Bioenergy Bytes

  • The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) has joined the ASTM (Formerly American Society for Testing and Materials) Technical Committee D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants, represented by ACE Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty.BioEnergyBytesDF
  • Solar garden developer Clean Energy Collective (CEC) is working to build the first community-owned solar garden in Putney, Vermont. Reservations are available for the Putney Community Solar Array, a 147 kW photovoltaic (PV) system. The 588-panel solar garden owners will receive all rebates and tax incentives.
  • N.C. State University has been awarded a three-year $6,200,000 award for the Clean Fuel Advanced Technology (CFAT) project from the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The CFAT project focuses on improving air quality in 24 non-attainment counties throughout the state and includes a public education campaign and the launch of a green fleet.
  • Sempra U.S. Gas & Power and Consolidated Edison Development are partnering on two of Sempra U.S. Gas & Power’s solar power facilities, the 150-megawatt (MW) Copper Mountain Solar 2 plant near Las Vegas and the 150-MW Mesquite Solar 1 power plant near Phoenix. Under the sales agreement, each company will own a 50-percent interest in the two solar facilities, which are among the largest photovoltaic plants in the U.S.
  • CleanFUEL USA has partnered with the City of Springfield, Illinois to convert 24 police cars and pickup truck to propane autogas. Fuel savings for the first year is estimated to be more than $82,000.

EMCORE Wins NASA Solar Contract

EMCORE Corporation has been awarded a contract by ATK to design and manufacture solar panels for NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) planned for launch in 2015. The solar panels include EMCORE’s most advanced XTJ triple-junction solar cells, and will power a satellite that will carry the GPIM payload. ATK will integrate the EMCORE’s solar panels into its heritage-designed solar arrays for final flight configuration for the GPIM satellite.

705062main_gpim_earth_flyover_226One goal of the GPIM project is to demonstrate the practical capabilities of AF-M315E, a high-performance green alternative to hydrazine that has traditionally been used to fuel several spacecraft. This low-toxicity propellant is expected to improve overall vehicle performance – more fuel can be stored in current containers and it delivers greater thrust per given quantity of fuel.

“ATK is pleased to be providing the solar arrays for the GPIM project to Ball Aerospace, and we look forward to another successful collaboration with EMCORE in support of this innovative program,” said Dave Messner, General Manager of ATK Space Systems in Goleta, Calif.

GPIM is supported by co-investigators including NASA’s Glenn Research Center and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio; Aerojet Corporation, a GenCorp company in Washington; NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida; and the U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

“EMCORE is extremely pleased and honored to receive this program award from ATK,” added Brad Clevenger, Ph.D., General Manager of EMCORE’s Photovoltaics Division. “EMCORE has partnered with ATK on many successful missions, and we greatly value our long-standing business relationship. We look forward to supporting ATK on the Green Propellant Infusion Mission.”

Absolute Energy Offers Drivers Relief at the Pump

As Memorial Day approaches marking the beginning of summer driving season, gas prices have spiked. Last week, gas prices went up .19 cents per gallon in Minnesota Gas PricesIowa with ending average prices at $3.70 per gallon. Spikes were even higher in Minnesota/St. Paul with prices averaging $4.21 across the state while the national average is around $3.60 per gallon.

In response Absolute Energy, an ethanol plant located on the Iowa-Minnesota border, is offering Minnesota drivers some relief at the pump in the form of ethanol. Absolute Energy is offering E85, (85 percent ethanol / 15 percent gasoline), in bulk to gas marketers impacted by the recent shut-down of three oil refineries for mostly seasonal reasons. According to E85Prices.com this week, the published average statewide E85 price is averaging $3.08 and has been reported to be as low as $2.39 per gallon in Eagan, Minn.

Rick Schwarck, CEO of Absolute Energy, said, “With gas prices spiking and ethanol plentiful in the Midwest, this will be the summer of the flex-fuel vehicle. Drivers of FFVs should be able to take advantage of serious savings at the pump by using E85. Not only will they be saving money, they will be choosing a fuel alternative that creates jobs and opportunities throughout Minnesota, Iowa and other states. E85 will drive us toward a cleaner, brighter summer sky thanks to lower greenhouse gas emissions while also strengthening our national security and economy.”

Ag Processing Shuts Its Doors

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 8.54.31 AMAg Processing Inc a cooperative (AGP) announced it has permanently shut down operations of its corn processing plant at Hastings, Nebraska. The plant had been on an extended shutdown since February 1, 2013 amid challenging economic conditions. At that time, the company said it would continue to evaluate the future of the plant. This week the decision to permanently close the corn processing operations was made public.

The cooperative also operates a soybean processing plant, a vegetable oil refinery and an AminoPlus production facility at its industrial complex in Hastings. Company officials reiterated that those operations will not be impacted by the closing of the ethanol plant operations.

AGP is the largest farmer‐owned soybean processor in the world, is owned by 178 local and regional cooperatives representing over 250,000 farmers from 15 states throughout the United States. Corporate headquarters are located Omaha,Nebraska.

JinkoSolar Partners with GRID Alternatives

Grid Alternatives ProjectJinkoSolar has entered in to a partnership with GRID Alternatives, a U.S. nonprofit solar installer, to donate 150kW of its solar modules towards the installation and training of volunteers of solar electric systems exclusively for low-income homeowners. The company says its donation will provide savings of over $2 million for low-income families over the systems’ lifetimes, and support more than 700 hours of hands-on installation training.

“JinkoSolar is delighted to have the opportunity to provide installation and training experience in clean solar energy to US low-income communities,” said Mr.Nigel Cockroft, General Manager of JinkoSolar USA. “Having participated in numerous other charitable projects across the globe, we applaud GRID Alternatives for their contribution to sustainable energy development.”

GRID Alternatives’ mission is to empower communities in need by providing renewable energy and energy efficiency services, equipment and training. Since 2004, GRID Alternatives has installed more than 8.5 MW of clean, renewable power for over 3000 families and has provided over 11,000 volunteers and job trainees with solar installation experience.

“The donation of equipment from our manufacturing partners provides benefits to families who save on energy; Workers who need jobs; and an industry that needs skilled labor,” added Ms. Erica Mackie, GRID Alternatives co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. “We’re thrilled to have JinkoSolar as a partner.”

Investors Interested in Fossil Fuel-Free Portfolios

According to a recent survey conducted by SRI, 65 percent of retail investors and 53 percent of institutional investors are currently expressing interest in fossil fuel-free portfolios in reaction to climate change. More than 2,000 SRI industry professionals took the First Affirmative Financial Network’s Fossil Fuels Divestment Survey in anticipation of the 24th annual SRI Conference taking place October 28-30 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Other key survey findings include:

  • 77 percent see growing risks for investors associated with fossil fuel company holdings in their investment portfolios.
  • 30 percent of those surveyed either already do – or are getting ready to – offer fossil-fuel free portfolios to investors.
  • 63 percent believe that investors will in the next 10 years start divesting in meaningful numbers from fossil-fuel companies due to climate change implications of such energy sources.

SRI Conference Logo“The survey findings strongly suggest that fossil fuel free investing is one of the SRI industry’s next big issues. Ours is an incredibly dynamic field, and as we develop the agenda for the 24th annual SRI Conference in October, we are working hard to present speakers and sessions focused on the most timely, important, and pressing topics,” said First Affirmative President Steve Schueth, producer of The SRI Conference. “Fossil fuel free investing is already becoming a nationwide movement, and it’s likely to gain momentum as the impacts of climate destabilization are felt far and wide.”

Sixty-seven percent of respondents believe that 2013 is the right time for investors to assess and perhaps alter their approach to investing in traditional energy companies, while 40 percent of those surveyed worry about increased diversification risk in fossil fuel free portfolios, in their role as a fiduciary to clients. In addition, 24 percent of those surveyed said they would be able to adequately replace the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel companies in portfolios they managed/advised with holdings that exhibit similar risk/return characteristics.

Wind Changes Course in Texas

Wind components for export in Corpus ChristiPort Corpus Christi is a leader in import facilities for major manufacturers including wind energy component cargo from global markets. But the wind is changing course. New wind energy market trends have created a reverse trade this year, and on May 18, 2013, wind components destined for export markets were loaded at Port Corpus Cristi for the first time.

Vessel carrier NYK-Hinode’s m/v Kuwana loaded 36 Mitsubishi wind blades destined for Japan at Port Corpus Christi’s cargo dock 9. The operation marks a first-time export opportunity for wind cargo components via the Port. The blades were staged at Mitsubishi’s laydown yard located in Santa Teresa, New Mexico and manufactured in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. In April, the blades were trucked from New Mexico to a Port Corpus Christi open storage area to await the export operation.

“The Port anticipates additional wind cargo export opportunities within the upcoming months. We continue our commitment to better serve the logistics of wind energy markets,” said John LaRue, Executive Director, Port Corpus Christi.

Energy Exec Survey: Energy Independence by 2030

According to the 11th annual Energy Industry Outlook Survey conducted by the KPMG Global Energy Institute, 62 percent of energy executives believe the U.S. can attain energy independence by 2030, eliminating dependency on foreign oil. The survey polled more than 100 senior energy executives in the U.S. and found that this is a 10 percent increase from last year’s survey. Of this number, 23 percent believe the country can attain energy independence as soon as 2020.

Utility owned Wind-farmIn addition, 17 percent of respondents believe that U.S. energy independence will never happen, a drop of 10 percent.

“Increased domestic production, particularly from shale assets, is having a profound impact on the global energy sector, introducing new sources to the energy matrix,” said John Kunasek, national sector leader for energy and natural resources for KPMG LLP.

He continued, “This ‘shale gale’ is certainly contributing to the increased optimism among energy executives on the potential for U.S. energy independence and driving large investments into the development and production from these shale assets, including ‘Greenfield’ investment plays.”

The survey shows that natural gas is predicted to play an important role and 79 percent of those surveyed agree that the energy industry’s emphasis in developing environmentally friendly technologies should focus on natural gas, followed by nuclear (39 percent), solar (33 percent), and clean coal technologies (32 percent), indicating a slight shift away from the total bullishness around natural gas seen in the 2012 survey results, to a more balanced view with solar and wind technologies making gains.

Ninety-five percent of energy executives expect continued R&D investment in alternative energy projects this year while 55 percent anticipate investments will remain unchanged in 2013. However, the percentage of respondents predicting a 10 percent increase in R&D investment nearly tripled, from 11 percent in 2012 to 30 percent in 2013. Continue reading

Foreign Fuels Reduction Act – Good for Biofuels?

Joe_Manchin_official_portrait_112th_CongressA fancy title does not good biofuels policy make.

Mixed emotions are emanating from the introduction of the “Foreign Fuels Reduction Act,” introduced by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn). The legislation would allow only domestically-sourced fuels to be used to meet the requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“It is time for America to create an all-of-the-above energy policy that will help lead us to energy independence,” Manchin said. “It’s simply common sense to use all of our resources, and that includes non-food based biofuels. I am proud to cosponsor this bill with my good friend Senator Bob Corker to make sure that we continue to develop domestic non-food based biofuels while stopping the current system’s incentives to import food-based ethanol products from foreign countries.”

Corker-090707-18364- 0004According to Corker, the RFS is having some unintended consequences. “This bill is a common sense step toward potentially mitigating gasoline price increases the RFS may contribute to in the near future,” he said. “Because its mandated biofuels volumes are too high, the RFS is also unintentionally incentivizing ethanol imports.  Our bill helps to correct that problem by more properly aligning mandated levels with what we produce domestically.”

The potential challenge with the bill? It would require a reduction in the volume of cellulosic biofuel required under the RFS. It would also result in a pro rata reduction to the total volume of renewable fuel and advanced biofuels,a fight many anti-biofuel camps have been engaged in for years. While this would “ensure” only domestically produced biofuels are used, it would lower the total amount required until production levels ramp up significantly. Continue reading

Ethanol Production Inches Up

ethanol production eiaAccording to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), fuel ethanol production capacity was 13.9 billion gallons per year (903,000 barrels per day) as of January 1, 2013 with the majority of production located in the Midwest. The report shows a slight increase in the total capacity of operating ethanol plants (193) compared to the same time last year (194). Total nameplate capacity is 12.6 billion gallons per year (822,000 barrels per day) and this report included plants that were idled or temporarily shut down during 2012.

The next EIA annual report on ethanol production capacity is expected to be released during the spring of 2014. This report will include facility-level nameplate production capacity data, which EIA says will increase the transparency of the ethanol industry data.

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.