and fuel consumers drops low enough, long enough to encourage the use of higher-level blends such as E85 and E15; yet, how low and how long. The baseline assumes that use of these higher-level blends will only increase significantly if the consumer-level cost of these fuels is at a slight discount to conventional fuels, even after taking into account the lower energy value of ethanol-blended fuels.

The report looked at these questions from different perspectives using alternative assumptions about the implementation of the RFS and the behavior of biofuel market participants:

1. The first section calculates hypothetical RIN prices that would cover costs and discounts necessary to encourage expanded use of E85. Under one set of assumptions, the implied RIN values are very close to those recently observed in the market, but plausible changes in assumptions yield estimates that range from $0.28 to $2.34 per gallon.

2. The second section examines a scenario that assumes ethanol-blended fuel must sell at a deeper discount to conventional gasoline to encourage use of high-level blends—a somewhat steeper blend wall. This scenario results in less ethanol use than in the baseline, higher RIN prices, and increased use of biodiesel. However, the changes in quantities produced and consumed are fairly modest, so long as there remains a price that can encourage increased use of higher-level blends.

3. The third section explores the implications of alternative RFS implementation strategies and how they interact with alternative assumptions about the steepness of the blend wall. All else equal, the greater the total and advanced biofuel mandates, the greater the value of RINs and the greater the use of biodiesel. A steeper blend wall also results in greater RIN values and biodiesel use. Several different scenarios result in fairly similar levels of use of corn ethanol in 2013/14, provided that mandates are enforced.

4. The final section explores an extreme scenario where there is no price that will induce the use of higher-level ethanol blends. If the RFS remains in place, such a scenario would require large increases in biodiesel use that would require very high RIN prices and result in large increases in vegetable oil prices. Such RIN and biodiesel prices could induce new renewable fuels or trade patterns, and might be inconsistent with the view that ethanol expansion is impossible.

Enerkem Launches New Research Project

Waste-to-biofuels company Enerkem has launched a new research project with the Government of Canada. The project objective is to develop new catalytic processes for the conversion of waste into drop-in biofuels that can be used to replace conventional gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The Government of Canada is contributing $1.1 million to this project via Natural Resources Canada.

usine_pilote_sherbrooke“Enerkem’s core business is the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol, and we now intend to take advantage of our flexible technology platform to gradually expand our line of biofuels and chemical products,” said Vincent Chornet, president and CEO of Enerkem. “This research project is part of our growth strategy and demonstrates our commitment towards innovation and a greener economy.”

Enerkem’s technology produces a chemical-grade synthesis gas that serves as a key intermediate for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals. This R&D project will be conducted at Enerkem’s research and development pilot facility in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in collaboration with the University of Sherbrooke.

“Through the ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative, our Government is investing in innovative clean energy technologies that create jobs, generate new economic opportunities and protect the environment,” added the Honourable Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources. “This program demonstrates our tangible support for energy projects that drive energy innovation.”

Visalia Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Surpasses 1,000 Hours

The demonstration cellulosic ethanol plant owned by Edeniq and located in Visalia, California has exceeded 1,000 hours of continuous operation. The corn-to-cellulosic migration plant uses the company’s proprietary technology to process more than one metric ton of feedstock per day into cellulosic ethanol. According to the company, this achievement exceeded the plant’s initial target. The project, funded in part by a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant, is being used to demonstrate the viability of producing ethanol in a cost-effective manner from non-food sources including corn stover, switchgrass and woodchips.

Edeniq Plant Employee3In addition to achieving over 1,000 hours of continuous operation, the plant sustained and exceeded the DOE’s target of at least 90 percent up time demonstrating over 95 percent operational reliability. In addition, the facility promotes the use of sustainable resources including reusing or recycling substantial portions of its water to meet process demands, according to a company press release.

“While we have been developing these ethanol technology solutions for years, being able to fully integrate and operate our own plant has given us invaluable, deeper insight into the intricacies of the process and has enabled us to continuously improve our core technologies and operations,” said Thomas P. Griffin, chief technology officer at Edeniq. “The DOE has been a tremendous leader and driver in moving US interests toward the commercialization of advanced biofuels, and we look forward to further collaboration with them in the pursuit of this shared mission.”

The next step for Edeniq is to continue operations of the plant under the co-sponsorship of the California Energy Commission. The plant will undergo further process enhancements toward the production of low-cost sugars from a range of biomass and agricultural waste sources, including those indigenous to California. Edeniq is also working with companies to implement larger scale facilities based on the successful testing and operations of its demonstration plant.

Africa Mecca for Clean Energy

UN Africa Clean Energy Patent StudyAccording to a recent study by the United Nations, less than 1 percent of all patent applications relating to clean energy technology have been filed in Africa, with the majority of this 1 percent filed in South Africa. The study find that Africa is a mecca for clean energy and has the ability to leapfrog existing fossil-fuel energy sources. “Patents and Clean Energy in Africa,” finds the country has an untapped potential for generating clean energy including enough hydroelectric power from its seven major river systems to serve the entire continent’s needs. In addition, the country has great potential for solar, wind and geothermal energy sources.

Hydropower, the most commonly used renewable energy source, is estimated to be utilized at just 4.3 percent of the continent’s total capacity – although recent years have seen efforts to ramp up clean energy, with North African nations leading in solar and wind categories, Kenya in geothermal, Ethiopia in hydro and Mauritius in bioenergy.

The study also points out that intellectual property and patenting in particular have been highlighted as a significant factor limiting the transfer of new clean technologies to developing countries, and identified as a barrier to these countries meeting new emission limits for CO2 and other greenhouse gases. While the lack of patents filed means CETs can be freely exploited in Africa, the lack of these patents to protect their products means source companies may be reluctant to offer up Clean Energy in Africatheir know-how to promote technology transfer, according to a news release on the study.

“The development and transfer of technologies are key pillars in both mitigating the causes of climate change and adapting to its effects; patents are a crucial part of this process,” said UN Environment Programme spokesperson Nick Nuttall. “In addition to an accelerated response to climate change, boosting clean energy technologies have multiple green economy benefits including on public health – for example, in sub-Saharan Africa more than half of all deaths from pneumonia in children under the age of five, and chronic lung disease and lung cancer in adults over 30, can be attributed to solid fuel use,” he added.

Only 10 percent of African inventors apply for patent protection in Africa; the majority tend to seek protection in four other regions: the United States (27 percent), the European Patent Office (24 percent), Germany (13 percent) and Canada (10 percent), according to the study.  The report adds that there are signs that the situation is changing. Despite low patent application numbers, the overall inventive activity in African countries grew by 5 percent between 1980 and 2009, compared to 4 percent at the global level. With a 59 percent increase, mitigation technologies grew most significantly in that period.

To Buy or Not Buy a Hybrid Car

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 4.05.17 PM

I’m in the market for a new car and one of the areas I have been researching is hybrids. The question: to buy or not to buy a hybrid? I came across this infographic developed by Auto Pawn, that tells the tale of two cars: hybrid versus non-hybrid.

While many factors are considered, one that is not is if the driver is using an alternative fuel such as biodiesel, ethanol, compressed natural gas, propane, etc. Click here for a link to the full graphic.

While I still haven’t decided what new car I’m going to drive home soon, this information is definitely worth mulling over….

What Do Orca Whales and Solar Have in Common?

What do Orca whales and solar energy have in common? Nothing until now. Canadian Solar Solutions has donated solar modules to power the OrcaLab Whale Research Centre, on a remote island off the British Columbia coast near Alert Bay. OrcaLab has been recording the Johnson Strait whales for more than four decades. Founder, Dr. Paul Spong and his wife Helena Symonds have spearheaded global research that confirms orca “clans” have distinct, highly sophisticated dialects. This Orca Whalesscientific evidence in turn has led to bans against commercial orca hunting, and to the creation of nearby orca sanctuaries.

“The solar installation is performing beyond our expectations,” said Dr. Paul Spong a whale expert and advocate. “We are now running all of our power needs without a generator, and looking forward to a future here without oil. We are so grateful to Canadian Solar for everything they have done for us.”

According to Canadian Solar Solutions, a subsidiary of Canadian Solar, the new donated solar system allows the off-grid OrcaLab to cut gas generator use and fuel costs dramatically, increase battery performance and life, expand the range of microphones and cameras, and improve amenities for summer volunteers. The system is designed to perform with minimal maintenance for several decades. In addition, the panels will power the main OrcaLab site, and a network of underwater microphones and cameras which will track migrating orca whale and other marine animals.

“We are honored to be involved in the ground breaking OrcaLab foundation’s noble orca whale research,” said Shawn Qu, chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar. “We are proud to be able to help advance the team’s ambitious work through this latest exciting application of solar energy. As an industry leader, Canadian Solar strives to also lead in our philanthropic efforts with organizations around the world.”

Methes Energies & BioFuel Aruba Ink Deal

109752_MethesEnergyMethes Energies Canada, a subsidiary of Methes Engeries International, has signed a Purchase and Cooperation Agreement with BioFuel Aruba of Oranjestad, Aruba to purchase one Denami 600 biodiesel processor. The agreement was signed during the “Europe Meets the Americas” business conference in Aruba earlier this month.

Mr. Abe Dyck a cofounder and shareholder of Methes Energies was in Aruba for the ceremonial signing of the agreement. “I believe the signing of this agreement accomplishes the objective Aruba has of becoming a Green Gateway for companies wanting to deploy their technologies in the region. I see this as the start of a great relationship. I have enjoyed working with Gregory and the staff at Arina (Aruba Investment Agency) and look forward to commissioning the first 600 later this year.”

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 12.28.06 PMBioFuel Aruba was the first and is the only biodiesel producer in the country. The company will work with Methes to expand its biodiesel capacity. In addition, BioFuel Aruba has entered into pilot agreements with the Aruba Airports Authority and the public transit company, Arubus BV, to implement a biodiesel blend into their fleets. The two companies will also be working with the Government of Aruba to develop a biofuels mandate to be incorporated into their national energy policy.

“We can’t wait for our first Denami 600 to be delivered. With two pilot projects soon to start with Arubus and the Airport, we are looking forward to a greater demand for biodiesel. Methes’ technology is a great fit and will allow us to add more Denami’s as the demand increases even more here in Aruba and in the surrounding islands,” said BioFuel Aruba President, Gregory Fung.

DOE Student Clean Energy Winners Announced

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced six regional winners of its National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The competition is for university teams across the country to create new businesses and commercialize promising energy technologies developed at U.S. universities and the National Laboratories. Regional US DOE logofinalists include: Northwestern University, North Carolina A&T University, Purdue University, Brigham Young University, University of Arkansas, and University of California-Berkeley. The teams will compete in the national competition in Washington, D.C., on June 11th and 12th, 2013.

“The National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition allows the best and brightest to use their entrepreneurial skills to tackle the energy challenges our Nation continues to face,” said Acting Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman. “These innovative business strategies can expand the use of clean energy technologies and compete on a global market.”

According to DOE, the national competition aims to promote entrepreneurship in clean energy technologies that will boost American competitiveness, bring cutting-edge clean energy solutions to the market, and strengthen economic prosperity. Six regional organizations have received a total of $2 million over three years to host the competitions, including $100,000 in annual prizes for each regional competition’s winning team. At the National Competition, regional finalists will compete for cash prizes, and unique technical, design, public relations, and legal assistance to help commercialize their technology.